“For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.”
If you read through Paul’s letters to the early church, you’ll find that he is a very logical person.
He explains things, especially in Romans, in a very ordered way. Sometime is can be confusing and repetitive, but it’s because he is trying to make very clear to us what might otherwise be a complete mystery. One of those things is the difference between he spirit and the flesh.
Paul explains in depth earlier in Romans that the flesh (aka our natural body and human nature) is sinful by nature. Our flesh is sinful, and all have fallen short of the righteousness of God. We’ve all sinned. No human being is righteous, that is except for Jesus. But Jesus was human, so why didn’t he sin too? Because his mind wasn’t set on the flesh, but on the Spirit.
What does that mean? Paul does a better job of explaining it than I will, so I recommend you read the book of Romans for a more complete idea, but I’ll try to sum it up. Ever since sin entered the world through one man, Adam, all mankind has sinned. The corrupted nature of humanity became inherently sinful. When sin entered the world, so did death. Paul calls it the law of sin and death. Basically, the punishment for sin is death. Therefore, the punishment that all mankind deserves is death. But then Jesus, who was fully human, came into the world and defied human nature by living a perfectly sinless life. Because he was perfect, he would logically be able to take the punishment for someone else, since he didn’t have any punishment to pay himself. But because he was also fully God, he could pay for us all, not just for one. For this reason, we are all able to be forgiven.
In Romans 6 Paul says that through baptism we are buried with Jesus and resurrected to new life with him. Through baptism, the punishment required by our sin is paid, we join in Jesus’ death by believing in him and his sacrifice, and repenting from the ways of our flesh. We put to death our sinful flesh – our old selves, as Paul says – and we are resurrected with Jesus. When this happens, we live no longer for or by our flesh, but we live for the Holy Spirit, the Spirit by which Jesus lived, and the Spirit that was able to resurrect him from the grave.
So, to set your mind on the flesh – that old self of sin – has only one path, the path that all flesh eventually end in, which is death. The mind set on the Spirit doesn’t die, because we are resurrected with Christ and the same Spirit that lives in him lives in us. The person whose mind is set on that Spirit is one whose life doesn’t end with death, but with eternal life. What could be a more peaceful or life-giving thought than to know that though your flesh may die someday, the Spirit that lives in you will never die.
You see, it’s all very logical. Complicated and technical when you get into all the details, maybe, but the point is simple. Don’t set your mind on this world or this body that will die. Set your mind on the Spirit of God that never dies. Repent and be baptized into Christ, join in him in new life, and let your mind be set on the Spirit that gives life and peace.
I pray that you would put my flesh – my old sinful self – to death. Let your Spirit live in me, and let my mind be set always on the Spirit. Thank you for the salvation that you give through Jesus. Thank you for letting me take part in the eternal life that I don’t deserve but received through him.
In Jesus’ Name,