“Be transformed by the renewing of your mind..” Romans 12.2
We Western Christians tend to focus on Christian mental content – theology, ministry ideas, or new models for this and that. What we are doing in ministry is mostly not working – either in the personal transformation area or in outreach. So, we look for yet more new content.
Another thing we do is study the Bible, looking for transformative content and keys to growth. How different this is to the Church Jesus birthed. One major difference is that the early churches did not initially have New Testaments – because they were still being written and not yet widely distributed. For many it was a “church without a Bible”.
So, for instance, what would Roman Christians make of Romans 12.2 – not the same as we do. We think the verse means to take into our minds as much biblical or theological content as we can. The idea is this will nourish us spiritually and inform us to make better Christian decisions. Roman Christians would definitely not think this way. They would know Paul had just spent most of Romans chapter 8 talking about the “mind” he refers to in Romans 12. Naturally they would think back to this, whereas we bring in a whole lot of Western worldview stuff about the mind and brain and fill Paul’s reference with it.
In Roman’s 8, the mind Paul talks of is “the mind of the Spirit” in contrast to “the mind of the flesh”, verse 5f. And, the “the mind of the Spirit is life and peace”. This is the “mind” referred to in Romans 12 and is the mind which transforms.
For an incredible and almost unbelievable commentary to the topic of “mind” by Paul see 1 Corinthians 2.6f. There he clearly says it is the Spirit who populates our minds with content , “no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him, but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit”. Unbelievably, this revelation or spiritual wisdom (v12) is called by Paul, “ the mind of Christ” in verse 16 – and he says ordinary Corinthian Christians have it. Amazing.
No, Romans 12.2 does not refer to transformation by our own mental work but to transformation by the Spirit. Truth is relational, not content of Christian ideas. The latter is something we do (a Christian work) the former is something God does in us, “ in words taught by the Spirit” – 8.13. At least that is how it was before any Christian Gospels or Epistles were written and circulated.
So, transformation of the mind is by Jesus Spirit and his content in Romans 12.2 – and no other source.