The Blessing of Life⸻Page 4 (Lessons on Romans)
by John Lowe
6 For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.
For to be carnally minded is death,--To be carnally minded has two meanings:
1. That you are separated from fellowship with God, and are therefore dead here and now—dead in your sins and trespasses. When the Christian sins, he is to come to Him and confess his sin and let Him wash him. This restores us to fellowship.
2. That you have the mental inclination of the fallen nature, and Paul says that is death. It is death as far as both present enjoyment and ultimate destiny are concerned. Death in the present is the experience of alienation from God. It has all the potential of death in it, just like an overdose of poison. “But she who lives in pleasure is dead while she lives” (1 Tim. 5:6). The carnal life not only ends in death, but also carrying death in its bosom, so that they are dead while they are still living.
A carnal mind places a man in a state of rebellion against God, and it produces a certain pattern and way of thinking. Likewise, the Holy Spirit produces a certain pattern and way of thinking. The mind (mindset, aspirations) of sinful man (of the flesh) is death, that is, it is equivalent to death or it leads to death in all of its forms (spiritual and physical). On the other hand the mind (mind set, aspirations) controlled by the Spirit is life (eternal life) and peace.
but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.—The Spirit of God is the guarantee of life that is life indeed, of peace with God, and of a life of tranquility. Peace is not meant here to be the act of reconciliation, accomplished through the death of Christ, but the enjoyment of the condition of reconciliation itself. The Spirit controlled life, the Christ-centered life, the God focused life is daily coming closer to heaven even when it is still on earth. It is a life, which is such a steady progress to God that the final transition to death is only a natural and inevitable stage on the way.
7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.
The carnal mind is enmity against God;--If our minds have an interest in carnal things, they cause us to be the enemy of God. This is why James counsels, “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God” (Jas 4:4). The mind-set of the flesh is death because it is enmity against God. The sinner is a rebel against God and in active hostility to Him. If any proof was needed, it is seen most clearly in the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Bible is not a book of moral philosophy. Everything hinges upon God’s view of things and upon the condition of persons in His sight. The mind of the flesh is therefore set in antagonism against God, refusing to acknowledge His claims.
for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.—Paul is not speaking here of two types of Christians, one spiritual and one unspiritual. He is speaking of believers and unbelievers, as verse 9 plainly indicates. Therefore, they that are in the flesh cannot please God. Until faith is placed in Jesus Christ, a man in no spiritual way can be pleasing to God the Father—“But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Heb. 11:6).
The mind of the flesh is not subject to the law of God.—the mind of the flesh does not submit itself to the Law of God; it refuses to be controlled by it. It wants its own will, not God’s will. It wants to be its own master, not to bow to His rule. What is involved is not mere indifference but actual hostility.
nor indeed can be—the nature of the flesh is such that it cannot be subject to God’s law. It is not only the inclination that is missing but the power as well. Moreover, it is impossible to improve it into being subject to Him. The natural man (those who are outside the family of God) can neither receive the things of the Spirit nor know them. “But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know
them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor. 2:14). The natural man cannot receive the things of God, for they are foolishness to him. “Foolish” means dull, insipid, or tasteless, and this is precisely how those who do not have the Spirit perceive spiritual things. Such individuals lack the capacity to discern the truth, excellence, or beauty of divine things, judging them absurd and distasteful.
The flesh is dead toward God.
8 So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
It is no surprise, therefore, that those who are in the flesh cannot please God. Paul is stating a basic incompatibility; the life that limits its interests to the satisfactions of the flesh cannot submit to God’s Law, and those who choose that kind of life cannot please God. Think of that! There is nothing an unsaved person can do to please God—no good works, no religious observances, no sacrificial services, nothing. First, he must come as a guilty sinner to Christ and receive Christ by a definite act of faith. Only then can He win God’s smile of approval.
Those who are in the flesh is another way of describing those who are under the domination of the old nature, who are enemies of God, and are incapable of pleasing God. The unbeliever’s problem goes much deeper than acts of disobedience, which are nothing more than the outward reaction to inner fleshly compulsions. His basic inclinations and orientation is to do those things that make him happy. Although he may outwardly appear to be religious and moral, he is hostile to God. Even the good deeds that unbelievers perform cannot please God, because the flesh produced them for selfish reasons, and they come from a heart that is in rebellion.
This verse reveals how hopelessly corrupt and utterly destitute the flesh really is. It is a spiritual anarchist. This demolishes any theory that says there is a divine spark in man and that somehow he has a secrete bent toward God. The truth is that man is an enemy of God. He is not only dead in trespasses and sins but also active in rebellion against God. The flesh as the basis for man’s life is not in itself an evil thing. By its nature, it is neutral: it may be good or it may be bad, and what it is depends on the choices a man makes. Making the right choice, that is the problem. Once evil enters a man’s experience, physical impulse begins to gain power, which eventually leads to it being the man’s master. Instead of being a servant, it becomes a master, and the whole personality changes for the worse.
9 But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.
But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God ]7[dwells in you. The Holy Spirit of God is the decisive factor in salvation. The Spirit of God permanently indwells every believer at the time the individual believes in Jesus Christ. The presence or absence of the Holy Spirit within, determines whether or not one has experienced salvation—“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). If a man does not have the Spirit, he does not have Christ, and he is not His. Paul clearly teaches that no one can receive Christ’s atonement for salvation unless the Spirit of God dwells within him. It is therefore irrational to say that there are Christians who have not fully received the blessing of the Spirit of God. There is no scriptural basis for a second work of grace or a baptism of the Holy Spirit subsequent to salvation. At salvation, we get all of the Spirit of God, not just some of Him. There may be a time subsequent to salvation in which the Spirit of God gets more of us, but there is never a time when we get more of Him.
But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit.—the phrase “in the flesh” refers to the state of those who are unsaved and living according to the dictates of the old nature. “In the spirit” expresses the state of those who have experienced salvation and are now living according to the influence of the Holy Spirit. The contrast is between the dominating elements, which govern the different kinds of persons—the saved or lost.