For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.
~ Romans 8:5
That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.
~ John 3:6, 1 Corinthians 15:48, 2 Corinthians 10:3, 2 Corinthians 10:4, 2 Timothy 2:3-4, Romans 8:9
But chiefly them that walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness, and despise government. Presumptuous are they, selfwilled, they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. (For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.)
~ 2 Peter 2:10, Romans 8:6-7, 1 Corinthians 2:14, Philippians 3:18-19
For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.
~ 1 John 2:16
The Carnal Mind is Death, by David Martyn Lloyd-Jones.
For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh.
~ Romans 8:5a
We take first what Paul says here about the man who is not a Christian. His general description of him is that he is “after the flesh.” What does he mean by this?…The word flesh means fallen human nature—human nature as it is before the Spirit of God begins His work in a person. It is man left to himself—man born, developing, and growing in life in this world outside the activity of God upon him. The non-Christian is “after the flesh.” The word after is interesting. Some would translate it as “according to the flesh,” but the best translation is “under the flesh.” The word the apostle uses carries the idea of being “under” something else, under authority in particular. So, we are told that the non-Christian is one who is habitually dominated by the nature with which he was born…We are born like this because of our connection with Adam and because of Adam’s sin. Everyone born subsequent to Adam has been born “after the flesh”; we are born under the power, the domination of this fallen human nature that we inherit. The apostle adds that it is something that is continuous—“they are after the flesh.” They are born in sin, they exist in sin, in sin they go on living.
How does that show itself, and to what does it lead? The first thing is that such a man “minds” certain things. “They that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh.” That is a most interesting expression. In the Epistle to the Philippians, the apostle uses exactly the same expression several times. He says: “Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you” (3:15). Verse 16 has the same word: “Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing.” Then Paul introduces it negatively in verse 19, where he is talking about people “whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.”
“To mind” is a term with which we are familiar, an expression that is quite commonly used. If a man is a busybody and puts too many questions to you and shows too great an interest in your affairs, you say to him, “Mind your own business.” The expression means, therefore, the deliberate action of your mind on certain objects. That is why you say to the busybody, “Do not train your mind on me and on my affairs, switch it to your own affairs, mind your own business.”
But the term includes not only thought and understanding, it includes the affections, the emotions, the desires, and the objects of pursuit. In other words, it is a comprehensive term. To “mind earthly things” not only means that non-Christians think about them occasionally, but that these are the things that they think of most of all. These are the things of which they think habitually; the trend or the bent of their thinking is toward them. “Earthly things” are the things that please them most of all, the things that give them greatest satis- faction, and therefore the things that they seek after most of all. The term is comprehensive, and we must not limit it merely to the intellectual aspect. It is much wider than the interests of the mind and takes in the whole personality. The apostle John, in his First Epistle (chapter 2, verses 15 to 17) has the same idea though he uses a differ- ent term. He says, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world.” He might equally well have said, “Mind not the world, neither the things that are in the world.”
The first thing about the non-Christian, therefore, is that because he is dominated by his fallen human nature, he is a man who is deliberately interested in and concerned about “the things of the flesh.” Once more, we have to be careful that our understanding of this expression is sufficiently comprehensive. What are “the things of the flesh”? The danger is to limit the term to sensual pleasures and to the sins that belong only to the body. The term “the flesh” tends to make us think immediately of physical sins, sins that belong primarily to the realm of our animal being. They are certainly included, but it is important for us to realise that the term is very much more comprehensive in its use, as we find when we turn to the Epistle to the Galatians, chapter 5, verses 19 to 21. “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness.1” Yes, but also, “Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations,2 wrath, strife, seditions,3 heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings,4 and such like.” We see that the notion is indeed a very wide one. Or go back again to the First Epistle of John, chapter
1 fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness – sexual immorality; moral corruption; lacking moral restraint, extreme immorality.
2 variance, emulations – rivalries; jealousy.
3 strife, seditions – selfish ambition; division into opposing groups.
4 revellings – drinking parties and accompanying immoral behavior; partying.
2, verses 15 to 17: “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world.” What are they? The apostle lists them as “the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.” “The flesh” is a big term, a widely inclusive one.
What, then, does “the flesh” mean? In a word, it means “worldly-mindedness”…It includes everything that is opposed to “the mind” and “the life” of the Holy Spirit. Another way of putting it is to say that “the things of the flesh” means every aspect of life without God, everything in life from which God is excluded. It refers, in other words, to the life of this world only. It denotes a complete severance5 from all that is spiritual. It concentrates on the visible, the seen, and has nothing at all to do with the unseen…Its reference is to life in this world only, to life bounded by the body and the various qualities and attributes of the fleshly mind, but to the exclusion of the spiritual element.
The tragedy of the matter is that many people think that this description—“they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh”—applies only to open, obvious, profligate6 sinners on the streets and in the public houses of great cities. The fact (is) that it includes also very highly intellectual people, very moral people, and people whom the world would describe as very noble. To “mind the things of the flesh” includes political interests without God, social interests without God, cultural interests without God. That is what the expression means. Paul has in mind man’s highest pursuits—his philosophy, his art, his culture, his music—that never get beyond the flesh. God is outside it all; He is excluded from it; there is nothing spiritual about it. Men may write very cleverly, and in a very learned, interesting, and entertaining manner about social conditions. They can tell us how to ameliorate7 bad conditions, how to improve them; they can write eloquently about forming some sort of Utopia;8 they can produce masterpieces of art and of literature and of music; but there is no soul there, there is no God there, no Spirit there. It is all “after the flesh.”
How important it is to realise the truth of this matter! That is why that list in Galatians 5 is so important. Paul does not stop at drunkenness and adultery and murder and things of that type. He goes to the realm of the inner man; and there you find that his list is all-inclusive. So, what the apostle is really saying about the non-
5 severance – separation; cutting off.
6 profligate – recklessly given to lewd, sensual pleasures and extravagance.
7 ameliorate – make better.
8 Utopia – imaginary place, with ideally perfect social, legal, and political systems.
Christian is that it does not matter where he fits in this gamut9 of possible interests, behaviour, and conduct, he is still only minding “the things of the flesh.” It is because the world does not understand this that it is not interested in the gospel. The world’s good, moral people are admired so much today; and yet the apostle’s words describe ex- actly where they stand. They are as much “after the flesh,” and they as much “mind the things of the flesh,” as does the man who falls into drunkenness or gives rein to his passions and lusts. It is purely a difference of degree. There is no essential difference at all.
The good, cultured, well-spoken, moral man is as devoid of the Spirit as the most obvious and profligate sinner. He is outside the life of God as much as the other. He hates to be told this, of course; that is why he is the typical Pharisee. And that is why the Pharisees crucified the Lord Jesus Christ. He convinced them of being “after the flesh” and “minding” only the things of the flesh. What a terrible state this is! And how alarming it is to realise that people can be in it without ever imagining it! They draw many distinctions and divi- sions; but there are none in reality. The only difference between the obvious so-called “sinner” and the highly cultured, good moral man is purely a social difference—a superficial one…In their inner beings as men and in their relationship to God, there is not the slightest difference between them. They both together mind the things of the flesh. All their thinking, all their interests, all their pursuits are entirely outside the realm of the spiritual and of God. That is what the apostle tells us about them.
The next thing the apostle says about them is found in verse 6, where we find the words, “To be carnally minded is death”…It should read, “The mind of the flesh is death,” or, “To have the mind of the flesh is death.” He has already said that non-Christians mind the things of the flesh; now he is saying that the people who do mind the things of the flesh, and have the sort of mind that does that, are dead. Here Paul is describing the quality or the state of mind of people who only mind the things of the flesh. It is, he says, nothing else but sheer death.
Our Lord gives us the best understanding of this in what He said to Peter on that occasion at Caesarea Philippi when the apostle made his great confession in reply to our Lord’s question, “Whom say ye that I am?” (Mat 16:15). Matthew records the matter in his 16th chap- ter. Peter said, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (v.
9 gamut – complete extent or range.
16). But a few minutes later, when our Lord began to tell the disciples about His approaching death, Peter said, “Be it far from thee, Lord” (v. 22). Our Lord rebuked him severely and said, “Get thee behind me, Satan…for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men” (v. 23). The word translated “savourest” really means “to think”—“thou thinkest not the things that be of God.” Indeed, it is the very word that is used in this sixth verse of Romans 8. “The trouble with you, Peter,” said our Lord in effect, “is that your whole mentality is wrong. Your whole way of thinking is wrong. You are not thinking the things of God, you are thinking the things of man.” “Peter,” He seems to say, “what is the matter with you? You have just made your great confession, and I told you that flesh and blood had not revealed it unto you, but my Father which is in heaven (Mat 16:17). Now you are proving that I was right because when I go on to make a great spiritual statement to you, you turn and say, ‘That be far from Thee, Lord.’ Peter, the trouble with you is that you are not now thinking after God, but after men. Your whole outlook, your whole mentality, your whole process of thinking is sadly astray”…
That is the idea in the phrase “The mind of the flesh is death”…(It) means that the natural man is in a state of spiritual death. That is what the apostle says everywhere about the unbeliever, about the man who is not a Christian. We find it mentioned at the beginning of the second chapter of Ephesians: “You hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph 2:1). “Dead”! He repeats it again in verse 5: “Even when we were dead in sins, (he) hath quickened us together with Christ.” The apostle is saying the same thing here. The man who is “under the flesh” and governed and controlled by his fallen human nature, not only minds the things of the flesh—those worldly things out of which God is shut—but he does so because he is spiritually dead. He is alive physically, he exists, but spiritually he is a dead man.
The apostle’s statement means that the man is dead to God; he lives as if there were no God. Some of your greatest moral men, some of your most cultured men in the world are in that position. They are very able, very cultured, very much interested in life, they never get drunk, they are not guilty of adultery…“Ah,” you say, “you cannot say that such a man minds the things of the flesh.” I do just that! God is not in all his thoughts (Psa 10:4); he is completely dead to God; he is living as if there were no God! That is what is meant by spiritual death. Spiritual death is to be outside the life of God. Our Lord has settled the matter for us. In John’s Gospel 17:3, we read: “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” The man who has not got eternal life does not know God. He is outside the life of God, and that means that he is dead…There are such people. They come to a place of worship, they listen to things that ravish the hearts of believers, but they see nothing in it at all. There are many such people in the churches now, as there always have been…They are dead—dead to God, dead to the Lord Jesus Christ, dead to the realm of the spiritual and all spiritual realities, dead to their own soul and spirit and their everlasting and eternal interests! They never think about such matters at all. That is their trouble. That is what the apostle says here about them. This mind of the flesh shuts them out from the life of God…Nothing more terrible can be contemplated. That is the meaning of spiritual death.
The only true knowledge that we have of God is to be found in the Bible. God has revealed Himself…By definition God is absolute and infinite and eternal in all His attributes and qualities. We cannot arrive at Him of ourselves; He must reveal Himself. He has done so, in the Scriptures and in the Lord Jesus Christ. And the Lord Jesus Christ has taught us about the wrath of God, about the judgment of God, and about hell. Yes, but the moment these people who say they believe in God hear such things, they become furious and remonstrate10 against it; they hate it. Indeed, they hate God! As Paul tells us, this “mind of the flesh is enmity against God.” It wants a god after its own image, and it hates the God of the Bible, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the God preached by this apostle Paul and all the other apostles. This is the all-too-common state of things to- day; alas, you find it in so-called Christian pulpits and churches. In the name of God and of Christ, men are showing their enmity and their hatred of God, the living God, “the only true God” (Joh 17:3)…All natural men, all who are not Christians, are “at enmity against God.”
10 remonstrate – argue in protest, forcefully and sometimes angrily.