It is common in Paul's writings--in none more so than in this Epistle to the Romans, for one subject to suggest what follows. As with the musical Composer one note suggests another--as with the skilled and practiced Orator one topic or idea suggests another--so it is here. The last strain of our inspired Harmonist was--"Who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." The theme is now amplified--the note is prolonged. Retaining our song-metaphor, the identical terms of the couplet "flesh and Spirit" are over and over antithetically intoned.

"Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God. You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation--but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live" Romans 8;5-9, 12-13

I shall not attempt expounding, clause by clause, in consecutive order, but rather group these together, combining and interchanging; the better thus to grasp what is the scope and meaning of the writer.

Taking it generally, the entire passage is a plea for the higher spiritual life, as contrasted with the lower. It is a step in advance of our Apostle's thesis already adverted to in ch. 7. To use a familiar figure, the latter may be likened to the swing of the pendulum; while the present may rather be compared to the magnetic needle, which despite of tremulous vibrations is pointing true to its pole. The animal nature--"the flesh with its affections and lusts" (the disturbing cause)--is deflecting from God and holiness. But its normal condition is, notwithstanding, strictly under the influence of diviner principles, renewed motives and affections.

The two first, and we may regard them as leading clauses in these couplet verses, are rendered in the margin--"Minding of the flesh" and "Minding of the Spirit" (v. 5). The former opens up not an inviting subject. But for the sake of the contrasted theme we must for a few moments dwell upon it. It is the picture of mankind in their natural unregenerate state--the 'Harp with its thousand strings' out of tune, the song with its marred and discordant melodies; the soul "alienated from the life of God;"--under vassalage to sin. The desires, inclinations, tastes--have not only a downward tendency; but, as we know too well, there is a dynamic force in the carnal nature corresponding to the momentum of the material law. That moral momentum is ever on the increase. Indulged and permitted evil--the despot rule of the flesh–leads to an ever sadder bondage, and deadens the sense of right and wrong. In the simile of our Lord's Gospel Parable, the house "swept and garnished," yet unsurrendered to the Spirit, becomes more and more devil-haunted; so that "the last state of that man is worse than the first." Hear another Apostle's description of the terrible progression or decadence in this "minding of the flesh;"--"Earthly, sensual, DEVILISH" (James 3;15). The sirens in league with the fallen and corrupt nature, lure with the charm of their voluptuous song, only to surer destruction.

And the saddest feature in the delineation--the saddest taint in this fleshly nature is here specially noted. The head and front of its offending is--"The carnal mind is enmity against God" (v. 7). God--the God of unspotted holiness, purity, and righteousness is distasteful and abhorrent to the "mind of the flesh." "It is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be." This, in the truest sense, is "Atheism." "The fool" (that is, the impersonation of the carnal mind) "has said in his heart, 'No God for me'" (Ps. 14;1); for such is the energy and emphasis of the original. There are undoubtedly times when the most callous and indifferent--those of the earth earthy, cannot--dare not, thus utter the scoffer's creed, "No God!" All nature in its majestic sequences, its exquisite mechanisms, its intricate yet simple laws, repudiates the disavowal. It has its own "Song of Songs" chanted day and night in endless chorus, sublime refrain--"The Lord reigns." Yes, and this is still more emphatically and solemnly countersigned by conscience within, the authoritative viceregent--conscience asserting its own cadences, despite of all inner discord that would attempt to mar divine, godlike harmonies.

Yet alas! the recognition of God--the God of the Gospel and of Revelation is incompatible with the "desires of the flesh and of the mind." Hence the altar is erected, not with the old Athenian inscription "To the Unknown God," but "No God FOR ME." The votary of the flesh can without scruple give his adhesion to the creed of Pantheist or Materialist. But a great moral Lawgiver and Governor to whom he is responsible, and to whose Will his whole principles and actions are antagonistic, he cannot tolerate. His state may be summed up in the one expressive word--"Ungodliness."

And what a picture is this, of those who are unrenewed in the spirit of their minds! "The natural man (the flesh) receives not the things of the Spirit of God." "For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were through the law, wrought in our members to bring forth fruit unto death" (Rom. 7;5).

"Unto death." In the verses we are now considering the same sad climax is reached. "To be carnally minded is death" (v. 6). "If you live after the flesh you shall die" (v. 13). The original meaning is here, too, emphatic. It is not that this fleshly tendency leads to death; but it is death. Death, gloomy-visaged, spiritual death sways its iron scepter over the moribund soul. It is dead to the only true life--the life of God--"Without God and without hope in the world!"

Turn now for a little to the opposite pole--from muffled peals to spiritual life-chords. Listen to Paul's series of counterpart statements.

(V. 10) "If Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness." (V. 12) "Therefore, brethren, we are debtors." "If you through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, you shall live." (V. 6) "To be spiritually minded is life and peace."

"We are debtors." The key-note of the song considered at the beginning of these meditations (v. 1) interprets this assertion for us. Once in "condemnation;" bankrupt, nothing to pay--sin-condemned and law-condemned. But Christ the Law fulfiller has paid all and remitted all, granting to the insolvent a full discharge; "Therefore, brethren, we are debtors;" debtors to Him who has Himself furnished the ransom--opened the prison doors and set us free. Hence the infinite obligation under which we are laid to Redeeming love. Hence the supreme incentive to sanctification of heart and life. As He died for sin, so must we die to sin.

At this point of the Apostle's argument, a new divine Influence or Factor is revealed; a new slumbering chord of the Song is made to vibrate. God has made gracious provision to secure, on the part of His ransomed people, a holy walk and obedience; and that, not through their own strength, but through the strength and power of His indwelling Spirit. By that Spirit we are not only renewed, but "led" (v. 14)--sweetly constrained to walk in harmony with the divine will, and the impulses of our regenerated natures. We have here what Chalmers happily calls "the expulsive power of a new affection." It is a plant which our Heavenly Father plants. Not indigenous to the natural soil of the human heart; it is of supernatural growth.

Christ Himself in His interview with Nicodemus expressly speaks of a "new birth"--a being "born of the Spirit"--"born from above. ABOVE; "translated into the Kingdom of His dear Son." ABOVE--we breathe a purer atmosphere. Away from the mists and clouds of the nether valley, faith takes us to its own rocky heights; and bathed in its own bright paradise, puts one of its new songs into our lips--"He shall dwell on high; his place of defense shall be the munitions of rocks." The life originally forfeited in the first Adam is more than restored. "I came," says the great federal Head of the New Covenant, "that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly" (John 10;10).

In all this, however, let us specially note, at the risk of repetition, the divine Agent and Agency. For while the expression "the Spirit," may be more than once descriptive of the new moral condition of the soul, in contradistinction to "the flesh;" it undoubtedly has a preponderating reference to the Holy Spirit--the Third Person in the adorable Trinity--the Author, Inspirer, Energizer of divine life; in accordance with Christ's own valedictory promise to His Church--"For He dwells with you and shall be in you" (John 14;17). "But you are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you" (v. 9).

If we have seen that the state of those "minding the things of the flesh" may be expressed by one word--ungodliness; this new, heaven-born life may similarly be described by the one word "spiritual mindedness." This spiritual mindedness--the Holy Spirit's work in the heart--like all the processes in God's material and moral government, is step by step and progressive. The power of sin becomes slowly weaker and weaker. The power of grace, slowly--it may be imperceptibly, becomes stronger and stronger. Paul's own word (v. 13) implies not a sudden and instantaneous, but a gradual transformation; "If you through the Spirit, do MORTIFY the deeds of the body, you shall live." It is in accordance with a similar and equally expressive simile of our Apostle elsewhere--"Those who are Christ's have crucified the flesh with its affections and lusts." Crucified--it is a slow, lingering death--a "striving against sin" (Heb. 12;4); though the strife and conflict are not dubious, but lead ultimately to assured victory.

Reader, have you and I, in any feeble measure, been able to realize the presence and power of this "Indwelling Spirit"? conscious of the surrender of heart and life to Christ? implying the gradual conquest of sin; the expulsion of whatever is base and impure, corrupt and selfish, grasping and covetous, unloving and unholy--our wills blending in greater harmony with the divine? Is this our happy history; can we endorse this testimony as our own experience--"The grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men; teaching us, that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously and godly in this present world?" (Titus 2;11, 12). Not, moreover, as a hard rule of compulsion--a reluctant concession to stern duty and obligation, but saying with a cheerful feeling of self-surrender--"I delight in the law of God after the inward man"?

There is no description truer than that asserted in one of the antithetical clauses already quoted--"to be spiritually minded is life and peace." PEACE! that holy tranquility--that "fruit of the Spirit," specially noted in Gal. 5;22. Like God's own metaphor of it, the river may not be always untroubled. The stream may at times flow amid rough boulders and environing rocks, fretted and broken into foam by the cataract. But gradually it resumes its customary calm, reflecting the serene heavens, and at last sleeping with waveless tranquility in the bosom of the lake where it has sped its way.

Nor let this phrase, "the Indwelling Spirit," be taken by us as a mere theological expression. No; it is a deeply solemn reality. "Don't you know that you are the Temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?" (1 Cor. 3;16). O, what a constant preservative against sin--what an ever-present incentive to holiness were this conviction more habitually present with us--"My soul is a shrine tenanted and consecrated by the Holy Spirit!" How the thought evokes the blush of conscious shortcoming and unworthiness, in recalling the past! How it demands self scrutiny for the present and watchfulness for the future! How crowded becomes the memory with the remembrance of impure imaginations, unamiable tempers, vain aspirations, "winged ambitions,"--selfish ways, passionate words, unloving deeds! Humbled, softened, saddened at the retrospect, be this our prayer--the prayer of one who, far more than Paul, realized the terrible combat between flesh and spirit--one who fell sorely wounded in the battle--but yet as God's accredited and honored soldier rose from his fall--though carrying the scar of ignoble defeat and failure to the last--"Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Take not Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore unto me the joys of Your salvation, and uphold me with Your free Spirit " (Ps. 51;10, 11, 12).

Let me listen, daily, hourly, to the divine admonition--"Walk in the Spirit and you shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh." How many venture to walk--but it is to walk dangerously near the precipice straying on doubtful or forbidden ground; with a faltering will; holding parley with sin; tampering with the sensitiveness of conscience and with the treacherous allurements and base compliances of the world; thus "grieving the Holy Spirit of God, whereby we are sealed unto the day of redemption."

Lord, bring me to live more and more constantly under the sovereignty of that lofty motive to walk and act so as to please You; to exercise a jealous scrutiny over my truant, treacherous, deceitful heart. Specially in my daily business and daily duties and daily temptations and daily perplexities, may I seek to be led by Your Spirit. Let me keep free of whatever influences would deflect the needle from its pole, and prevent the love of God from being shed abroad in my heart by the Holy Spirit given unto me. Beholding, as in a glass, the glory of the Lord, may I be changed into the same image from glory to glory, by the Lord the Spirit (2 Cor. 3;18). Free from the bondage of the law--the law of sin and death, let me become a willing slave to the new bondage of Christ's service. Recognizing the ultimate end of Redemption to be Sanctification, may I yield myself and my members servants to righteousness unto holiness (Rom. 6;19).

Here is our Apostle's main incentive to the leading of this higher spiritual life and this diviner spiritual walk--"For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again (2 Cor. 5;14, 15). "Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits at God's right hand in the place of honor and power. Let heaven fill your thoughts. Do not think only about things down here on earth. For you died when Christ died, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God" (Col. 3;1-3). "To be spiritually minded is life and peace" may be taken as the summary of this passage and chapter. As a responsive and appropriate chord to Paul's Song of the renewed mind, let us close with an old prophetic strain, celebrating the City of Salvation with the Gates of righteousness and peace we have just been surveying–"In that day, everyone in the land of Judah will sing this song: Our city is now strong! We are surrounded by the walls of God's salvation. Open the gates to all who are righteous; allow the faithful to enter. You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, whose thoughts are fixed on you!" Isaiah 26:1-3

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