Have the Mind of Christ

We live in the information age. At the touch of our fingers we can watch the news, listen to podcasts, watch YouTube videos, and read articles that inform our minds. What you give the most attention to will shape your mind, and what shapes your mind will determine your attitude, ambitions, and actions. You are what you think.  

If we fail to guard our hearts and minds, our lives will be shaped and defined by a corrupt world that calls evil good and good evil. (Proverbs 4:23)

The good news is that those of us who are saved have the mind of Christ. This means that we have the ability through the Holy Spirit to know and live according to the values of Christ and to view the world through His eyes. But although we have this precious gift, it must be cultivated and developed it in order to experience a fuller measure of it.      

First, we need a single-minded devotion. While contrasting the impotence of human wisdom, with divine wisdom, Paul writes, “but we have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16b). Again, by this Paul means that believers can know the thoughts of God through the Spirit and not only know them, but value them and live by them.

In addition to spending much of this passage explaining how believers can know the thoughts and wisdom of Christ, Paul reminds them that communicating the wisdom of Christ crucified was His single aim. He writes:  

“And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” 1 Corinthians 2:1-2

What Paul is clarifying here is that appearing clever, knowledgeable, and wise to the Corinthians was never his goal or motivation when he proclaimed the gospel to them. Paul’s single-minded devotion, his resolve, and his aim was to present Christ and Him crucified so that the lost would trust the redemption that’s found in Christ’s substitutionary sacrifice for our sins on the cross.

The saving message of a crucified Messiah was foolish and even offensive on its own to the pagan culture of Corinth, as it is in our day. What’s more, if you proclaimed the word of the cross without the flare, eloquence, and oratory skills that characterized the leading philosopher’s and scholars of the city of Corinth, you were not expected to have a captivated audience.

Therefore, the temptation in Paul’s day, and perhaps more so in our technologically advanced age, is to rely on human means to get and hold the attention of a crowd. It’s important to clarify that Paul is not saying that he wasn't capable of using flowery language and soaring rhetoric to stir up a crowd. And he’s not saying that he was emotionless or unconcerned with persuading his audience to respond to the gospel message. Paul spoke with great urgency and was burdened to see souls coming to Christ (Acts 18:4; Romans 9:1-3; 10:1; Philippians 3:18).

However, Paul wasn’t concerned with people being impressed with Him; rather his motivation was to see people placing their faith in the wisdom of the cross of Christ, which is the power of God unto salvation to all who believe.

Paul further clarifies his single-minded devotion to the unadulterated message of the gospel when He writes:  

“And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power.” 1 Corinthians 2:3-4

When Paul writes that he came to them in weakness, fear and trembling, he’s not saying that he was afraid and made weak at the thought of what the Corinthians would think of him, say to him, or do to him in response to his preaching. Paul was ready to lay down his life for the cause of Christ. He was not afraid of what man thought of him.

The weakness that Paul came to Corinth with was the result of suffering persecution for the gospel. The fear and trembling that he’s speaking of is not fear that he would look bad or sound stupid.  

Rather, he feared that the Corinthians would be impressed with him and his preaching and miss Christ. He feared that people would come away thinking, "what an eloquent and powerful preacher he was" and not "what a great Savior Jesus is!"  

Notice also that to those who were focusing more on the method of preachers, rather than on the message being preached, Paul clarified in verse 4 that his speech was not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and power.

When Paul preached, he didn’t rely on a kind of persuasive rhetoric that would show his superior wisdom and capture the attention of the crowd. Instead, he relied on the demonstration of the Spirit of God.

In addition, to a single-minded devotion to Christ, a second characteristic of having the mind of Christ is a servant-minded dependence on the Holy Spirit. What did Paul mean when he wrote that his preaching was not with “plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power?” 

He’s saying that he didn’t rely on human wisdom and methods, which is what the people of his day wanted to hear. Rather, he relied on the Spirit working through the proclamation of the gospel. If he had relied on his oratory skills and gave the people what they wanted, he would have won them to himself, but not to Christ.

Moreover, if he had preached in a manner that would have brought glory to himself, he would have acted in a way that the Spirit of God wants no part of. The Spirit of God works in and through our lives to glorify Jesus, not man.

When Paul says that his preaching was in demonstration of the Spirit and power he’s not speaking of a certain style or outward performance, he’s speaking of what only the Spirit can do in the heart of the hearers through the word of God. It wasn’t human wisdom, but the demonstration of the Spirit working through the word in the heart as the gospel was being proclaimed that brought the Corinthians to faith in Christ.

“In his leaving aside of all the skillful oratory of the day, in his leaving aside of the human wisdom, in his standing there in apparent weakness, and in his communicating the truth of 'Jesus Christ and him crucified,' the Spirit of God made a demonstration in the hearts of men and women.
So somebody goes out from this auditorium, and they get in their car, and they cannot shake the Scripture, they cannot evade the conviction, who’s doing that? The Spirit of God is doing that…But it doesn’t matter who proclaimed it. It doesn’t matter who shared it. It doesn’t matter how they did it. It doesn’t matter if they’re loud or they’re quiet or they’re good or they’re funny or they’re long or they’re short. It only matters that we have the kind of preaching that God by his Spirit can own. And without that, this is the most horrible triviality for all concerned.” -Alistair Begg

Why did Paul refuse to rely on human wisdom and not just give people what they wanted to hear? Why did Paul not want to simply tickle peoples’ ears? Why would it not satisfy Paul to hear the Corinthians say after the service, “Paul you really brought it today, that was some powerful preaching?” Why would he tremble at the thought of the audience being impressed with his preaching ability? Why did Paul depend on what the Spirit through the word of the cross could demonstrate in the heart and not on a demonstration of his clever speaking abilities?

In verse five he continues, “so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 2:5)

When Paul stepped up to preach, his single-minded devotion was to proclaim Jesus Christ and Him crucified. And his servant-minded dependence was on what the Spirit does through the unadulterated message of the gospel in the hearts of the hearers. He relied on the Spirit working through the word so that the faith of the people would rest not in man’s wisdom, personality, and giftedness, but in the word of the cross, which is the power of God to all who believe.
Like Paul, when you have the mind of Christ, your life will be characterized by a single-minded devotion to Christ, a servant-minded dependence on the Holy Spirit, and finally, a spiritually-minded discernment that comes from the word of God.
Remember, although we have this precious gift through the Spirit to see the world through Christ’s point of view, we must cultivate and develop it in order to experience a fuller measure of the gift.

How do we cultivate this gift? How do we experience a fuller measure of the mind of Christ, how do we grow in the wisdom of God through the Spirit, how do we gain greater spiritual discernment?

The Spirit of God works through the word of God to impart the wisdom of God to our hearts and minds so that we would increase in the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ (Ephesians 4:9-13).

Somewhere along the line, the Corinthian Christians got off track. Instead of putting themselves in a position of humility that would allow the Spirit to impart the wisdom of God through the word, they began to look to human wisdom. As a result, they remained spiritually immature, which led to much disorder, division, and dysfunction in the church.

Notice that Paul clarifies how the wisdom of God is imparted to believers so they may grow to spiritual maturity:

“Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual” 1 Corinthians 2:12-13 

Paul explains here that believers have received the Spirit of God so that they might understand the things of God. And the things of God that we need to understand are imparted to us in “words” not taught by human wisdom but by the Spirit.

The wisdom of God that we need to live by does not simply come to us individually through the Spirit alone. Beware of people who constantly claim that the Spirit speaks to them, especially when what they claim to hear contradicts the word of God. Paul wrote in verse 13, “and we impart this in words…” The deeper truths of God revealed in Christ that we need to grow was taught to the Apostles (and close associates) by the Spirit; and today, are contained in the Holy scriptures.

As Warren Wiersbe explained, “We must note carefully the sequence here. The Spirit taught Paul from the word and Paul then taught the believers from the word. The truth of God is found in the word of God. The successful Christian learns the vocabulary of the Spirit, [which is the word of God], and makes use of it… How does the Spirit teach the believer? He reminds us of what he has taught us [in the word], relates that truth to something new and then leads us into new truth and new applications of old truths. What a joy it is to sit before the pages of the bible and let the Spirit reveal God’s truth. The trouble is Christians are too busy for this kind of quiet mediation. What enrichment they are missing.”  

How many of you know that much of the trouble in our homes, marriages, and churches is that we are not appropriating the mind of Christ? We are following human wisdom and not seeking and living according to the wisdom from above.

When we are appropriating the mind of Christ in fuller measure, our lives will be characterized by a single-minded devotion to the glory of Christ, a servant-dependence on the Holy Spirit and a spiritually-minded discernment that comes from daily mediation upon His word and growing in community under the teaching of God’s word.

What a precious gift it is to have the mind of Christ. May we grow into it in fuller measure day by day to the glory of His name.    

In your service,
Pastor Marco