1 Corinthians is a letter written in disappointment. It is written to a people Paul thought should have by then (around A.D. 53-54) begun to show some spiritual maturity.
Instead, the Corinthians were preoccupied with dissensions and jealousies over spiritual gifts, marriage and celibacy, the place of women in the church, eating foods offered to idols, and who could take the Lord’s Supper. Worse, they were openly accepting of gross immorality in their midst—perhaps under the guise of being “tolerant.”
This is something Paul had warned them about in a previous letter (1 Corinthians is actually his second letter to them; see 1 Cor. 5:9). Paul wrote in this letter he was grieved he had to again come to them as little ones who needed to be fed with pure milk rather than solid food. They should have progressed in their faith, but they had not.
His solution to the problems they were facing was to encourage them to pursue wisdom—not Paul’s wisdom or Apollos’s wisdom, but the wisdom of God. The wisdom of God, he said, is foolishness to the world (that the God-man came to be crucified for sinners, making two people one). And this wisdom was hidden in ages past he tells us (he mentions the same thing in Ephesians 3).
We, of course, can discern this great mystery because we have the Spirit of God. In 1 Corinthians 2, Paul wrote:
14But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. 15But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one. 16For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he will instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ.
This is the question I want to address. What is the mind of Christ? T.W. Hunt wrote an entire devotional series on this single phrase. And so much more could be written. In fact, I have spent the better part of my life in pursuit of it, and I’m reminded daily (even this morning) how very far I have to go to let that mind dominate my thinking. I fail daily and think to myself, “That is not the mind of Christ.”
The mind of Christ is dominated by the Spirit. It is:
- A mind dedicated to loving God in every pursuit. Christ pursued his relationship with the Father with singular devotion. He had no place to lay his head, no riches, no earthly power. He pursued the Father in simplicity. Perhaps I, in order to achieve this, should consider what I can cut away or suspend in order to “singularize”—my word—my devotion to the wisdom of God. That doesn’t mean taking a vow of poverty or something like it. But it does mean I should cease my pursuit of “things” in place of my pursuit of God.
- A mind which perceives evil and avoids it. How often does Satan challenge our eyes and our ears? How often does our flesh speak to us and encourage us to fulfill its needs? Even things which are “good” by the world’s standards may just be the things from which we must flee. The mind of Christ is a shrewd judge of the spiritual character of all things and the voices competing for our attention. Those voices are not only the things which obviously oppose God, but even those who formerly claimed to have “tasted the heavenly gift” (Hebrews 6:4) and now smirk, always smugly self-confident, and tell us it’s not really real.
- A mind which discerns (or appraises) circumstances through the lens of the Spirit (God’s wisdom exemplified on the cross, his sacrificial love). When faced with choices, I am to appraise those choices to see which one carries with it the sacrificial weight of my own cross. In other words, I must not pursue what is best for me. I must sacrifice what is best for me in order to achieve what is best for Him and His kingdom.
- A mind interested in the benefit of others. You may remember the “I am second” campaign. I had friends who participated in that, and they all had wonderful testimonies. But the mind of Christ doesn’t say “I am second.” It says, “I am third, or fifth, or twelfth.” However many people God has placed in your life to care for, it says, “I will be last so their needs may be met first,” or “I will be the last so others may live.”
In these days of pandemic and political strife, I wonder how different things could be if our brothers and sisters in Christ again adopted this posture and reminded one another of our daily failings to display the mind of Christ. That doesn’t mean stepping away from the world and hiding away like medieval monks so we can perfect it in isolation. On the contrary, it means engaging in every sphere of life in this world, but doing it in a way where all that comes in and all that goes out of us is filtered through the mind of Christ in us.