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. The mind of the flesh is death, but the mind of the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind of the flesh is hostile to God: It does not submit to God’s Law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the flesh cannot please God.
What does it mean to live according to the flesh (the mind of the flesh) and what does it mean to live according to the Spirit (the mind of the Spirit)?
To understand what it means to live according to the flesh and to live according to the Spirit, we must understand the flow of Romans.
We can never understand what it means to live according to the flesh and Spirit if we isolate Romans 8:5-8 from the rest of Romans, as if there is no connection between the two.
In Romans, Paul makes the case for our need for grace, and the case that those who have come to faith in Jesus do not live according to the law (the Ten Commandments) but according to grace (all that God has done for us through Jesus and his indwelling Spirit which now lives in us.)
Romans 7:5 says, “For when we lived according to the flesh, the sinful passions aroused by the Law [Ten Commandments] were at work in our bodies, bearing fruit for death. But now, having died to what bound us, we have been released from the Law [Ten Commandments], so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code [Ten Commandments). ”
In the context of Romans, to live according to the flesh is to seek to please God by trying to obey the Ten Commandments (the old way).
However, seeking to live a life in obedience to the Ten commandments does not please God (see verses at the beginning of the post)..
It doesn't please God because it is based upon trying in our sinful flesh (self-effort) to make ourselves righteous, rather than trusting in Christ alone and living according to his Spirit within us.
The flesh is hostile to God and cannot submit, obey, the law.
Living by the Ten Commandments doesn’t please God because sin increases in our lives, thus enslaving us to sin.
Trying to live in obedience to the Ten Commandments arouses sinful passions in us and enslaves us (bounds) so that we bear fruit unto death (the very opposite life of the Ten Commandments).
Through faith in Jesus, we have been released from the law and relate to God in the new of the Spirit.
We now live according to the Spirit who is the resurrected life of Jesus indwelling us (the law brings death, the Spirit brings life).
To live according to the Spirit means to live a life where we have been released form the law and now live in a love relationship with God as his dearly loved children where we call him our “Abba, Father”, which means my daddy who loves me!.
Romans 8:15-16 says:
For you did not receive a spirit of slavery that returns you to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.
Living according to the flesh (trying to obey the the Ten Commandments) creates torment in the mind of a person who is genuinely trying to obey it because this person eventually discovers he cannot obey the law and is under condemnation as a result.
Paul illustrates this torment of the mind in Romans 7:7-25 as he writes about a person who is tormented because of his inability to obey commandment #10, “Do not covet.”
By breaking this one commandment in his heart, he broke them all.
This lead to fear in the mind of this person.
This person had no peace in trying to obey the commandment “Do not covet.”
He knew the penalty for breaking the law was death; therefore he could not experience life, only fear and death.
However, according Romans 8:5-8, the mind controlled by the Spirit produces life and peace.
The Spirit controls the mind with the truths of grace, which Paul writes about in Romans.
Therefore, a person’s mind that is under the influence of the Spirit experiences peace because he is resting in the truths of grace (Romans 5:1-2).
The Spirit is bringing peace to this person’s mind because the Spirit is teaching this person to rest in the righteousnes that comes through grace and is received by faith in Jesus.
This person has been freed from the mental torment of seeking to become righteous by trying to obey the Ten Commandments.
This person is now living according to the Spirit through faith in Christ, which pleases God, rather than according to the flesh by following the Ten Commandments, which displeases God.