For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.
Being free from sin in Christ Jesus, we are also free from its results - condemnation and death; or rather - for the result is one - the death, of which condemnation is but one aspect.
I. THE MIND OF THE FLESH. In a state of sin, as in a state of holiness, there is activity, though the activity be abnormal. The "flesh," equally with the "spirit;" has its "mind," i.e. its purpose, its aspiration; an activity which tends to a goal. And what is the dread goal to which the activity of sin must lead? Death! Yes, "the mind of the flesh is death;" this is as surely the result of such a perverse activity of our nature as though it were consciously designed and sought after. What is death, to such a one as man? The complete separation of the soul from God! And how is such death wrought by the "mind of the flesh"? By the reciprocal hostility between sin and God, which must work an utter mutual exclusion.
1. Sin's hostility to God. (Ver. 7.) The very essence of sin is rebellion against the Divine authority. The "flesh," viz. all the lower desires and passions of man's nature, broken loose from their proper governance, together with the more spiritual faculties which have been dragged down by the riotous animal impulses into a kindred perversion and anarchy - the flesh is "enmity against God." And, this being so, man's very sin, by its own action, shuts out God. Oh, what a suicide is here! For, with God, all good must ultimately be gone. The rebel rioters bar every avenue to shut out God; they darken the windows that the light of heaven may not shine; they exclude every breath of life and liberty.
2. God's hostility to sin. (Ver. 8.) But God is not a mere passive influence, whose exclusion from sinful man is determined solely by the express action of man's sin itself. God is a Spirit! Yes, no mere influence, but a living Person; a living Will! And God were no God, if he were not a holy God; and, being holy, ever hostile to all sin. It must be so. And therefore, when man erects his own rebellious will against his Maker, God's presence is not merely shut Out from the soul by sin, but God in grief - yea, and in wrath, in holy wrath - withdraws himself. "They that are in the flesh cannot please God." So, then, on these two grounds, "the mind of the flesh is death." Both by the repugnant action of sin to God, and by the repugnant action of God to sin, all the favour and love and life of God are banished from the heart.
II. THE MIND OF THE SPIRIT. But if the inevitable result, and in some sense the conscious choice, of sin is the loss of God, what is the result of the true and right activity of the renewed nature, when the "spirit" is inspired by the Spirit of God, and restored to its proper ascendancy over the "flesh"? "The mind of the spirit is life and peace:" this is the necessary result; this is the result which is consciously sought after and desired. What is this life? The perfect possession and enjoyment of God, and of all good in God. And how is it wrought by the "mind of the spirit"? As in the former case, by the reciprocal action between the renewed spirit and God; though here, not reciprocal enmity, but reciprocal love.
1. The craving for God. "The spirit thirsts for life in God, which is its element, and sacrifices everything to succeed in enjoying it perfectly" (Godet). This is the very essence of the new life, as of all true spiritual life, a desire for God (see the Psalms, passim). And, by the appropriating power of faith, the spirit possesses itself of that which it desires. It hungers, and is fed.
2. The response of God. As above, God is not a mere atmosphere to be breathed, but a living God to give or withhold himself. And just as he withdraws in holy wrath from sinful man, so he imparts himself in gracious love to the humble, believing soul (see John 14:17, passim). So then "the mind of the spirit is life" - life which consists in the full possession of God, and, with him, of peace, joy, strength, and perfect liberty. Yes, "this is life eternal, to know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent" (John 17:3). Which shall be our portion, our destiny? Life? or death? We answer, practically, by living according to the flesh or the spirit. But this latter is possible only in one way: does the Spirit of God dwell in us? - T.F.L.
Parallel VersesKJV: For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.