The desires of the flesh and of the mind
(J. C. Philpot, "Meditations on Ephesians")
"All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying
the cravings of our sinful nature, fulfilling the desires
of the flesh and of the mind. Like the rest, we were
by nature objects of wrath." Ephesians 2:3
We may observe here a distinction drawn by the Apostle
between the desires of the flesh and the desires of the
mind. Both are opposed to God and godliness, both are
the fruits of our fallen nature.
But the desires of the FLESH seem to be those grosser
and more sensual lusts and passions which are connected,
so to speak, with the lower part of our nature. The desires
of the MIND are those which are connected with its higher
Thus some are steeped up to the very lips in all manner
of vile abominations of sensual lust, in the gratification of
which they find all their pleasure. While others, who would
scorn, or at least are not tempted to the baser lusts of the
flesh, carry out with equal ardour the promptings of a more
refined character and disposition. Ambition to rise in the
world, thirsting after power over their fellow-men, a craving
for fame and distinction in any particular branch of art or
science, discontent with their present situation in life,
envying everyone superior to them in birth, wealth, talent,
accomplishments, position, or worldly happiness; attempts,
more or less successful, to rise out of obscurity, poverty,
and subjection, and to win for themselves name, fame, and
prosperity--how wide a field does this open to our view, as
embracing "the desires of the MIND!"
And observe how the Apostle puts upon a level the desires
of the flesh and the desires of the mind, and stamps them
both with the same black mark of disobedience and its
consequences--the wrath of God.
We look around us. We see the drunkard staggering in the
street, we hear the oath of the common swearer, we view
the sons and daughters of Belial manifesting in their very
looks how sunk they are in deeds of shame. These we at
But what do we think of the aspiring tradesman, the energetic
man of business, the active, untiring speculator, the man who,
without scruple, puts into practice every scheme and plan to
advance and aggrandize himself, careless who sinks if he rise?
Is he equally guilty in our eyes? What do we think of the artist
devoting days and nights to the cultivation of his skill as a painter,
as an architect, as a sculptor; of the literary man, buried in his
books; of the scientist, devoting years to the particular branch
of study which he has selected to pursue; or similar examples
of men, whose whole life and all whose energies are spent in
fulfilling the desires of their mind?
As far as society, public welfare, the comfort of themselves
and their families, and the progress of the world are concerned,
there is a vast difference between these two classes; and we
would do violence to right feeling to put them upon a level.
But when we come to weigh the matter as before God, with
eternity in view, and judge them by the word of truth, we see
at once that there is no real difference between them; that
the drunkard does but fulfill the desires of his flesh--and the
scholar, the artist, the man of business, the literary man, in a
word, the man of the world, whatever his world be, little or
great, does but each fulfill the desires of his mind.
Both are of the earth, earthy; both are sworn enemies to God
and godliness; and could you look into the very bottom of his
heart, you might find the man of intellect, refinement, and
education--to be a greater foe to God and His word than the
drunkard or the profligate!
The sin in both is one and the same, and consists in this,
that in all they do they seek to gratify that carnal mind
which is enmity against God, which is not subject to the
law of God, neither indeed can be. God is not in all, or
indeed in any of their thoughts. Instead of living to and
for Him in whom, as creatures of His hand, they live and
move and have their being, they live wholly unto and for
themselves, and thus are practical rebels against God,
as rejecting his rightful claims upon their obedience.