Q. Why do I hear about ‘carnal’ Christians when Romans 8:7 says ‘the carnal mind is enmity against God’? I understand what a ‘nominal’ Christian is, but what is a carnal Christian (if there is such a thing)? Also, do you believe that only people who have given up every part of their will to Christ is a saved person, or do you think there are saved people trying to hang on to some old habit or way of life?
A. The Greek word translated “carnal” in Romans 8:7 is usually translated “flesh” in the King James and “sinful” or “sin nature” in other translations. It’s described as “the earthly nature of man apart from divine influence, and therefore prone to sin and opposed to God.” The phrase is often used to describe Christians who in the opinion of others are living in a sinful manner.
All humans are prone to sin because we all have a “sin nature”. And remember, sin is not just a matter of external behavior. It also permeates our very thoughts. So all it takes are carnal thoughts to be a carnal Christian. Therefore, every Christian is a carnal Christian to some degree, and will be until the rapture, when our sin nature will be removed.
If only those people who have given up every part of their will to Christ are saved then Heaven will be a very lonely place. Surveys show that the vast majority of those who call themselves born again Christians today live lives that for the most part are indistinguishable from their unbelieving neighbors. Fortunately, our salvation is based on what we believe, not on how we behave (John 6:28-29).
God in His mercy has forgiven all of our sins and because we believe that when Jesus went to the cross He paid the penalty that was due us, He no longer counts our sins against us (Colossians 2:13-14). So the old bumper sticker is true. “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven.”