Skip to content

The Spiritual Life

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. 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. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.

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. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.

Romans 8:5–11

As we continue in this chapter of Paul’s epistle to the Romans which begins with “no condemnation”, we come to this passage about the carnal mind and the spiritual mind. Recall that in the first four verses, the section started with “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”

While the “no condemnation” part of this is easy to understand and there is generally little difficulty in explaining it, the clause “who walk not after the flesh but after the spirit” has been a great difficulty. Many follow the thought that “the last ten words are interpolated” as the note in my Scofield Reference Bible says.

The question then is “interpolated by who”?

When I look at the Textus Receptus and the Majority Text, both have the clause as part of the verse. The note is that the NU omits that phrase. What is the NU? It is the “Alexandrian” text that is a combination of Nestle-Aland and United Bible Society texts, and is the text under almost all modern translations.

It seems to be an “easy out” to say “the best texts omit…” rather than to deal with the verse. Most all “grace-believing” Christians as we call ourselves stand with the King James Version and the Textus Receptus, it’s underlying text almost all the way, yet many will default to this argument for these last 10 words because these words might throw a wrench into our argument for grace. That approach is inconsistent, because the Bible must be our authority, and we must not wish verses away that cause problems.

The better approach must be that we know from many other verses, many of them preceding this verse in the epistle to the Romans, that justification is freely by grace (Romans 3:24); it is apart from the law (Romans 3:21); it is by faith (Romans 5:1); it is by the blood of Christ (Romans 5:9).

Faith is counted for righteousness in the ungodly sinner that believes God (Romans 4:5), and the gift of eternal life is given through Jesus Christ our Lord before we have walked in any way, spiritually or carnally. In fact, the only parts of Romans so far where our walk has played any part was the first 3 chapters where our guilt was declared, and in chapter 7, where the saved man’s effort at keeping the law of God was shown to be a complete failure, with the Apostle’s lament, “O wretched man that I am!” (Romans 7:24).

Then we come to chapter 8, and we get that great release — No Condemnation! Here we sigh a breath of relief that there is no condemnation to those in Christ, but is there a catch? The short answer is no. Grace is not given with a catch. It is given freely, as the apostle has already said in 3:24:

Romans 3:24 — “Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus…”

So then what do we do with this? First, we believe the text. Then we can put away preconceived ideas of what these phrases are saying and let the apostle continue speaking his God-inspired words to us.

Remember that up to this point, all of man’s efforts have been a failure. Even here, the apostle is not telling anyone a way that he must live to not be condemned. Verses 5 through 11 begin telling us of two opposing ways of life, or “walks”.

We learned in verse 1 that those in Christ Jesus walk “not after the flesh but after the Spirit”. This would all be easy so far, if it were not for the fact that all of us either know or know of someone who is saved, yet certainly would not be classified as walking after the Spirit. This is the infamous “carnal Christian” that we hear about often, and truth be told, many of us maybe “resemble that remark”.

The next book in our Bibles as we have them is 1 Corinthians, where the apostle addresses an entire assembly of these carnal Christians. In fact, they thought themselves “spiritual” because of the spiritual gifts that they possessed, but these were no indication of walking in the Spirit. He had to write a letter that essentially tells then to stop thinking and acting like the unsaved Gentiles (pagans, heathen, you get the picture) that they were (1 Corinthians 12:2) and to think and behave like the saints that they are (1 Corinthians 1:2).

But this is not what Romans 8 is about. Paul has still not told any in this Roman epistle anything other than facts about themselves, first as unsaved, then as saved. The Romans are told that it is contrary to continue in sin seeing that we are in Christ and as being such we are dead to sin. This should not be confused with saying continuing in sin means that you are not saved, but that your actions do not line up with what you believe. It is really not until chapter 12 that the Christian is “beseeched” to do anything, and that is by the mercies of God, not by threats against salvation.

In Romans 8:5, we read that they which are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh. They that are after the flesh is the grouping of all that are in Adam. The things that are after the flesh are all things that belong to the life of the natural man. The natural man can be religious and even seek to do good things. He can be “spiritual” as the world at large defines it, we might say ethereal, but this is not the spirituality that Paul describes here. None of these make the man spiritual, as the Scripture here defines it. Neither do the spiritual gifts that the charismatics seek after. The spiritual man has the spirit of God dwelling in him, as verse 9 says, so those that have the spirit of Christ in them belong to Christ, and those without the spirit of Christ in them do not. Notice the free interchanging of the spirit of God and the spirit of Christ in this verse.

The natural man, the man that is after the flesh, naturally minds the things of the flesh. The law itself, though spiritual (Romans 7:14), that is, of God and given by the Spirit, as a control over a carnal people, showed us not the law’s failure, but the failure of the people under it. By the law is the knowledge of sin (Romans 3:20). The law under the New Covenant that we read of in Jeremiah 31 will be effective at keeping sin at bay because the people who will be under it will not be “carnal, sold under sin”, but will be spiritual:

Jeremiah 31:31–34 — “Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

That this is literal, physical Israel (although spiritual as well) should not be in question. If there is any doubt, read also Ezekiel 36, especially verses 22 through the end of the chapter. The difference of this Israel is verse 26:

Ezekiel 36:26 — “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.”

This is not our walk, nor is it our promise, but we do have the Spirit of Christ dwelling in us, and further we have the “Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus” promising to raise our mortal bodies, dwelling in us to make us fulfill the law by walking in Christ.

The Apostle Paul tells us that to be carnally minded is death, contrasted with being spiritually minded being life and peace. For one to be spiritually minded, he must have the mind of the Spirit. He is then, by nature, walking not after the flesh, but after the Spirit and the righteousness of the law is fulfilled in him. Notice, not the law itself, but the righteousness. We learn that the law was not made for a righteous man in Paul’s first epistle to Timothy (1 Timothy 1:9), but for the wicked. By walking in Christ, having the righteousness of God by faith of Jesus Christ (Romans 3:22), we have no condemnation. The natural man cannot walk in the law of God, because he is enemy to it. God does not expect him to, He wants the unsaved to be saved (1 Timothy 2:4). The saved man, the one walking not after the flesh but after the Spirit, has the life of Christ in him and can actually walk as pleasing to God. And he lives with no condemnation.

So this is starting ground for us in Christian life, not a goal that we must attain. We either have the Spirit of Christ, or we don’t. If we do, it is because we were justified by God’s grace when we believed the gospel. If we do not, it is because we are not saved.

Verses 12 and 13 go on to tell us our relationship to flesh as saved people:

Romans 8:12–13 — “Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.”

Here is the place where the Christian has a choice to make that will affect his current life. Do we choose to live the life given to us by the Spirit of Christ, the spiritual life, or do we choose to live the carnal life and have a dead life? The truth is that at any time we are free not to sin, when as unsaved we were under the domination of sin. We do not owe the carnal life anything and we have the power to deny its authority because we have our new Authority living in us. We do not have to call on some special spiritual power but only have to yield to that which is there by a gift — a Spiritual gift.

If you are saved you walk after the Spirit. If you are not saved, you walk after the flesh and are under that oppressive tyrant. You do not have to be. Christ died for our sins and rose from the dead, and by His death for us He satisfied God’s wrath against our sin. All that God requires from us is to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and we will be saved. God has not made it difficult for us, He made it a gospel for everyone because there is nothing that any of us can do to save ourselves.

Christ died for your sins. Believe in Him and His death and resurrection and the gracious salvation of God is yours. You then can be walking after the spirit and not after the flesh and you also can be living with no condemnation.

Romans 1:16 — “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.”


Romans Study

Charles Miller View All

Husband, father, engineer...Enjoys fishing, archery, guitar, running, and lifting, but most of all reading and studying God's Word.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: