Do you look at things according to the outward appearance? If anyone is convinced in himself that he is Christ’s, let him again consider this in himself, that just as he is Christ’s, even so we are Christ’s (2 Corinthians 10:7, NKJV).
Paul opposed and exposed the error false teachers spread against the truth of the gospel (2 Cor. 10:3-6; Gal. 1:6-12; 2:4-5). Unwilling and unable to withstand the truth Paul spoke, these “false apostles” and “deceitful workers” resorted to ad hominem arguments to blunt the force of the Spirit’s sword (2 Cor. 11:13). They attacked Paul instead of the truth he preached. We can hear their accusations against Paul as they tried to diminish his effective teaching and influence among the Corinthians. “Paul is bold in his letters but weak when in your presence” (2 Cor. 10:1-2, 10). And, “Paul is a former persecutor who never was with Jesus. He is an upstart unqualified to be an apostle – do not listen to him” (2 Cor. 11:5-6). They tried to gaslight the brethren, projecting onto Paul what they were doing as they “walked according to the flesh” (2 Cor. 10:2-3). This diversionary tactic is used when false doctrines are indefensible from the Scriptures. “Fool!” “Ignorant!” and “Pharisee!” are among the ad hominem responses against Christians who oppose and expose sin and error from God’s word. The Lord’s servant does not resort to ad hominem to bias his audience. It is a ploy unworthy of Christ’s disciple (2 Tim. 2:24-26). Reacting against reasoned biblical teaching with ad hominem responses diverts attention from the word of God. It is a carnal attack that fails to persuade while exposing the weakness and error of the one using it (2 Cor. 10:3-4). Do not be deceived.
1 And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. 2 I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; 3 for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men? (1 Corinthians 3:1–3, NKJV)
One culprit of a weak faith is remaining spiritually undeveloped. Every Christian begins in this immature state as “babes in Christ” (v. 1). The problem of spiritual weakness is staying in that condition. Christ calls us to grow in Him by using God’s word in our lives (1 Pet. 2:2; Heb. 5:12-14). Those who do are the “spiritual” ones; They use God’s revelation to decide their course of conduct (1 Cor. 2:14-16). However, the Corinthians had not grown; they were still carnal (“fleshy”) in thought and practice (v. 1). Such spiritual weakness quickly becomes anti-spiritual (as noted in verse 3). Now, the flesh controlled their minds and choices (see the contrast in 1 Cor. 2:15). We retain the traits and characteristics of the flesh (carnally minded) when we do not grow in our faith (Rom. 8:1, 5-8). Like the Corinthians (engulfed in “envy, strife, and divisions”), spiritual weakness devolves into sin unless arrested by renewing our minds and lives (Rom. 12:1-2; Eph. 4:20-24). Let us not yield to the weakness of the flesh (Matt. 26:41). Instead, be strong in the Lord, using each day to strengthen your faith, cleanse your actions and purify your heart from all defilement of flesh and spirit to grow up in Christ (Matt. 26:41; James 4:8; 2 Cor. 7:1; Eph. 4:15).
17 Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. 18 If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12:17–18, NKJV).
The gospel forbids retaliation and taking personal vengeance. To do so disrespects God and His righteous vengeance against evildoers: “Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Rom. 12:19). Therefore, Christians are to overcome evil with good by doing all we can to live peaceably with others (Rom. 12:21). We can seek peace and pursue it (1 Pet. 3:10-11; Heb. 12:14). For example, the carnally minded say, “I’ll never make peace with him because he wronged me.” But Christians are to be peacemakers, not conflict promoters (Matt. 5:9). The carnally minded say, “I’ll get even with him.” But Christians turn the other cheek instead of retaliating in kind (Matt. 5:38-42). The carnally minded say, “He wronged me once, and I’ll never trust him again.” But Christians forgive as God in Christ forgave us (Eph. 4:31-32). To be a peacemaker takes self-control, sacrifice, and selflessness. Wisdom from above is peaceable because it is “pure” and “willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy” (James 3:17). Peace does not happen on its own. Peacemakers wisely sow “the fruit of righteousness” to “make peace” (James 3:18; Matt. 5:9).
Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ (Colossians 2:8, NKJV).
Paul’s warning against deceivers who would plunder our spiritual treasures in Christ is not new (2 Cor. 11:3-4, 12-15). Let us give attention to “the basic principles of the world” that are not according to Christ and fuel this deception. The basic principles of the world are not the chemical elements that constitute the physical realm (2 Pet. 3:10, 12). They are the fundamental evil elements that oppose God, His purposes, and His truth. They enslave souls to the service of sin (Gal. 4:3). Consider four basic principles of the world: (1) Unbelief. It plunges souls into darkness, ignorance, and alienation from the true and living God (Eph. 4:17-19). Without faith, we cannot please God (Heb. 11:6). (2) The traditions, commands, and doctrines of men. Human philosophies appeal to the intellect, often seem plausible, yet are “empty deceit” that cannot save us and protect us from sin (Col. 2:8, 20-23). (3) Carnality and its works. The evil world is composed of the lusts of the flesh, of the eyes, and life’s pride. These stimulate all manner of works of the flesh (1 John 2:15-17; Gal. 5:19-21). Carnal-mindedness opposes God and causes spiritual death (Rom. 8:5-8). (4) The will of men instead of the will of God (1 Pet. 4:2-3). Elevating our cravings and will above God is a fundamental element of the world. Be encouraged and beware; Do not let anyone plunder your spiritual treasure in Christ (Col. 2:1-3).
5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. 6 For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace (Romans 8:5–6, NKJV).
We live according to where we set our minds. The person who fixes his mind on fleshly things lives for the flesh and produces the “works of the flesh” (Gal. 5:19-21). The apostle of Christ firmly declared, “those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Gal. 5:21). Conversely, to live “according to the Spirit,” we must set our minds on “the things of the Spirit.” What are those things? Nothing less than the things the Spirit revealed to the apostles, which they preached to the world (1 Cor. 2:10-13). The things of the Spirit are the words of truth He revealed, confirmed, and inspired. The “fruit of the Spirit” is borne in our lives when we follow the Spirit’s guidance that is in God’s word (Gal. 6:16-18, 22-23). Today’s passage explains we either live “according to the flesh,” or we live “according to the Spirit,” but not both. Spiritual death (separation from God) is the outcome of being carnally minded. Spiritual life and peace with God result from being spiritually minded. Have you set your mind on the things of the Spirit or the flesh? “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth” (Col. 3:2).
5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. 6 For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. 7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. 8 So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God. (Romans 8:5–8, NKJV)
In yesterday’s Sword Tips, we studied from Ephesians 5:18-21 what it means to “be filled with the Spirit.” Today’s passage amplifies its meaning and its benefits. Today’s passage explains what living under the guidance of the Spirit (His truth) means. It means 1) We set our minds on the things of the Spirit (v. 5). We choose to focus on heavenly things (Col. 3:1-3). 2) We are spiritually minded, which results in life and peace (v. 6). 3) Being spiritually minded means we submit ourselves to the law of God. We yield ourselves to the will of God and obey Him because we are “under law toward Christ” (1 Cor. 9:21). 4) We please God (v. 8). To live “in the flesh” means to set the minds on carnal things and refuse to obey the law of God. The carnal mind is at war against God, and its outcome is death. We must choose to live under the law of God to be filled with the Spirit. This life will bear the fruit of the Spirit, bringing life and peace (Gal. 5:22-23).
1 And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. 2 I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; 3 for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men? 4 For when one says, “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos,” are you not carnal? (1 Corinthians 3:1–4, NKJV)
Paul had just identified “spiritual” people as those who “receive the things of the Spirit of God” (i.e., the revelation of the gospel truth through the apostles, 1 Cor. 2:14-15, 10-13). Sadly, Paul could not speak to the Corinthian Christians as spiritual people because they had remained unspiritual – carnal (“consisting of flesh, fleshy”). Failing to grow spiritually after their conversion to Christ, they were still only able to digest the milk of the word (v. 1-2). Their failure to mature in Christ led them to be anti-spiritual – carnal (having the nature and traits of the flesh, the opposite of “spiritual” in 1 Cor. 2:15) (v. 3-4). Their carnality was exhibited through their envy, strife, and divisions. Identifying themselves with men instead of with the “word of the cross” proved their carnality (1 Cor. 1:18). We must grow to spiritual maturity by receiving God’s word and putting away every attitude and action that opposes the word the Spirit revealed (1 Pet. 2:1-2; Heb. 5:12-14; Rom. 8:5-8).
6 For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace, 7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. 8 So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God. (Romans 8:6-8, NKJV)
Spiritual and death proceeds from the mind that is given to the thoughts, attitudes, motives, and inclinations of the flesh. By contrast, the mind that is spiritual produces life and peace. Paul has already identified the spiritual mind as that which is set on the things of the Spirit (Romans 8:5). This mind walks according to the Spirit and bears the fruit of the Spirit (Romans 8:1; Galatians 5:22-23). If your mind refuses to submit to the law of God, you are yet carnal, and an enemy of God. Being “in the flesh” is tantamount to a mind that is set against the will of God and a life that does not obey the law of God. Conversely, the spiritually minded person is the one who obeys the law of God, willingly submitting to its rule and authority. Are you spiritually minded? If so, you are obeying the word of God. Do not be deceived. If you are not obedient to God’s word, then you are not spiritually minded. You are still serving the flesh, and it is past time to repent and submit yourself to the law of God (Matthew 7:21-23).
For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. (Romans 8:5, NKJV)
Paul lays out a series of contrasts in Romans 8:5-9 between what it means to be carnally minded and what it means to be spiritually minded. He begins by drawing our attention to this central point: We live what we think. Whatever your mind is set upon produces how you live. If your goal is to “walk according to the Spirit,” then you must set your mind on “the things of the Spirit” (Romans 8:1, 5). The “flesh” is the source of evil appetites, and carnally minded people set their minds on these things. The gospel calls us to set our minds on things above and not on things on the earth (Colossians 3:2). The gospel renews our minds (Romans 12:2). This occurs as we deliberately develop the mindset to seek and do the will of God which the Spirit has revealed in the Scriptures. Put your mind on the word and will of God, not on the wisdom and will of those who do not know God (1 Peter 4:1-2). Putting your mind in the right place translates into making choices to do God’s will in life. You live what you think!
“For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.” (Romans 8:6, NKJV)
The life and peace God grants the spiritually minded is set in sharp contrast to the outcome of being carnally minded. Eternal death is its ultimate reward. Even in this life, the person who lives for the indulgences of the flesh is already spiritually dead (1 Timothy 5:6). Carnality is living by and for the flesh. It is antagonistic to God and His will both in mind and conduct. To be carnally minded not only fails to be spiritual, it produces anti-spiritual behavior. In 1 Corinthians 3:1-2, the apostle said the Corinthians were carnal rather than spiritual because they had not matured in Christ; they were still babes who were not partaking of the solid food of truth. Their carnal thinking produced “envy, strife, and divisions” toward their fellow Christians. By doing so, they had become anti-spiritual. Their display of conflict showed their nature and character was being controlled by the flesh instead of by the Spirit of God (whose fruit is “love, joy and peace,” 1 Corinthians 3:3; Galatians 5:22). Our conduct will show whether our mind is on the flesh, or on the things of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:10-16).