Green Tree Bible Study 12: The Christian Mind (A Study in Philippians)

By Dr. Robert E. Picirilli

In the last article I suggested the value of studying a theme through a portion of Scripture. We then looked at the theme of joy in the book of Philippians. Another major theme in Philippians concerns the Christian mind. One’s “mind” is the way he thinks, and that undergirds all behavior. We have to thinkChristianity before we can actit.

The basic word for mind in Greek is phroneo. This word occurs 12 times in Philippians. Whenever it appears, it is always a verb rather than a noun. And the Greek word is always translated “mind” or “think” except in its Philippians 4:10 appearance where it is translated “care” or “careful.”

There are four other verses in Philippians where different Greek words are used. These words might also be translated “think” or “mind.” These four instances are found in l:27, 2:20 (Psychebest translated “soul” or “self” ); 4:7 (Noemabest translated “mental faculties“); and 4:8 (Logizomaibest translated “consider“).

Paul is here concerned about the Christian way of thinking. Let’s look at the main characteristics of Christian as portrayed in Philippians.

First, there is “likemindedness” or “same mindedness.” Note l:27; 2:2; 3:16; and 4:2. Compare these verses with Romans 12:16. This characteristic applies to oneness with other believers. We are to “mind the same thing.“Notice the close association with words like one, together, same, love, and accord.

Essential to the life of a church is harmony and unity of mind, sharing a common outlook, purpose, and conviction. And obviously that is of great value to the Lord. We should value it as well.

Second, there is “lowlimindedness.” This is another way of rendering the word “humility.” In 2:3 and 2:5 we are instructed to be humble. We have in these verses a clear statement of what such an attitude really means. Jesus is given as the supreme example of this. Having a humble mind means we will esteem others better than ourselves (v.3). It means that we will look out for their concerns in preference to our own (v. 4). That is the “mind” Jesus had (v. 5). And this same mindset should be within us. Humility is thinking rightly about oneself. And the right way to consider oneself is “lowlily.”

Third, Paul is concerned that we be “heavenly minded” rather than “earthly minded.” You see this in 3:15 and 19. He exhorts us to be “thus” minded. He refers to his own heavenly-mindedness as a good example (vv. 13, 14). Paul freely admits that he had not yet laid hold of his goal, but continued to press on toward that upward calling (standing before the Lord).

That is the opposite of those who “mind earthly things” (v. 19). As Paul puts it, our citizenship is in Heaven (v. 20). That means our minds should be on things up there rather than on things down here. There are those who say Christians can be “so heavenly minded they are no earthly good.” Most of us have it the other way around.

Fourth, Paul says we should have “peace of mind.” Philippians 4:6, 7 tells us the secret of having this kind of mindset. We should not be careful/anxious about “things.” The Greek word is merimnaowhich means to be anxious, tense, or distracted. We should instead lay our concerns before God in prayer with thanksgiving. When we do so God’s peace will keep (Greek: phroureo– guard, garrison) our hearts (emotions) and minds (mental faculties).

Fifth, Paul speaks about what we may call “wholesomemindedness” in 4:8, 9. We should reflect on wholesome and spiritual things that are (1) true, (2) honest (literally reverent or venerable), (3) just (upright), (4) pure, (5) lovely (worthy of love/affection), (6) of good report (well spoken of), (7) virtuous (morally excellent), and (8) praiseworthy.

We become what we most think about. What we reflect upon will be reflected in our lives. It is best, then, that we focus on the good, true, noble, and uplifting. If we do so our minds will be shaped accordingly. Romans 12:2 speaks of the Christian mind as renewed. It is a mind transformed from conformity to the spirit of this age. Philippians helps us understand some of the characteristics of this new way of thinking. The power of the Word of God is the expression of His mind. It is this same Word of God that shapes our own minds in the very ways described here.