The Religious Are Not Immune From Being Carnal

by Mike Ratliff

τὸ πνεῦμά ἐστιν τὸ ζῳοποιοῦν, ἡ σὰρξ οὐκ ὠφελεῖ οὐδέν· τὰ ῥήματα ἃ ἐγὼ λελάληκα ὑμῖν πνεῦμά ἐστιν καὶ ζωή ἐστιν. (John 6:63 NA27)

The Spirit is who makes alive. The flesh does not profit anything. The words which I have spoken to you are Spirit and are life. (a personal translation of John 6:63 from the NA27 Greek text)

Apart from my normal preparations and Bible study to put these devotions and articles together, I also do a systematic read through of the Bible every year. Today I read 2 Kings 12-16 and John 6, which, on Saturdays, I usually do from my 1560 Edition of the Geneva Bible. The rampant apostasy in both the Northern Kingdom of Israel and the Southern Kingdom of Judah was horrifying to read. King Ahaz of Judah actually sacrificed his own son(s) to idols. I am sure things were just as bad, if not worse, in the Northern Kingdom. It was almost with relief that I came to the end of 2 Kings 16 and went to the New Testament. However, the Apostle John is someone I can identify with very well. I have been accused by many who know me well of not being able to compromise at all. I have no grey areas. Things are either right or wrong. I agree with that assessment to a point and I see the same sort of view of non-compromising adherence to the truth with the Apostle John. However, let us not forget that what he wrote for us in God’s Word is that very thing. We are reading the inspired Word of God and in John 6, the very words of our Lord are, for the most part, in response to His critics who were in the darkness of unbelief. 

John Chapter 6 is usually broken down into four parts. The first part, vv1-15, is John’s account of our Lord’s feeding of the Five Thousand, which is recorded in all four Gospels: cf. Matthew 14:13-21; Mark 6:30-44; Luke 9:10-17 and here. The second part, vv16-21, is John’s account of Jesus walking on the water. The third part, vv 22-59, is a dialogue between our Lord and the crowd, whom He had miraculously fed the day before, who came to find him in Capernaum. In this passage, our Lord utilizes some “hard preaching” to keep people from seeking Him simply to have their felt needs met and also to drive away those who would seek to force Him to be their King. It is this section that He makes very clear that it is God who is in complete control of who believes and who doesn’t. The last section, vv60-71, is the very end of our Lord’s dialogue between Himself and the multitude as they turn away from His “hard preaching.” After this, our Lord turns to His disciples and asks if they wish to leave Him as well. Peter responds that in Jesus only are the words of eternal life and so the 12 remain, but Jesus responds that even within them is one who is a devil.

Let us join John 6 the day after the feeding of the Five Thousand and our Lord has walked on water. The crowd is still on the other side of the sea from where the 12 Disciples and our Lord have gone, which is Capernaum.

On the next day the crowd that remained on the other side of the sea saw that there had been only one boat there, and that Jesus had not entered the boat with his disciples, but that his disciples had gone away alone. Other boats from Tiberias came near the place where they had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. So when the crowd saw that Jesus was not there, nor his disciples, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum, seeking Jesus. (John 6:22-24 ESV)

I would not be at all surprised to hear of a Seeker Sensitive “pastor” take these three verses and turn them into a positive showing that people really do seek after Jesus on their own, hence their motive to design their churches and programs in a way to meet these peoples “felt needs” to welcome them in, to make them feel right at home. Were these people seeking after Jesus as their Saviour or was it something else entirely?

καὶ εὑρόντες αὐτὸν πέραν τῆς θαλάσσης εἶπον αὐτῷ· ῥαββί, πότε ὧδε γέγονας; Ἀπεκρίθη αὐτοῖς ὁ Ἰησοῦς καὶ εἶπεν· ἀμὴν ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν, ζητεῖτέ με οὐχ ὅτι εἴδετε σημεῖα, ἀλλ᾽ ὅτι ἐφάγετε ἐκ τῶν ἄρτων καὶ ἐχορτάσθητε. ἐργάζεσθε μὴ τὴν βρῶσιν τὴν ἀπολλυμένην ἀλλὰ τὴν βρῶσιν τὴν μένουσαν εἰς ζωὴν αἰώνιον, ἣν ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ὑμῖν δώσει· τοῦτον γὰρ ὁ πατὴρ ἐσφράγισεν ὁ θεός. (John 6:25-27 NA27)

And having found Him across the Sea they said to Him, Rabbi, when did you come here? Jesus answered them saying, “Amen, Amen I say to you, you are seeking me not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were satisfied. Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on this one God the Father has set His seal.” (a personal translation of John 6:25-27 from the NA27 Greek text)

That’s pretty blunt don’t you think? He began his statement with ἀμὴν ἀμὴν, which, is directly from the Hebrew אָמֵן or ‘âmên. It means the same in Hebrew as it does in Greek, “truth or truly.” For our Lord to repeat it twice at the beginning of His statement to these people was to emphasize that He was proclaiming an absolute truth to them about themselves. What was their problem? These crowds, even through they had been the recipients of the food of one of His Messianic signs, the feeding of Thousands from just a little bit of food, they themselves were motivated by superficial desires of food rather than any understanding of true spiritual significance of Jesus’ person and mission. (John 8:14-21; Mark 6:52).

The Seeker Sensitive fellows would rebuke our Lord right here, telling Him that He should welcome these people in and do all He can to meet those felt needs regardless of their motives. However, our Lord refuses to play that game. He even says that those motivated by felt needs, like these people, to come to Him, are seeking for what is perishing, not for what is eternal.

εἶπον οὖν πρὸς αὐτόν· τί ποιῶμεν ἵνα ἐργαζώμεθα τὰ ἔργα τοῦ θεοῦ; ἀπεκρίθη [ὁ] Ἰησοῦς καὶ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς· τοῦτό ἐστιν τὸ ἔργον τοῦ θεοῦ, ἵνα πιστεύητε εἰς ὃν ἀπέστειλεν ἐκεῖνος. Εἶπον οὖν αὐτῷ· τί οὖν ποιεῖς σὺ σημεῖον, ἵνα ἴδωμεν καὶ πιστεύσωμέν σοι; τί ἐργάζῃ; οἱ πατέρες ἡμῶν τὸ μάννα ἔφαγον ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ, καθώς ἐστιν γεγραμμένον· ἄρτον ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ ἔδωκεν αὐτοῖς φαγεῖν. εἶπεν οὖν αὐτοῖς ὁ Ἰησοῦς· ἀμὴν ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν, οὐ Μωϋσῆς δέδωκεν ὑμῖν τὸν ἄρτον ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ, ἀλλ᾽ ὁ πατήρ μου δίδωσιν ὑμῖν τὸν ἄρτον ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ τὸν ἀληθινόν· ὁ γὰρ ἄρτος τοῦ θεοῦ ἐστιν ὁ καταβαίνων ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ καὶ ζωὴν διδοὺς τῷ κόσμῳ. εἶπον οὖν πρὸς αὐτόν· κύριε, πάντοτε δὸς ἡμῖν τὸν ἄρτον τοῦτον. (John 6:28-34 NA27)

They said, therefore, to Him, “What may we do that we may work the works of God?” Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the works of God, that you may believe in Him whom He sent.” They said, therefore, to Him, “What sign then do you perform that we may see and may believe you? What do you perform? Our Fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, as it has been written, ‘He gave them bread from Heaven to eat.’” Jesus said, therefore, to them, “Amen, amen I say to you, Moses has not given you the bread out of Heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread out of Heaven. For the Bread of God is the one coming down out of Heaven and giving life to the world.” They said, therefore, to Him, “Lord, always give us this bread.” (a personal translation of John 6:28-34 from the NA27 Greek text)

Jesus had just rebuked these people for seeking after the food instead of what is eternal then they totally misunderstand what He meant. They thought He was saying God required ἐργαζώμεθα τὰ ἔργα, “them to work the works” of God. This is not inconsistent with the theology that these people had grown up with. The Law of God is not something any of us can keep, but by the time of the 1st Century, the Scribes and Pharisees and Sadducees and created a religious system that was legalistic, but had so many “outs” and “qualification” and “opinions” built into every part of it that these people actually thought they could keep it. We see the same thing in anyone’s theology that is Pelagian. They do not understand Grace so their entire theology is moralistic. That is why so much of the Seeker Sensitive paradigm is keyed around just living within the easy bounds of those grey areas. Those who hated Jesus and those who followed Him in His day were those whose theology was entirely vested in this phony works based system. Jesus is about to let all the air out of it.

εἶπεν αὐτοῖς ὁ Ἰησοῦς· ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ ἄρτος τῆς ζωῆς· ὁ ἐρχόμενος πρὸς ἐμὲ οὐ μὴ πεινάσῃ, καὶ ὁ πιστεύων εἰς ἐμὲ οὐ μὴ διψήσει πώποτε. Ἀλλ᾽ εἶπον ὑμῖν ὅτι καὶ ἑωράκατέ [με] καὶ οὐ πιστεύετε. πᾶν ὃ δίδωσίν μοι ὁ πατὴρ πρὸς ἐμὲ ἥξει, καὶ τὸν ἐρχόμενον πρὸς ἐμὲ οὐ μὴ ἐκβάλω ἔξω, ὅτι καταβέβηκα ἀπὸ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ οὐχ ἵνα ποιῶ τὸ θέλημα τὸ ἐμὸν ἀλλὰ τὸ θέλημα τοῦ πέμψαντός με. τοῦτο δέ ἐστιν τὸ θέλημα τοῦ πέμψαντός με, ἵνα πᾶν ὃ δέδωκέν μοι μὴ ἀπολέσω ἐξ αὐτοῦ, ἀλλὰ ἀναστήσω αὐτὸ [ἐν] τῇ ἐσχάτῃ ἡμέρᾳ. τοῦτο γάρ ἐστιν τὸ θέλημα τοῦ πατρός μου, ἵνα πᾶς ὁ θεωρῶν τὸν υἱὸν καὶ πιστεύων εἰς αὐτὸν ἔχῃ ζωὴν αἰώνιον, καὶ ἀναστήσω αὐτὸν ἐγὼ [ἐν] τῇ ἐσχάτῃ ἡμέρᾳ. (John 6:35-40 NA27)

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life, the one coming to me will never hunger, and the one believing in me will never thirst again. But, I told you that you have seen Me and yet you do not believe. All which the Father gives to Me will come, and the one coming to Me I will never throw out. Because I have come down from Heaven not to do my will, but the will of the one having sent Me. Now this is the will of the one having sent Me, that all which He has given Me I should not lose none, but I will raise it up it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father that everyone seeing the Son and believing in Him may have eternal life, and I will raise Him up on the last day.” (a personal translation of John 6:35-40 from the NA27 Greek text)

Remember these people had earlier asked Jesus for a sign that He was who He claimed to be even though He had fed Five Thousand from Five Loaves and a couple of fish only the day before. Then they ask Him to show them what works they have to do in order to “earn” eternal life. Then right here he bluntly tells them that those who have eternal life will never hunger or thirst spiritually again and these are the ones who believe in Him. However, these people have seen Jesus and His miraculous sign yet they do not believe. Then in the very next sentence, Jesus makes it abundantly clear in v37, “πᾶν ὃ δίδωσίν μοι ὁ πατὴρ πρὸς ἐμὲ ἥξει, καὶ τὸν ἐρχόμενον πρὸς ἐμὲ οὐ μὴ ἐκβάλω ἔξω,” “All which the Father gives to Me will come, and the one coming to Me I will never throw out. ” He is telling these people that all who do believe in Him are those given to Him by the father. All of them believe and are given eternal life forever, but since these people do not believe then they are not in that group. Now, that message may a bit more offensive than what you were prepared to read my brethren, but that is what our Lord said.  What was their response?

Ἐγόγγυζον οὖν οἱ Ἰουδαῖοι περὶ αὐτοῦ ὅτι εἶπεν· ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ ἄρτος ὁ καταβὰς ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ, καὶ ἔλεγον· οὐχ οὗτός ἐστιν Ἰησοῦς ὁ υἱὸς Ἰωσήφ, οὗ ἡμεῖς οἴδαμεν τὸν πατέρα καὶ τὴν μητέρα; πῶς νῦν λέγει ὅτι ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ καταβέβηκα; (John 6:41-42 NA27)

Therefore the Jews were murmuring about Him because He said, “I Am the bread having come down out of Heaven, and they were saying, Is not this man Jesus the son of Joseph, of whom we know the father and the mother? How now does he say, “Out of heaven I have come down?” (a personal translation of John 6:41-42 from the NA27 Greek text)

I found this very interesting that what these “Jews” were zeroed in on was our Lord’s claim to being “The Bread” and that He was “From Heaven” rather than His clear statement that the reason they did not believe in Him was that God had not given them to Him. They were angered that Jesus placed Himself equal with God. So, they ignored His clear theological statement or discarded it and determined that He was a false prophet because of these other truths He said so they refused to listen, hardening their hearts.

Before we go any further, I know that some have issues reconciling passages like these about the Sovereignty of God in salvation with others like John 6:40 that we looked at above which makes it clear that everyone is responsible to believe. Everyone is responsible to believe the Gospel even though God is Sovereign. Intellectually harmonizing the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man is impossible in our finite human minds. However, it is perfectly resolved in the infinite mind of God. I am content in that and so should be all believers.

ἀπεκρίθη Ἰησοῦς καὶ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς· μὴ γογγύζετε μετ᾽ ἀλλήλων. οὐδεὶς δύναται ἐλθεῖν πρός με ἐὰν μὴ ὁ πατὴρ ὁ πέμψας με ἑλκύσῃ αὐτόν, κἀγὼ ἀναστήσω αὐτὸν ἐν τῇ ἐσχάτῃ ἡμέρᾳ. ἔστιν γεγραμμένον ἐν τοῖς προφήταις· καὶ ἔσονται πάντες διδακτοὶ θεοῦ· πᾶς ὁ ἀκούσας παρὰ τοῦ πατρὸς καὶ μαθὼν ἔρχεται πρὸς ἐμέ. οὐχ ὅτι τὸν πατέρα ἑώρακέν τις εἰ μὴ ὁ ὢν παρὰ τοῦ θεοῦ, οὗτος ἑώρακεν τὸν πατέρα. ἀμὴν ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν, ὁ πιστεύων ἔχει ζωὴν αἰώνιον. Ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ ἄρτος τῆς ζωῆς. οἱ πατέρες ὑμῶν ἔφαγον ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ τὸ μάννα καὶ ἀπέθανον· οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ ἄρτος ὁ ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ καταβαίνων, ἵνα τις ἐξ αὐτοῦ φάγῃ καὶ μὴ ἀποθάνῃ. ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ ἄρτος ὁ ζῶν ὁ ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ καταβάς· ἐάν τις φάγῃ ἐκ τούτου τοῦ ἄρτου ζήσει εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα, καὶ ὁ ἄρτος δὲ ὃν ἐγὼ δώσω ἡ σάρξ μού ἐστιν ὑπὲρ τῆς τοῦ κόσμου ζωῆς. (John 6:43-51 NA27)

Jesus answered and said to them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. No one is able to come to Me unless the Father having sent Me should draw Him, and I will raise him up in the last day. It has been written in the prophets, and they shall all be taught of God. Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me. Not that anyone has seen the Father except He who is from God; This one has seen the Father. Amen, amen I say to you, the one believing has eternal life. I am the Bread of Life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness and died. This is the bread that comes down out of Heaven that anyone may eat of it and not die. I Am the Living Bread that came down out of Heaven . If anyone eats of this Bread, He will live forever. And the Bread that I will give for the life for the life of the World is my flesh. (a personal translation of John 6:43-51 from the NA27 Greek text)

God’s Sovereignty in salvation is clearly seen in v44, “οὐδεὶς δύναται ἐλθεῖν πρός με ἐὰν μὴ ὁ πατὴρ ὁ πέμψας με ἑλκύσῃ αὐτόν, κἀγὼ ἀναστήσω αὐτὸν ἐν τῇ ἐσχάτῃ ἡμέρᾳ.; “No one is able to come to Me unless the Father having sent Me should draw Him, and I will raise him up in the last day.” Combine this with verse 37a and this indicates that the divine drawing activity to which Jesus is referring cannot be reduced to what theologians call “prevenient grace,” i.e. that somehow the power to come to Christ is dispensed to all of mankind, thus enabling everyone to accept or reject the Gospel according to their own will alone. Sacred Scripture is clear, in the fallen human nature no “free will” exists. Why? Fallen man is enslaved to sin and unable to believe apart form God’s empowerment (Romans 3:1-19; Ephesians 2:1-3; 2 Corinthians 4:4; 2 Timothy 1;9). The General call of the Gospel does indeed go to “whosoever will,” but as John, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, quoting our Lord Jesus Christ, made very clear, no one comes to Him unless the Father draws them, that is, gives the ability to believe and respond, along with regenerating their faith so that they believe the Gospel.

Now, what does what our Lord say here do to those forms of preaching and “doing church” that are all about going after “seekers” or dumbing down church in order to fill up it up with unbelievers not daring to preach like our Lord did to those who sought to be according to carnal means? What it does is reveal that much of what is known as “church” in our time is as carnal as the world and is no more Christian than the world itself. The leaders in it are like Ahaz who lead Judah into rank apostasy and an alliance with ungodly Assyrian kings. It is like the “Jews” who created a legalistic religion that looked pious, but was simply a form of rule keeping that was full of exception clauses and fooled them into thinking they were keeping God’s Law, when they were just as sinful as everyone else.

What are we to do? We start with ourselves. We must examine ourselves. We must repent of going after the world and its ways. We must seek the Lord, worship and obey Him His way not the way our flesh wants. We must learn to walk in repentance praying for grace and for the repentance of those believers all around us and the salvation of family and friends. We have some time, but I don’t know how much longer. Only our Lord knows that. Isn’t it time we quite compromising with the world and its ways and become separate from the carnal, the fleshly and the abominable? Sure, a lot of what calls itself Christian won’t listen to this, but those who are genuine believers will. Let’s turn from the flesh and its ways and become that Bride of Christ without spot awaiting the Bridegroom.

Soli Deo Gloria!

2 thoughts on “The Religious Are Not Immune From Being Carnal

  1. Mike, I love this post!…………..We are going through John’s gospel on Sundays, week after week… and I am so glad that I too have been accused of being “uncompromising” and saying that “things are either right or wrong” in the church I came out of.
    May the Lord keep us faithful to this stand!

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