The Carnal Mind And The Spiritual Mind
Re-Translated In January 2000
1. "Therefore, now, the person joined to Christ Jesus is not condemned in sin." Chapter eight began with this serious declaration. The law itself could never take away our sin or save us from condemnation and destruction. But, God did for us what the law could not do. God sent his son. Then, he condemned his son on the cross. Christ was not convicted as "a human being under the control of sin." No, he wasn't, but the sin itself which controls humanity was judged in the flesh of Christ. Sin itself was punished so that sinners would be forgiven and restored to life. Thus [we have], "Therefore, now, the person joined to Christ Jesus is not condemned in sin." The purpose for which God did this is written down in verse four. "It was so that the requirements of the law would be fulfilled in us who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit." The law itself did not disappear nor was it annulled. The requirements of the law are [still] active [or alive]. But, we no longer fulfill the demands of the law, become righteous persons, and then attain life. It's critical that what is written as "it was so that [the requirements of the law] would be fulfilled" is passive. It's not that we "fulfill" it, but God fulfills it. We should no longer think about how we fulfill the requirements of the righteousness of the law. Nor [should we be worried over] how to become a righteous person. The principal thing is that "we walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit." We [are to] walk according to the Spirit. The one who fulfills the demands of the law is God himself. Therefore, in verses five and following Paul begins to speak not on the demands of the law that ought to be fulfilled but on "the person who walks according to the flesh" and "the person who walks according to the Spirit," because what we ought to know lies right there.
The Person Under The Control Of The Flesh
2. Let's read from verses five to eight.
"The person who walks according to the flesh thinks about what belongs to the flesh, and the person who walks according to the Spirit thinks about what belongs to the Spirit. The carnal mind is death, and the spiritual mind is life and peace because the person who follows the carnal mind acts in hostility towards God and does not follow God's law. He cannot follow them. The person who is under the control of the flesh cannot please God," (verses five to eight).
3. First of all, the text says, "the person who walks according to the flesh." "The person who walks according to the flesh" is not simply a person turned about by the lusts of the flesh and living in self-indulgence. I think this is already clear from chapter seven. In chapter seven Paul used the first person singular pronoun "I." He spoke using his own experiences as a platform. Paul was not what we'd call an immoral person. I would think that he probably lived more morally and honestly than any of us here in this [room]. But, he placed even a person like himself in the category of those "who walk in the flesh." I think what he daringly emphasized through this point is critical for reading today's passage, too. That is to say, [it is critical] because from our sense of language the phrase "the person who walks in the flesh" causes us to associate it with the person who is immoral and loose in every way. Also, for example, it leads one to think that "because the people of this country are depraved in their wealth and live in immorality and decadence, they had better get saved." But, perhaps the biggest problem may be the person who points to others and criticizes how "they are depraved." That kind of person could very well be the model for "walking in the flesh."
4. Paul was a Jew who belonged to the Pharisee sect. For him [as a Pharisee], religion meant keeping the law of God and attaining eternal life. A similar idea can be seen in this country as well. For example, though it is not identical to Judaism, but, some people will think of the focus of religion as improving oneself and living respectably. After some time had passed since you first came to church, did you ever experience the kind of rebuke by family members who say, "What did you learn in church? You haven't changed a bit in anything you do." (Of course it's nicer not to have such an experience...) At the background to that is the understanding that "the church is a place to learn something good and become a good person." Among the people who say such things, some say, "There might be a lot of religions but their objectives are the same." Or there are some who don't see the focus of religion in the expression of moral acts, but see it for [acquiring] mental ease. They think the focus of religion is "a person's frame of mind." But, if it were only a case of a frame of mind being changed, it doesn't need to be a religion to do that. Psychological processes or some type of interest in something would be good enough. Some people eat delicious things to their heart's content and their minds feel better or renewed.
5. Well, there is a difference between putting the emphasis on human action or putting it on the human mind or psyche, but there is something they both have in common. What might [that] be? They share [the quality] of "humanity." Whether it is action or spirit when what belongs to humanity is the focus of interest it is all the same. Therefore, any way you figure it, the focus of interest is on [something] human. In the center of the mind lies "the I, me, or my." "My effort," "my diligence [or purification]," "my progress," or "the changing of my heart" are central. "How much have I changed?" "How excellent have I become?" "How beautiful has my heart become?" Talking like that we always direct our interests towards ourselves.
6. In truth this is definitely nothing other than "the person who walks according to the flesh thinking about what belongs to the flesh." Flesh is this, the person who belongs to this world or humanity in the line of Adam. Both the body and the mind are flesh together. Both action and psychological change, all of it, belong to the flesh. This matter of "thinking about what belongs to the flesh," to put it in contrastive terms, means that "there is no concern for what belongs to God or the Spirit." It means there is no concern with the work of God or the workings of the Spirit.
7. In contrast to that, Paul says "the person who walks according to the Spirit thinks about what belongs to the Spirit." Those who walk in the Spirit do not keep their eyes on themselves as the boss, but direct their eyes up yonder -- because the focus of religion is not on humanity but on God. The person who walks in the Spirit turns his or her interests on the work of God. What has God done for me? What is God doing for me? What is God about to do for me? That's where their interests are directed. [They] "think about what belongs to the Spirit."
8. Furthermore, the demands of the righteousness of the law, Paul says, are not satisfied in the person who walks in the flesh or who thinks about what belongs to the flesh. Why is [that]? "Because the person who obeys the mind of the flesh is in hostility against God and does not obey the law of God. He or she cannot obey it. The one who is under the control of the flesh (if translated literally "the one who is in the flesh") cannot please God," says Paul. That's the reason.
9. However, isn't this, in a certain sense, a surprising expression? It would seem like the demands of righteousness are fulfilled by human effort or by living with a changed frame of mind. We think the problem lies on our part. One thinks that "it's up to me" whether I live as a righteous person. A lot of people must live thinking like that. Those who say, "It all depends on you," feel so sincere about it. For example, you experienced when you were worried over your sin during a major time of trouble thinking, "That's right. It's me who caused the problem. It's up to me. I got to try harder," haven't you? But, Paul overturns this commonly held way of thinking. You know "It's not up to me." The person who thinks like that cannot be pleasing to God. It says, rather, that he or she is hostile towards God. He or she is not in tune with the will of God. Even if at first glance it looks like they are obeying the law, they really aren't.
10. I am reminded here of an article in a certain book in which Bonhoeffer wrote regarding "love." Love is really what the law demands. But, he says the following: "The love of the natural man loves others for one's own self. Spiritual love loves others for Christ." If the concern is only human oriented then a desire on behalf of the self is all there is at its root. It is the appetite of a human being. Since it is not fundamentally for God, it is not expected to be something that can please God. And, if desire is at the root, for example, even though it looks like supreme love then when it is not satisfied it will change completely into a dreadful hate.
11. Therefore, the carnal mind breaks one's existence with God and becomes death. According to what Paul says, "The carnal mind is death." In contrast, "The spiritual mind is life and peace." To put it another way, no matter how much serious effort and devotion one puts in, when one is under the control of the flesh, it means that it is impossible in every way to have a life with a relationship with God or the peace and tranquility which only such a life can bring.
A Person Under The Control Of The Spirit
12. As we continue, let's read from verses nine to eleven.
"As long as the Spirit of God is dwelling within you, you are not in the flesh but under the control of the Spirit. The person who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to Christ. If Christ is in you, even though the body is dead through sin 'the spirit' turns to life through righteousness. If the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead dwells within you, the one who raised Jesus from the dead will make your bodies, though they should be dead, alive by that Spirit who dwells in you," (verses nine through eleven).
13. Paul reminds the Roman disciples here of what kind of persons they have been made into. Paul already did this in another chapter. Paul said to those who had already received baptism "Or, don't you know? All of us who have received baptism in order to be joined to Christ [know] that we received baptism in order to partake of his death," (6:3). Paul also spoke as follows: "So, o brothers, as you also are joined to the body of Christ, you become persons dead to the law. It is so that you become the possession of another person, that is, of him who was raised from the dead and thus, we come to bear fruit to God," (7:4). Paul is relating here how that the Spirit of God dwells in the person who is joined to Christ and has become Christ's possession.
14. Paul says, "As long as the Spirit of God dwells in you" or "Since the Spirit of God dwells in you." He was not saying that "The Spirit of God might be dwelling or might not be dwelling, just, if he does dwell [in you]..." Here the phrase should be translated much better as "since the Spirit of God does dwell in you." Do we know when the Spirit of God is dwelling? Can you feel [his indwelling]? You don't dare say you've seen Him, do you? Paul is not talking here of a foundation in sense experience. He turns their attention on the truth that they are just to become persons who belong to Christ because the Spirit of God is none other than the Spirit of Christ and the person who does not have the Spirit of Christ could never belong to Christ. This is the same thing Paul said in another letter, "I want to say to you here. No one who speaks in the Spirit of God says 'Let Jesus be abandoned by God' and no one can say 'Jesus is Lord' unless by the Holy Spirit," (First Corinthians 12:3).
15. Certainly just as Paul had stated, sin dwells in our flesh as long as we are humans living in this world. (7:17-20) However, sin does not dwell alone now. The Spirit of God is dwelling in [us]. And since the Spirit of God dwells in us we are under the control of the Spirit and not the flesh. Consequently, even though the battle goes on, there's no need to live as if we were fighting alone.
16. Furthermore, please take note of several other ways he has put the truth of the Spirit of God's indwelling. It means several different apsects regarding the giving of the Holy Spirit. First, Paul says, "Since Christ is in you." Christ is present where the Spirit of God, that is, the Spirit of Christ dwells. That is none other than what we call the risen Christ making his home inside [us]. [But], even if we say Christ makes his home inside [us], death still exists because sin has not completely disappeared. We must die because of our body which houses sin that is at enmity with the Spirit of God. The body is going to die. But, there is righteousness wherever Christ is present. We have the righteousness of God which has been given us through the medium of Christ. Because of [this] righteousness we are not separated from God. Because he is connected to life, we have life in Him. Eternal life is not granted to us after death, but is already granted to us in [this] intense present state of wrestling against sin. The giving of the Holy Spirit to us through righteousness becomes life [for us].
17. Moreover, the Spirit of God is called "the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead." This name links us to the resurrection of Christ. Christ rose again and appeared to the disciples in a glorious form. In this same way, the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead and gave him the form of glory is also given to us. What does this mean? The glorious form of Christ is also our form that will be given to us before too long. The battle will be over soon. In the resurrection our bodies will be completely free from both sin and death. In this process, the will of God will completely come through it all, and our will will become completely at one with the heart and will of God. When that happens, the demands of the righteousness of the law will be completely met in the risen saints.
18. Paul reminds us that the person joined to Christ is under the control of the Holy Spirit. Being made into a person who belongs to Christ and [our] being given the Holy Spirit signify that this salvation which will ultimately be perfected has already commenced. Yes, it has already begun. It has. It is not WE who fulfill the demands of the righteousness of the law to perfection. Paul says that's the work of God. God fulfills it for us. Consequently, we do not live by overzealously turning our attention to what we have to do, but totally the opposite, we live by turning our mind on what God is up to. We do not live saying "It's all up to me," but we live by turning our thoughts on the work that God does, by relying on the Holy Spirit who is already given to us, and by seeking his control over us. That's the faith life [God] gives us.