The Spirit Of Your Mind- Ephesians 4:23

In the verse we will examine, Paul tells the Ephesians to be “made new in the attitude of your minds”. The Greek word translated as “attitude” in the NIV is the word “pneuma”, whose more common translation is “spirit”. So Paul tells us here that our mind has a “spirit”. Exactly what does Paul mean by this, what is a spirit and how does our mind have one? We begin, as always, by looking at the context of this statement. In verse 22, we are told to “in regard to your former way of life” to “put off your old self”. Verse 22 tells us what to do, and verse 23 then tells us how to do it. We are to “put off our old self” by being “made new in the spirit of our minds”. Paul is telling us to put off our old way of thinking and put on a new, biblical way of thinking, he is here contrasting our old way of thinking with the biblical way of thinking. The old way of thinking which he specifically addresses here is the Greek philosophy which was prevalent at the time of the writing of Ephesians, which is where his use of the concept of the “spirit of your minds” comes into play. Paul returns here to a very familiar theme in his letters, demonstrating the contrast between a biblical way of thinking and the teachings of Greek philosophy. Greek philosophy taught that the mind (nous) was the highest faculty in human beings, but Paul here contradicts this idea, asserting that the “spirit” is a higher faculty than the mind. He does the same in Romans 8:6, in which he tells us that the mind is “controlled by the spirit”, the spirit being a higher faculty than the mind. So what is meant by “spirit” and how does our mind have one? The Greek root of the word “spirit” (pneuma) is pneo, literally meaning “to blow” and used primarily in reference to the wind, basically referring to air set in motion. The “ma” ending added to form pneuma means it refers to the result of the action of the verb pneo, to the results of air set in motion. In Greek philosophy, the meaning of this word evolved. It began with Aristotle, who defind it as a formative power within a living being which produced a mature individual. It then, with the Stoics, became equivalent to the logos, the “force” which assured that the universe operates according to fixed rules and is not inherently chaotic. In the human being it was equivalent to the soul (psyche) and formed all living things. It then, with Plutarch, came to denote inspiration, as that which moves people to action. As we then examine its usage in the Bible, we find that the verb pneo is used seven times in the New Testament, in every case referring to the blowing of the wind. The word pneuma is used many times, and its New Testament meaning is very similar to its use by Plutarch (who was alive at the time of the writing of the New Testament), being used often as “inspiration”. The word is translated in the Latin New Testament with inspirare, from which we derive the English word “inspiration”, literally “in the spirit”, as the prophets of God were inspired to speak for God or the writers of the New Testament were inspired to write. The term pneuma, then, is used primarily to refer to one’s “inspiration”, as that which moves one to action as air set in motion moves things in its path. In Paul’s writing, the Spirit becomes primarily a divine power whose impact on life is discernable by its effects. So what then is the spirit of our minds? It is the human spirit, the unifying center and motivating force of our existence, it is our inspiration, what causes us to think the way we think and behave the way we behave, and Paul calls us here to be made new in the “spirit of our minds”, to allow the Holy Spirit to transform our spirit, so that our inspiration and motivation for all of our thinking and doing is the glory of God rather than the glory of self. True transformation comes only as we change the way we think, as we change the spirit of our minds, as we become more and more inspired and moved to live for the glory of God rather than for the glory of self, motivated to live our lives for the glory of God rather than for self- aggrandizement.

4 Comments Biblical Psychology  //  Christian Philosophy  //  Holy Spirit  //  Transformation

4 Responses so far.

  1. Ann Cobb says:

    Thank you for helping me understand “spirit of the mind”.

  2. Jacob Guest says:

    Very good read. Thank you!

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