Romans 8:5-6. 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 set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.
One of the most important things we must understand as Christians is the impact of our thinking upon our spiritual growth. As we’ve seen in earlier readings from Romans 6, we don’t somehow just magically grow into the likeness of Christ without the process of Knowing, Considering, and Presenting. This process takes place in what Paul calls the mind. And it happens as we set our minds on the Spirit.
Here in Romans 8:5-6, Paul uses both the verb form of the word mind and the noun form:
- Verse 5 – “set their minds upon” – Greek verb phroneo.
- Verse 6 – “the mind” – Greek noun phronema.
But here’s the tricky part (stay with me). In verse 6 Paul uses the noun phronema, but it’s been translated into English as the verb. Verse 6 literally says “For the mind (phronema) of the flesh is death, but the mind (phronema) of the Spirit is life and peace.”
So what? What difference does the noun make instead of the verb?
It makes a lot of difference. Translated as a noun, verse 6 becomes a truth, not about what we DO, but about who we ARE. It becomes a positional truth about what we have in Christ – the mind of the Spirit. It becomes an identity truth about all mankind. There are two kinds of people. Those headed toward death, and those headed toward life and peace. Those with the mind of the flesh, and those with the mind of the Spirit. And you WILL actively set your mind (phroneo) on which ever of those two minds (phronema) that you have – flesh or Spirit.
Here in Romans 8, Paul is NOT describing the battle that takes place in the mind. Yes, that is real (read Romans 7). And yes, later Paul will say that our minds need to be renewed over and over again (Romans 12:1-2). And NO having “fleshly” thoughts does not condemn you or mean that you are not a Christian. The truth is that your mind will dance back and forth between flesh and Spirit all day every day.
But this is Romans 8! This is about what we ARE in Christ and in the Spirit.
Romans 8:9. You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you.
We ARE in the Spirit. We HAVE the mind of the Spirit. We DO set our minds on the Spirit. This is what a Christian IS and DOES. The Holy Spirit now governs your mind. You have his mind set. Back in Corinthians, Paul put it this way:
1 Corinthians 2:16. “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.
So what is the “mind.” What is phronema? What does it mean to phroneo? And how does having the Spirit’s mind change everything?
The mind much more than just your intellect. Paul calls it your entire walk. Attitude. Lifestyle. Outlook. Worldview. Choices. POV. Opinion. Disposition. Even feelings. The mind drives your entire life.
The natural mind of the flesh is ordered by the knowledge of good and evil. The natural mind will always drive us toward some version of righteousness. It will always work to convince us that we are right, not wrong. That we are better. That we are enough. The natural mind is intrinsically moralistic and judgmental. Our natural mind believes we are right and will accept any new information that supports our goodness and reject any new information that proves our badness.
And this natural mind, the mind that is set on the self-righteous flesh, is death. The death of kindness. The death of humility. The death of confession. The death of friendships with people that are different from us. The death of personal growth. The death of true reason. And ultimately a mind that only self-justifies will produce eternal spiritual death.
But the mind of the Spirit is life and peace. Not because everything we think and believe and love are always correct. Or because our thinking and morality are better than everyone else’s. Quite the opposite. The mind of the Spirit is given to us in spite of us. The truth that guides our mindset is Christ himself, not some achieved self-realization. His life is my truth. His life is my mindset. The righteousness that my mind is set upon is not my own.
This assurance now allows us to face our own moral and intellectual limitations. We no longer have to be consumed with our personal justifications. We can fight to win hearts not arguments. Because we have the life and peace of Christ, our mind can now rest. It can stop running toward self-righteousness. It can actually be quite humble and open minded. Our minds can be renewed in love. The love of “to live is Christ.”
Is your mind set upon the flesh or the Spirit?
You in Christ
How does knowing that you have the mind of the Spirit help you to set your mind on Christ?
Christ in you
How might thinking like Jesus bring life and peace to your relationships?
Playlist: Mind of the Spirit.