There was definite conflict in the Corinthian church. They were zealous — but jealous — and everyone wanted to go in his own direction. Some wanted to claim Paul as their authority; others, Apollos; and some just wanted to do their own thing.
Conflict is sharp disagreement; collision, as in interests or ideas, emphasizing the process rather than the end.
Paul said this was carnal. Their disagreements — this collision of interests — pitted them against each other, spending their time arguing about trifles and forgetting about the higher goal.
To the Galatians — who were having the same problem with carnality — he says, “Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16).
Oswald Chambers, in his book, “My Utmost For His Highest,” says that God writes a new name on those places only in our lives where he has erased the pride and self-sufficiency and self-interest. Some of us, he says, “have the new name in spots only, like spiritual measles.”
The disciple, he adds, “is one who has the new name written all over him; self-interest and pride and self-sufficiency have been completely erased.”
When conflict in the church comes, it is because people began to veer from the light and promote their own ideas and advance their own interests, and to them, it seems the right thing to do — “the end justifies the means.”
When the light is shown on the carnality in a person’s life, he can do one of two things: be humbled by conviction and accept the light, or, he will explain it away and vindicate (or justify) himself. The first — the child of light — will confess and allow God to deal with the wrong; the second will prove himself a child of darkness by not accepting the truth about himself. The response determines whether a person is a child of light or a child of darkness.
What is the wake-up call? In our dealings with each other; in the decisions and actions of the church — if carnality rules, conflict is ever present. Personal interests and ideas will always be on a collision course with right if there are those who refuse to accept God’s will. And the church will only know God’s will when self-interest sleeps and the real interest awakes.
When people “walk in the Spirit,” love rules, and “Love suffereth long, and is kind ...” Paul said in 1 Corinthians 3:4-8. There will be a yielding to the working of the Spirit of God. Reasoning with each other has never been the way for children of God to achieve the end results. It must be surrendering to the will of God in our thinking and in our actions. Carnality disappears when the church “walks in the spirit.”
When that happens, it will be most amazing to “look what the Lord has done.”