1 Corinthians 3:1
And I, brothers, could not speak to you as to spiritual, but as to carnal, even as to babes in Christ.…
In view of St. Paul's description of the immoralities and sensualities of the pagan peoples, given in Romans 1., and in special lists of prevailing iniquities, such as are given in Galatians 5:19-21, his sense of the hindrance the carnal mind presents to the reception of spiritual teachings can be fully apprehended. Probably the severest thing St. Paul said about the carnal mind is that it is "enmity against God: for it is net subject to the Law of God, neither indeed can be. They that are in the flesh cannot please God" (Romans 8:7, 8). Possibly a distinction between the "natural" man and the "carnal" man may be intended. The natural man is one "whose hopes and desires are bounded by the limits of the physical principle of life;" the carnal man is regarded as more or less under the influence of the sensual passions. But St. Paul seems to recognize that the Corinthian tendency to disputes and religious strife was a sign that the carnal principles were yet strongly working in them; and "an appetite for religious strife prevents us from discerning the deeper truths of the Christian faith." It is broadly true that the reception of spiritual truth mainly depends on the openness and preparedness and culture of those to whom such teaching is given. The teacher may indeed be unskilful, but more often the hindrance is that the hearer is unspiritual. The preparation of the teacher is considered to be essential, the preparation of the taught is left to the accident of personal earnestness.
I. THE SIGNS OF THE CARNAL MIND. With the hints given above two signs may be fully dealt with and illustrated.
1. Inability to receive advanced spiritual instruction. Self indulgence in meat or drink, inordinate pursuit of pleasure, the captivity of mind and heart to business schemes, the deteriorating influence of worldly ambitions, - all destroy interest in Divine things, and take from us the very possibility of apprehending the higher mysteries of the kingdom.
2. A spirit of strife and division. It is never the best people in a Christian community who are the cause of strife. Contention and controversy are only interesting to those who are not really growing in likeness to and nearness to Christ. Schism and strife are sure signs of carnality. Men who get soul visions of the truth never can want to contend over words. It would seem that St. Paul recognized signs of remaining carnality in the regenerate members of the Church, and found this to be a principal hindrance to the advance of his teaching. Such signs of the "carnal mind" are still observed by Christian pastors, and are the occasions of their deepest depressions and constant grief.
II. THE FOOD FOR THE CARNAL MIND. St. Paul does not neglect it or refuse to consider it. And it is remarkable that he does not deal with it by warnings or threatenings, but by food, and that of a kind carefully appropriated and adapted. So the physician deals with some classes of disease; he gives no medicine, but nourishes the general health, with a full expectancy that the renewed vitality will throw off, out of the system, the specific disease. St. Paul evidently thinks the real cause of carnality to be low spiritual vitality, want of capacity to digest and assimilate good strong food of truth. These religious men were, m regard to religious truths and principles, really only babes, and religious food suited to babes, to beginners, must be provided for them. They must have the "milk" of gospel simplicities until they are strong enough to take the "meat" of gospel mysteries. Only the milk was to be given with the purpose of nourishing the powers for better food. First principles duly apprehended would prepare the way for higher teachings. Impress that in Christian congregations there is always a call for the gospel simplicities, but that call should not be continually made, as it so often and so sadly is, by the same persons. Milk prepares the way for meat. It may be earnestly urged that, after all these centuries of Christian teaching in the home and in the Church, there ought to be an earnest and a mighty cry for advanced and spiritual preaching of the great revealed mysteries of God in Christ. We ought to be "men." - R.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ.