The "Mind" We Are to Have in Philippians
As one reads through the book of Philippians there are several words which are repeated multiple times throughout the book. One of these words is the word “mind.” The word “mind” or a related term is found over ten times throughout the book of Philippians. What do we learn about the “mind” we ought to have from these statements about the “mind” in Philippians?
One time when the word “mind” is used in Philippians it is used in a context warning us about people whose “mind” is not set on what it should be. Philippians 3:18-19 says, “For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in the shame - who set their mind on earthly things” (NKJV). Earthly things are constantly vying for our attention and can distract us from focusing on eternal things (Luke 8:14). Our mind should be focused on the things above where Christ is rather than upon the things of the earth (Colossians 3:1-3). When we remember this world is not our home and our true citizenship is in heaven (Philippians 3:20), we should not set our mind on earthly things.
Several of the references to the “mind” in Philippians emphasize the need to have one mind, be like-minded, or have the same mind. Philippians 1:27 says, “Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel” (NKJV). Philippians 2:2 records Paul appealing to the Philippians to, “fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind” (NKJV). Philippians 3:16 teaches, “Nevertheless, to the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind” (NKJV). In Philippians 4:2 Paul addresses two women in the congregation at Philippi imploring them, “to be of the same mind in the Lord” (NKJV). One of the major themes of the book of Philippians is the theme of unity. Unity is something God’s people ought to take seriously (John 17:20-23). The type of unity God expects among Christians requires them to speak the same thing, have the same mind, and have the same judgment (1 Corinthians 1:10). Many people want to have some sort of unity when there is no agreement and yet such is not the unity God wants among His people. When we allow our thoughts to be controlled by the word of God, then unity will exist among all who allow their thinking to be guided by God’s word and it alone.
Philippians 2:3-5 describes the mind we are to have as Christians. It says, “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus” (NKJV). A humble and lowly mind is going to be necessary if we are going to have the unity we just discussed. A humble and lowly mind is also necessary if we are to imitate the example of Jesus who humbled Himself to the point of dying on the cross (Philippians 2:6-8). God’s word teaches repeatedly we do not need to focus on exalting ourselves. Rather, we need to humble ourselves and allow God to exalt us (Matthew 23:12; Luke 14:11; 18:14; 1 Peter 5:6). Does our mindset think too highly of ourselves or does it think soberly (Romans 12:3)?
Paul commends Timothy by saying, “For I have no one like-minded, who will sincerely care for your state” (Philippians 2:20, NKJV). Timothy has the same mindset as Paul had. As a result, Paul was able to send Timothy to the Philippians and trust Timothy would be focused on the things of Christ rather than upon his own things (Philippians 2:21). Do we sincerely care for others like Paul and Timothy did?
Philippians 3 helps us understand something about the mindset which Paul has as a servant of the Lord (Philippians 3:4-14). Paul did not place confidence in his Jewish ancestry but rather would count such thing loss in order to gain Christ. Paul did not view himself as already achieving everything set before him to achieve but was continuing to press forward. He then points out this is the mindset which mature Christians have. Philippians 3:15 says, “Therefore let us, as many as a mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you” (NKJV). Do we rest on our past accomplishments and feel we have already done enough or are we constantly pressing forward to those things which are ahead?
Philippians is a book written while Paul was in prison (Philippians 1:7, 13-14, 16). With this backdrop in mind, Paul and the Philippians could be tempted to be anxious about what would happen to him or a host of other things. Yet in Philippians 4:6-8 we are told, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy - meditate on these things” (NKJV). Anxiety is something which can oftentimes fill our minds if we are not careful. The Bible teaches us to avoid anxiety and worry though (Matthew 6:25-34). Rather than having a mind plagued by anxiety our mind instead can be guarded by the peace of God. What consumes our mind? Is it anxiety or does the, “peace of God rule in your hearts” (Colossians 3:15, NKJV)? Philippians 4:8 is a wonderful passage giving us a fabulous list of the types of things which our mind needs to be focused on and which we need to fill our mind with. Let’s fill our minds with such wholesome and virtuous things so we can have the “mind” God wants us to have, the “mind” which we can read about throughout the book of Philippians and throughout the Bible!