Growing in Grace Studies: Carnal or Spiritual, Part I

Theology Girl Studies

GROWING IN GRACE STUDIES
Blogging with TheologyGirl & ReformedWomen
Fall 2009
BOOK: The Deeper Christian Life by Andrew Murray

III. CARNAL OR SPIRITUAL? – Part I

   “And Peter went out and wept bitterly.” — Luke 22:62.

These words indicate the turning point in the life of Peter, –a  crisis. There is often a question about the life of holiness. Do you grow into it? Or do you come into it by a crisis suddenly? Peter has been growing for three years under the training of Christ, but he had grown terribly downward, for the end of his growing was, he denied Jesus. And then there came a crisis. After the crisis he was a changed man, and then he began to grow aright. We must indeed grow in grace, but before we can grow in grace we must be put right.

You know what the two halves of the life of Peter were. In God’s Word we read very often about the difference between the carnal and the  spiritual Christian. The word “carnal” comes from the Latin word for flesh. In Romans viii., and in Gal. v., we are taught that the flesh and the Spirit of God are the two opposing powers by which we are dominated or ruled, and we are taught that a true believer may allow himself to be ruled by the flesh. That is what Paul writes to the Corinthians. In the 3rd chapter, the first four verses, he says, four times to them, “You are carnal, and not spiritual.” And just so a  believer can allow the flesh to have so much power over him that  becomes “carnal.” Every object is named according to its most prominent characteristic. If a man is a babe in Christ and has a little of the Holy Spirit and a great deal of the flesh, he is called carnal, for the flesh is his chief mark. If he gives way, as the Corinthians did, to strife, temper, division, and envy, he is a carnal Christian. He is a Christian, but a carnal one. But if he gives himself over entirely to the Holy Spirit so that He (the Holy Spirit) can deliver from the temper, the envy, and the strife, by breathing a heavenly disposition; and can mortify the deeds of the body; then God’s Word calls him a   “spiritual” man, a true spiritual Christian.

Now, these two styles are remarkably illustrated in the life of Peter. The text is the crisis and turning point at which he begins to pass over from the one side to the other.

The message that I want to bring to you is this: That the great  majority of Christians, alas, are not spiritual men, and that they may  become spiritual men by the grace of God. I want to come to all who are perhaps hungering and longing for the better life, and asking what is wrong that you are without it, to point out that what is wrong is just one thing,– allowing the flesh to rule in you, and trusting in the power of the flesh to make you good.

There is a better life, a life in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Then, I want to tell you a third thing. The first thing is important, take care of the carnal life, and confess if you are in it. The second truth is very blessed, there is a spiritual life; believe that it is a possibility. But the third truth is the most important, –You can by one step get out of the carnal into the spiritual state. May God reveal it to you now through the story of the Apostle Peter!

Look at him, first of all, in the carnal state. What are the marks of the carnal state in him? Self-will, self-pleasing, self-confidence.  Just remember, when Christ said to the disciples at Caesarea Philippi, “The Son of Man must be crucified,” Peter said to Him, “Lord, that can never be!” And Christ had to say to him, “Get thee behind Me, Satan!” 

Dear reader, what an awful thing for Peter! He could not understand what a suffering Christ was. And Peter was so self-willed and self-confident that he dared to contradict and to rebuke Christ! Just think of it! Then, you remember, how Peter and the other disciples, were more than once quarrelling as to who was to be the chief–self-exaltation, self-pleasing;–every one wanted the chief seat in the Kingdom of God. Then again, remember the last night, when Christ warned Peter that Satan had desired to sift him and that he would deny Him; and Peter said twice over, “Lord, if they all deny Thee, I am ready to go to prison and to death.” What self-confidence! He was sure that his heart was right. He loved Jesus, but he trusted himself. “I will never deny my Lord”! Don’t you see the whole of that life of Peter is carnal confidence in himself. In his carnal pride, in his carnal    unlovingness, in the carnal liberty he took in contradicting Jesus, it was all just the life of the flesh. Peter loved Jesus. God had by the Holy Spirit, taught him. Christ had said, “Flesh and blood hath not revealed this unto thee, but My Father which is in heaven.” God had taught him that Christ was the Son of God; but with all that, Peter was  just under the power of the flesh; and that is why Christ said at Gethsemane, “The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.”–“You are under the power of the flesh, you cannot watch with Me.”

Dear reader, what did it all lead to? The flesh led not only to the sins I have mentioned, but last of all to the saddest of things, to Peter’s actual denial of Jesus. Three times over he told the lie; and once with an oath, “I know not the man.” He denied his blessed Lord. That is what it comes to with the life of the flesh. That is Peter.

Next Week:  III. CARNAL OR SPIRITUAL? – Part II

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