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Ernest Reisinger (1919-2004).  The young Ernest C. Reisinger, because of his bold witness, compassion for the lost and passion for strengthening new believers in the faith, was urged to be part of the founding of a new church in Carlisle, PA which would eventually become the Grace Baptist Church.  Through the influence of I. C. Herendeen, a seller of Christian books through his Bible Truth Depot in Swengel, Pennsylvania, the doctrines of grace became known and loved by the newly formed congregation, and by 1959, Grace Baptist Church was subscribing to the London Confession of Faith of 1689.  Over time, Ernie led the way among Baptists in rediscovering their Reformed past, and spent a great deal of time studying and teaching the biblical message and methods of evangelism and missions.  During these same years, Ernie and other leaders at Grace Baptist intensified their evangelistic labors with college students at Dickinson College in Carlisle.  Ernie seemed to be tireless in writing letters, giving out books and taking young people to lunch to talk about what they read or to give counsel and guidance in Christian living.  From it have come missionaries, gospel ministers and strong pillars in numerous churches - all of whom have had in their hearts a fire of zeal for Christ ignited by his personal attention and ministry.  After retirement from business, Ernie and his wife Jane retired to Florida, where eventually he was called to North Pompano Baptist Church in Pompano Beach, Florida, in 1977, and over time helped lay the foundation for what was to become the Founders Ministries which seeks to return Southern Baptists to their Reformed beginnings.

What Should We Think of the Carnal Christian?

by Ernest C. Reisinger


1. Are we sanctified passively, that is, "by faith" only, without obedience to the law of God and Christ? If sanctification is passive -- a view represented by the slogan "Let go and let God" -- then how do we understand such apostolic statements as "I fight," "I run," "I keep under my body," "let us cleanse ourselves," "let us labour," "let us lay aside every weight"? Surely these statements do not express a passive condition, nor do they indicate that by one single act we may possess the experience of "victory" and thus become spiritual and mature Christians.

2. Does an appeal to the so-called "carnal Christian" to become a "spiritual Christian" minimize the real conversion experience by magnifying a supposed second experience, by whatever name it may be called -- "higher life," "deeper life," "Spirit-filled life," "triumphant living," "receiving Christ as Lord, and not merely as Saviour," and so on? The words we read in 2 Corinthians 5:17, "Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new," do not refer to a second experience but rather to what happens when any real conversion occurs.

3. Has the "spiritual Christian" finished growing in grace? If not, what is he to be called as he continues to grow in grace? Do we need to make yet another class whose members are the "super-spiritual Christians"? 4. Who is to decide who the carnal Christians are, and exactly what standard is to be used in determining this? Do the 'spiritual Christians' decide who the "carnal Christians" are? Does a church or preacher decide where the line is to be drawn that divides the two classes or categories? Since all Christians have sin remaining in them, and since they sin every day, what degree of sin or what particular sins classify a person as a "carnal Christian"?

The Issue in Controversy

1. First, we note again that it divides all men into three classes or categories. With this fact none of its proponents disagree, though they may present it differently and apply it differently.

2. Second, one class or category is set out as containing the "Christian" who "walks after the flesh." The centre of his life is self, and he is the same as the unrenewed man as far as the bent of his life is concerned.

3. Third, all those who accept this view use 1 Corinthians 3: 1 -- 4 to support it. Consequently, if it can be established that the preponderance of Scripture teaches only two classes or categories of men -- regenerate and unregenerate, converted and unconverted, those in Christ and those outside of Christ -- the "carnal Christian" teaching would be confronted with an insurmountable objection. It would be in conflict with the whole emphasis of Scripture and of the New Testament in particular.

1. The misuse of I Corinthians 3:1-4.

2. New covenant blessings are separated.

3. Saving faith and spurious faith are not distinguished.

4. The omission of repentance.

5. Wrong teaching on assurance.

6. A low view of sin.

7. A second work-of-grace made necessary.

8. A wrong view of Christ.

9. False spirituality.


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