The Mind in Philippians

We are closing in on the finale of Philippians during our Sunday Morning Services. Our study has unearthed a number of wonderful themes “joy and rejoicing, humility and example, valuing Christ more than life. But there is a particular verb that bears the most use by Paul in this epistle. You might at first think of “rejoice.” Close, but that’s second.

The most common verb used in Philippians is phroneo (to think, to have an opinion).

The significance of this word is that it speaks to the mind ” our thinking, our opinion, our mindset. Instead of intellectual theory, this verb is used of our mental attitude toward conduct in life and relationships.

In Phil. 1:7 Paul asserts his right “to feel this way” of these Christians, “because I hold you in my heart.” His thinking of them included thankful prayers, joy, and confidence in their spiritual maturity (read context of 1:3-6). It was a mental attitude that welled up emotion.

In Phil. 2:2 the Apostle commend these saints to be “of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.” Two times the verb is used to communicate not a mere philosophical agreement, but an attitude of mind that seeks unity in love and fellowship.

In Phil. 2:5 he implores us to “have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.” Again, the command is deeper than intellectualizing the philosophy of our Lord ” but having a mental attitude that would humble us to the point of death as He, Himself had done (2:6-8).

In Phil. 3:15 the mature are called to “think this way.” What way? The all-out, world-forsaking, straining-toward-the-completion-of-God’s-glory-through-his-life way: “forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (3:13-14). Verse 15 continues, “and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you.”

In Phil. 3:19 the enemies of the cross have their “minds set on earthly things.” Their evil is not intellectually knowing the earthly things, but having a mind that enthralls itself to its appetite and shame (3:19)

In Phil. 4:2 Paul exhorts fighting sisters to “agree in the Lord.” Not an agreement to cease fire, but the genuine harmony that comes in the mental appreciation of the character of Christ our Lord.

Finally, in Phil. 4:10 this verb is used twice to speak of the “concern” of the Philippians for Paul. This was not sentimentalism, but a mental attitude that resulted in material and financial support of Paul during his ordeal.

Although a bit technical in nature, the consideration of the use of phroneo in Philippians opens our understanding to a very particular truth: to live right, we must think right. Not merely adopt intellectual philosophies that are accurate, but to meditate on truth until it compels us to action. People will sometimes wonder, “is love an emotion or an action?” It becomes action only when our minds have formed such a strong conviction of what love means, that we are compelled to live it out. Phroneo is the bridge between sympathy and action; between duty and devotion, between intention and lifestyle, between the theory and the living. Let’s learn to love the Lord with all our mind!