Romans 8:7-8- “The mind of the flesh [with its sinful pursuits] is actively hostile to God. It does not submit itself to God’s law, since it cannot, and those who are in the flesh [living a life that caters to sinful appetites and impulses] cannot please God.” NKJV
Today, I want to use a different version of the Bible than I traditionally use, to help us to get a grasp of what I believe Paul is saying in Romans 8 about the flesh. “Sarx” has several meanings in the Vine’s dictionary, and the Vine’s typically gives us a reference for each meaning to help us to understand the idea that a particular verse is conveying. The rendering for “sarx” in the Vine’s for our key text is, “the unregenerate state of men.” Unregenerate means not regenerate; and the Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines regenerate as spiritually reborn or converted.
Typically, when we attach ourselves to theology, we embrace what our spiritual leaders tell us; after all it is their responsibility to teach us the truth of God’s word. However, we bear a responsibility in the learning of truth. Paul made mention of a group of people who did just that:
Now these people were more noble and open-minded than those in Thessalonica, so they received the message [of salvation through faith in the Christ] with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.Acts 17:11 AMP
Paul noted that there was something impressive about the Bereans. They were open-minded and receptive to the teachings of Jesus; yet, they studied the scriptures daily, to see if what Paul and Silas was teaching was indeed the truth! I’m a Berean in my heart. I accept very little at face value, and investigate just about everything that personally affects my life. Especially things regarding the Word of God.
Having said that, let’s look at verse 5:
For those who are living according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh [which gratify the body], but those who are living according to the Spirit, [set their minds on] the things of the Spirit [His will and purpose].Romans 8:5 AMP
In Christendom, we have coined a phrase, “the carnal Christian” based off of verses like this one. Lets for the moment, go with this vein of thought that Paul is now contrasting the carnal Christian with the follower of Christ. One way of looking at this verse, in keeping with the carnal Christian, is to reflect simply on the mind of that individual. When we are born again of the Spirit of God, our spirit is converted, but we have the same mind. Paul writes in a later part of this epistle that we have to renew our minds:
And do not be conformed to this world [any longer with its superficial values and customs], but be transformed and progressively changed [as you mature spiritually] by the renewing of your mind [focusing on godly values and ethical attitudes], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His plan and purpose for you].Romans 12:2 AMP
Keeping with this thought that we are recreated in our spirits, and not our minds, let’s read more about the unregenerate mind and see if we can gain some insight into this dilemma:
For those who are living according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh [which gratify the body], but those who are living according to the Spirit, [set their minds on] the things of the Spirit [His will and purpose]. Now the mind of the flesh is death [both now and forever—because it pursues sin]; but the mind of the Spirit is life and peace [the spiritual well-being that comes from walking with God—both now and forever];Romans 8:5-6 AMP
Now, let’s think for a minute about what Paul is saying here:
- A carnal mind is fixed on that which is satisfying to their flesh
- A spiritual mind is fixed on the things of the Spirit
- A carnal mind lives life with its mind on the flesh
- A spiritual mind lives life with its mind on the will and purpose of God
- A carnal mind pursues sin and is dead
- A spiritual mind pursues life and peace
- Both are for eternity
If indeed, Paul is speaking in regards to someone who is a carnal Christian, their end is as destructive as the person who is not even a Christian. Death now, and death eternally! This is not what God wants for those who belong to Him!
Walking in the Spirit is the only life for those who are in Christ Jesus! Pursuing a life of obedience to the Father is our greatest display of gratitude for His amazing grace! Even if our mind are unregenerate, living according to that mindset is dangerous for those who have received grace! It’s a death sentence!
The mind of the flesh [with its sinful pursuits] is actively hostile to God. It does not submit itself to God’s law, since it cannot, and those who are in the flesh [living a life that caters to sinful appetites and impulses] cannot please God.Romans 8:7-8 AMP
Let’s return to our key text. This state of mind, the unregenerate mind, with its sinful pursuits is actively hostile to God! What? Your spirit is recreated and your mind is actively hostile to God? No wonder the carnal Christian is just as confused as the non-believer! As a matter of fact, you can’t tell the difference between the two! A mind that is actively hostile to God is a mind that has no receptivity to God!
Not only that! A mind that is unregenerate does not submit itself to the laws of God! A renewed mind is constantly proving what is good, acceptable and the will of God; but this other mind refuses to submit to God, because it cannot submit to God. This carnal Christian is sounding more and more like an unsaved person.
I was talking to someone about a situation with a husband and wife. The wife did not profess to be a Christian and the man did. The wife did something that was shocking to this individual; they couldn’t understand it! I responded, what else could she do! She isn’t a Christian, and she did exactly what a non-Christian does! She pursued her fleshly instincts! But when we have people who are supposed to be Christians “pursuing” their fleshly instincts, it’s truly shocking!
Those living in this state, as carnal Christians, which is how we decided to look at this chapter, cannot please God! That is the real eye opener! You may say that you love God, and that may be the truth; but you cannot please Him! And so, when you are living life as a carnal Christian, you may as well not even be a Christian! And that’s the gospel truth! Because there is nothing in your life that is drawn to God, or that draws Him to you! And if this is your current state of spiritual condition, Christian and carnal, you should repent as if you don’t even know God, and get this thing right! You can’t afford to live life being governed by your flesh any more than a non-believer can. When your life isn’t pleasing to God, your life isn’t pleasing!
Don’t be deceived any longer by those who are telling you that you are okay when you are not okay. If you attend church, but you are living according to your flesh, your desires, your will, it is time to do spiritual inventory. How sad to live your whole life thinking that you got fire insurance, (you prayed to receive salvation), but you have no assurance that God is pleased with you! Get it right today! It’s not too late! Wonderful Jesus!