For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.
Religion may be judged of from within or without - from the character it forms or the actions to which it gives rise. Only the latter can properly come under the survey of our fellows, whilst we may discern the inward effects. Besides ourselves, only God can determine our inner condition. The Searcher of hearts can unlock the private door of the heart. It is well for us, without self-flattery or self-depreciation, to anticipate the disclosures of the last day. No wise man wishes to deceive himself.
I. TWO DIAMETRICALLY OPPOSITE DISPOSITIONS. We may be spiritually or carnally minded. The "mind" of the Revised Version suggests too much the rational part of our nature; "mindedness" would perhaps be preferable. We are to think of what the Spirit has a mind to, and what the flesh. The "minding" is what a man thinks of, aims at, cares for. The spiritually minded man is one in whom the Spirit is supreme. The Holy Spirit has breathed upon the soul, giving a new impulse from God, so that the spirit of man asserts its rightful position, bringing the lower passions under control. Though not without a struggle, the flesh has to yield. He discerns the excellence of spiritual objects. He recognizes in the Scriptures a message from the Most High. He thinks of God with veneration and affection; he respects the blessings of salvation and of the life to come. Be delights in spiritual exercises, deeming them not a round of duties, but of enjoyments. He flies to them as a refuge from cares and anxieties. Whilst he meditates, the dove of peace broods over the turbulent waters, and there is a great calm. The fleshly man is deaf to the charms of spiritual melody, and blind to the glory of the spiritual sunrise. He turns all the events of life to spiritual purposes. Plants may have the same air and moisture and soil, yet they embody the results according to their separate individuality; as animals from similar food produce hair or wool, or bodies of diverse structure and capability. So two men may witness the same scene or road, the same paragraph; yet how different the emotions! The one loathes wickedness, the other gloats over the garbage. To mind the things of the Spirit is to draw instruction from every event, to turn the mercies of God into praise, and his judgments into matter for humiliation. Temptations make such a man more watchful, afflictions contribute to his advancement, as the flower climbs even by a thorn. We do not deny that worldly minded men occasionally turn their thoughts to the spiritual realm; but this is accidental, and does not accord with their ordinary behaviour, so as to flow spontaneously from the inner life. What makes men doubt the contrariety is that dispositions and actions shade into one another, constituting at times a sort of neutral borderland, where it is difficult to say which is flesh and which Spirit. Yet darkness is not light, nor poverty riches, nor is vice an infinitesimal degree of virtue; there is a radical distinction.
II. THE CERTAIN MISERY OF THE ONE STATE. "The minding of the flesh is death." It overturns all proper order. The lower appetites are ruling; the pyramid is inverted, and a fall is certain. Where the rabble revolt and reign, anarchy leads to dissolution of all prosperity. It fights against Divine Law. "The carnal mind is not subject to the Law of God;" it may prudently regard the Law so as to secure greater indulgence, but it does not voluntarily submit or embrace the Law gladly. All the laws of God are for the good of his creatures; they are for, not against, the spiritual life. Men cannot come into conflict with the laws of their being without harm and loss. Death is the visible effect in all departments. Vice ruins the physical constitution; unjust acts disintegrate civil society; the pursuance of evil blunts the perception of moral good, and deadens the conscience; and even Christians, through sin, may become callous to the spiritual - "having a name to live, and being dead." These are the beginnings, quite sufficient to show the terrible possibility of becoming altogether fleshly, choosing evil deliberately as good. As men long immured in prison may lose all desire for liberty, deeming the light of day painful and fellowship irksome, so does it kill all the rational. longings and stifle the highest faculties of the soul to be continually in bondage to the bodily appetites.
III. THE NECESSARY BLESSEDNESS OF THE OTHER STATE. To be in Christ is to be a new creation, where the thrill of young life fills the being with joyous hope of yet better things to come. There are new desires, new resolves made, new occupations entered upon. The boy that refuses to tell a lie may suffer, yet is glad within; and the victor over temptation knows what it is for the angels to minister to him. There is a happy consciousness that we are on the right path, that there is harmony between us and our Maker. The reality of life is manifested by its fruits, against which there is no law, no sentence of death. This life is accompanied by the tranquil satisfaction of peace, the panacea for daily irritations. Not the deceitful calm of opiate slumber, nor the stagnation of a festering pool; but a flowing stream, gliding by smiling orchards and productive industries. He has "life and peace" whose "conversation is in heaven," for such is not swayed by the customs of the hour, nor ruffled by the accidents of the day. Take from the Christian what you please, you cannot rob him of this holy serenity. Not death can strip him of his comfort; he has "a house not made with hands," his honour stands not in the breath of man, his treasure is not dug out of the bowels of the earth. He receives "a kingdom which cannot be moved." He lives when all the world is dead, is happy when all the fountains of earthly pleasure are dried up. - S.R.A.
Parallel VersesKJV: For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.