5 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.
those who live [state of being] according to [the standard of] the flesh [human nature with its sin capacity]
The word “live” carries the idea of state of being; therefore, the idea is how we exist as human beings. The issue here is what we are (ontologically) rather than what we do (behaviorally). Verse four describes the walk, whereas verses five to eight set forth the person behind the walk. Those whose state of being revolves around the flesh orient away from God. His absorbing interests center on the self, not God.
“Live” in the Greek refers to a state of continuous operation that functions according to the standard of the flesh (present participle).
The next two phrases contrast the new deference of walking in the Spirit. This is an issue of being, not behavior. We do what we do because we are of the flesh or of the Spirit. Behavior originates in our being. It is the nature of a lost person to walk according to the flesh.
This phrase introduces one of two kinds of people on earth with two different kinds of life: (1) non-Christians and (2) Christians. “According to the “flesh” refers to the non-Christian’s way of life. Paul divided both categories of people, who are locked into a particular character and destiny. These two groups have differing orientation and attitude.
Those who make the flesh the object of their attention think about more than sensual things; they think about anything that does not belong to the category of the things of the Spirit.
set [present] their minds on the things of the flesh,
The set of the mind here has to do with the ruling principle that governs or controls the mind. There is an overarching principle that regulates the mind.
Non-Christians aspire for things of the flesh without any concern for what God thinks. Those living exclusively according to the norm of the flesh are non-Christians. The flesh determines what they think and do because they have a settled orientation. That is their bent or natural disposition.
The setting of the mind here is not merely thinking about something but having a settled way of understanding about it. The word carries the idea of an attitude. These people set or maintain an attitude about something. Non-Christians both willfully choose and establish a pattern of thinking around the flesh.
“Minds” here refers to comprehensive ideas such as will, thought pattern, and emotions. The setting of the mind refers to more than the mind alone; it includes the complete reality of the person.
This passage does not give commands or exhortations but merely states the facts of the case. It is something that is ongoing and continuous (present indicative) state of reality.
Ro 1: 28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting . . .
Our decisions about how to live rest on how we orient to life.
Negative volition precedes orientation away from God. The idea of setting our minds on God involves more than producing godly behavior. It involves a change of attitude and orientation toward the things of God. Men must be holy because sin is death, a separation from God. Spirituality is necessary by the very nature of things.
Those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the sin capacity and what it affords. This is their deepest interest. The minds of people without God are sullied and stultified so that they receive not the things of the Spirit. Their hearts are deceitful.
1 Co 2: 14 But the natural man [non-Christian] does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.