The Believer’s Mind: The Right Frame of Mind at Philippi

Like a large shopping mall that is waiting to open for business, the shutters of our mind roll back on a daily basis to a hive of activity, noise, decisions, thoughts and messages, each demanding a response. How we manage the traffic of our minds in this vast labyrinth of corridors, doors and rooms is vital in the development of our godly character and, in turn, the character of the assembly in which we serve God. T.W. Hunt wrote, “Satan knows that if he can get our attention for five seconds, he may have our mind for five minutes.”[1]

The Single-Minded Believer

In the assembly at Philippi, Paul was concerned about the saints’ frame of mind. He mentions the mind seven times, and the most common Greek word he uses is phroneo, which refers to our thoughts, understanding and feelings. In Philippians 1:3 he thanks God for every memory of these believers, but before finishing his letter he brings to public attention two sisters, Euodias and Syntyche, who were not of the same mind and must have received quite a shock when they heard their names read publicly. Their mindset went against the whole grain of Paul’s teaching on “this mind,” which is the mind of Christ. The purpose for Paul living and dying was Christ, captured in those beautiful words of 1:21: “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”[2] This singularity of mind regulated all of Paul’s thinking, preaching and teaching, the fruit of which he believes should be manifest in believers with “one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel” (1:27).

The Like-Minded Believer

In chapter 2, Paul gives us the pattern for our mind to follow. We often teach the pattern for our assembly life, but what pattern do we follow in our thought life? In verse 2, Paul uses the word “like-minded” – the Greek word autos is a pronoun added to “mind” to emphasise the need for agreement with and being of “one accord.” If we are of the “same mind,” we will not only think in a similar way but speak the same thing. Fellowship is based on a partnership and participation of what we have in common, namely doctrine. The fruit of being like-minded will be “having the same love,” and the result will be harmony in assembly fellowship.
God does not condemn originality of thought or creativity, but when it comes to the truth of the assembly and the gospel, we must aim for continuation, not innovation (Act 2:42), where we are all of a like mind.

The Lowly-Minded Believer

In 2:3, Paul goes down another corridor in the Christian mind and comes to a door with a sign on it that reads, “What I think of myself.” This will greatly influence what we think of others. Paul says in verse 4 we are not to be occupied only with our own things but also on the things of others.

“Lowly mind” is a compound word which includes the idea of keeping low to the ground or having a humble opinion of self. It would be profitable to ask if I have an over-inflated opinion of myself. Paul says, “If a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself” (Gal 6:3). Mephibosheth had a lowly opinion of himself. He said to David, “What is thy servant, that thou shouldest look upon such a dead dog as I am?” (2Sa 9:8). Lowly Ruth said to Boaz, “Why have I?” (Rut 2:10). David and Solomon, despite their greatness, revealed lowly minds when they prayed, asking, “Who am I?” (1Ch 17:16; 2Ch 2:6).

May God help our minds to keep the door of pride firmly shut. There is nothing wrong with spiritual ambition, but there should never be spiritual competition to see who can be “the best.” Abraham said to Lot, “If thou wilt take the left hand, then I will go to the right” (Gen 13:9). Abraham would let nothing be done through “strife or vain glory” (Php 2:3) and knew to look on the things of others first. Yet even Abraham’s lowly mind would be eclipsed by a mind like no other – “this mind” of Philippians 2:5.

The Godly-Minded Believer

“This mind” is the mind of Christ – a cause for worship – but let’s not miss the practical lesson Paul is making: “Let this mind be in you.” But how can we have the mind of Christ, seeing we are sinful beings, and He knew no sin? The answer is found in verses 5-11, which many believe to have been a hymn. The sublime language expresses the pattern of the mind of Christ in His great incarnation and humiliation.

A Heavenly Valuation

In verse 6 there is a majestic statement of the essential deity of Christ and the equality of the Son with the Father. The word “form” is the Greek morphe which is the unchanging nature of Christ. Even though He took upon Himself the morphe of a servant He never ceased to be in the morphe of God. Praise God for the unchanging deity of Christ, for it means an unchanging mind. How often we have to change our mind because we make the wrong decision. That was never the case with “this mind.” It is the mind of God!
The Lord Jesus was not only co-eternal but, as the Son of God, He was co-equal with the Father. Yet He would not allow His deity to hinder Him from coming into the world and taking on holy humanity. He did not refuse the humiliation of being found in the likeness of sinful flesh and, with His lowly mind, not only looking on His own things but on the things of others, namely the guilt of the whole world. He made Himself of no reputation and took upon Himself the form of a servant.

His Lowly Incarnation

This is the subject of verse 7 where the lowly mind of Christ Jesus is seen actively making Himself of no reputation. He does this by taking His place as a bondservant, which involved the great mystery of godliness, God manifest in flesh, and, says Paul, “He was made in the likeness of men.” The one who had the highest reputation in heaven was now known as the “carpenter’s son” who made His bed in the back of a boat. He came not with big thoughts of people serving Him but to serve and to give His life a ransom for many. In the upper room, that lowly man with a lowly mind took a towel to gird Himself and wash the disciples’ feet.

His Voluntary Humiliation

In verse 8 Jesus Christ is found in fashion (Greek schema) as a man. This aspect of His humanity changed from a baby to a boy and to a man, in contrast to the morphe of His humanity, which never changes. So, the mind of the Lord Jesus was allowed to develop, apart from sin, and everything we see Him do demonstrated a truly “righteous mind” that ultimately would lead Him to the cross, where we learn “this mind” became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. His mind revealed a perfect will, and though faced with the bitterness of our sin, He did not change His mind in the face of it all but willingly gave Himself a ransom for all. Practically, “this mind” demands that we, too, identify with the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. In chapter 3 Paul speaks of “enemies of the cross of Christ” whose glory is their shame. What sort of minds do they have? They mind earthly things. Paul says our minds should be heavenly because our citizenship is in heaven. The death of Christ dealt with our sin, but the cross of Christ should deal with our “self,” so, says Paul, “Let this mind be in you.”

It was said of someone that they were so heavenly minded they were of no earthly use! Probably for most Christians the opposite is true – we are so earthly minded we will be of no heavenly use! May God help us to be single-minded, like-minded, lowly-minded and godly-minded.

 

[1] Hunt, T.W. The Mind of Christ (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1995).

[2] All Scripture quotations in this article are from the KJV.