The “Christian” Abuser: Couldn’t He be a “Carnal” Christian? (Part 1)

But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way?  For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not being merely human? (1 Corinthians 3:1-4)

In our discussion of whether or not an abuser can be a Christian, or a Christian an abuser, I have concluded that it is impossible, according to Scripture, that a person who is characterized by a mentality of entitlement, who lusts for power and control, who has a profound sense of justification in using whatever tactics are necessary to obtain and maintain that power and control, can be a Christian.  He or she may have many outward appearances of being a believer, but it is only a facade.

There is a notion, often based upon a mishandling of 1 Cor 3:1-4, that teaches that a person can actually be a regenerate, saved, justified man who does indeed belong to Christ, but who is, nevertheless, “carnal.”  That is to say, he is characterized by disobedience to Christ rather than by obedience to the one he professes as Lord.  This teaching has been a plague in Christian churches for quite some time and it has sown much confusion among us.  It is a dangerous teaching and really is a denial of the gospel.  More recent examples of the “carnal Christian” teaching cropped up during the “lordship salvation” controversy which was at its peak in the 1980’s and which is still a very pertinent issue today.  Numbers of pastors, teachers, and theologians such as Charles Ryrie and Zane Hodges published books which taught that it is a distortion of the gospel of grace to include the preaching of repentance in our presentation of the gospel to the lost.  These are the “anti-lordship” salvation proponents and they insisted that it is quite possible for a person to be genuinely saved in Christ, yet never obey Christ as Lord.  Salvation being entirely of grace does not, they insist, include any requirement to obey Christ as one of His disciples.  Hodges claimed that while many people are Christians, only some Christians are disciples.  It is these disciples who truly “inherit the kingdom” while others simply go to heaven (see Hodges, The Hungry Inherit).  To his credit, John MacArthur was a leading voice in opposing all of this.  His book, The Gospel According to Jesus, argued that no one is a Christian who refuses to bow their knee in obedience to Christ as Lord as well as embracing Him as Savior.  So this is a very contemporary and important issue.  Can a person be a Christian, yet live a life characterized by disobedience to Christ, being for all appearances just like those who are still of the world? [Please do not take my commending of MacArthur as a full endorsement. His teaching about no divorce for abuse and other legalistic teachings are doing much damage].  

This is a vital topic for any Christian concerned with this matter of abuse, and it is of particular importance for victims of abuse when their abuser claims to be a Christian, and certainly it is of vital relevance for pastors and church leaders and all Christians in helping us decide just how we are going to deal with the abuser.  Is he a Christian who abuses?  Or is he a wolf in sheep’s clothing?

In this first part of a four-part article, I am going to review for you just some of the many Scriptures that teach that a Christian’s real personhood simply cannot be characterized by the flesh.  Remember, the carnal Christian position doesn’t merely maintain that Christians sin, or that they are capable of sinning over a period of time before repenting.  This teaching maintains that obedience to Christ is not necessarily a fruit of salvation and that a person can live out their life as a Christian, yet still be fundamentally characterized by disobedience to Christ, never having repented of sin.  It exalts what it calls “grace” and rejects any notion of a requirement for repentance being included in the gospel as an intrusion of “works” or of “the law” into the pure gospel of absolute grace.

Alright then, first let’s consider some Scriptures that teach us that a Christian will always be characterized by obedience to Christ as Lord as well as reception of Christ as Savior by faith.  We are not talking about perfectionistic sinlessness, but of a heart that desires to obey Christ out of love for Christ, and of an increase in sanctification and holiness as the Christian grows progressively more like Christ.

Romans 6:1-2  What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? (2) By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?

Romans 6:16-18  Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.

Romans 7:4-6  Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.

Romans 8:12-14  So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.

Colossians 1:21-23  And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.

Ephesians 2:1-10  And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience — among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved — and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.  For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

James 2:14-17  What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

And in particular, notice the following Scripture which is in the very same letter to Corinth that the carnal Christian “proof-text” is in:

1 Corinthians 6:9-11  Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

We could go on.  We could cite virtually the entire book of 1 John for example, that plainly tells us that a person who says they love God but hates their brother is a liar.  But this should be sufficient to convince us that the Bible simply does not allow for the existence of a Christian who does not obey Christ; who is still characterized by the sinful flesh.  What, then, did the Apostle Paul mean when he told the Corinthians that they were “carnal”?  We will turn to that question in part 2.

Is the Pope Our Foundation? – CRC Sunday Sermon

July 7, 2019
(links to hymns and the sermon are blue font)

Pastoral Reading

Psalm 20
May the Lord answer you in the day of trouble!

    May the name of the God of Jacob protect you!
May he send you help from the sanctuary
    and give you support from Zion!
May he remember all your offerings
    and regard with favor your burnt sacrifices! Selah

May he grant you your heart’s desire
    and fulfill all your plans!
May we shout for joy over your salvation,
    and in the name of our God set up our banners!
May the Lord fulfill all your petitions!

Now I know that the Lord saves his anointed;
    he will answer him from his holy heaven
    with the saving might of his right hand.
Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
    but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.
They collapse and fall,
    but we rise and stand upright.

O Lord, save the king!
    May he answer us when we call.

Opening Hymn
Father Long Before Creation (CRC #13)

Focus this week: Janine

Congregational Hymns
Though I was a Child of Darkness (CRC #55)

Verse 1:
Though I was a child of darkness,
Slave to sin, wholly depraved,
By His grace and for His glory
God has called me to be saved.
He in mercy, through His Spirit,
Caused me to be born again,
Born to turn from sin to Jesus
And to find my rest in Him.

Verse 2:
Is there any greater comfort
Than to know this sov’reign Friend?
He ordained my true repentance,
And shall keep me to the end.
Should this sinful world or Satan
With their lies and pow’r besiege,
I will stand upon His promise,
Knowing He has chosen me.

Verse 3:
This should cause us to be humble,
When we see our helpless state;
For without His sov’reign kindness
We would meet a dreadful fate.
O, to know such lovingkindness:
Freely given, undeserved,
Moves us now to preach the Gospel
Until ev’ry land has heard.

Verse 4:
To fulfill His great commission
This assurance must be known:
The elect from ev’ry nation
Will surround the Savior’s throne.
We find strength to preach the Gospel
In this truth our Savior told,
That although His sheep are scattered,
He will bring them to His fold.

Verse 5:
Let us lift our songs to praise Him!
Give Him glory, for He reigns!
No! This world and all its kingdoms
Cannot thwart what He ordains.
O! What peace to know our Maker,
He who set the heavens’ span.
He who granted us salvation
Shall uphold us in His hand.

There is No Greater Portrait (CRC #60)

Offering Hymn

Oh Lord of Hosts How Lovely
O Lord of hosts, how lovely
Thy tabernacles are;
For them my heart is yearning
In banishment afar
My soul is longing, fainting,
Thy sacred courts to see;
My heart and flesh are crying,
O living God for Thee.

Behold the sparrow finds place
For peaceful rest,
To keep her young in safety
The swallow finds a nest;
Then, Lord, my King almighty,
Thy love will shelter me;
Beside Thy holy altar
My dwelling-place shall be.

Blest they who dwell in Zion,
Whose joy and strength Thou art;
Forever they will praise Thee,
Thy ways are in their heart.

Psalm 84 
How lovely is your dwelling place,

    O Lord of hosts!
My soul longs, yes, faints
    for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and flesh sing for joy
    to the living God.

Even the sparrow finds a home,
    and the swallow a nest for herself,
    where she may lay her young,
at your altars, O Lord of hosts,
    my King and my God.
Blessed are those who dwell in your house,
    ever singing your praise! Selah

Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
    in whose heart are the highways to Zion.[b]
As they go through the Valley of Baca
    they make it a place of springs;
    the early rain also covers it with pools.
They go from strength to strength;
    each one appears before God in Zion.

O Lord God of hosts, hear my prayer;
    give ear, O God of Jacob! Selah
Behold our shield, O God;
    look on the face of your anointed!

10 For a day in your courts is better
    than a thousand elsewhere.
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
    than dwell in the tents of wickedness.
11 For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
    the Lord bestows favor and honor.
No good thing does he withhold
    from those who walk uprightly.
12 O Lord of hosts,
    blessed is the one who trusts in you!

Scripture Reading
1 Corinthians 2

The Lord’s Table
Christ Our Righteousness

Preaching the Word
Is the Pope Our Foundation? 

Closing Hymn
Christ, of All My Hopes the Ground (Trinity Hymnal p518)


Are the Wicked Really Prospering? Consider their End – CRC Sunday Sermon

June 30, 2019
(links to hymns and the sermon are in blue font)

Pastoral Reading
2 Thessalonians 1:2-4

Opening Hymn
Wondrous King All Glorious (Trinity Hymnal #166)

Focus this week: Craig

Congregational Hymns
By Faith (HMA #21)

By faith we see the hand of God
In the light of creation’s grand design
In the lives of those who prove His faithfulness
Who walk by faith and not by sight

By faith our fathers roamed the earth
With the power of His promise in their hearts
Of a holy city built by God’s own hand
A place where peace and justice reign

We will stand as children of the promise
We will fix our eyes on Him our soul’s reward
Till the race is finished and the work is done
We’ll walk by faith and not by sight

By faith the prophets saw a day
When the longed-for Messiah would appear
With the power to break the chains of sin and death
And rise triumphant from the grave

By faith the church was called to go
In the power of the Spirit to the lost
To deliver captives and to preach good news
In every corner of the earth

We will stand…

Depth of Mercy (HMA #30)

Offering Hymn
Behold the Lamb (HMA #15)

Scripture Reading
2 Thessalonians  1:5-12

Preaching the Word
Are the Wicked Really Prospering? Consider their End
YouTube link 

Closing Hymn
Day of Judgment! Day of Wonders! (Trinity Hymnal #319)