“For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not eve able to do so; and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.” (Romans 8:5-9)
We have been given a great privilege in Christ. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Him. Wrath is removed. Enmity is erased. Guilt is gone. Christ appeared in the likeness of sinful flesh and gave Himself as an offering for sin. He was condemned that we wouldn’t be. His sacrifice broke the guilt and power of sin over us. And the blessed result is that we have been made righteous in Christ. We are now clothed in Him. His righteousness has been placed on us.
Paul, within this context now turns to the mind. What is my mind running after? What is it set upon? The things of the flesh or the things of the Spirit. Oh, how I long to have it dwell on the spiritual but the battle of Romans 7 is real in me. (Praise God that it is a battle and not a surrender! The very war within is a testimony of the work of grace within.)
In these verses we are cautioned against “carnal mindedness.” In it there is much misery. In it there is only death. “For the mind set on the flesh is death” (vs 6). Henry says, “It is the death of the soul; for it is alienation from God, in union and communion with whom the life of the soul consists. A carnal soul is a dead soul, dead as a soul can die. Death includes all misery and carnal souls are miserable souls.” Sounds like a great place to hang out doesn’t it?! We are foolish folk and stupid sheep to set our minds upon such things.
Look at the great contrast between the mind set on the flesh as compared to the mind set on the Spirit. “For the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace.” Duh! Let me see, which should I choose? Yet, which do I often choose. Back to Romans 7 – “Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Quoting Matthew Henry again: “A sanctified soul is a living soul, and that life is peace. ”
Death is one mark of the mind set on the flesh, but it doesn’t end there. No, it is death and it is “hostility toward God.” Henry says that this is worse than the former. “The former speaks the carnal sinner a dead man, but this speaks him a devil of a man.” Whoa! It’s one thing to just be no more, to be dead with no consequences, to be simply annihilated. But no – there is enmity with God in all of this. Enmity with God is the heart of all of this. The mind set on the flesh is warring with holy omnipotence and scoffing at the Judge of all the earth. It is spitting and clawing and laughing at righteous wrath. It is living the lie as truth and calling the God of truth a liar. This is not a good thing. This is not a good place. “It is not only alienation of the soul from God, but the opposition of the soul against God.”
Verse 7 goes on, in describing the hostility of the carnal mind, to declare “for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so.” Here is the noetic effect of sin. Here is depravity on the brain. Here is a practical picture of what it means to be dead in sin. Our natural minds do not subject themselves to the law of God. Oil and water don’t mix – nor do spiritual life and spiritual death. “The holiness of the law of God, and the unholiness of the carnal mind, are as irreconcilable as light and darkness.”
The carnal mind “does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so.” We don’t want to subject ourselves to the law of God and we are not able to subject ourselves to the law of God! Quoting Henry once again: “Pleasing God is our highest end, of which those that are in the flesh cannot but fall short; they cannot please Him, nay they cannot but displease Him.”
We need a radical and total brain transplant. We need to be born again. That is what Christ does- He gives new life. “If any man is in Christ, he is a new creation, the old has gone the new has come.”
The carnal mind does not and cannot subject itself to the law of God. That is the natural man. That is all of us without Christ. That is Lori left to her lusts. But, thanks be to God, that is not the new man. That is not the character of the blood bought saints. That is not me by grace, through faith in Christ. “However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you.”
The “if” is a call for us to examine ourselves. Are we in the faith? “Who dwells, who rules, who keeps house here?” The Father, Son, and Spirit? Or my flesh? What landlord owns the property? What King rules the land? What husband am I bound to? What Father claims this child? Am I my own or have I been bought with a price?
Verse 9 ends with “But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.” Do you have the Spirit? By sheer grace I am able to say that Christ has bought me and His Spirit has set up residence. It is the Spirit of Christ who pricks my conscience regarding these sins that I find myself warring with. It is the Spirit of Christ who grants me joy unspeakable when I meditate on the Word of God. It is the Spirit of Christ who causes me to ache for the lost and downcast. The carnal mind, the mind set on the flesh, the mind of Lori would never do any of those things. It would not, for it could not! Soli Deo Gloria!
Pressing heavenward by God’s grace,