John Owen – Grace and Duty of Being Spiritually Minded

THE expression in our translation sounds differently from that in the original. “To be spiritually minded,” say we. In the original it is, as that in the former part of the verse is , which we render “to be carnally minded.” In the margin we read, “the minding of the flesh” and “the minding of the Spirit;” and there is great variety in the rendering of the words in all translations, both ancient and modern. “Prudentia, sapientia, intelligentia, mens, cogitatio, discretio, id quod Spiritus sapit,” — “The wisdom, the understanding, the mind, the thought or contrivance, the discretion of the Spirit, that which the Spirit savoureth,” are used to express it. All our English translations, from Tindal’s, the first of them, have constantly used, “To be spiritually minded;” neither do I know any words whereby the emphasis of the original, considering the design of the apostle in the place, can be better expressed. But the meaning of the Holy Ghost in them must be farther inquired into.

In the whole verse there are two entire propositions, containing a double antithesis, the one in their subjects, the other in their predicates; and this opposition is the highest and greatest that is beneath eternal blessedness and eternal ruin.

The opposite subjects are, the “minding of the flesh” and the “minding of the Spirit,” or the being “carnally minded” and “spiritually minded.” And these two do constitute two states of mankind, unto the one of which every individual person in the world doth belong; and it is of the highest concernment unto the souls of men to know whether of them they appertain unto. As unto the qualities expressed by “the flesh” and “the Spirit,” there may be a mixture of them in the same persons at the same time, — there is so in all that are regenerate; for in them “the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh, and these are contrary,” Galatians 5:17. Thus different, contrary actings in the same subject constitute not distinct states; but where either of them is predominant or hath a prevalent rule in the soul, there it makes a different state. This distinction of states the apostle expresseth, Romans 8:9, “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit.” Some are “in the flesh, and cannot please God,” verse 8; they are “after the flesh,” verse 5; they “walk after the flesh,” verse 1; they “live after the flesh,” verse 13. This is one state. Others are “in the Spirit,” verse 9; “after the Spirit,” verse 5; “walk after the Spirit,” verse 1. This is the other state. The first sort are “carnally minded,” the other are “spiritually minded.” Unto one of these doth every living man belong; he is under the ruling conduct of the flesh or of the Spirit; there is no middle state, though there are different degrees in each of these as to good and evil.

The difference between these two states is great, and the distance in a manner infinite, because an eternity in blessedness or misery doth depend upon it; and this at present is evidenced by the different fruits and effects of the principles and their operations which constitute these different states, which is expressed in the opposition that is between the predicates of the propositions: for the minding of the flesh is “death,” but the minding of the Spirit is “life and peace.”

“To be carnally minded is death.” Death, as it is absolutely penal, is either spiritual or eternal. The first of these it is formally, the other meritoriously. It is formally death spiritual: for they that are carnally minded are “dead in trespasses and sins,” Ephesians 2:1; for those who “fulfill the desires of the flesh and of the mind are by nature children of wrath,” verse 3, — are penally under the power of spiritual death. They are “dead in sins and the uncircumcision of the flesh,” Colossians 2:13. And it is death eternal meritoriously: “For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die,” Romans 8:13; as “the wages of sin is death,” chapter 6:23.

The reason why the apostle denounces so woeful a doom, so dreadful a sentence, on the carnal mind, he declares in the two next verses: “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.” If it be thus with the carnal mind, it is no wonder that “to be carnally minded is death;” it is not meet it should be any thing else. That which is enmity against God is under the curse of God.

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