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Romans 8:7

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

Because - This is given as a reason for what is said in Romans 8:6. In that verse the apostle had affirmed that to be carnally minded was death, but he had not stated why it was. He now explains it by saying that it is enmity against God, and thus involves a sinner in conflict with him, and exposes to his condemnation.

The carnal mind - This is the same expression as occurs in Romans 8:6 τὸ φρόνημα τὴς σαρκός to phronēma tēs sarkosIt does not mean the mind itself, the intellect, or the will; it does not suppose that the mind or soul is physically depraved, or opposed to God; but it means that the minding of the things of the flesh, giving to them supreme attention, is hostility against God; and involves the sinner in a controversy with him, and hence, leads to death and woe. This passage should not be alleged in proof that the soul is physically depraved, but merely that where there is a supreme regard to the flesh there is hostility to God. It does not directly prove the doctrine of universal depravity; but it proves only that where such attention exists to the corrupt desires of the soul, there is hostility to God. It is indeed implied that that supreme regard to the flesh exists everywhere by nature, but this is not expressly affirmed. For the object of the apostle here is not to teach the doctrine of depravity, but to show that where such depravity in fact exists, it involves the sinner in a fearful controversy with God.

Is enmity - Hostility; hatred. It means that such a regard to the flesh is in fact hostility to God, because it is opposed to his Law, and to his plan for purifying the soul; compare James 4:4; 1 John 2:15. The minding of the things of the flesh also leads to the hatred of God himself, because he is opposed to it, and has expressed his abhorrence of it.

Against God - Toward God; or in regard to him. It supposes hostility to him.

For it - The word “it” here refers to the minding of the things of the flesh. It does not mean that the soul itself is not subject to his Law, but that the minding of those things is hostile to his Law. The apostle does not express any opinion about the metaphysical ability of man, or discuss that question at all. The amount of his affirmation is simply, that the minding of the flesh, the supreme attention to its dictates and desires, is not and cannot be subject to the Law of God. They are wholly contradictory and irreconcilable, just as much as the love of falsehood is inconsistent with the laws of truth; as intemperance is inconsistent with the law of temperance; and as adultery is a violation of the seventh commandment. But whether the man himself might not obey the Law, whether he has, or has not, ability to do it, is a question which the apostle does not touch, and on which this passage should not be adduced. For whether the law of a particular sin is utterly irreconcilable with an opposite virtue, and whether the sinner is able to abandon that sin and pursue a different path, are very different inquiries.

Is not subject - It is not in subjection to the command of God. The minding of the flesh is opposed to that law, and thus shows that it is hostile to God.

Neither indeed can be - This is absolute and certain. It is impossible that it should be. There is the utmost inability in regard to it. The things are utterly irreconcilable. But the affirmation does not mean that the heart of the sinner might not be subject to God; or that his soul is so physically depraved that he cannot obey, or that he might not obey the law. On that, the apostle here expresses no opinion. That is not the subject of the discussion. It is simply that the supreme regard to the flesh, t the minding of that, is utterly irreconcilable with the Law of God. They are different things, and can never be made to harmonize; just as adultery cannot be chastity; falsehood cannot be truth; dishonesty cannot be honesty; hatred cannot be love. This passage, therefore, should not be adduced to prove the doctrine of man‘s inability to love God, for it does not refer to that, but it proves merely that a supreme regard to the things of the flesh is utterly inconsistent with the Law of God; can never be reconciled with it; and involves the sinner in hostility with his Creator.

(Calvinists have been loudly accused of “taking an unfair advantage of this language, for the support of their favorite doctrine of the utter impotency of the unregenerate man, in appreciating, much less conforming to the divine injunctions.” It is alleged that φρονημα της σαρκος phronēma tēs sarkosrefers to the disposition of the mind, and is properly translated, “the minding of the flesh.” Therefore, it is this disposition or affection, and not the mind itself, that is enmity against God. But the meaning of the passage is not affected by this change in the translation. For the apostle affirms that this minding of the flesh is the uniform and prevailing disposition of unregenerate people. “They that are after the flesh,” that is, unregenerate people,” do mind the things of the flesh.” This is their character without exception. Now, if the natural mind be uniformly under the influence of this depraved disposition, is it not enmity to God. Thus, in point of fact, there is no difference between the received and the amended translation. To affirm that the mind itself is not hostile to God, and that its disposition alone is so, is little better than metaphysical trifling, and deserves no more regard than the plea which any wicked man might easily establish, by declaring that his disposition only, and not himself, was hostile to the laws of religion and morals. On the whole, it is not easy to conceive how the apostle could more forcibly have affirmed the enmity of the natural mind against God. He first describes unrenewed people by their character or bent, and then asserts that this bent is the very essence of enmity against God - enmity in the abstract.

To anyone ignorant of the subtleties of theological controversy, the doctrine of moral inability would seem a plain consequence from this view of the natural mind. “It is,” says Mr Scott, on the passage “morally unable to do anything but revolt against the divine Law, and refuse obedience to it.” We are told, however, that the passage under consideration affirms only, that unregenerate people, while they continue in that state, cannot please God, or yield obedience to his Law, and leaves untouched the other question. concerning the power of the carnal mind to throw off the disposition of enmity, and return to subjection. But if it be not expressly affirmed by the apostle here, that the carnal mind has not this power, it would seem at least to be a plain enough inference from his doctrine. For if the disposition of the unregenerate man be enmity against God: whence is the motive to arise that shall make him dislike that disposition, and throw it aside, and assume a better in its stead? From within it cannot come, because, according to the supposition, there is enmity only; and love cannot arise out of hatred. If it come from without, from the aids and influences of the Spirit, the question is ceded, and the dispute at an end.

A very common way of casting discredit on the view which Calvinists entertain of the doctrine of man‘s inability, is to represent it as involving some natural or physical disqualification. Nothing can be more unfair. There is a wide difference between natural and moral inability. The one arises from “some defect or obstacle extrinsic to the will, either in the understanding, constitution of the body, or external objects:” the other from “the want of inclination, or the strength of a contrary inclination.” Now the Scriptures no where assert, nor have rational Calvinists ever maintained, that there is any physical incapacity of this kind, apart from the corrupt bias and inclination of the will, on account of which, the natural man cannot be subject to the Law of God. But on the other hand, the Scriptures are full of evidence on the subject of moral inability. Even were we to abandon this passage, the general doctrine of revelation is, that unregenerate people are dead in trespasses and in sins; and the entire change that takes place in regeneration and sanctification, is uniformly ascribed not to the “man himself,” but to the power of the Spirit of God. Not only is the change carried on and perfected, but begun by him.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
Believers may be chastened of the Lord, but will not be condemned with the world. By their union with Christ through faith, they are thus secured. What is the principle of their walk; the flesh or the Spirit, the old or the new nature, corruption or grace? For which of these do we make provision, by which are we governed? The unrenewed will is unable to keep any commandment fully. And the law, besides outward duties, requires inward obedience. God showed abhorrence of sin by the sufferings of his Son in the flesh, that the believer's person might be pardoned and justified. Thus satisfaction was made to Divine justice, and the way of salvation opened for the sinner. By the Spirit the law of love is written upon the heart, and though the righteousness of the law is not fulfilled by us, yet, blessed be God, it is fulfilled in us; there is that in all true believers, which answers the intention of the law. The favour of God, the welfare of the soul, the concerns of eternity, are the things of the Spirit, which those that are after the Spirit do mind. Which way do our thoughts move with most pleasure? Which way go our plans and contrivances? Are we most wise for the world, or for our souls? Those that live in pleasure are dead, 1Ti 5:6. A sanctified soul is a living soul; and that life is peace. The carnal mind is not only an enemy to God, but enmity itself. The carnal man may, by the power of Divine grace, be made subject to the law of God, but the carnal mind never can; that must be broken and driven out. We may know our real state and character by inquiring whether we have the Spirit of God and Christ, or not, ver. 9. Ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit. Having the Spirit of Christ, means having a turn of mind in some degree like the mind that was in Christ Jesus, and is to be shown by a life and conversation suitable to his precepts and example.
Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

Because the carnal mind is enmity against God - Because it is a carnal mind, and relishes earthly and sinful things, and lives in opposition to the pure and holy law of God: therefore, it is enmity against God; it is irreconcilable and implacable hatred.

It is not subject to the law of God - It will come under no obedience; for it is sin, and the very principle of rebellion; and therefore it cannot be subject, nor subjected; for it is essential to sin to show itself in rebellion; and when it ceases to rebel, it ceases to be sin.

From this we learn that the design of God in the economy of the Gospel, is not to weaken, curtail, or lay the carnal principle in bonds, but to destroy it. As it is not subject, and cannot be subject, to the law of God, it must be destroyed, else it will continue to rebel against God. It cannot be mended, or rendered less offensive in its nature, even by the operations of God; it is ever sin, and sin is ever enmity; and enmity, wherever it has power, will invariably show itself in acts of hostility and rebellion.

Ellen G. White
Selected Messages Book 1, 217

Says the psalmist, “The law of the Lord is perfect” (Psalm 19:7). How wonderful in its simplicity, its comprehensiveness and perfection, is the law of Jehovah! It is so brief that we can easily commit every precept to memory, and yet so far-reaching as to express the whole will of God, and to take cognizance, not only of the outward actions, but of the thoughts and intents, the desires and emotions, of the heart. Human laws cannot do this. They can deal with the outward actions only. A man may be a transgressor, and yet conceal his misdeeds from human eyes; he may be a criminal—a thief, a murderer, or an adulterer—but so long as he is not discovered, the law cannot condemn him as guilty. The law of God takes note of the jealousy, envy, hatred, malignity, revenge, lust, and ambition that surge through the soul, but have not found expression in outward action, because the opportunity, not the will, has been wanting. And these sinful emotions will be brought into the account in the day when “God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:14). 1SM 217.1

The law of God is simple, and easily understood. There are men who proudly boast that they believe only what they can understand, forgetting that there are mysteries in human life and in the manifestation of God's power in the works of nature—mysteries which the deepest philosophy, the most extensive research, is powerless to explain. But there is no mystery in the law of God. All can comprehend the great truths which it embodies. The feeblest intellect can grasp these rules; the most ignorant can regulate the life, and form the character after the divine standard. If the children of men would, to the best of their ability, obey this law, they would gain strength of mind and power of discernment to comprehend still more of God's purposes and plans. And this advancement would be continued, not only during the present life, but during eternal ages; for however far we may advance in the knowledge of God's wisdom and power, there is always an infinity beyond. 1SM 217.2

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Ellen G. White
Selected Messages Book 1, 219

“By the law is the knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:20); for “sin is the transgression of the law” (1 John 3:4). It is through the law that men are convicted of sin; and they must feel themselves sinners, exposed to the wrath of God, before they will realize their need of a Saviour. Satan is continually at work to lessen man's estimate of the grievous character of sin. And those who trample the law of God under their feet are doing the work of the great deceiver; for they are rejecting the only rule by which they can define sin, and bring it home to the conscience of the transgressor. 1SM 219.1

The Law of God reaches to those secret purposes, which, though they may be sinful, are often passed over lightly, but which are in reality the basis and the test of character. It is the mirror into which the sinner is to look if he would have a correct knowledge of his moral character. And when he sees himself condemned by that great standard of righteousness, his next move must be to repent of his sins, and seek forgiveness through Christ. Failing to do this, many try to break the mirror which reveals their defects, to make void the law which points out the blemishes in their life and character. 1SM 219.2

We are living in an age of great wickedness. Multitudes are enslaved by sinful customs and evil habits, and the fetters that bind them are difficult to break. Iniquity, like a flood, is deluging the earth. Crimes almost too fearful to be mentioned, are of daily occurrence. And yet men professing to be watchmen on the walls of Zion will teach that the law was designed for the Jews only, and passed away with the glorious privileges that ushered in the gospel age. Is there not a relation between the prevailing lawlessness and crime, and the fact that ministers and people hold and teach that the law is no longer of binding force? 1SM 219.3

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Ellen G. White
Messages to Young People, 68

We sometimes hear the questions: Am I never to do as I please? Am I never to have my own way? Am I always to be restrained? Can I never act in accordance with my inclinations? MYP 68.1

The less you follow natural inclinations, the better it will be for yourself and for others. The natural inclinations have been perverted, the natural powers misapplied. Satan has brought man into collision with God. He works continually to destroy the divine image in man. Therefore we must place a restraint on our words and actions. MYP 68.2

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Ellen G. White
Testimonies for the Church, vol. 1, 440

I have been shown that the doubts expressed in regard to the truthfulness of our position and the inspiration of the word of God are not caused as many suppose them to be. These difficulties are not so much with the Bible or with the evidences of our faith as with their own hearts. The requirements of God's word are too close for their unsanctified natures. “The carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” If the feelings of the natural heart are not restrained and brought into subjection by the sanctifying influence of the grace of God received through the channel of faith, the thoughts of the heart are not pure and holy. The conditions of salvation brought to view in the word of God are reasonable, plain, and positive, being nothing less than perfect conformity to the will of God and purity of heart and life. We must crucify self with the lusts thereof. We must cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. 1T 440.1

In almost every case where persons become unsettled in regard to the inspiration of the word of God, it is on account of their unsanctified lives, which that word condemns. They will not receive its reproofs and threatenings because these reflect upon their wrong course of action. They do not love those who would convert and restrain them. Difficulties and doubts which perplex the vicious heart will be cleared away before the one practicing the pure principles of truth. 1T 440.2

Many possess talents which would accomplish much good if sanctified and used in the cause of Christ, or much harm if employed in the service of unbelief and Satan. The gratification of self and its various lusts will pervert the talents and make them a curse instead of a blessing. Satan, the archdeceiver, possesses wonderful talents. He was once an exalted angel, next to Christ. He fell through self-exaltation, and created a rebellion in heaven, and caused many to fall with him. Then his talents and skill were employed against the government of God, to cause all whom he could control to despise the authority of heaven. Those who are charmed with his Satanic majesty may choose to imitate this fallen general and share with him his fate at last. 1T 440.3

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