“…for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men?”
for you are still carnal.
Paul asserts that the Corinthian church is in a current state of carnality. They were under the dominant influence of their sin capacity. This word for “carnal” is different from the word “carnal” in verse one. The word in verse one meant fleshen, but the word in this verse means characterized by carnality. Their immaturity manifests itself in carnal character. We find three excellent evidences of their carnality in the next phrases.
For where there are envy,
“Envy, strife, and divisions” was the true perspective of the Corinthian Christians. Jealousy predominated their thinking. They operated at a low level of spirituality. Jealousy is an envious and contentious rivalry. This spirit burns with the wrong kind of fervency. It is a dishonorable emulation of another person by grieving over the success of someone else. “Envy” carries the idea of resentment.
“Strife” is the Christian at war. To accept a battle with another Christian is to put ourselves at their level. If we enter a friend’s battle, we operate on the principle “my friend, right or wrong.” The word “strife” means debate, discord, conflict, and selfish rivalry but in the plural carries the meaning of quarrels, rivalries, dissension. “Strife” is the outcome of “envy.” Envy involves self, but strife engages others.
and divisions among you,
From envy and strife come divisions. “Divisions” convey the idea of standing apart. Corinthian believers stood apart from one another. They took sides in competing camps that manifested itself in bickering and schism. Division is the result of envy and strife but goes a step further – it is not mere strife with another individual or individuals but schism with groups. This is group versus group.
are you not carnal and behaving like mere men?
Envy, strife, and divisions were widespread in the church at Corinth. They envied one another’s gifts and abilities. There was a lot of competitiveness but little love. They did not appreciate giftedness given to others. They wanted to be noticed and applauded. They did not have a heart for ministry but for status in the Christian community. They wanted prominence in the church, so competition became their way of doing church.
The Corinthians behaved just like the natural, unsaved man. The word “like” denotes according to the norm of. The norm or standard for the Corinthian church was to live like the lost. They behaved like the lost; their values were like those of the lost. It was difficult to distinguish Christian from non-Christian. Their guide was secular norms.
The question in Greek indicates a “yes” answer. They were indeed walking according to the norm and standard of men. It is difficult to distinguish between the carnal Christian and a non-Christian. The criterion for distinguishing between a spiritual Christian and a carnal Christian is not works, but a belief system manifested in attitudes. The Corinthian church was endowed with spiritual gifts, yet they were the most carnal church in the New Testament. Lack of understanding of the principles of the Word results in false belief, and false belief manifests itself in envy, strife, and divisions.
Attitude sins can sour our entire being.
Many Christians go through life with a chip on their shoulder. They make little people out of themselves. They must reply in kind, for they do not have the character to be independent of the situation. They live under the shadow of the situation. They accept the “dog eat dog” philosophy. It is a life of sniping, sniveling weakness. Someone may have hurt them in a church, so they live with bitterness toward that state of affairs.
Maturity in Christ is a wonderful place to be. Character develops through the application of truth to experience. You treat people not as they are, but as you are – one who holds status with God in Christ. This is a far cry from living on the basis of emotion or inspiration. You can live free from people who have it in for you.
Someone said that great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, and small minds discuss people. The schism in Corinth revolved around dividing over Christian leaders. It is one thing to divide over content or truth, but it is another to divide over personalities.