Yesterday I preached from Romans 8:5-8 in our series through Romans. While many people attempt to teach a third category of people (the carnal Christian) and a basic Universalism approach to eternity with heaven being real and hell being reserved for the monsters of society—it’s imperative to grapple with the reality that Paul sets forth in this paragraph and to understand that real people go to hell everyday and they will never leave. Where will you spend eternity?
Paul begins with a comparison of the two people and their eternal destinies. The unbeliever sets his mind on the things of the flesh (the world) while the believer sets his mind on the things of the Spirit (God and the things of God). The unbeliever receives the second death while the believer receives eternal life and eternal peace. That’s the entire point of Romans 8:5-6. In other words, what we believe controls how we live. Unbelievers love the world proving that the love of the Father is not in them (1 John 2:15). The believer loves God and demonstrate that by a life devoted to him. The unbeliever goes to hell and the believer goes to heaven. There is no other option.
Paul then completes this section with three clear statements about unbelievers. As you consider these statements, examine your life and see if you are in the faith.
Statement #1: Unbelievers are hostile to God
In Romans 8:7, Paul states, “For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God…” The word translated hostile is the Greek term, ““ἔχθρα” which means “to be at enmity with God; hatred towards God; to be hostile in attitude and action towards God.” This means that a person who is an unbeliever is the enemy of God and is at war with God. This warfare is manifest in both active and passive disobedience. In other words, there is both a physical and non-physical (mental) aspect.
The unbeliever who is at war with God can physically rebel against God by physical acts of sin that demonstrate hatred. This could include everything from murder to sexual sins such as homosexuality and adultery. Self-mutilation is another means of physical war against God—including the sin of suicide (self-murder).
The unbeliever who is at war with God can likewise wage war against God with ideas and ideologies. For instance, “the fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God'” (Ps. 14:1). The false ideas about God and false teachings about his character, the doctrine of salvation, and various other ideas that assault the nature and sovereignty of God prove that even mentally—the unbeliever uses his or her mind against God.
Statement #2: Unbelievers Cannot Obey God
Paul points out that the mind of the unbeliever “does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot” (Rom. 8:7). This is what we know as the doctrine of Total Depravity. The Bible teaches that man, if left to his own ability and his own will, would never choose God. According to God’s Word—the unbeliever is dead in his trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1-10). Furthermore, the unbeliever cannot understand God’s Word, because such understanding comes from God (1 Cor. 2:14).
By nature, the Word of God teaches us that we are lawless (rebels) against God:
- Matthew 7:23 – And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
- Matthew 23:28 – So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
- 2 Corinthians 6:14 – Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?
- Titus 2:14 – who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.
- Romans 4:7 – “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered;
The unbeliever cannot obey God – because his will and desires are in bondage to sin. This is why John 6:44 says, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.”
Statement #3: Unbelievers Cannot Please God
What separates Christianity from most world religions is that other religions teach that it’s possible and necessary to please God by works. Christianity teaches that it’s impossible. God pleases God. That’s the point of the cross. Guilty sinners come to God through Jesus’ work. Paul is laboring in Romans to teach the clear doctrine of justification by faith alone in Christ alone for the remission of sins.
The clear teaching of Scripture as a whole is centered on this reality:
- Romans 3:20 – For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.
- Galatians 2:16 – yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.
- Titus 3:5 says, “he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,”
That’s why we need a righteousness that we can’t perform or purchase. That righteousness does not come from within us. It’s what has been called “an alien righteousness” – one outside of us. It’s the righteousness of God. When Jesus died on the cross, he alone pleased the Father!
Isaiah 53:10 – Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.
In the substitutionary death of Jesus, Christ was:
- The wrath receiving
- Justice satisfying
- Guilt removing
- Penalty paying
- Sin atoning
- Devil defeating
- Grave conquering
- Lamb of God
As you consider these two types of people and their eternal destines, what group of people do you see yourself with? What path are you walking? Where will you spend eternity—heaven or hell? If you are not a Christian, but you see your sin and understand your need for forgiveness, remember, Jesus by his resurrection proved that he has authority to forgive sinners. Call out to God today and plead for the work of Christ to be credited to your account. Plead for mercy from the God of mercy and you will be saved (Rom. 10:13).
Augustus Toplady wrote these words in his hymn:
Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to the cross I cling;
Naked, come to Thee for dress;
Helpless look to Thee for grace;
Foul, I to the fountain fly;
Wash me, Savior, or I die.