“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.” —Romans 8:5
Carnality, that is, living a life that is generally characterized by habitual sin, is offensive to Christ; and why wouldn’t it be? Last week, we saw specifically in Romans 8:3 how that Jesus, in His own body, endured the cross, suffering God’s wrath for our sins to redeem us from our sins. He died that we might have life; are we then to a look at sin lightly? Are we to casually wink at sin when such a sacrifice of infinite worth and eternal value was offered on my behalf, on your behalf? Certainly not.
We’ve just read in Romans 8:5 that “they that are [according to] the flesh do mind the things of the flesh” in other words, before we were saved, we were just as any other unregenerate soul, having an inclination toward carnal things, having our reason, understanding and affections motivated by carnality; that is to say, “the self.”
Before we were saved, we set our minds upon the flesh; we set our moral compasses upon carnality.
In contrast, the soul saved by God’s grace through Christ’s holy and righteous sacrifice is inclined toward spiritual things, having our reason, understanding and affections motivated by Christ; the is to say, “Spirit.”.
We have set our minds upon the Spirit; we set our moral compass to go in the direction of Christ.
In the past several articles, we have been examining that there is a struggle that exists in the believer’s life through the process of sanctification: a struggle between sin and the law, between licentiousness and legalism, between the flesh and the spirit. There are two dangers wherein we must be aware: (1) to think that we never do sin or can never sin and have obtained an entire sanctification in this present life; and (2) to think that to behave in carnality is good and acceptable as long as “I’m saved,” even though I may be living as a “carnal Christian.” Both of these doctrines are erroneous. Both actually appeal to the flesh. Why? because they both dismiss sin.
The first, entire sanctification, which says that now that I’m saved, I don’t sin anymore.[i] This doctrine is dangerous because it doesn’t keep us clinging to grace and to Christ’s righteousness in its disregard for the seriousness of sin in its reality. This sin removes humility.
The second, the doctrine of the “carnal Christian,” which says that, though I’m saved, I can sin willfully without grief of soul and vexation of spirit. It’s dangerous because it doesn’t cling to grace or Christ’s righteousness at all in its disregard for the seriousness of sin in its ramifications. This sin removes holiness.
[i] There is another branch of it that says that there is a point in your walk when you’ve “arrived.” This is contrary to scripture as well (Philippians 3:12).
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Read the previous article in this series, “Walking After the Spirit” (Romans 8:4).