‘Because the carnal mind is enmity against God, for it is not subject to the law of God; nor indeed can be. So then those who are in the flesh cannot please God.’
What exactly is the carnal mind in this context? To examine this we must go back to Romans 8:1. Remember context is very important!
Romans 8:1 states: ‘There is therefore now, no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the spirit.’ This is one of the most important verses in the entire bible. It declares the penalty for sin paid; it declares that we’ve been made right with God; justified by the blood of Christ; that we have peace with God; that we are holy and blameless and without accusation in His sight, and as a result there is no condemnation for us who are in Christ EVER! To walk in the spirit is to live by faith in what this verse declares. To walk in the flesh is to doubt what this verse declares.
Romans 8:2: ‘For the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.’ This verse is key to understanding these passages. And what this scripture means is this – that we have been removed from the penalty of the curse of the law; that we have been born into the law of the spirit of life in Christ. That we’ve entered into a new relationship with God, and are no longer under the influence and guidance of the law; controlled by the stringency of the law which always produced death.
Romans 8:3: ‘For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin, He condemned sin in the flesh.’ What this verse is saying is this – that we were unable to keep the law because of the weakness of our flesh, so God in His mercy sent the Son to condemn, or rather to pay the penalty for, the indwelling sins of our flesh forever.
Romans 8:4: ‘That the righteous requirements of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the spirit.’ What this means is this – that the righteous requirements of the law were fulfilled in us, so we would not walk in the condemnation of our flesh through living under the law; but that we would walk according to the spirit by faith in the fact that Jesus did it all.
Romans 8:5 – ‘For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on things of the flesh, but those who live according to the spirit, the things of the spirit.’ This is basically a restatement of verse 4, stating that to walk in the flesh is to walk in obedience to the law, rather than to live by faith in what Christ accomplished.
Romans 8:6 – ‘For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.’ To get a better understanding of this verse, we must go back to Romans chapter 7, and read verses 7-11. Paying special attention to words like: all manner of evil desire, dead, died, death, killed me. This will also help to clarify the remaining two verses in this study.
Romans 8:7 – ‘Because the carnal mind is enmity against God, for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.’ Remember context is important! What this verse says is this – that the carnal mind is the legal mind. This mindset is at enmity against God, and is not subject to the law of God. Notice the word law here is singular, which depicts the royal law of love. In short, what this means is that the legal mind is actually incapable of fully grasping and expressing the agape love of Christ.
Romans 8:8 – ‘So then, those that are in the flesh cannot please God.’ This verse is pretty self-explanatory; and pretty much sums up this set. What its saying is this – that the legal mind, the Christian life lived in observance to the law does not please God. This is living in the flesh; this is the carnal mind.
Footnote: For many years I did not have this interpretation of Romans 8:1-8. I thought to be carnally minded meant having bad thoughts or having sin in my life. I had sat in churches for years, and heard this chapter preached dozens of times, yet somehow I did not get it. I realize now that it’s because it was not taught with authority, neither with clarity nor in context; and now when I ask people the question: What does it mean in Romans ch. 8, when it talks about the carnal mind?; you’d be amazed at how many churchgoers can’t answer this question properly. My question is why?