By Barney Keith
How does one determine whether he is “spiritual” or “carnal”? This has to be considered seriously by every Christian, “for to be carnally minded is death,” Paul wrote in Romans 8:6. His added clause “to be spiritually minded is life and peace” offers the greatest of incentives to the child of God to develop a visible faith that will evidence his concern about things spiritual. With regret Paul stated to his Corinthian brethren, “I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people, but as to carnal” (1 Cor. 3:1). One of our greatest needs in the Lord’s church is to be spiritual people in the face of a hostile, materialistic world.
In What Do We “Glory”?
The spring from which spirituality flows is genuine conversion to Christ. It exists where one has truly “turned to the Lord” (Acts 11:21) and has resolved “that with purpose of heart” he is going to “cleave to the Lord” (Acts 11:23). It is then that the Christian will honor Paul’s admonition, “He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord” (1 Cor. 1:31).
Whatever one takes pride in indicates accurately the center of his affections. Whatever he counts to be “treasure” takes hold of his heart (Matt. 6:2 1). It is appropriate, therefore, to ask, “In what do we glory? What is it that delights us and gives us the greatest joy?” When we answer this with honesty, we can tell whether we are spiritual or carnal.
Is Our “Glorying” In Men?
It may be that the spirituality of some has been eroded by an inordinate attachment to men, especially to preachers. This was one of the serious problems in the church at Corinth. Faithful, capable and dedicated preachers are deserving of our appreciation, as are all saints who work diligently in the kingdom to do whatever they are capable of doing. They are still men, and our glorying should not be in them. To the carnally-minded it lends great prestige to a congregation if “our preacher” has credentials from a renowned center of learning. This, plus the fact that “he is so dynamic,” may lead to idolizing a man.
Is it possible that first-century preachers would not “fill the bill” for some churches today? Even the apostle Paul? When one reads Paul’s comments about the right kind of preaching (1 Cor. 2:1-5; 1 Thess. 2:2-7), he may well wonder where some obtained their concept of a kind so different. Some brethren may be able to tolerate only the finest specimen of rhetoric by the most polished speaker to be found. Something is clearly out of joint when this is the case. By no means is that a criticism of men who have a marked talent in the public proclamation of the gospel. The criticism is not of men who have ability to stir our hearts with truth. Rather it is criticism of that carnal mind set which loses interest in preaching that does not attain such a high level of excellence. There is room in the kingdom for an Apollos; but there is also room for him who must say, with Paul, that he does not have that “excellence of speech” (1 Cor. 2:1). Let us. not become so fascinated by the man who is preaching that we lose sight of the Son of man who saved us.
Is Our Pride Centered On the Premises?
Is it possible that some have gloried in the elaborate show places that are called “church buildings”? On occasions there have been articles by liberal-minded brethren about their new buildings – the tremendous size, the fantastic cost the wonderful facilities and the marvelous equipment, something “the community can be proud of.” Modest, unpretentious meeting houses may soon be simply relics of another day. Need it be said that the Lord’s building is people who are living stones in a spiritual house? The place where these people gather for worship is by no means the most important consideration. It is sad when someone is actually embarrassed to worship with brethren who meet under rather plain circumstances, or perhaps in a section of two that is less than elegant or fashionable. Is this not an indication of a carnal rather than a spiritual heart? Remember, “He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.”
Are We Too Class Conscious?
New Testament congregations were made up of all classes of people. In the same church might be found both slaves and masters. In the same assembly could be found both in rich and the poor, the advantaged and the disadvantaged. All stood on the same level before him with whom there is no respect of persons. If they felt uncomfortable with one another and made distinctions, they were to be censured (Jas. 2:1-5). It is important, therefore, for spiritually-minded disciples to avoid being respecters of persons because of social, economic, educational or other factors. Very often it is those in the most humble circumstances who are the spiritual ones. It may be that some are even reluctant to teach the gospel to those in the “lower class.” We wonder if they fear some of these will obey the gospel and have to be received into their fellowship. “He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.”
What Really Matters?
When Christians are oriented toward heaven where Christ is, they know that the real strength of the people of God is not measured by such physical or material considerations as those herein discussed. When a Christian correctly perceives what the true spiritual values are, his attitude and actions will inevitably demonstrate it. His main concern will be that Christ be honored and exalted in everything. When members of the body of Christ stop trying to impress a materialistic society and cease pampering their vanity and pride, they will be able to get on with the simple, unpretentious ana humble service the Lord wants. When we get to the place that we are truly caught up in worshiping our God, living righteous lives and seeking to save souls, we shall have dropped our prideful concerns for the greater ones — those of our Lord.
Guardian of Truth XXXIII: 10, pp. 289, 310
May 18, 1989