March 3 (Reading for February 28-March 6: Romans 7). Since I wrote last week on this chapter, I will look at another passage to discuss the subject of a carnal person. Paul described this person in our text: “For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. But if I do the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin that dwells in me” (Rom. 7:19-20. My comments are not new insight, but they will be a good reminder for us.
Our study reference is 1 Corinthians 2:6-16 (NKJV). Paul contemplated who could receive “the things that have been freely given to us by God” (v. 12). From this question came a description of three categories of people. The first category is the natural person: “But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (v. 14). This is the person without Christ, who therefore does not know God and who cannot receive “the wisdom of God” (v. 7). Anything coming from God is foolishness to this person. Jesus said: “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him” (Jn. 6:44). God’s wisdom is “spiritually discerned” (v. 14).
This takes us to the second category, the spiritual person: “But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one. For ‘who has known the mind of the LORD that he may instruct Him?’ But we have the mind of Christ” (vv. 15-16). This is not necessarily a religious person, but it is one who has received by faith the Spirit of God. He receives the wisdom “which the Holy Spirit teaches” (v. 13). It is not human ability but spiritual humility that opens a person to the wisdom of God. By the Spirit of God, he can “judge all things” and know God’s plans and purposes! He answers to God, and God speaks through him. Paul wrote powerful words to describe this intimate relationship with God: “We have the mind of Christ.”
We find the third category in 1 Corinthians 3:1-3, the carnal person: “And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men?” This is the condition that Paul described in our reading for this week: “For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out” (Rom. 7:18, NIV). The carnal person came to Christ in faith, but he does not continue in faith. He tries to serve Christ by his flesh, or sinful nature, and is frustrated. This is a condition of pride and independence, and it leads to a fruitless life for Christ and to broken relationships in the body of Christ. The NASB renders Paul as asking: “Are you not walking like ordinary people?” The spiritual person’s life is extraordinary, characterized by humility and dependence on the Spirit of God!
It is not surprising that from the condition of frustration (dependence on the sinful nature), the question must be: “Who will deliver me from this body of death?” Thankfully, from the position of victory (dependence on the Holy Spirit), the response is: “I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Rom. 7:24-25).
(Romans 8 will be covered over the next two weeks: vv. 1-23, Mar. 7-13, and vv. 24-39, Mar. 14-20).
– Al Gary