The Ghastly Doctrine of the Carnal Christian
To understand what the Bible teaches about genuine salvation we must also have a category in our minds for false conversion. Many who profess faith in Christ are not truly regenerated (born again).
The following is a transcript from an excerpt of a sermon by Dr. R. C. Sproul concerning Mark chapter 4 and the Parable of the Sower. Quoting the text Dr. Sproul says:
And the ones sown on stony ground are those who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with gladness; but they have no root and endure only for a time…
What I see here theologically is a vivid description of “the Spurious Conversion.” We see it all the time, where the Evangelist gives his altar call and the people rush to the front of the Church, sign the commitment card, they raise their hand, they make the profession of faith, they are all excited, they are filled with joy and the next day its “business as usual”…
I’ll never forget the night I was converted to Christ. My best friend and I were together. Before we went to bed, later that night we both sat down and wrote to our girlfriends about our conversion. When we woke up in the morning, my friend had completed repudiated what he had embraced with joy the night before - where my life was changed forever.
Its always haunted me, where I see people initially respond to the gospel but it doesn’t take root, it doesn’t last. The gospel says “immediately” that seed withers and dies because it has no place to take root.
Then Jesus said that some of those of the seed fell among thorns and the thorns grew up and choked it and it yielded no crop.
Again we see an example of a spurious conversion – how somebody who makes the profession of faith but is immediately intoxicated by the enticements of this world – the quest of money, fame, lust, whatever it is; and what they professed is choked out, never taking root again.
Beloved this is why, until you’re tired of hearing it, I keep warning you and telling you that no one was ever, ever justified by a profession of faith. We must possess that faith in order to be justified. That seed has to take root in our hearts if we are to enter the kingdom of God. A superficial profession of faith is no sign of true redemption.
One of the most ghastly doctrines that has made its way through the Evangelical Church today is this idea of the “carnal Christian.” The Carnal Christian is described as a person who is truly redeemed but whose life never brings forth fruit. Even though they’re saved they are still altogether and completely carnal. Don’t confuse this with what the New Testament teaches about the TRULY converted Christian who has to fight against his flesh all of his life. But there’s no such thing as a Christian who is totally carnal. It’s a contradiction in terms.
But why does that doctrine emerge? I’ll tell you where it comes from. It comes from Evangelists who can’t stand to admit the idea that they are dealing with false professions all the time. They see people who make the profession and have no change in their life and they say “well, we’ll still count them as converts. They’re just carnal Christians.” And this gives confidence to people who are not converted that in fact they are converted.
But if the parable really is going to be called the parable of the soil, then we have to understand the ONLY ONES who bring forth fruit, the harvest of thirtyfold, sixtyfold and a hundredfold, are those where the seed falls upon good soil.
Now here’s where we have to be very, very careful. We could say “well the good soil means that the seed is not going to take root unless the person who receives that seed, who hears that word is a good person. “I’m a Christian because I believed the word and the reason why I believe the word is because I am a good man.” If that’s how I think, I’ve never received the word at all.
That’s not the point of this parable.
What makes the soil “good” soil?
Again it drives us back to that question that we hear all the time in theology, “why does one person receive the word of God in their heart and another person doesn’t?”
Is it because there is something more righteous in the person who receives it than in the person who rejects it? That’s the majority view out there, believe it or not. Some people think that the reason they’re Christians is because OUT OF THEIR OWN WILL, they made the right decision, they embraced Christ, where their friends, hardened their hearts and did not use their will to embrace the gospel. And that person therefore has something in which to boast, and to boast eternally, because they said ‘yes.’
No. The Scriptures tell us… Jesus tells us clearly that unless a man is born again he can’t even see the kingdom of God. He can’t enter the kingdom of God.
Jesus told His disciples in John chapter 6 ‘nobody can come to Him unless it is given to him by the Father.’ Paul emphasizes that in his letter to the Ephesians when he says, ‘you hath he quickened.. when you were dead in trespasses and sin. By grace you have been saved through faith and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.’
What makes the soil good is the immediate, supernatural work on the soul by God, the Holy Spirit. The only people who ever embrace the word of God are those who have first been changed by the Holy Ghost TO receive the word of God.
What I’m saying, get it clear, is that your regeneration comes before your faith. The Holy Spirit has to change your heart before you will ever say ‘yes’ to Jesus. And that’s the power of the sower, because the sower prepares the soil to receive the seed.
That’s why we say ‘salvation is of the Lord’ and to Him and to Him alone belongs the glory.
This is hard to understand. But if you have ears to hear, you will hear it.