Updated: Feb 5
To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law– indeed it cannot, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.
The above reading from Paul’s letter to the true Christians of Rome will next be read aloud in a church on March 29, 2020, the Fifth Sunday in Lent. This is a perfect match to the Old Testament reading from Ezekiel (Ezekiel 37:1-14), where God talked to the prophet in a dream about life returning to dry bones. The same theme is presented here by Paul when the reading begins with him saying, “To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.”
Yeah buddy! I feel so alive, as long as I am protected from a deadly virus.
Simply from that contrast, from “flesh is death” and “Spirit is life,” one should be able to see how God asked Ezekiel if dry bones (“flesh is death”) could live again (“Spirit is life”). That transformation was only possible by “prophesying to dry bones.” Alas, that is where all the dry bones sitting in pews and the dry bones talking to them (certainly not prophesying) fail to grasp the meaning of “prophesying.”
Part of the problem is basic. Prophecy is “an inspired utterance of a prophet” (Webster’s #1 definition). A prophet is “one who utters divinely inspired revelations: such as (a) often capitalized : the writer of one of the prophetic books of the Bible.” (again Webster’s,#1 definition plus (a)). Ezekiel was a Prophet (often capitalized). We all get that, but we tend to miss that Paul was a Prophet, as was John (who will be read telling about the raising of Lazarus to life, from dead bones). The tendency is to read everything in the New Testament as simply being stories that confirmed the prophecies of the OT Prophets had come true. Yea! We believe those Prophets! However, the problem comes from not reading Paul and John as Prophets that are prophesying to us, today (as well as the OT Prophets have relevance today).
That failure leads to dry bones going nowhere but to another death, fulfilling only the part of Paul’s prophecy that says, “To set the mind on the flesh is death.” The answer Ezekiel would give to God today, relative to our generation (plus or minus a hundred years) is, “Well God, they no longer appear to have ears that hear any prophesying, nor do they have eyes that see it written, nor do they have tongues that speak any prophesying. All their sinews have become like dead flesh.”
If our dry bones of lifeless sinews really wanted to find eternal life, then we would see Paul as a Prophet (often capitalized) and realize a Prophet is not some man in a robe and collar who knows some things but a man like Ezekiel who professes to know nothing (“You know Lord” [meaning “I know nothing.”]) If we saw Paul in that light, knowing that Paul used to be Saul, who was a worthless human being, but he gave up his evil ways to be totally led by the Will of God, reborn as His Son, then we would know that Paul is nothing more than a man who let God speak through his words. The words are not really Paul’s but GOD’s. If we saw Paul in that light, then we would be more careful about saying Paul said things Paul (as the voice of GOD) did not say.
This has to do with translations. As hard as it is to believe, none of our heroes from the first century A.D. spoke English. While a movie about Paul could have him played by an English thespian, so we can be soothed by his accent into thinking Paul spoke our language, the stark reality is Paul wrote in Greek. In addition, Paul (as GOD’s Prophet) wrote in a divine written language that is prophecy (it contains messages from God to us and everyone before and after us) AND that divine language requires another Prophet of GOD to not only understand it BUT to then go about prophesying the truth of GOD to dry bones, so they might “set their minds on the Spirit that is life.”
One easy way to know that the New International Version of Paul’s letter to the true Christians of Rome is incorrect comes from comparing the translation to the Greek text. In the above translation (the one read aloud in church by a reader and also printed in a pewple’s bulletin) one find the word “Spirit” written seven times. Every one of those times the word is capitalized. Unfortunately, because Paul did not write a capital P each time he wrote (as GOD’s Prophet) variations of “pneuma,” the one who is supposed to be prophesying to dry bones is doing little more than speaking with a dry tongue, reading with dry eyes, and hearing with dry ears. We don’t know what the difference is between little-p “pneumati” and big-P “Pneuma“; and we do not care to look at it, pray for guidance for understanding it, nor be patient to listen to why there is difference, like a devoted Ezekiel would do.
Brother Paul is like Nostradamus in his writings, and we all know how much we hate the thought of Nostradamus being a Prophet of GOD.
Nostradamus wrote in Old French, but modern masters of English can spin that French any way they want.
I have posted 5,000 word articles here about some of Paul’s meanings in his letters, just as I used to write quite lengthy articles about what four lines of Nostradamus poetry means. Paul is so difficult to understand fully, he has his own cult of scholars that pour over his letters day in and day out. Paul, like Nostradamus, wrote “sentences” that take up half a page, even though they are broken repeatedly into small segments of words and even verse changes. To sit in a pew and listen to some man or woman read a section of Paul’s letter (usually in the most horrific monotone or nasally, whiny voice humanly possible) is to listen to fingernails scratching on a chalk board. Paul is meant to be read slowly and with meditation; otherwise, it is too much too soon, impossible for a normal brain to capture.
Here is how the above NIV (English) translation should be seen in Greek:
to gar phronēma tēs sarkos thanatos ; [the (one) for mind of the flesh (is) death ; ]
to de phronēma tou pneumatos , [the (one) now mind of the spirit , ]
kai eirēnē , [(symbol of importance to follow) peace , ]
dioti to phronēma tēs sarkos echthra eis Theon ; [because the mind of the flesh is hostility towards God ; ]
tō gar nomō tou Theou ouch hypotassetai , [the (one) for law those of God not it is subject , ]
oude gar dynatai . [nor even for can it (be) . ]
hoi de en sarki ontes , [those now in flesh being , ]
Theō aresai ou dynantai . [God to please not are able . ]
Hymeis de ouk este en sarki , [You now not are in the flesh , ]
alla en pneumati , [but in spirit , ]
eiper Pneuma Theou oikei en hymin ; [if so (the) Spirit of God dwells in you ; ]
ei de tis Pneuma Christou ouk echei , [if now someone Spirit of Christ not has , ]
houtos ouk estinautou . [he not is of him . ]
ei de Christos en hymin , [if now Christ in you , ]
to men sōma nekron dia hamartian , [the (one) truly body dead on account of sin , ]
to de pneuma zōē dia dikaiosynēn . [the (one) now spirit life on account of righteousness . ]
ei de to Pneuma tou egeirantos ton Iēsoun ek nekrōn oikei en hymin , [if now the (one) Spirit those having raised up the (one) Jesus out from dead dwells in you , ]
ho egeiras ek nekrōn ⇔ Christon Iēsoun zōopoiēsei [the (one) having raised out of (the) dead ⇔ Jesus Christ will give life
kai ta thnēta sōmata hymōn , [(symbol that something important follows) to the mortal bodies of you , ]
dia tou enoikountos autou Pneumatos en hymin . [on account of those dwelling his Spirit in you . ]
Now, I know this about Episcopalians:
1.) Most do not want long sermons.
2.) Most do not like Bible Studies.
3.) Most are way too old to be told it is time to change how they live now.
In short, they are the epitome of dry bones with their minds set in the flesh. That means they are okay with sinning for most of seven days a week, as long as they can say, “I’m sorry and I humbly repent,” and then expect a priest to give them a holy wafer and some holy wine. “All is forgiven!!! I’ll see ya next week on Sunday morning.”
For that reason, I will not fully address what Paul said here. I will simply go over the difference between little-p “pneuma” and Big-P “Pneuma.”
To understand this lesson, one needs to re-ponder the reading from Ezekiel.
God first told Ezekiel, "Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the Lord.”
In that first instruction, God used the term "breath" (twice).
The Hebrew word translated into English as "breath" is "ruach" ("rū·aḥ"). That same word also means "spirit" or "wind." Thus, when Ezekiel prophesied to dry bones, "the bones came together, bone to bone" and "tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them." This has to be seen as the "breath of life" being the little-p "pneuma" (or a variation of that word), such that dry bones reflect death from a lack of mortal existence, but dry bones with sinews, flesh and skin are what most people confuse with life (little-l), which is different from the true breath of Life eternal.
[Hebrew does not have capital letters, but we love to play with that language to suit our needs. The Jews do too. So, a little-r rauch might imply a Big-R Rauch; but, if God asks, just say, "You know. I know nothing."]
With all that said, little-p pneuma means an eternal soul (which never dies), but when connecting dry bones together is only going to return to dry bones, human life after human life.
When God then told Ezekiel, "Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come, breath, from the four winds and breathe into these slain, that they may live," this was God telling an Apostle ("son of man" or "ben adam") to go into the pulpit and preach the truth of eternal life so that pewples have a great epiphany and stop sinning forevermore. [No more need to recite the Confession of Sin.]
This is what Paul said when he switched from little-p pneuma to Big-P Pneuma. Notice how the Pneuma is connected with other capitalized words, such as "God" ("Theou"), "Christ" ("Christou"), or "Jesus" ("Iēsoun")? The first two state "Spirit of God" and "Spirit of Christ." The two words are linked together as one. This is different that saying "the soul of Larry" or the "life of Sally." The third use is then the joining of God's Holy Spirit (which comes with the Christ Mind) and a human being (like Larry and Sally). However, that presence then makes "Jesus" be raised in one's own dry bones, so one begins walking and talking like the Spirit of Jesus reborn. The fourth Big-P word, Pneumatos, states that as being in a "mortal body" where the "Spirit" dwells.
This is the prophesying of the "breath of Life." It is the fulfillment of what God told Ezekiel (about the remnants of Israel), " I will put my Spirit in you and you will live." Paul said of this, "if now the (one) Spirit those having raised up the (one) Jesus out from dead dwells in you" (NIV = "If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you"). When Jesus dwells in one, then one is reborn as Jesus and no longer sins. That says it is impossible to stop sinning in a fleshy, mortal body, in a world that loves sin, without help from the Spirit of God and the Spirit of Christ, which brings about the rebirth of the Jesus Spirit that guides one's soul away from sin ... eternally.
Relative to the "leftright arrow" found in verse 11 (omitted in the NIV translation), this is a symbol used that states "logical equivalence." It means: Proposition follows from proposition and vice versa. When Paul wrote "the (one) having raised out of (the) dead ⇔ Jesus Christ will give life" the logical equivalence is: raised out of death is Jesus reborn with the Christ Mind, just as Jesus reborn with the Christ Mind is being raised out of death. When one is , then one is . When one is raised out of death (flesh is death), then one is alive in the name of Jesus Christ (the Spirit is life). And, vice versa.
When one's eyes have been opened to see this, then one can look back on the dream of Ezekiel (chapter 37) and see that Ezekiel was not just some ancient Prophet that God was playing games with, relative to dry bones. When you read, "The hand of the Lord was on me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones," then you should see that ALL of those dry bones are your past lives, when you held dearly to a "mind of the flesh" that was "hostility towards God," when you did not feel it necessary to live up to the laws of God. Mortal life after mortal life you relished the flesh of death, leaning on the crutch of an inability to please God. Mortal life after mortal life you found death again and again. Rather than being reborn to eternal life, you re-died to eternal loss of all that seemed to be gains (the illusions sin causes ... like making flesh is death seem to be living flesh).
As the season of Lent winds down, when the agony of sacrificing something menial is almost over and a return to that one sin seems permissible again, it is important to have the dream of Ezekiel. When God asks you, "Mortal, can your dry bones ever find eternal life?" what will your excuse be this time?
Or, will you say, "O Lord God, you know, because the evidence shows I know nothing of value."