HOW TO DEAL WITH FALSE TEACHING

STUDY 7: UNDERSTAND THE IMPORTANCE OF OUR MINDS

© Copyright Rosemary Bardsley 2007

Contemporary Christianity displays a serious ignorance of the importance of our minds. One could say that contemporary popular Christianity has for a large part abdicated its mind. In its emphasis on unity, on experience, on feelings and on relationship it appears to have overlooked the biblical emphasis on the truth and understanding of the truth. Those who emphasise ‘doctrine’ or ‘theology’ or even ‘Bible study’ are commonly considered less spiritual than those who have had emotional, ecstatic, subjective or mystical experiences.

Yet throughout the Bible knowledge, understanding and wisdom are given key significance. This significance includes knowledge of the facts and understanding of the facts; it also includes the wisdom to see and implement the significance and application of those facts for one’s life both on the practical and spiritual levels. [Note that the emphasis this study puts on knowledge is not about that level of knowledge that is mere mental awareness; nor is it about human wisdom, for even at its best human wisdom is, according to the Scripture, dark, futile, foolish and worthless.]

The Bible is essentially verbal communication that addresses our minds. It is only after our minds have processed the communicated facts and commands that our emotions are engaged. The exultant joy expressed by the Psalm writers is not stand-alone, nor is it generated by mystical experiences; rather, it arises from facts about God which they knew to be true. God does not desire our irrational allegiance or our unfounded praise, nor does he desire worship that has no objective grounds; rather he has revealed himself in such a way that we know he is worthy of our joyous, exuberant praise, in such a way that our faith is grounded in the truth he has revealed about himself, in such a way that our worship has a solid, permanent foundation unrelated to our transient and variable feelings.

A further word of explanation: We need to remember that the Bible uses the word ‘heart’ in a different way to popular English usage. W.E.Vine sums up the biblical meaning of ‘heart’: “man’s entire mental and moral activity, both the rational and the emotional elements” … it “includes the emotions, the reason and the will”. [W.E. Vine: An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words]

We are not permitted, therefore, to excuse the neglect of our minds by any reference to the Bible’s use of the word ‘heart’, for, in the Bible, this word is inclusive of our mental faculties and reasoning. [Note that Proverbs 23:7 [KJV] locates ‘thinks’ in the ‘heart’. Compare NIV footnote ‘thinks within himself’. The NIV text also connects ‘thinking’ and ‘his heart’. No mention is made of ‘feeling’.]

A. THE OLD TESTAMENT TEACHES THE IMPORTANCE OF OUR MINDS

A.1 Wisdom and understanding are the basis of true faith and godliness

In the Psalms:

The Psalm writers knew the significance of knowledge and understanding:

      • ‘The fool says in his heart “There is no God” … the LORD looks down from heaven … to see if there are any who understand …’ [Psalm 14:1,2; 53:2]
      • ‘I will instruct you and teach you … I will counsel you … Do not be like the horse or the mule which have no understanding’ [Psalm 32:8,9]
      • ‘My mouth will speak words of wisdom; the utterance of my heart will give understanding’ [Psalm 49:3]
      • ‘The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding’ [94:10]
      • ‘Give me understanding, and I will keep your law’ [119:34; see also 119:73]
      • ‘Teach me knowledge and good judgment, for I believe in your commands’ [119:66]

[One could compile a similar list of references from the Psalms in which worship and praise are grounded in the known facts about God.]

In the books of history:

King David acknowledged that wisdom and understanding were necessary to keep God’s laws:

      • ‘May the LORD give you discretion and understanding when he puts you in command over Israel, so that you may keep the law of the LORD your God’ [1 Chron 22:12]

When Ezra read God’s law to the returned exile only those who could understand were called to hear that law and to commit themselves to live by it:

      • ‘The rest of the people … together with their wives and all their sons and daughters who are able to understand … all these now join their brothers … and bind themselves … to follow the Law of God …’ [Nehemiah 10:28-29; also 8:2]

In wisdom literature:

It was Job’s knowledge of God that determined his life choices:

‘Does he not see my ways and count my every step? …
Did not he who made me in the womb make them?
Did not the same one form us both within our mothers?’ [Job 31:4,15]

It was his knowledge of God that enabled him to respond to his suffering without sin:

      • ‘The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised’ [Job 1:21].

And, in the midst of his emotional turmoil, in the midst of life experiences which were shouting at him that God wasn’t there and that God didn’t care, in the midst of his inability to even make contact with God, it was his knowledge of God that kept him faithful.

‘I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth.
And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God;
I myself will see him with my own eyes – I, and not another.
How my heart yearns within me!’ [Job 19:25-27]

‘I know.’ The truth about God was all he had left.

Even in the darkness and aloneness of life when God seems distant and silent, behind the darkness, beyond the silence, the truth about God remained in his knowledge, and to that truth alone Job turned for solace and strength in the midst of intolerable experiences and emotions.

The early chapters of Proverbs focus on the importance of wisdom and understanding:

‘…fools despise wisdom …’ [1:7]

‘My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you,
turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding,
and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding,
and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure,
then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God.
For the LORD gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding’ [2:1-6].

 

‘I give you sound learning, so do not forsake my teaching …
Get wisdom, get understanding; … do not forsake wisdom …
Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding.
Esteem her, and she will exalt you; embrace her, and she will honour you.
She will be a garland of grace on your head and present you with a crown of splendour’ [4:2-9]

In the prophets:

The prophet Malachi summed up the role and importance of knowledge in describing God’s mandate to the priestly tribe of Levi, and the failure of the priests to live according to that mandate:

      • ‘True instruction was in his mouth and nothing false was found on his lips … For the lips of a priest ought to preserve knowledge, and from his mouth men should seek instruction. … But you have turned from the way and by your teaching have caused many to stumble …’ [Malachi 2:6-8]

A.2 Lack of understanding and discernment leads to godlessness, rebellion, idolatry and the consequent judgment

In the Books of Moses:

Anticipating the future idolatry of Israel, Moses, speaking on God’s behalf, attributed this to the state of their minds:

‘They are a nation without sense, there is no discernment in them,
If only they were wise and would understand this
And discern what their end will be!’ [Deut 32:28,29].

In the Prophets:

The prophets reveal that lack of understanding was the reason for Israel’s sin and judgment:

      • ‘Therefore my people will go into exile for lack of understanding …’ [Isaiah 5:13]
      • ‘For this is a people without understanding; so their Maker has no compassion on them, and their Creator shows them no favour’ [Isaiah 27:11]
      • They know nothing, they understand nothing; their eyes are plastered over so they cannot see, and their minds closed so they cannot understand. No one stops to think, no one has the knowledge or understanding to say … ‘ [Isaiah 44:18,19 – re idol-worshippers].
      • ‘Israel’s watchmen are blind, they all lack knowledge; they are all mute dogs …They are shepherds who lack understanding; they all turn to their own way …’ [Isaiah 56:10,11]
      • ‘My people are fools; they do not know me. They are senseless children; they have no understanding’ [Jer 4:22]
      • ‘But my people do not know the requirements of the LORD. How can you say, “We are wise, for we have the law of the LORD,” when actually the lying pen of the scribes has handled it falsely?’ [Jer 8:8,9]
      • ‘Everyone is senseless and without knowledge’ [Jer 10:14; 51:17]
      • ‘… my people are destroyed from lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I will also reject you as my priests; because you have ignored the law of your God,  I also will ignore your children.’ [Hos 4:6].

A.3 One key purpose/result of God’s judgment on Israel was that they would know that he was the Lord

As the prophets told the people of Israel of the devastating judgment about to fall on them because of their rejection of the knowledge of the Lord and their acceptance of false gods and the messages of false prophets, they indicated that one of the key results of the judgment would be that the Israelites, and the pagan nations around them, would know that God was indeed God and that the word spoken by his true prophets was indeed his word.

This is particularly evident in Ezekiel, where God states over 60 times ‘then they will know that I am the LORD’ or ‘then they will know that I am the LORD their God’.

So vital is true knowledge of God that he poured out his extreme judgment upon his people to impress that knowledge upon them.

A.4 The new covenant in Christ is anticipated as a time when people will know the Lord

So significant is the knowledge of the Lord that it is a listed as a key feature of the new covenant:

      • ‘… for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea’ [Is 11:9].
      • ‘The eyes of those who see will no longer be closed, and the ears of those who hear will listen. The mind of the rash will know and understand …’ [Is 32:3,4].
      • ‘… then I will give you shepherds after my own heart who will lead you with knowledge and understanding’ [Jer 3:15].
      • ‘I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts…No longer will a man teach his neighbour, or a man his brother, saying, “Know the LORD,” because they will all know me …’ [Jer 31:33,34].
      • ‘For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea’ [Hab 2:14].

B. THE NEW TESTAMENT TEACHES THE IMPORTANCE OF OUR MINDS

Those who value emotions and mystical, subjective experiences above knowledge and understanding fail to realize the significance placed on the mind by Jesus and the apostles. Both Jesus and the apostles were involved in teaching [55 references in the Gospels and Acts]. Both want us to know, to learn, to understand, to remember, to have wisdom and insight. They do not by-pass the mind, rather they address and challenge the mind, indeed they demand the allegiance of our minds. The greatest commandment, quoted by Jesus, included loving God with all our mind [Mat 22:37; Mk 12:30; Lk 10:37].

B.1 The New Testament words

The following notes are abbreviated from W.E.Vines An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words. The reader is encouraged to research this book for fuller explanations.

Know, knowledge:

ginosko [most commonly used word – 223 times]

‘to be taking in knowledge, to come to know, recognize, understand, or to understand completely … in the past tenses it frequently means to know in the sense of realising. …’

oida

[70 times, including meaning ‘see’]

‘from the same root as eidon, to see, … signifying, primarily, to have seen or perceived; hence, to know, to have knowledge of, whether absolutely, as in Divine knowledge … or in the case of human knowledge, to know from observation …’

epiginosko

[42 times]

[1] ‘to observe, fully perceive, notice attentively, discern, recognize …it suggests generally a directive, a more special, recognition of the object known than ginosko … it may also suggest advanced knowledge or special appreciation …’ [2] ‘to discover, ascertain, determine’

epistamai [14]

to know, know of, understand’

sunoida [4 times]

‘to share the knowledge of, to be privy to … to be conscious of …’

gnorizo

[24 times]

‘to come to know, discover, know, …to make known … [also translated as ‘certify’, ‘declare’, ‘tell’, ‘understand’

gnosis

‘knowledge, especially of spiritual truth’

epignosis

‘exact or full knowledge, discernment, recognition … a strengthened form of gnosis expressing a fuller or a full knowledge …’

Mind

nous

‘mind … the seat of reflective consciousness, comprising the faculties of perception and understanding, and those of feeling, judging and determining …’

dianoia

‘literally a thinking through, or over, a meditation, reflecting … the faculty of knowing , understanding or moral reflection …sentiment, disposition … ‘ [This word is used in the command to love God ‘with all your mind’.]

ennoia

‘idea, notion, intent’

noema

‘ thought, design’

gnome

‘a purpose, judgment, opinion’

phronema

‘what one has in the mind, the thought … an object of thought’

phroneo

‘to think, to be minded in a certain way … to think of, be mindful of. It implies moral interest or reflection, not mere unreasoning opinion …’

anamimnesko

‘to remind, call to remembrance’

hupomimnesko

‘to cause one to remember, put one in mind’

sophroneo

‘to be of sound mind, or in one’s right mind

Learn [verb], disciple [related noun]

manthano

‘to learn, to increase one’s knowledge, or be increased in knowledge, … to learn by inquiry, or observation … to ascertain … to learn by use and practice ‘

mathetes

‘a learner … one who follows one’s teaching …’

Discern

anakrino

‘to distinguish, or separate out so as to investigate … by looking throughout … objects or particulars, hence … to examine, scrutinize, question …’

diakrino

to separate, discriminate … to learn by discriminating, to determine …’

dokimazo

‘to test, prove, scrutinize, so as to decide …’

Judge

Anakrino

‘to examine, investigate, question’

diakrino

‘to discriminate, discern …’

Understand

suniemi

‘… used metaphorically of perceiving, understanding, uniting (sun), so to speak, the perception with what is perceived’

noeo

‘to perceive with the mind, as distinct from perception by feeling’

[Also: ginosko, epistamai, gnorizo – see ‘know’ above.]

All of the above New Testament words give extremely high significance to minds, necessitating and commanding the exercise of our rational, mental functions.

B.2 The significance given to understanding by Jesus Christ

Jesus taught. Even when he performed miracles his purpose was to demonstrate his divine identity; it was never to titivate the senses with the spectacular; indeed he refused to make that kind of sensual appeal to people.

He called disciples. A disciple is essentially one who is learning, one who is being taught. He taught them for three years, and instructed them to teach others. He chided them when they were slow to understand, when they failed to put two and two together and work out the implications of what he said and did.

When we look at the Gospels we discover that there is a great range of evidence that Jesus wants us to engage our minds in relation to the spiritual area of our lives:

About knowing him and his Father:

      • He wants us to know that he has power to forgive sins [Matthew 9:6]
      • He wants us to know him and his Father [Matthew 11:27; John 8:19; 17:3]
      • He wants us to remember and understand the meaning of the miracles [Matt 16:9; Mk 8:18]
      • He wants us to know his essential unity with the Father [John 8:28; 10:38; 14:7-9; 14:20]
      • He wants us to know the Holy Spirit [John 14:17]
      • He wants us to know that God the Father sent him [John 17:23]

About knowing and understanding other spiritual truths:

      • He explained the meaning of the parables to give the disciples knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven [Matthew 13:11]
      • He taught that only those who understand the message of the kingdom have faith that endures [Matthew 13:23]
      • He wants us to learn the meaning of the parables [Matthew 24:32]
      • He wants us to understand the signs of the end [Matthew 24: 32,32; Mark 13:29]
      • He wants us to know the Scriptures and the power of God [Mark 12:24]
      • He wants us to know the truth [John 8:32]
      • He wants us to know both where he has gone, and the way to get there [John 14:4]
      • He promised that the Holy Spirit would teach and remind the disciples of everything he himself had taught them [John 14:26] and guide them into all truth [John 16:13]

About having the right attitude to his teaching:

      • He wants us to learn from him [Matthew 11:29]
      • He wants us to be his disciples – that is to learn from him [Matthew 28:19]
      • He wants us to teach others what he taught [Matthew 28:20]
      • He wants us to remember his words [Luke 24:6; John 15:20; 16:4
      • He wants us to know that his teaching comes from God [John 7:17]
      • He wants us to know the difference between his voice and a stranger’s voice [John 10:4,5]

About how we should think and live:

      • He wants us to learn that he prefers mercy above sacrifice [Matthew 9:13]
      • He wants us to love God with all of our mind (as well as our heart, soul and strength) [Matthew 33:37; Mk12:30; Lk 10:27]
      • He wants us to understand how important it is to be ready for his coming [Mat 24:43]
      • He rebuked the teachers of the law for taking away the key to knowledge [Luke 11:52]
      • He wants us to put our knowledge into action [John 13:17]
      • He wants us to keep in mind that the world hated him first [John 15:18]

B.3 What the apostles said about knowledge and understanding

In the Acts and the New Testament letters we learn that the apostles placed great emphasis on what goes on in our minds. Like Jesus they engaged in teaching; indeed, that was their primary ministry [e.g. Acts 4:18; 5:28,42; 1 Cor 4:17]. Even when they were evangelizing they did it by teaching and explaining facts, not by playing with their hearers’ emotions or by whipping their hearers into ecstasy.

The apostles reminded their hearers/readers of what they already knew:

      • Paul wanted the believers to remember the warnings he gave them [Acts 20:30; 2 Thes 2:5
      • We are to remember the words of Jesus [Acts 20:35]
      • Paul recalled his readers to what they already knew as a foundation for further understanding and/or right choices [Rom 3:19; 6:3,16; 7:1,14; 8:22,28; 1 Cor 3:16; 5:6; 6:2,3,9.15,16,19; 8:4; 9:13,24; 12:2; 2Cor 5:1; 8:9; Eph 5:5; 1 Thes 4:2; 5:2; 2 Thes 2:6; 1Tim 1:8; Heb 10:30; Ja 4:4; 1Pet 1:18]
      • Paul wrote to remind the Romans of certain points [Rom 15:15]
      • We are to remember what we once were [Eph 2:11]
      • We are to consider, and understand the significance of Abraham and faith [Gal 3:6,7]
      • We are to remember the truth about Christ [2 Tim 2:8]
      • Peter reminds his readers of things they know, refreshing their memory [2Pet 1:12,13]
      • We are to reflect on what we are taught so that the Lord will give us insight [2Tim 2:7]
      • We are to remember what the apostles said [Jude 17]
      • We are to remember our former relationship to Christ [Rev 2:5]
      • We are to remember what we have received [Rev 3:3]

The apostles challenged their hearers/readers about their attitude to and approach to God’s truth:

      • It is commendable to examine the Scriptures [Acts 17:11]
      • Paul commended the Roman Christians that they were complete in knowledge and competent to instruct one another [Rom 15:14]
      • We should learn the meaning of the scripture [1 Cor 4:6]
      • The purpose of communication in the church is instruction [1 Cor 14:31]
      • We are to correctly handle the word of truth [2 Tim 2:15]
      • False teachers do not know what they are talking about [1 Tim 1:7; 2Pet 2:12; Jud 10]
      • Elders, pastors and servants of the Lord have to be able to teach [1Tim 3:2; 1 Tim 4:11; 6:2; 2 Tim 2:24]
      • God’s truth has to be passed on to those who can teach [2 Tim 2:2]
      • The servant of the Lord must instruct people who oppose him so that they will come to knowledge of the truth and come to their senses [2 Tim 2:25-26]
      • People have to be taught the truth [Heb 5:12]

The apostles gave serious significance to knowledge and understanding:

      • Those who are without understanding and reject the knowledge they have are condemned [Romans 1:31,32]
      • We are to be mature in our understanding [1 Cor 14:20]
      • We should know assuredly [see Greek text] that Jesus is Lord and Christ [Acts 2:36]
      • Language that is understood is preferred over language that isn’t [1 Cor 14:9-19]
      • Paul prayed for his readers: wisdom, revelation, understanding, enlightenment, that they would know … [Eph 1:18; 3:4,19]
      • God’s invisible qualities can be known and understood from creation [Romans 1:19-21; Heb 11:3]
      • Paul told his readers to judge concerning what is said and done [1 Cor 10:15; 11:13; 14:29]
      • Paul wanted his readers to know …and he himself knows that God works his good purposes out even through difficult circumstances [Phil 1:12,19]
      • Paul desired above all to know Christ and the power of his resurrection [Phil 3:10]
      • Paul prayed that God would fill the Colossians with knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding [Col 1:9]
      • Paul’s purpose was that the Colossians would have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God [Col 2:2]
      • Paul knows whom he has believed and is convinced of his security in Christ [2 Tim 1:12]
      • We are to know [Greek text] that terrible times are coming [2 Tim 3:1]
      • Uncertainty and double-mindedness are condemned [Ja 1:7,8]
      • The symbolic message of Revelation calls for wisdom and insight, a mind with wisdom [Rev 13:18; 17:9]

The apostles described the critical importance of our minds and our thoughts in salvation:

      • The inclination of our minds, or our mindset, is either life or death [Rom 8:5-7]
      • Blinded minds cause unbelief [2 Cor 3:14; 4:4]
      • Before our conversion to Christ our thoughts and understanding were foolish, sinful, futile, dark, ignorant [Rom 1:21,22; Eph 2:3; 4:17-18; Tit 1:15]
      • A person’s thoughts/perceptions can lead him/her into error [Phil 3:4b]
      • Before their conversion the Colossians were alienated from God and enemies in their minds [Col 1:21]

The apostles taught the role of our minds and thoughts in living as a Christian:

      • We are to be constantly transformed by the renewing of our minds [Rom 12:2; Eph 4:23]
      • The mind is involved in battle against sin [Romans 7:13-25]
      • How we think about ourselves is important [Rom 12:3; Gal 6:3]
      • How we think about others is important [Rom 12:16, Greek text]
      • We need to be convinced in our own minds about the choices we make [Rom 14:5]
      • Our mind and thought are the location of unity [1 Cor 1:10; 2 Cor 13:11]
      • Our minds stand under threat of being led astray from devotion to Christ [2 Cor 11:3]
      • We are not to be unwise, but wise, understanding what the will of the Lord is [Eph 5:15-17]
      • Paul prayed that his readers’ love would abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that they would be able to discern what is best … [Phil 1:9,10]
      • Our thoughts are to be captive to obedience to Christ [2 Cor 10:5]
      • We should have the same mind as Jesus Christ [Phil 2:2,3 [Greek text],5; 1 Pet 4:1 (Greek text) ]
      • A person’s mind can be wrongly focused on earthly things [Phil 3:19]
      • We are to think of pure, beautiful etc things [Phil 4:8]
      • Paul has learned and knows how to be content in any circumstance [Phil 4:11,12]
      • A mind can be unspiritual [Col 2:18]
      • We should learn how to control our body [1 Thes 4:4]
      • We need to know how to behave and conduct ourselves [1 Tim 3:15]
      • Both good and bad behaviour are learned [1 Tim 5:4,13]
      • God has given us a sound mind [self-discipline] [2Tim 1:7]
      • People are to be reminded to obey the government authorities [Tit 3:1]
      • People must learn to do what is good [Tit 3:14]
      • What we know should determine what we do [James 4:17]
      • Our minds should be ready for action [1 Pet 1:13]
      • We should be of one mind [Gk text ] [1 Pet 3:8]

John’s focus on knowing in his first letter:

In 1 John, John speaks of knowing God, knowing that we are ‘in him’, knowing that we are in the last times, knowing all things, knowing the truth, knowing God is righteous, knowing we will be like Christ, knowing Christ came to take away sins, knowing we have passed from death to life, knowing no murderer has eternal life, knowing we are of the truth, knowing that Christ abides with us, knowing the Spirit of God, recognizing the spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood, knowing we dwell in him, knowing that we love God’s children, knowing we have eternal life, knowing God hears us, knowing those who are born of God do not continue to sin, knowing the Son of God has come and given us understanding, knowing him who is true.

C. HUMAN VERSUS GOD-GIVEN WISDOM

In 1 Corinthians 1:17 – 2:16 Paul contrasts secular wisdom and the message of Christ and his cross.

About human wisdom he says:

      • It potentially empties the cross of its power [1:17]
      • It does not give knowledge of God [1:21]
      • It demands miraculous signs [1:22]
      • It looks for wisdom [1:22]
      • It is considered ‘eloquent’ and ‘superior’ [2:1]
      • It makes use of wise and persuasive words [2:4]
      • It is the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing [2:6].

About the message of Christ [God’s wisdom] and his cross he says:

      • It is foolishness to those who are perishing [1:18]
      • It is the power of God to those who are saved [1:18]
      • It destroys the wisdom of the wise [1:19]
      • It makes the wisdom of the world foolish [1:20]
      • It saves those who believe [1:21]
      • It is a stumbling block to the Jews [1:23]
      • It is foolishness to the Greeks [1:23]
      • It is the power of God and the wisdom of God [1:24]
      • It is wiser than man’s wisdom [1:25]
      • It is stronger than man’s strength [1:26]
      • It is wisdom from God [1:30]
      • It is a demonstration of the Spirit’s power [2:4]
      • It is a message of wisdom to the mature [2:6]
      • It is God’s secret wisdom hidden since time began [2:7]
      • It is destined for our glory [2:7]
      • It is not discerned by human eye, ear or mind [2:9]
      • It is prepared for those who love God [2:9]
      • It is revealed by God’s Spirit [2:10]
      • It is only known by God’s Spirit [2:10-11]
      • It is freely given to us by God [2:12]
      • It is not words taught by human wisdom [2:13] but words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words [2:13]
      • It is not accepted by the man without the Spirit [2:14]
      • It is foolish to the man without the Spirit [2:14]
      • It is not understood by the man without the Spirit [2:14]
      • It is spiritually discerned [2:14]
      • Because of it we have the mind of Christ [2:16]

In describing God-given wisdom Paul does not by-pass the human mental faculties. The difference he takes such pains to describe concerns not the location of the thought processes, but the origin of the thought content.

On the one hand, human wisdom originates in the human mind. On the other hand, God-given wisdom originates with God. The one is human ideas; the other is divine revelation. The one can be understood simply by human thought; the other is only understood by spiritual enlightenment.

Yet the processing of both, the response to both, the understanding of both, occurs in the human mind.

Thus, although God’s wisdom does not originate in our human minds, and although our minds, left to themselves, can never understand it, yet, God has revealed his wisdom to us by his Spirit [2:10], so that ‘we may understand what God has freely given us’ [2:12], so that we can speak ‘in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truth in spiritual words’ [2:13], and making judgments about all things [2:15], because ‘we have the mind of Christ’ [2:16]. [Not the physical mind of Christ, but the viewpoint of Christ, because of the indwelling Spirit – as we understand and believe what he teaches us.]

Jesus, the light of the world, has shined into our darkness, ripping away the blindness. Jesus, the truth, has revealed the Father to us, so that our ignorance of God has been replaced by knowledge of God. That which was once unknowable and indiscernible to us is now known to us.

Our minds, which could previously see things only in terms of human wisdom, and were trapped in its futility, can now increasingly understand the divine perspective, having been liberated by Christ and taught by his Spirit. This liberation from human wisdom, from human ignorance, is a significant part of the deep meaning of the prophecy of Isaiah which Christ applied to himself in the synagogue in Nazareth:

‘The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach the good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom to the prisoners and recovery of sight to the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour’ [Luke 4:18-19].

The good news is preached to us – we who were poor in understanding.

Freedom is proclaimed to us – we who were held captive by human ideas about God and godliness.

The ability to see God’s truth is restored to us – we who were blinded by Satan.

Release from oppression is ours – we who were oppressed by the rigid demands of human religions.

Truly, with the coming of Christ, it is the year of the Lord’s favour. Not only are our sins forgiven in and through Christ, not only are we reconciled to God in and through Christ. But also this: that, in and through Christ we now know God. Not in a mystical, undefined and indefinable way, that can only be subjective and relative, but in an objective, clear-cut, clearly defined and understandable way, that we grasp with our minds as the Spirit of Christ enlightens us.

To this knowledge, to this understanding, and to the implications and practical applications of this knowledge and understanding, the Bible challenges and commands us.

In Romans 12:2 Paul wrote: ‘Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind...’

In Ephesians 4:17-18 he wrote: ‘So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.’

In Philippians 1:9-10 Paul prayed for the believers, ‘that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ.’ It is instructive that the two aspects of life that many contemporary Christians consider more important than ‘doctrine’ or ‘theology’ [our emotions – ‘love’, and our actions – ‘pure and blameless’] and are here seen by Paul to actually depend on accurate doctrine and theology [‘knowledge’, ‘depth of insight’, ‘discern’].

As Christians we must reclaim the fact that our minds and our thinking are critically important. It could well be that the abdication of the Christian mind in favour of emotion and experience is the reason why contemporary Christianity has been so easily seduced by the many non-biblical perceptions currently embraced by the church.