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Bible verses about Carnality
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Deuteronomy 32:15-21

This is a prophecy, but it is also a typical human reaction to God. It is not just an Israelite peculiarity or weakness. God reveals Himself, and mankind loves it—at first. Then the relationship begins to deteriorate for a variety of reasons. Some become bored, while others grow impatient, wanting things to move faster. Some refuse to conform, not realizing how much the relationship would demand of them. Some lose interest as other things gradually become more important to them. Some become frustrated because they expected a free ride from an indulgent "sugar daddy." Some lose sight of how much more wonderful, powerful, and brilliant the relationship will be in the future. Many forget their obligation to Him for what He has done for them.

Whatever the reason, it is mankind that finds a reason to destroy the relationship because it is not in his nature to have one of the quality that God desires! Human nature will not remain constant in its affections for God. From the time of a person's birth until God finally calls him, the impressionable mind develops an enmity that he cannot completely control (Romans 8:6). The history of God's contact with humanity proves this—even with converted people.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 11)


 

Matthew 5:8

The heart is central to this because in the Bible the heart stands for the seat, source, reservoir, and instigator of our thoughts, attitudes, desires, character, and motivation. It is synonymous with our modern use of "mind," since the mind is where we hold knowledge, attitudes, motivations, affections, desires, likes, and dislikes.

Jesus says in Matthew 5:8, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." Obviously, the quality of the heart is the issue in this beatitude. Proverbs 4:23 reads, "Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life." Our Father directly addresses the book of Proverbs to His sons (Proverbs 1:7). It assumes our hearts have been purified by His initial cleansing, that we have received His Spirit, and are in the process of sanctification and going on to perfection. Ezekiel explains this process:

Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them. (Ezekiel 36:25-27)

This does not all take place in an instant. It is a process, and as we have all discovered from Scripture and our own experience since baptism, human nature is still very much alive within us (Romans 7:13-25). Paul confirms this in Galatians 5:17, "For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you cannot do the things that you wish."

Human nature, the law of sin within us, is always seeking to pull us again into the defilement of sin, seeking to destroy our hope of sharing life with the holy God. That is why God counsels us in Proverbs 4:23 to keep—that is, guard, preserve, and maintain—our heart. It is very easy to become defiled by lapsing back to old habits. In stark reality, Romans 8:7 and Jeremiah 17:9 show why: "Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be." "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?" The normal human mind deceitfully convinces each person that they are good and love God, men, and law. But the reality is just the opposite: It is at war with God and men, and hates God's holy, righteous, and spiritual law. It loves itself and its desires far more than anything else. It is this deceitful, self-centered enmity that exerts constant influence, pulling us into the defilement of sin.

Jesus preaches on this in Matthew 15:16-20:

So Jesus said, "Are you also still without understanding? Do you not yet understand that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and is eliminated? But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man."

It is sin that defiles holiness. In terms of character, of being in the image of God, sin defiles, pollutes, contaminates, or blurs the reflection of God in us. "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us" (I John 1:8).

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part 6: The Pure in Heart


 

Matthew 24:12

Today we live in cultures that lure people into a spiritual stupor that gradually desensitizes people to true spiritual and moral values. Jesus warns that the time would come when, because lawlessness abounds, the love of many in the church would grow cold (Matthew 24:12). He also warns through Paul that in this time people would be so perverse as to be without even natural affection (II Timothy 3:3). We live in those times, and it requires a clear vision and a steadfast conduct to avoid being sucked into following the worldly crowd. God has given our cultures over to allowing the carnal mind to spend itself on continuous sensation-seeking stimulation. The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life are virtually running wild.

One paraphrase of Romans 1:28 changed the term "reprobate mind" (KJV; debased mind, NKJV) to "degrading passions seeking stimulation." Another rendered it as "irrational stimulation resulting in monstrous behavior." Without a strong resistance to this almost unrelenting pressure, such stimulation will gradually produce a stupor, an apathy, an unfeeling indifference toward the highest priorities of life, that is, our relationships with God and fellow man. If a person does not defend himself against lawlessness, he will lose his God-given love. A Christian must guard himself strongly against becoming caught up in the stupor-inducing spirit of the times of which Paul forewarns us.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Eating: How Good It Is! (Part Three)


 

Luke 14:27

There is something sobering in the instruction Jesus gives here. What was the cross or stake in reality? Was it not the instrument of Christ's death? It is what He was killed on. Certainly, He was killed by sin. We could carry that further, but the actual instrument of His death was the cross. He had to carry His own instrument of death with Him. He stumbled under it, and another had to help Him.

That equates symbolically with something that we carry with us everywhere. What is the instrument of our death? Sin. Sin lodges in the mind. The apostle Paul says in Romans 7 that he found sin still within him. Here is a converted man, an apostle of God, long after he was called, yet sin still lived in him. Every once in awhile, it would get control over him, and he would find himself under its domination once again. That cross that we have to bear and carry with us right to the grave is our own mind laden with sin! Sin lies at the door, as God said to Cain (Genesis 4:7). It is at the door of our minds all the time. God has given us an interesting challenge: Everywhere we go our cross is with us. It is sobering.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Freedom and Unleavened Bread


 

Romans 7:15

Paul was not living a life of sin as he had before conversion. His words reflect the keen perception into the deceitfulness of human nature of a man so close to God he could see virtually every self-centered, evil, twisted, and perverted nuance of carnality that still lurked in him. He abhorred it, groaning and yearning for complete deliverance from it!

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part Three: Mourning


 

Romans 8:7

The carnal mind is the nature in which a person's conduct is based until God acts to convert or transform him; it is man's deceitful heart (Jeremiah 17:9). Once an individual is called, and the Father and Son have revealed Themselves and some of Their purpose to him, this verse succinctly describes the major impediment to our submitting to Them. This resisting influence from within each of us is the major barrier to perfect deference and compliance to Them.

Of course, Satan and the world also influence us, but the major impediment to our responsibly submitting is what is already part of our characters even as we are being converted. We quickly revert to carnality when confronted with something that we do not want to do.

What element in our carnality drives our resistance? Solomon states in Ecclesiastes 1:2, "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity." Vanity implies something that is useless and impermanent, like vapor rising from a pot of boiling water, and therefore something of little or no value toward accomplishing God's purpose for mankind. The "all" in Solomon's statement includes us.

Notice this evidence regarding mankind's unconverted state from Psalm 39:5-6, where David writes:

Indeed, You have made my days as handbreadths, and my age is as nothing before You; certainly every man at his best state is but vapor. Selah. Surely every man walks about like a shadow; surely they busy themselves in vain; he heaps up riches, and does not know who will gather them.

In Psalm 62:9, he adds, "Surely men of low degree are a vapor, men of high degree are a lie; if they are weighed in the balances, they are altogether lighter than vapor."

These are blunt statements, showing that unless something is done to change the value of what we are in reality, what good reason does God have to work with us?

But there is more from God's Word that paints the picture of our unconverted value and the strength of our natural resistance to Him even more acutely. The aforementioned Jeremiah 17:9 says, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?" "Above all things" implies all things considered evil. This by itself is a vivid comparison—and God does not lie—but He goes beyond that by adding that man's heart is not merely wicked but desperately wicked. This means our heart is without care for danger and recklessly, badly, extremely, furiously, impetuously wicked.

Jesus adds force to this word-picture by confirming in Matthew 15:17-20 that the heart is the place from which our evil resistance to God is generated. However, an irony comes into play because the heart is the same place that generates to us in our thoughts the belief that we are really something good! This is quite an effective combination in producing sin. It occurs because our hearts produce self-esteem with the result that our ideas and actions—our very lives—are focused on self-satisfaction. To meet that need, we will sin as a way of life.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Living By Faith and Human Pride


 

1 Corinthians 3:1-4

Obviously, Paul expected much better of them. When he calls them "carnal," he does not mean they are unconverted but acting as if they were unconverted. He is strongly implying they had either regressed from earlier maturity or barely left the starting blocks in growing into mature Christians. Paul uses "carnal" as a synonym of "immature" or "incomplete." Their conduct and attitude were consistent with spiritual babes. From other parts of the epistle, we know they did not have their emotions under control and went pell-mell from one trouble to another, creating division in the congregation through their lack of knowledge, experience, and character. Giving them the benefit of the doubt, they, in their almost complete self-centeredness, apparently did not know how to do things the right way.

We might say they had no common sense or wisdom. Their discernment of situations and their evaluation of what to do did not originate in a godly perspective. Consequently, they were motivated to conduct themselves in ways unbecoming of God, Christianity, and the Kingdom of God. The American Heritage College Dictionary defines wisdom as "understanding of what is true, right or lasting; insight." God's revelation provides us these very qualities and more if we follow His counsel.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Elements of Motivation (Part Two): Vision


 

Hebrews 5:12

They had regressed to the point where they were now babes again—where they were just about as carnal as the unconverted.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Conviction and Moses


 

2 Peter 2:2

The word translated "destructive" or "pernicious" (KJV) is more accurately translated "lascivious." Lascivious means "to excite to lust or lewdness." These heresies will seem to provide something we carnally consider very desirable for our well-being. But, all the while, the liberties (verse 19) they promise in their false teachings will be so destructive that they only serve to deny Jesus Christ (verse 1).

John W. Ritenbaugh
Damnable Heresies


 

 




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