Paul says, “And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ” (1 Corinthians 3:1). So the carnal Christian is a babe in Christ; he doesn’t understand the Word of God at all and doesn’t have much of a heart for that.
Paul continues, “For you are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are you not carnal, and walk as men?” (v. 3). The very fact that you have strife in any Christian organization—be it a church, a mission board or a radio program—there you have carnal Christians. That’s the mark of carnality, the fact that they can’t get along with other Christians.
The second mark is that some were saying, “I’m with Paul” and others, “I’m with Apollos”—they follow men rather than follow God. That is the problem a great many Christians have today—they follow certain Christian leaders, talking about which radio teachers they like or don’t like. But when you talk like that, it’s carnality. Because most of the men on radio are attempting to teach the Word of God the way they feel God is leading and guiding them, and that’s true in the church. Carnality manifests itself in that way.
And there are several other characteristics. One of the evidences of their carnality is that they all wanted to speak in tongues, and that just doesn’t happen to be a measure of spirituality but of carnality. They were also having problems at the Lord’s Table. One was suing another in the law. And they were attempting to do things in the flesh by their own strength. All of these things, friend, indicate the carnality that is in Christians and determines what’s a carnal Christian. Believe me, there are quite a few of them around today.
Taken from “Q & A: What Is a Carnal Christian?” by Thru the Bible Ministries (used by permission).