The Emotional Life Of The Carnal Christian

(1 Corinthians 3:1-5 NKJV) And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. {2} I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; {3} for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men? {4} For when one says, "I am of Paul," and another, "I am of Apollos," are you not carnal?

We just saw how the five-step model of emotions quite accurately predicted the emotional life of Spirit-filled men and women of God. Now the model has as its central theme that emotional maturity is arrived at by focusing on Jesus, and modeling our emotions after Him in the power of the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who renews our perceptions, beliefs, emotions, and physical bodies and who gives us wisdom in how to express our emotions in ways that are “taught of God”. We saw a positive correlation between what the theory predicted about the great saints of God, who cooperated with the Holy Spirit, and how they turned out emotionally, becoming beings of emotional grandeur. If our model stands the test, then those who resist the Holy Spirit, those who are unspiritual, should not be beings of emotional grandeur. Rather they should be emotionally unformed and immature. If, as our theory predicts, the Holy Spirit is essential for full emotional formation, then unspiritual Christians should be emotional wrecks, or at the least quite shallow and indifferent emotionally. These unspiritual Christians are termed “carnal Christians” and this chapter will see if our model can predict how they will turn out and what lessons we can learn from that.

The carnal Christian is characterized by an astonishing lack of spiritual maturity to the point where they cannot be addressed as spiritual people. Carnal Christians behave like "mere men" and are indistinguishable from the surrounding culture with their actions and reactions. Using our model we can again make certain predictions about the emotional life of those who do not give the Holy Spirit full lordship of their lives. We will just reverse the predictions in the previous chapter.


1. They will see the world in much the same terms as the surrounding culture. For them the Kingdom perspective will be rare and they will be mainly self-centred.

2. They will be unable to see into the hearts of men and women and even empathy will be rare. They will not speak accurately to the human condition.

3. They will be baffled by dreams, visions and symbolic language. They will be bored by the prophetic and struggle with the Scriptures.


4. They will mainly have beliefs that the surrounding culture has taught them. They will not hold beliefs that the culture opposes vehemently, and will have few beliefs that only God could have taught them.

5. They will have a very weak sense of what is righteous and what is unrighteous and rarely react to social evil. They would tolerate the selling of doves in the Temple. Zeal will be unusual for them and even undesirable. They will not be consumed by kingdom interests.

6. They will not have unusual poise and power in crisis situations like Jesus in the storm but rather will be prone to anxiety.

7. They will not resonate with and be emotionally drawn to those who are of great faith. Rather they will feel more at home with the world and with other carnal Christians.


8. They will not have deep, vivid and stable emotions like those of Jesus Christ. They will instead be characterised by shallow sentimental spiritual feelings that vary with every wind of doctrine.

9. They will have little sense of their emotions being God's emotions. They will often be unaware of what they are feeling and will be unable to name their emotions clearly. They will not be people of authentic emotional expression.

Physical Nature

10. They will not demonstrate victory over addictions and sexual temptations They will fail to express their emotions in godly ways through their physical bodies.

Emotional Expression

11. Their spiritual emotions will rarely lead to righteous actions. Compassion for the lost or the poor will rarely be felt and will not move them to action. Their emotionality will be detached from real life and be like the emotions of an actor or a hypocrite.

12. The course of their lives will not demonstrate an ever-increasing wisdom in emotional expression. They will go from bad to worse and become increasingly discordant like " a clanging gong and a clashing cymbal" if they should continue as carnal Christians.

How does this tally with your experience of carnal Christians? Unfortunately it tallies very closely with my experience of them! They are not growing and in fact they are often going backwards spiritually. Lets see what the New Testament says about them.

In the quote that opened this chapter we find Paul referring to the church in 1 Corinthians as “carnal” – well what was it like? The carnality of the church is reflected in a long list of very serious sins – the first four chapters detail division, intellectual and spiritual pride, factions, and infighting. Chapters five and six show they were visiting prostitutes, and engaging in sexual immorality, and incest, chapter seven discusses marriage, divorce and the basics of sexually appropriate behavior, chapters eight to eleven correct gross disorder such as being drunk at the Lord's Supper, not waiting for one another so one goes hungry while another is full, and participation in feasts in pagan temples and eating food sacrificed to idols. Chapters 12- 14 reveal a paganisation of the spiritual gifts and their use in competitive, unloving and chaotic ways. Chapter 15 finds them denying the resurrection and being in major error over basic doctrines. The church was a mess but it was still considered a Christian church. The church James wrote to may have even been worse! There they murdered one another (James 4:2) and treated the poor with contempt (James 2). Both these churches were considered Christian churches and the recipients were addressed as believers and referred to as saints or holy ones (1 Corinthians 1:2).

Several epistles are addressed to churches with a good percentage of carnal Christians these are : Galatians, 1 & 2 Corinthians , Titus, Hebrews and James. In these epistles the language is extremely plain and there are many stern warnings about the consequences of sin and the judgment of God. (e.g. Galatians 5, Hebrews 6, 1 Corinthians 5, 2 Corinthians 12 & 13 etc). In the first six or so chapters of his epistle the writer to the Hebrews calls his audience in various turns - sluggish, unfruitful, dull of hearing, immature, like children, and says they were neglectful of their salvation, in danger of drifting away from the faith and hardening their hearts to God's Word and on the point of having "evil, unbelieving, hearts" (Heb 3:12). In chapter 10 the writer goes on to say they are neglecting meeting together and on the verge of giving up the faith, returning to sin and being judged by the living God. This is a terrifying picture indeed!

Carnal Christians are so close to being unbelievers that they are almost indistinguishable from them. Such Christians are characterised by apathy, division, ongoing strife and a very low EQ! Carnal Christians "bite and devour one another" (Galatians 5:15) The carnal Christians needed lengthy instructions on the basics of human relationships and fortunately the apostolic response to this need has given rise to some of the finest literature on relationships in the world including the famous "love chapter" in 1 Corinthians 13. This is in direct contrast with other more Spirit-filled churches like the one at Thessalonica of whom Paul said :" (1 Thessalonians 4:9 NKJV) But concerning brotherly love you have no need that I should write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another;.".

Where Then Is The Holy Spirit?

All truly born-again Christians receive the Holy Spirit as part of the dynamics of conversion and the formation of the new man in them, which is Christ in them the hope of glory. So all these Christians in Corinth, called ‘saints” by Paul, presumably had the Holy Spirit. Yet they were a mess. Something was dreadfully wrong. There seems to be a breakdown along the way. Their sanctification was falling to bits; it just wasn’t working. The Holy Spirit in them was not producing maturity, the fruit of the Spirit were not evident. Was this God’s fault? Had God given up on them? Surely not! These people were doing something that was stopping the Holy Spirit from having His way in their lives. They were sinning against the Spirit’s presence in their lives.

This raises the question what then happens to the Holy Spirit in born-again Christians who have become carnal? In tribal cultures they often think that the Holy Spirit vanishes from you if you sin. That is not New Testament teaching. The Holy Spirit remains within the believer but is sinned against. Several terms are used such as: Grieved (Ephesians 4:30), quenched (1 Thessalonians 5:19) lied to (Acts 5:4), put to the test (Acts 5:9), insulted / outraged (Hebrews 10:29), made jealous (James 4:5), blasphemed (Matthew 12:31) and resisted (Acts 7:51). In Jude the divisive people are said to be "devoid of the Spirit" (Jude 1:19). We will very briefly look at each of these terms to gain some understanding of the spiritual dynamics of sinning against the Holy Spirit and its effects on the emotional life.

Grieved (Ephesians 4:30) - by unnecessary and immature interpersonal conflict such as bitterness, wrath, slander and malice. The Spirit is a Spirit of love and is grieved by that which is opposed to love. Carnal behavior such as divisiveness and quarreling is anti-love, and causes grief to the Holy Spirit who is constantly trying to mature us in love.

Quenched (1 Thessalonians 5:18-21) - by despising the gifts of the Spirit especially prophesy. It implies that his fire - His inspirational activity in prophecy and revival is resisted - perhaps in the name of order, and "cold water" is thrown on attempts to minister in spiritual power.

Lied To (Acts 5:4): Ananias and Sapphira conspired in an act of financial deception of the apostles. This was seen as not deceiving men but God and lying to the Holy Spirit. (Acts 5:4) and resulted in them being carried out dead.

Put To The Test (Acts 5:9): Again refers to Ananias and Sapphira and refers to their testing the omniscience of the Holy Spirit by thinking they could deceive those He had filled with power and anointed.

Made Jealous (James 4:4,5):Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, "The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously"? A difficult verse to translate. Refers to friendship with the world, which is seen as spiritual adultery and makes the Spirit jealous. The world system and the Kingdom are opposites. To love one is to make the other jealous and if we love the world (as in worldliness, not as in John 3:16) we enrage the Holy Spirit. Worldliness is often characteristic of carnal Christians and does great damage to their relationship with God.

Insulted/Outraged/Do Despite Unto (Hebrews 10:29): Refers to someone who turns back from Christianity to Judaism (or to any other religion) and thus says that the work of the Spirit of grace in his or her life was of no value to them. These are apostates.

Devoid Of The Spirit (Jude 1:19): Refers to false teachers who joined into Christian groups and created division leading people away to their own groups. These are probably not even believers to start with.

Resisted (Acts 7:51): Refers to the unbelieving Jews who were stoning Stephen and resisting the clear testimony of the Holy Spirit. Later God said to one of those resistant Jews "Saul, Saul, it must be hard for you to kick against the goads..". This term is not used of believers.

Blasphemed (Matthew 12:31): Is used of those unbelieving Jews who so deeply resisted the Holy Spirit that they saw the miraculous ministry of Jesus Christ as the work of the Devil and attributed His power to Satan. Again it is never used of Christians.

The emotional consequences of sinning against the Holy Spirit are dire indeed. The more people sin against the Holy Spirit the nastier they become. In the above verses we see them pilfering, murdering lying, fighting and quarreling. As the Holy Spirit is quenched, grieved and resisted His love departs and hatred enters in.

How does this come about? A love of worldly things, a growing resentment , anger and malice, a dislike of prophecy and revivals, a little dishonesty with finances here and there and after a while the activity of the Holy Spirit in the believers life is reduced to a whisper and as they head out the back door of the faith they deliver the final insult by rejecting the value of Jesus whom the Spirit bears witness to.

In answer to our question, “What is the relationship between the Holy Spirit and the carnal Christian?” the relationship is one of struggle and pain. The Spirit is grieved, made jealous, quenched and resisted. He seeks to bring the carnal believer to a point of repentance and to cooperation with God. However in the words of the famous Campus Crusade booklet “How to Be Filled With The Holy Spirit” (which I thoroughly recommend), “self is on the throne”. The carnal Christian is a “me first” Christian led by their own desires, and seeking their own interests and having their own agenda. Christ may be in their life but He is not being allowed to fully direct their lives. The struggle with the Holy Spirit will only end for them when they abdicate from their throne, and instead decide to place Christ on the throne, obey His commandments and be led by the Spirit not by their own desires. If you think that this may apply to you why don’t you consider praying a prayer somewhat like the following:

“Lord I am sorry that I have put self on the throne and run my life according to my own desires rather than according to Your will. I repent of this and ask that Christ may be on the throne and in the control room of my life, and that I may be ruled by His desires, and by the Holy Spirit. I ask that You may fill me with the Holy Spirit and produce in me a soft and obedient heart. In Jesus name. Amen”.

The Low Biblical EQ Of Carnal Christians

The poor control carnal Christians have over their emotional life is due to their lack of co-operation with the Holy Spirit and can be seen in:

Poor Impulse Control: Giving in to sexual immorality, drunkenness and even in the disorder of their worship.

Poor Anger Management: Most notably the congregation that James wrote to which were murdering each other (James 4:2) and the Galatians which were "biting and devouring" each other. (Galatians 5:15)

Disintegrating Relationships: Envying, factions, strife and contentions. ( 1 Cor 3:3

Low Levels of Personal Motivation: They are variously described as evil beasts and lazy gluttons (Titus 1:12-14) , neglectful, dull of hearing, and in danger of drifting.

Instability: Following after "the latest" false teachers particularly if they were good talkers and emotionally persuasive (2 Corinthians 11) and being tossed around by every wind of doctrine.

Lack Of Basic Empathy and Compassion: Such as saying to a person who was without food or shelter "be warm and filled" and not doing anything! Or dishonoring the poor by making them sit in lowly places in church. (James 2).

A Toxic Tongue: Gossip, slander, and the like that proceeds from out of control emotions. (James 3)

A Poisonous Personality: Such people are described as a "root of bitterness that defiles many" or like the emotionally rigid Diotrephes who "like to put himself first" and controlled the church (3 John).

The Obvious Conclusion

So we see that our model for biblical EQ predicts accurately the disastrous perceptions, beliefs, actions and reactions of people who are carnal Christians. We see that the process we have outlined accurately predicts good and holy emotions for those filled with the Spirit and negative and hateful emotions for those who resist and grieve the Spirit. This leads to two conclusions. Firstly, that our model seems to fit the biblical data and probably does describe the process of emotional development and expression. More importantly it leads to the conclusion that the single most important factor in a high biblical EQ is the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the co-operating and Spirit-filled believer. Those most full of the Spirit are grand beings of deep emotional authenticity, Christians that grieve the Spirit are emotional wrecks.

However believers do not neatly fall into two camps, one with wonderful emotions and the other with sharp, brittle and unstable emotions. That is because we start at different points. Some Spirit-filled believers from emotionally difficult backgrounds may have a lot of learning and growing to do with respect to their emotions, but they are going in the right direction. In time, providing they remain close to God, they will learn and grow and become more Christ-like in their emotions. This seems to have been very much the case with Paul who went from being very abrasive in his early years to very gracious in later life. On the other hand some very worldly and carnal Christians are squandering a wonderful emotional inheritance from a loving Christian family. They seem emotionally together but in time, slowly but surely, emotional disintegration sets in and generally becomes obvious by late middle age.

What About Non-Believers?

What does our model say about non-believers? Generally non-believers are neither cooperating with nor resisting the work of the Holy Spirit. Thus the emotional life of non-believers should be normally distributed (that is “on a bell curve”) around a central mean that is less than the emotional mean of Spirit-filled Christians but perhaps not as low as that of truly carnal Christians. Since the Spirit does not indwell unbelievers, the great inner work of the Spirit is not there and the upper reaches of the Christian life are unavailable to them. For instance they are generally not able to love their enemies. While they may be very decent and loving people they will generally not have the tremendous power and life, the "zing" that being like Christ produces. This deep pulsating joy is almost exclusively a work of God in the regenerate believer. Thus our model is not destroyed by the fact of the occasional good non-Christian.

It needs to be also said that God has His prevenient and common grace and the Holy Spirit will give some external aid to anyone who seeks to live a good, decent and loving life and encourages Jews, Buddhists, humanists and existentialists alike to be decent human beings. In such people many Christian values will be found in the belief system that undergirds their emotional life. Such people who are seeking good, but have not yet found Christ may well be emotionally together as they are cooperating with God in a stumbling sort of way. However the deep transformational power of the Holy Spirit may well be lacking.

The Conclusion So Far

1. The five step model accurately predicts the emotional state of both saintly Christians and carnal Christians.

2. Emotional authenticity is entirely a work of the Holy Spirit . However it can occur to some extent in non-believers who seek it as a work of common grace. More commonly it is found in Spirit-filled believers who are walking in holiness.

3. Emotional functionality and authenticity come about through the person co-operating with the Holy Spirit as He forms spiritual perspectives and a Christ-like belief system in the person.

4. Resisting this work of the Holy Spirit results in emotional catastrophe.

5. Emotionally undeveloped Christians who remain close to God can grow into emotionally adept people just as it seems Paul did.

6. Co-operating with God means not grieving or quenching the Holy Spirit and being careful to avoid worldliness.

Is There A Fast Track To A High Biblical EQ?

Obviously being Spirit-filled and obedient is a great place to start for emotional growth. However Christians can also directly work on their emotions. Information on how to do this has been provided in three ways; firstly God has given His Son to show us what holy and true emotions look like, secondly He has given us the special revelation in the Scriptures and their precise description of the emotional life and the inner man, thirdly He has given His natural revelation to scientists who so assiduously seek the truth about emotional growth. Combining these together we will find out how to directly achieve emotional growth and a high biblical EQ. That takes us to the next section of this book , the section on the inner self which deals with how emotions are formed within us, and what we can do about it. This section will give us the knowledge and tools we need to work on our perceptions of reality and our belief systems and to renew them and to produce Christ-like outcomes and godly emotions.

Discussion Questions

1. What are the emotional consequences for a Christian if they choose not to cooperate with the work of the Holy Spirit?

2. What are the sins against the Holy Spirit?

3. What sort of descriptions does the Bible give of carnal Christians e.g. “sluggish”.

4. Read the twelve predictions at the start of the chapter. What impression do they make on you? What does it say about why some churches experience problems?

5. How important is the Holy Spirit in developing the emotional life of Christians?

6. Why can some non-Christians be in a better emotional state than some Christians? Can emotionally clumsy Christians ever improve?