Because of its command of the trade routes between Asia and Rome, the city of Corinth was quite the melting pot. People from around the world came to buy and sell their wares, and the city was known both for its fierce competition and immorality. The apostle Paul became frustrated to find that the church he founded at Corinth years before was still being infected by that same immoral nature of the culture.
In addressing the problems of the church Paul begins with, “And I brethren could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ. I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able, for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men?” (vs. 1-3)
I’m sure that Paul was hoping to find the faith of the church at Corinth to have matured and grown since His last visit. He was probably looking forward to sharing even deeper and more meaningful teachings with them. Instead he found them still spiritually immature, full of divisions, and living for their fleshly desires. They were what is known as a carnal Christian.
The word carnal comes from the Greek word “sarkikos” which literally means fleshly. A carnal Christian is one who has accepted Christ as their Savior, yet still live their lives by the lust of the flesh. Although they have received salvation, they don’t have a personal relationship with The Lord. They do not grow spiritually mature, including learning to control the desires of the flesh.
All of us have areas in our lives where we live carnally. Strongholds whose walls need to be torn down and given to God. We are all works in progress, and for me at least, some days it’s one step forward, two steps back. But even Paul himself struggled with the pull of the flesh. In Romans 7:18-19 he says, “For I know that nothing good dwells in me that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want.”
The battle between the flesh and the spirit is a constant one. It takes strength and perseverance. It’s hard. And even with the best of intentions, we fail daily. No wonder many believers seem to get stuck in the mud. Instead of moving forward they keep spinning their wheels, eventually becoming content with the same scenery day after day. But Jesus made it clear that Christianity is about more than a get out of hell free card. It’s about growth, change, and action.
James reminds us, “If anyone is a hearer of the word and is not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was.” (James 1:23-24). Our goal as believers is to be constantly maturing in the grace and knowledge of the Lord.
Are you stuck in the mud on your spiritual walk? Stop spinning your wheels and go to God. He is the only tow truck you need. Through surrender to Him and the work of the Spirit, we can get moving again and claim victory in our walk. Because as Paul assures us in Philippians 1:6, “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.“