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by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Evening, July 28, 2013

“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. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his” (Romans 8:5-9).

These verses contrast those who are carnally minded with those who are spiritually minded. Look at verse six.

“For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace” (Romans 8:6).

We have to stop here and realize that the “carnally minded” are not Christians. The word “carnal” translates the Greek word “sarx.” It means “flesh.” To be “carnally minded” means to be under the control of the flesh. Notice that Paul said, “To be carnally minded is death.” Therefore the modern idea that there are “carnal Christians” is utterly false. Dr. James Montgomery Boice said, “What Paul is speaking of here is the difference between those who are Christians and those who are not. That is, he is speaking of two kinds of people only, not three. Specifically, he is not speaking of how a ‘carnal Christian’ is supposed to move beyond a rather low state of commitment in order to become a more serious disciple of the Lord” (James Montgomery Boice, Ph.D., Romans, Volume 2, Baker Books, 2008 edition, p. 807).

Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones also made it clear that Paul is not talking about two kinds of Christians in these verses. He said, “It is a wrong interpretation to say that ‘they that are after the flesh’ are so-called ‘carnal’ Christians…it [is] impossible that they should be Christians at all” (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, M.D., Romans: An Exposition of Chapter 8:5-17, The Banner of Truth Trust, 2002 edition, p. 3).

I am convinced that the idea of two kinds of Christians (one carnal and one spiritual) came in as a direct result of “decisionism.” The “decisionists” came up with this false doctrine to explain all those people who “made a decision” but are living hellishly sinful lives. The “decisionists” explain this by saying that they are “carnal Christians” – and we need to do more “follow up” on them, and “teach them” to become spiritual Christians. All of that is really false teaching, and it has done a great deal of harm to our churches. The so-called “carnal Christian” is not a Christian at all – in any real sense of the word! We have drug addicts that claim to be “carnal Christians.” We have people who don’t attend church that claim to be “carnal Christians.” In a church I attended on vacation, I heard one woman give a so-called “testimony” that she was a prostitute, practicing prostitution, while she was “saved” – because she was a “carnal Christian” at the time. Now she had come back to church and had “rededicated” her life, and had now become a “spiritual” Christian. My mother was with me in that service. Even though Mother had only been a Christian for a short time, she could see the danger of that false teaching. She said, “Oh, Robert, they shouldn’t let her talk like that in front of all these young people. They will think they can be saved and do those terrible things.” I remember thinking that my mother, who had only been saved a few months, had more sense than the pastor of that church! When the so-called “Christian” prostitute finished speaking, the pastor said, “Wasn’t that great?” Many people in the congregation shouted “Amen.” No wonder many of our churches are in such a pitiful condition! No! There are only two kinds of people in this passage – the “carnally minded,” who are lost people, and the “spiritually minded,” who are saved people! I wish our preachers would read the commentaries by Dr. Boice and Dr. Lloyd-Jones! It would clear up this false doctrine of “two kinds of Christians.” Also, when one of these so-called “carnal Christians” rededicates their life, it seals their doom – because salvation cannot come by “rededication.” “Ye must be born again” (John 3:7). There are tens of thousands of lost Baptists and others in this miserable condition. They often appeal to the account of the prodigal son, saying that he was a “carnal Christian” who “rededicated” his life. But the prodigal’s own father said he had been lost. The father said, “He was lost” (Luke 15:24). The prodigal son is a picture of a “lost” man getting saved, not rededicating his life! Now focus on verse 6. Let us stand and read it aloud.

“For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace” (Romans 8:6).

You may be seated. Here the two kinds of people are clearly described. Romans 8:6 makes it clear. You are either carnally minded and lost, or spiritually minded and saved. And we will look at both of them.

I. First, the carnally minded.

As I said, the word “carnal” comes from the Greek word “sarx” – which means “flesh.” To be “carnally minded” means a person with their mind “set on the flesh.” The person whose mind is set on the flesh is in a very dangerous position.

Who are they? Verse 5 says, “They that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh…” The New King James translates this as, “Those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh…” That’s where their minds are focused – “on the things of the flesh.” In I John 2:15-16, we are given a picture of what it means to have your mind focused on the “things of the flesh.” It says,

“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world” (I John 2:15-16).

The lust of the flesh. The lust of the eyes. The pride of life. These are the things that carnally minded people focus on. John Bunyan called people who focus on these things “worldly-minded.” That’s another name for “carnally minded.” Bunyan called it, “worldly-minded.” Dr. Lloyd-Jones explained what it means to be carnally minded. He said,

It means the temporal only; it has nothing to do with the eternal. Its reference is to life in this world only, to life bounded by the body and the various qualities and attributes of the fleshly mind…to “mind the things of the flesh” includes political interests without God, social interests without God, cultural interests without God. That is what the expression means. Paul has in mind man’s highest pursuits, his philosophy, his art, his culture, his music, that never get beyond the flesh. God is outside it all, He is excluded from it…they can write eloquently about forming some sort of Utopia, they can produce masterpieces of art and of literature and of music; but there is no soul there, there is no God there, no Spirit there. It is all “after the flesh” (Lloyd-Jones, ibid., page 6).

Young people who are “into” rap music are carnally minded. Those who are “into” modern, revealing clothes are carnally minded. Those who are “into” video games like “World of Warcraft,” and other violent video games of shooting, and so forth, are worldly minded. A “spiritually minded” Christian would never spend hours on that kind of trash! If you do, no wonder you don’t get saved! That includes “Anime,” demonic Japanese cartoons, and pornography. Those who are “into” these things are carnally minded. Young people who are “into” flirting, making out, and other activities of that nature are carnally minded. Those who don’t read the Bible, and don’t pray are carnally minded too!

Now, note the terrible danger of being “carnally minded.” It’s in verse 6, “To be carnally minded is death.” Death! That’s what you get for being carnally minded. Dr. Lloyd-Jones said it should be translated, “To have the mind of the flesh is death” (ibid., p. 7). Paul has already said that those who “mind the things of the flesh” are not Christians. Now he goes farther and says that worldly-minded people are “dead.” People who focus their minds on worldly things are dead! The statement that “the mind of the flesh is death” means that the carnal person is in a state of spiritual death. In Ephesians 2:1, he speaks of them as “dead in trespasses and sins.” Again in Ephesians 2:5, he speaks of them as “dead in sins.” Such a person cannot understand how to be saved,

“But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned”   (I Corinthians 2:14)

You can preach and teach until you are blue in the face and they won’t understand the simplest truths of the Gospel. Why? “Because they are spiritually discerned.” And the carnal person, dead in sin, just can’t understand even those very simple truths! “They are foolishness unto him because they are spiritually discerned” – he is carnally minded, and therefore cannot receive those truths! This is the main reason we can go over and over and over the Gospel, and those with worldly minds just can’t “get” it. I have seen people go into the inquiry room for months and months without getting saved. Why? Because “to be carnally minded is death” (Romans 8:6).

Here is an illustration given by Dr. Lloyd-Jones. Many of you saw the evangelical movie Amazing Grace when we showed it here in our church. It was the story of William Wilberforce (1759-1833) who was the leader for the abolition of slavery in Great Britain. William Pitt the Younger (1759-1806) was the Prime Minister. They were very close friends, but Wilberforce was converted, while William Pitt was only a formal church-goer, that is, he went to church but had no interest in being converted. Wilberforce was very concerned about the lost soul of the young Prime Minister, Pitt. Finally Wilberforce persuaded Pitt to go with him to hear a famous evangelistic preacher named Richard Cecil. Finally Pitt agreed to go with Wilberforce to hear the preacher. Cecil preached so well that Wilberforce felt lifted up to Heaven by the sermon. But afterwards Pitt, the Prime Minister, said to him, “You know, Wilberforce, I have not the slightest idea what that man was talking about.” Wilberforce was overjoyed by the sermon, but Pitt was bored by it. He couldn’t understand it. Dr. Lloyd-Jones said, “Richard Cecil might as well have been preaching to a dead man. The dead cannot appreciate these things, neither could William Pitt. He himself confessed it...There are such people. They come to a place of worship, they listen to things that [delight] the hearts of believers, but they see nothing in it all...That is because they are not alive to spiritual things. They are dead, dead to God, dead to the Lord Jesus Christ, dead to the realm of the spiritual and all spiritual realities, dead to their own soul and spirit and their everlasting and eternal interests. They never think about such matters at all. That is their trouble. That is what the Apostle says about them. This mind of the flesh shuts them out from the life of God...if he dies in that condition he will continue to all eternity, shut out from the life of God. Nothing more terrible can be contemplated. That is the meaning of spiritual death” (Lloyd-Jones, ibid., pp. 10-11).

“For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace” (Romans 8:6).

II. Second, the spiritually minded.

We must get rid of the idea that this is about “carnal” Christians. The Apostle is contrasting the non-Christian with the true Christian. That is what Paul is talking about in these verses. “But to be spiritually minded is life and peace” (Romans 8:6b). Then Paul says,

“But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his” (Romans 8:9).

If a person does not have the Holy Spirit in him, that man is not a Christian. The contrast is between those who are “in the flesh” and those who are “in the Spirit,” between those who are lost and those who are saved.

When you are converted, you are no longer “in the flesh.” At conversion you are suddenly “in the Spirit.” At that moment, you are born again. And Romans 8:9 ends with this: “Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.

Now, you do not have to worry about how that happens. The moment you repent and trust Jesus, “the Spirit of Christ” (the Holy Spirit) enters your heart and unites you to the Lord Jesus Christ. That is why it’s foolish to say, “How do I come to Christ?” It isn’t something you do at all. It is the Holy Spirit who convicts you of sin. When that happens you are sickened of your old way of being “carnally minded.” Your whole carnal way of thinking and living becomes disgusting to you. Then, when you trust Christ, the Holy Spirit unites you to Him. I hear people say, “Why, I don’t know what happened, but now it seems so clear. Now I trust Jesus!” That happened when the Holy Spirit united you to Jesus. It is a divine-human encounter with the risen Christ! Only the Holy Spirit can do that for you.

Dr. Cagan had resisted Christ for two years. At last, one night, he said, “Jesus was immediately available to me. In a few seconds, I crossed over to Him.” In that moment he was saved. My own encounter with Christ came toward the end of a sermon at Biola College in September, 1961. All I can say about it is Jesus was there, and I trusted Him. That was all there was to it! Now I know that the Holy Spirit did all that in me and for me. But at that moment I simply encountered the living Christ. Then all the benefits of Christ were mine. His Blood cleansed my sins! He gave me eternal life! I was born again!

We must not go into more detail, or you will try to copy what happened to Dr. Cagan and me. Don’t do that! Simply look at your dead, carnal life. Be disgusted with it. Turn from your carnal life to Jesus. He will save you. He will pardon your sins. He will give you eternal life. You will be born again!

One of our young people wrote me a note saying, “Pray that my brother would see that the world has nothing to offer him.” That’s where conversion starts, by seeing that the world has nothing to offer you. That’s where it starts, when you begin to feel “to be carnally minded is death.” Then turn to Jesus and you will know that “to be spiritually minded is life and peace” (Romans 8:6).

I wish I had a more eloquent testimony to give. But maybe it’s better that I don’t. Calvin never gave his testimony for fear, I suppose, that some would try to copy it. I could not give my testimony as eloquently as Spurgeon. But what he felt I also felt when Jesus saved me from my sin. Spurgeon, as a fifteen-year-old boy, said,

     There was never anything so true to me as those bleeding hands, and that thorn-crowned head. Home, friends, health, wealth, comforts – all lost their luster that day when He appeared...He was the only Lord and giver of life’s best bliss, the one well of living water springing up unto everlasting life. As I saw Jesus on His cross before me, and as I [thought] upon His sufferings and death, [I thought] I saw Him cast a look of love upon me; and then I looked at Him, and cried –

Jesus, lover of my soul,
Let me to Thy bosom fly.

He said “come” and I flew to Him; and when He let me go again, I wondered where my burden was. It was gone! There, in the sepulchre, it lay...”I found Him,” I, a [boy] found the Lord of glory; I, a slave to sin, found the great Deliverer; I, a child of darkness, found my Saviour and my God (C. H. Spurgeon, Conversion: The Great Change, Pilgrim Publications, n.d., p. 22).

How we pray that you may experience a little of the joy Spurgeon felt as a teenager on that cold January morning in 1850! In less than five years Spurgeon, the “boy preacher,” was speaking to thousands of people in London! May you trust Jesus Christ tonight. Jesus is the same now as He was then. If you trust Him He will pardon all your sin and wash you clean with his precious Blood. Amen.

Would you like to speak with us about being saved, about becoming a real Christian? If so, please leave your seat right now and walk to the back of the auditorium. Dr. Cagan will take you to a quiet place of prayer. Dr. Chan, please come and pray for those who responded. Amen.

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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Mr. Abel Prudhomme: Romans 8:5-9.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“How Helpless Guilty Nature Lies” (by Anne Steele, 1717-1778;
to the tune of “O Set Ye Open Unto Me”).



by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

“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. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his” (Romans 8:5-9).

(John 3:7; Luke 15:24; Romans 8:6)

I.   First, the carnally minded, I John 2:15-16; Ephesians 2:1, 5;
I Corinthians 2:14; Romans 8:6; John 3:7.

II.  Second, the spiritually minded, Romans 8:6, 9.