“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.”
They that are after the flesh!
A thousand times unhappy people!
Note that I said: a thousand times unhappy people!
How poor is our language! I try and cannot find words to describe the unhappy estate of those that are after the flesh. What is a thousand times misery compared to the eternal woe in hell?
Does not your heart melt within you when you think on the millions of people such as you and I that are weeping and gnashing their teeth right now, while I write or while you read this? Did you ever think on this? They are or were people of like passions as you and I. They were not worse than you and I. It is very well possible that some of them were not as evil as you or I. And yet, they are in hell, or they are on their miserable journey to hell, and you and I travel to the Zion of God!
O, I can understand how the church of all ages have sung, Why didst Thou think on me, o God!
They are after the flesh!
Therein is all their misery.
Note that they are after the flesh. That means that they were or are according to the flesh. They and the flesh are one. And that is a terrible estate. That means misery here on earth, all the days of their vain life on earth. That means that the wrath of God was continually above them, around them, within them. That means that the wrath of God shall be poured out upon them for evermore. O, to be in the flesh and according to the flesh is so terrible that I cannot find words to aptly describe it.
To be in the flesh is the same as to be in death, nay, then you are death itself.
No, the flesh as such is not bad.
Christ came in the flesh. And Paul speaks of being seen in the flesh, and he did not mean anything miserable in that.
But flesh here has a terrible meaning. Flesh in my text is the sinful flesh.
The sinful flesh is, first, earthly man, of the earth earthy with a thousand bonds that bind him to humanity and the earth.
But it is that earthly and earthy man as he is fallen headlong into sin. And such it is the full nature of man with all his gifts, talents, with his body and soul and spirit, under the dominion of sin and the devil.
And all this together is called the mind of the flesh, the minding of the flesh, if you please. And it is awful that I find so few words and so feeble words to describe its horror.
It is a man, created in the beauteous image of God, but who has lost all that original beauty of holiness, and who is now filled with all perverseness and evil of every description.
They never aspire higher than humanity and the earth. And even in those aspirations they are always willfully against God and all real virtue.
And so God could look down upon them that walk after the flesh, listen to them, taste of them, even smell of them, and come to the awful conclusion: No, there is no one that doeth good. No, not one. They have become stinking! And I would beg of you to realize that this last evaluation is of the Holy Spirit of God.
Oh, to be according to the flesh is so indescribably miserable!
But Paul also speaks of another kind of people.
He speaks of those that are after the Spirit. Yes, we capitalize the letter “s”. It is the Holy Spirit of God.
The word Spirit is first of all the Holy Spirit as the third person in the holy Trinity.
But He is the Spirit as He is given to Jesus Christ the Lord at His exaltation.
And, third, He is that Spirit of God and of Christ as He is poured out in the wonderful Church of God. As such He is the Spirit of the Church.
And so we come to the conclusion: He is the Spirit of God and of Christ and of the Church, and He dwells in every saint of God.
Ah, but they are a happy people! I was going to write: a thousand times happy people
But I meet the same difficulty here as I had in the description of those unhappy souls that are after the flesh. A thousand times happy is so poor when you speak of the happiness of God’s saints. They are happy for evermore. They will drink of the river of God that is full of water. They will eternally see God’s beautiful face. And that will satisfy them with an eternal satisfaction. How then could I speak of a thousand times here?
But they are happy. For they are after the Spirit.
And how shall I describe it? Here is an ocean of beauty and holiness and ecstasy.
Well, this time I will begin in history.
They are people that were visited by the dayspring from on high. They are people that were equally as wicked and miserable as those whom I began to describe at the beginning of this meditation. Their ways were evil from their youth. And they were travelling to hell. And they liked it.
But some day, some hour, some minute, some second (the fathers have called it, the hour of love) there came like a flash of divine lightning the Holy Spirit of God and of Christ and of the Church, and He performed a wonderful miracle in their inmost heart.
No, they were not aware of it. It happened in their subconscious heart.
But it was real nevertheless. It was real, for they lived to tell the story of it when God continued to cherish that work in their inmost heart, when He continued to love that heart, and warmed it by His love through Word and Spirit, until they came to the conscious stature of the man in Christ.
That first flash of divine lightning we call regeneration. And the continual cherishing of that heart until it came to consciousness we call conversion.
And so these happy people became spiritually minded. Note that we here quote the text. That is their name, for that is their essence. They have the mind of Christ and of the Spirit,
Since that visit of God’s dayspring you may say that these people live in the sphere of the Holy Spirit of God.
All such things must be proven. And we will prove it.
These people manifest themselves.
Let us look at the first kind of people.
They are those that mind the flesh; they are called carnally minded.
Their manifestation is shocking to all that is good, virtuous and right.
Here is their first name: they are enmity against God.
Note the choice of words of the Holy Spirit. He does not say that they are enemies of God. No, but they are enmity, and then, enmity against Him who is adorable eternally. Against Him who never did anything that is evil.
It stresses the fact that their whole make-up, with body and soul, with all their functions of heart and will and mind, are nothing but evil. It is not so that they are characterized, beset by evil and wicked hatred against God; no, but they are such. Not characterized by a hateful spirit, but they are hateful and they are such always.
They are not subject to the law of God.
Attend to this awful description of the wicked. The law of God is expressed in one word, and that one word is the sweetest word which man ever heard. It is love. And then the love of God, of course.
And these people are not subject to it. That is, they will not love, but they will hate God and one another. That is the manifestation of the flesh.
Neither indeed can be.
A few simple and short words. But full of untold misery for the wicked. They are impotent to anything that is called loveable and good. They are impotent to love the adorable God to be loved and praised forever, Amen. It is one thing to be wicked and to hate God, but it is another thing when I must and will remain in that prison, since I lack the potency to return, to convert, to repent, to turn around, and in tears say to God: O God, forgive! They are impotent. Neither indeed can be. In these few and short words I hear the clanging of the prison doors that shut the wicked in their captivity for evermore.
And if there are any of my readers who would doubt the absolute truth of these evaluations, then I would catalog this manifestation of the wicked. They manifest themselves in these: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like.
The faithful Bible reader has noted that I quoted Scripture.
Oh, I would say it again with a pitying heart: they are a thousand times unhappy people!
God have mercy upon us, for we are not better than they are by nature.
Have mercy on us!
Perhaps there is a soul that would say: but you make too much of the beauty of the people of God.
Then my answer would be: I cannot possibly do that, for when we begin to exegete the descriptions which God Himself gives of His saints, then we stammer, and feel at once that they are infinitely more beautiful than we possibly could make them.
God has gone much farther than Reformed dogmatics. God says of you: You are my child and you will not lie (Isaiah); you are born of me, and you cannot sin (John). And you are pure of heart (Jesus).
Oh yes, I may say and that in truth, that these spiritually minded people have the love and friendship of God’s covenant in their heart. And do not say that I idealize God’s people, that, in practice, it is not true. That I take poetic license and that it is not true that God’s people are as lovely as I sing of them.
Do not say that for it is not true.
I will prove it to your own satisfaction.
Attend to this: the least in the Kingdom of God, be he man or woman, that ever lived had this: he or she had the love of God spread abroad in his or her heart through the Holy Ghost that is given to us. Romans 5.
And now I would ask: how can you refrain from calling such a being altogether lovely, when the very love of God is in his heart, of all things. As the heart is so is the man, and that is also a text.
These happy people are subject to the law of God, for indeed they can be.
They have the Spirit of God as their constant and eternal companion. Christ cannot lie, and He promised that the Spirit would never depart from them anymore.
Oh, they are happy. They have their strength renewed as an eagle. They journey from such strength to strength, until every one of them appears before God in Zion.
And here is the manifested proof of their happy estate, the estate that they are spiritually minded: they have love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance.
And here again: I was quoting from God’s holy Word.
A thousand times happy people? No, but they are eternally happy. Even now, while they must often weep. Do they not weep often? Yes, but they are basically always happy. Understand it, if you can. It is Paul’s evaluation.
And what are the spoils?
I shudder when I must again begin with those unhappy people that are carnally minded. They receive a fitting spoil for their endeavors.
The text mentions the foul harvest which they must and will gather in.
First, if you are a carnally minded man, and if you will not repent before you die, then your harvest is death.
Is there a word that is more horrible?
Our Psalter gives a very simple definition of death. We sing: To be apart from God is death!
I think it will do. Therein lies all the horror. I do not know the full meaning. I think that if I would know, I would not have another quiet hour. I would see then and I would appreciate to the full the horrors of eternal hell.
And if the wicked knew and understood death, they would do nothing but weep.
To be apart from God. And not to be pleasing to God. But that is awful. He is the only good. There is no good of any kind outside of Him!
Negatively, it is the estate of outer darkness. Here lie horrors that my soul cannot fathom. Christ speaks of gnashing of teeth and of weeping. I hear of their smoke, the smoke of their torment that shall arise forever. I hear of unquenchable fire that will burn am1 burn everlastingly. I hear of damnation and desolation. I hear of the pit of fire and brimstone.
It is the fitting harvest of those whose whole essence breathed hatred against God. Oh, remember here that God is adorably just. Do not charge Him foolishly.
And your harvest?
It is life and peace. I think that the latter is the result of the former.
To see the face of God is life. And to see that face, turned to us in love and eternal good pleasure. O, that is heaven itself.
Christ said: this is eternal life: to know the only and the true God, and Jesus Christ whom He has sent.
Therefore, we would always turn to Jesus, so that He might lead us to His Father in heaven.
And that brings peace.
And peace is that your heart and God’s heart beat in unison.
God bring you there!