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).
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).
And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; (Romans 1:28, NKJV)
By definition, a debased mind is “unapproved” and, by implication, “worthless.” It does not stand the test and, therefore, is not approved. The Greeks used the word translated “debased” to metals and coins that failed the assayer’s test. So, it was cast aside, rejected, “reprobate” (KJV, ASV). The debased mind does not appear suddenly. The Holy Spirit explained that it develops when people no longer approve of holding on to their knowledge of God. Romans 1 catalogs the process and effects of divesting oneself of the knowledge of God (1:19-25). Foolishly refusing to hold God in one’s knowledge results in all manner of immoral conduct (1:26-27, 28-32). What we retain in our minds shapes our lives. We invariably spiral downward when we are comfortable with not retaining God in our thoughts. The gospel of Christ has the power to save us from the sin that is formed in and results from debased minds (Rom. 1:16-17). The gospel renews our minds when we believe, repent, and obey the Lord Jesus (Eph. 4:17-24; Rom. 12:1-2). Otherwise, our sin put us under God’s wrath and righteous judgment of death (Rom. 1:18, 32). Retain God in your knowledge and follow His will.
6 Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. 7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:6–7, NKJV)
Even with a miraculous spiritual gift from God, Timothy needed to be encouraged to be courageous to kindle its use. Although such gifts have passed away, we still need boldness to speak the truth and stand for righteousness. The cancel culture would silence voices of reason and faith. They tried to silence early Christians with threats, imprisonments, beatings, and death (Acts 4:17-21; 5:40; 8:1-4; Heb. 10:32-34). Power, love, and soundness of mind are attributes of faith that embolden sincere hearts to speak the truth in love, and with all boldness speak the words of truth and reason (Rom. 1:16; Eph. 4:15; Phil. 1:20; Acts 26:25). Being the salt of the earth and the light of the world requires that we speak out against sin in all of its forms. Any system that oppresses minorities should be called to account for its prejudicial sins (Jas. 2:1; Rom. 13:8, 10). Any system that legalizes killing unborn babies should be called to account for facilitating sin (Rom. 13:9). Any system that legalizes same-sex marriages and other forms of fornication should be called to account for sanctioning sin (Matt. 19:4-6; Heb. 13:4). Any system that teaches children they are not their biological gender should be called to account for such corruption (Gen. 1:27). People form systems of government, economics, education, etc. When people choose to live in sin, their societies become corrupt, too. God’s people must not call evil good and good evil (Isa. 5:20). We must abhor evil and cling to what is good (Rom. 12:9). That takes virtuous courage (2 Pet. 1:5; 1 Cor. 16:13).
14 But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. 15 But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one. 16 For “who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?” But we have the mind of Christ. (1 Corinthians 2:14–16, NKJV)
The “natural” man is not guided by divine revelation (v. 14). He “does not receive the things of the Spirit of God” – the gospel – that was revealed to Christ’s apostles and spoken by them through inspiration (1 Cor. 2:10-13). Reminiscent of Proverbs 14:12 (“there is a way that seems right to a man…”), he lives according to human reasoning (“the wisdom of this age,” 1 Cor. 2:6) instead of divine truth. His carnal way of thinking prevents the spiritual discernment he needs to receive truth (1 Cor. 3:1-3). To him, “the message of the cross is foolishness,” and he perishes in his sins (1 Cor. 1:18). By contrast, the “spiritual” person “judges (evaluates) all things” in the light of God’s revelation (v. 15). This person refuses to tell God what His will is (or should be, v. 16; Rom. 11:34). The spiritual person trusts and obeys the gospel – the revealed mind of Christ. Those who rely on themselves attempt to instruct God, but the spiritual receive His instruction. Let us be the spiritual person who receives the things revealed by the Spirit of God.
28 But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. (Matthew 5:28–29, NKJV)
Jesus said the place sin begins is the heart. The heart is the mind, the seat of our intellect, will, emotions, conscience, and volition. “Lust” means to “set the heart upon,” to “long for” (Strong’s Concise Dictionary of Greek NT Words, I:31). In the heart, lusts (and plans to fulfill them) are contemplated, formulated, and postulated before they are practiced (Jas. 1:14-15). The mind is also the place where lusts can be regulated, resisted and refused (Jas. 1:16; 1 Cor. 10:13). Jesus used exaggerated language in vss. 29-30 to describe the extent of the repentance required to remove the source of sin and escape the suffering of hell. Repentance changes the heart so that the lust to sin no longer has a place to reside within us. To repent of our sins we will have to surrender things very dear to us in order not to perish in sin. (The removal of an eye or a hand illustrates the severe nature of repentance.) We will not see the profit of severing our connection to the sin in our hearts as long as our lusts are more precious to us than eternal life. Giving up sin is a small price to pay to escape the everlasting punishment of hell.
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!
20 And He said, “What comes out of a man, that defiles a man. 21 For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, 22 thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within and defile a man.” (Mark 7:20–23, NKJV)
Billions of people do not regard sin as sin. That word has been all but stricken from the lexicons of languages around the world. What Jesus said here reminds us that we are dual beings, made of both flesh and spirit; both mortal and immortal. The inner person – the person possessing identity, volition, conscience, intelligence and emotions – is identified as the heart, from which comes our words and actions. Jesus identified sexual immorality of all sorts (including adultery, homosexuality and premarital sex) as sin that comes from the heart. Oppression of one’s neighbor, whether by murder, thievery, covetousness or deceit, is also sinful. See how pride is considered evil along with all the rest. Sin is real, and we must define sin the way Jesus does. If not, we will likely call evil good, and good evil (Isa. 5:20). “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:23).
Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. (Colossians 3:2, NKJV)
In what direction have you set your mind? The word of God simplifies our choices. In truth, our mind is either set on heavenly things, or we set our mind on things of this earth. The first is spiritual, fulfilling and eternal. The second is worldly, unsatisfying and temporal. This is not a “one off” setting of the mind. We are to keep on setting our mind on things above. Are you seeking heaven (Col. 3:1)? If so, you cannot attain it by fixing your mind on earthly things. We are so much more than flesh and bones. We have been made in God’s image, with a mind that reasons and operates on free will (not instinct), possessing moral consciousness intellect and emotions. And so, we should fixate our whole being on heaven. For the Christian live for the earth instead of for heaven defies the very reason we have been raised with Christ from spiritual death (Col. 2:12; 3:1).
And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. (Romans 12:2, NKJV)
We all fashion ourselves after something or someone. Some set of values, someone we admire, or some goal to which we aspire. The Christian makes a conscious decision not to assimilate the thinking, values and goals of the world – that system of evil that is in opposition to God. Now converted to Christ, a change occurs – a metamorphosis – that is visible and recognizable. This transformation must begin in the mind, for that is the seat of all that we are. Rather than doing those things that offend God, we live for His approval. His full or “perfect will” is set before us in His Scriptures, and there we go to learn what is “good and acceptable” before Him. Renew your mind, your thinking, so that in your life will be the light of the world and please your heavenly Father (Matt. 5:14-16).