Matthew 5:17 Ministries

Controlling The Mind Part 1: Romans 8:6-8

Romans 8:6–8 (CJB)
6 Having one’s mind controlled by the old nature is death, but having one’s mind controlled by the Spirit is life and shalom. 7 For the mind controlled by the old nature is hostile to God, because it does not submit itself to God’s Torah—indeed, it cannot. 8 Thus, those who identify with their old nature cannot please God.

Flesh or Spirit?

Sha’ul describes those who are of the flesh and those who are of the Ruach(Spirit). The apostle has already indicated that the outcome of living according to the flesh is death (7:5; 6:16, 21, 23). For those whose minds are set on the flesh and the Ruach, respectively, Sha’ul spells out in 8:6 the outcome in each case: [For] the mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Ruach is life and peace.

Sha’ul explains why the outcome for those whose minds are of the flesh is death: [Because] the mind governed by the flesh is hostile to G-d. It does not submit to G-d’s instructions, nor can it do so. By its very nature, the mind of the flesh is hostile to G-d and, therefore, will not submit to his law. Because of this, Sha’ul adds that those in the realm of the flesh cannot please G-d (‘but those who are in [the] flesh are not able to please G-d’).

Three Matters Of Consideration

There are three matters that Sha’ul is addressing here. First, in 8:7, Sha’ul describes the relationship of those whose minds are of the flesh as one of hostility towards G-d. He is saying that sin has adverse effects on humanity and constitutes enmity with G-d. For this reason, not only does human sin need expiation but G-d’s wrath also needs propitiation.

Second, Sha’ul’s statement that ‘the sinful mind is hostile to G-d implies that the mind controlled by the Spirit does submit to G-d’s law. Third, he concludes his general statement in these verses by saying: “Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please G-d.” To be ‘in the realm of the flesh’ means to be controlled by sinful passions. In 7:5, he describes life outside the Messiah; Sha’ul said: ‘For when we were in the realm of the flesh, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in us so that we bore fruit for death.

Spirit Minded

The primary psychological fact of life—is more profound than any analysis of id, ego, and superego; or of genetic, physiological, behavioral, environmental, or educational conditioning; or of birth traumas, complexes, sexual experiences, interpersonal communication, family background or games people play—is that the sinful “old nature” (the “flesh,” 7:5) is utterly irredeemable. This is why no self-help measures, psychotherapeutic methods, educational programs, environmental changes, or resolutions to improve can enable us to please G-d; all of them are based on having the mind controlled by the old nature, which is death, rather than by the Spirit, which is life and shalom—not only “peace” but “tranquillity, safety, well-being, welfare, health, contentment, success, comfort, wholeness, and integrity,”

Yeshua said, “You must be born again from above” (Yn 3:7), and Sha’ul wrote, “If anyone is united with the Messiah, he is a new creation—the old has passed; look, what has come is fresh and new!” (2 Cor. 5:17). If there were no new nature, Sha’ul’s psychology would offer the most pessimistic picture of the human condition—as he himself admits (1 Cor. 15:16–19).

But since there is a new nature, only Sha’ul’s solution of letting one’s mind be controlled by it, through the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit), offers real hope to humankind; all other psychologies offer palliatives and ultimate failure. Verses 7–8 explain why this is so. These two verses also undergird the claim that Sha’ul had high regard for the Torah.