Question: "What does it mean that to be carnally minded is death (Romans 8:6)?"
Answer: Romans 8:5–6 contrasts two ways of thinking and of living: “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace” (NKJV).
There is a big difference between those who live life in the flesh and those who live life in the Spirit. Unbelievers live in the flesh. They “have their minds set on what the flesh desires” (Romans 8:5) and live to satisfy these desires. This type of living is called being carnally minded, and it leads to death. The Christian, on the other hand, lives a life “in accordance with the Spirit” and has his mind “set on what the Spirit desires.” A life governed by the Spirit “is life and peace” (Romans 8:6).
To be carnally, or fleshly, minded means to have a “mind governed by the flesh” (Romans 8:6), living to please one’s fleshly desires. A carnally minded person seeks to fulfill the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life (1 John 2:16). The unbeliever does not realize that seeking to fill these longings is an empty pursuit that can never satisfy and that leads, ultimately, to condemnation and death. A focus on the flesh—our sinful, selfish desires—feeds the corrupt human nature and naturally leads to death (Romans 6:23). And “those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God” (Romans 8:8).
There are only two directions our life can take. Being carnally minded is death, but a life in the Spirit is life and peace. When a person trusts in Christ for salvation, he or she is given the Spirit of God and has a “mind governed by the Spirit” (Romans 8:6). Christians have repented of their carnal desires and should be filled with the Holy Spirit, allowing Him to have full control. Life in the Spirit and following God’s ways brings abundant life and peace. The believer has the promise of eternal life and peace with God for all eternity.
It is possible for a Christian to be carnal for a time. However, for a true Christian, carnality will only be a lapse; he will not remain carnal for a lifetime. A true Christian is a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17), seeks to live for God in all he does (Colossians 3:23), and bears fruit (James 2:14–26; John 15:16). The Spirit who lives in believers is the same Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead. This changes our life for eternity but also gives us life “to the full” here on earth (John 10:10). To be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded—living by God’s Spirit—is life and peace.
A true Christian keeps his or her mind focused on the things of the Spirit. A believer’s mind is set on the things above, not on earthly things (Colossians 3:2). Christians are no longer on the path that leads to death; instead, they are sealed with the Holy Spirit and seek to live by the Spirit’s desires. They are permanently on the path that is life and peace.