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What is the Spiritual Man?

The Spiritual Man

by Pastor Scott Thomas, Director of Acts 29

Romans 8:5-11

Romans 8:5-8 tells us about an ultimate choice: Life or death; hostility or peace. "For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God..." (Rom. 8:6-7a.).


In 1681, one of the foremost Puritan theologians John Owen had a book published entitled, Grace and Duty of Being Spiritually Minded. In 1989 it was first published in London in an easier-to-read and shortened format under the title, Thinking Spiritually.


Two States of Mankind

Carnally Minded or Spiritually Minded?

These two opposing forces are seen as the only two states of mankind. John Owen said, "When a not spiritually minded, he is carnally minded." Each one results in contrastingly different modes. Carnally minded people have death and hostility while spiritually minded people experience life and peace.


The Greek word for mind in verse 5 and its noun form in verse 6 is phroneo -- the action of the mind, will, and affections; to give attention, regard, pursuit. One translation (NASB) accurately says, "For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace." It means to fix our thoughts upon. One has to decide if one's mind is fixed upon the spiritual or upon the things of this world. The Geneva Bible published in 1599 (the Bible of the Puritans) says, "For they that are after the flesh savor the things of the flesh: but they that are [savoring] after the things of the spirit, the things of the spirit." Toward what do you savor: heavenward or earth-bound?


Carnally minded

To be carnally minded is the characteristic state of the unregenerate man. He cannot help but mind the flesh; he cannot do differently. Romans 3:10-12, "As it is written: 'There is none righteous, no, not one; There is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; they have together become unprofitable; there is none who does good, no, not one.'" Minding the things of the flesh brings death: spiritual and physical. The Apostle Paul says that this carnal mind is a hostile enemy of God. The carnal mind is to be avoided like it is our worst enemy, as it is God's enemy. Rom. 8:7, "The sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so." Although this context describes the carnally minded as unsaved, Owen acknowledges that Christians can display the same characteristics of an earthly-minded person. He says that this grace attached to being spiritually minded can never thrive or flourish or advance to any honorable degree when we are thinking carnally.

Spiritually minded

To be spiritually minded, which gives us life and peace, means that our mind is focused and set on the spiritual things of God. We are savoring after God. Just as the unregenerate man is unable to submit to God's law or to do good, neither is the Christian able to maintain a mind set on spiritual things without the Helper, the Holy Spirit dwelling within him (Rom. 8:9-11).

Three Distinguishing Marks of the Spiritually Minded

1. I have made a noticeable commitment to progressively think more spiritually.

What are you pouring into your minds? What are you reading? What are you watching? Is it spiritual or is it carnal in nature? How are you applying the gospel to your sinful thoughts?


2. I have a contented satisfaction in spiritual things.

Owen said in the preface to this book, "Men walk and talk as if the world were all, when comparatively it is nothing." The average Christian is oblivious to the joys that come from a life of abandonment to the carnal things in exchange for a spiritual pursuit. Matthew 6:33, "But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you." Romans 8:8, "So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God."

3. I display a life of peace.

The result of being spiritually minded based on our text is life and peace. Because of our spiritual-mindedness we are promised peace, rest, and quietness in our souls. John 14:27, "Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid." John 16:33, "These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." Eph. 2:14-17, "For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near."


Owen said, "To be spiritually minded is the great distinguishing characteristic of true believers. We have to be tenacious about our pursuit of holiness and strive for a humble heart and a teachable spirit. We must regularly repent, pray fervently, remain in community with other strong believers and depend on the Spirit to uphold us when we are weak.