Romans 8:5-17- The Mind of the Flesh vs. The Mind of the Spirit
Explanation- Paul points out in verse five that those who live (or walk) according to the flesh have set their minds on the things of the flesh, so it is with those who walk according to the Spirit. The word ‘set’ implies a dispositional reality. That is, it is a person’s inherent qualities of mind and character. The one who walks according to the flesh will inevitably have his mind set on the things of the flesh (that is sin and the ‘pleasures’ of sin). Ultimately this state of mind and frame leads to death, but to have our mind submitted to the things of the Spirit brings life and peace. In terms of the mind set on the Spirit, Paul is not just portraying a mind that thinks ‘good things,’ but a mind that is established in the thought life of the Spirit. Likewise, when he speaks of the mind set on the flesh, he is speaking of a mind that is established in the thought life of carnal things. This mind is hostile toward God because it disapproves of everything that God calls good, nor is it able to. Therefore, the one who is in the flesh and sets his mind on the things of the flesh is unable to please God in any way. His hostility toward God forbids this.
Paul then goes on to address those who are established in the righteousness of Christ, who have set their minds on the things of the Spirit. He says that the one who is indwelt by the Spirit of God is no longer in the flesh but in the Spirit. The one who has not been granted this Spirit does not belong to Christ. But, the wonderful reality is that if we do belong to Christ and His Spirit is within us, then though our bodies may be dead because of sin, His Spirit provides life because of righteousness. The life of Christ provides us with life and gives hope of life eternal. It is the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead, which dwells in us, and He too will not allow death to conquer our feeble estate. We have a hope that exists beyond the grave and provides us with an assurance that, just as Christ was raised, so will we be too having been found in Him.
This reality leads us to the conclusion that we are no longer debtors to the flesh; that is, we no longer owe the flesh anything in terms of how we live our lives. At one time, the flesh and its desires were our masters, and therefore, we owed our service to their demands, but now having been justified by the Spirit, we are free to serve our new Master without any further debts owed to the flesh. Through mortification, which is the continual war that we wage against sin in order to put to death the hold it still seeks on our lives, we live in the presence of God and are called the sons of God on behalf of Christ. In this, we have been adopted by God and given the spirit of truth, which resonates with God’s very Spirit and grants us heirship with the Lord Jesus Christ. Thus, in the flesh, we will suffer just as Christ did (though not necessarily in the same manner), but through the Spirit, we will be glorified just as Christ was!
Application- In Romans 6:11, Paul calls us to reckon ourselves dead to sin and alive to God through Christ. Here in Romans eight, he provides substantial evidence for how this has become a reality. It is not enough for a man to simply believe that he is at peace with God, for many who are currently of this mind will one day hear the words ‘depart from me’ on the day of judgment (Matt. 7:23). So then it is not simply our bearing witness to our own right standing with God, but more importantly, is His bearing witness to our justification in Christ that grants us peace. The evidence of this reality is found in that He has given us a new mind that is set on the things of the Spirit. A mind that is set on spiritual things is a mind that is established in the mind and word of God. It is this mind that is successfully able to reckon ourselves dead to sin and alive to God. The work of God counting us righteous in Christ is the prerequisite for us reckoning us dead to sin and not vice versa.