Last week we looked at the 3 questions you must ask every time you do Bible study (Saturation). As a reminder, the reason we use the 3 questions is not to create a legalized format for how to do Bible study, rather, it is an avenue for the Holy Spirit to guide us toward understanding, wisdom, and application of the passage. If you haven’t read through that post, I highly encourage you to do so before reading this one.
So lets take the 3 questions and work through a simple example on how to practically use them in study. Go grab your Bible, open to Philippians 2.5, and lets get started.
Philippians 2.5: Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus …
As you will hear over and over, context is absolutely critical to Bible study. You can often learn more through the context than from the words within the passage itself. You MUST look at the context – what comes before and after the passage – to truly understand what is going on.
The context for Philippians 2.5 is 2.1-4. If you wanted to keep expanding the context, you’ll notice that the first word in chapter two is “Therefore” which means everything up to that point (chapter one) has been culminating to this conclusion in 2.1-4. But for the sake of time lets look at 2.1-4:
Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. 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.
The focus of this passage is all about turning from a focus on yourself to that upon others. Have the same mind, be of one accord, not have any selfish ambition or pride, but rather with humility consider others better than yourself. Don’t look out for your interests, but have a life where you continually look out for the interest of others.
This is a tremendous passage itself (and one day we will do a study on it) but lets simplify the context to a brief idea: as Christians we are to have unity and oneness (same mind) as we live given, poured-out, and selfless – meeting the needs others around us.
1. What does it say? (Observation)
We have briefly looked at context, and now we are going to make observations about Philippians 2.5. Remember, this is often where you spend the majority of your time, so its okay to go slow and really dive into the passage. Here are a few basic observations I made on the text:
- The emphasis on the passage is on having a “mind”
- This mind is also translated “attitude” in some translations
- The “mind” we are to have is the same “mind” Jesus had
- “Let this” suggests that it is a possibility … I have a choice as to whether or not I want it
- “This mind” – again it is not any mind but a very specific type/kind (that which Jesus had)
- “Be in you” – obviously this has to do with something inside my life, not an external thing I put on my shelf and look at
- Question: what does Paul mean when he says “mind/attitude”?
- Question: how do I get this mind of Christ?
- Question: what would a life look like once they had the mind of Christ?
By going to an online resource like BlueLetterBible, you can type in the passage and by clicking on the “C” to the left of the passage, open up the Greek Lexicon and gain a few more observations:
- The word “mind” is the Greek word “phroneo”
- The tense of the word is: Present, Imperative, Passive
— Present: happening right now
— Imperative: it’s a command
— Passive: the subject receives the action of the verb; the subject is not responsible for the action
* Active: “The boy hit the ball” – boy is responsible for hitting the ball
* Passive: “The ball hit the boy” – the boy received the action of the ball
- The word “phroneo” has the idea of mind, attitude, focus, life’s orientation – in other words, not merely how you think, what you feel, etc but rather the entirety of who you are, what your whole life is orientated toward, the focus
- The word “phroneo” is the same word used twice in Philippians 2.2: “fulfill my joy by being like-phroneo, having the same love, being of one accord, of one phroneo“
2. What does it mean? (Interpretation)
When you step back and think through the observations and its context, you begin to see what Paul was trying to say to those in Philippi.
Christians are to have the same phroneo – which doesn’t mean they all like the same kind of pizza or wear their hair the same way – but they do have the same focus, attitude, mindset, and life orientation. Moreover, the specific phroneo Christians are to have is to the exact phroneo of Christ Jesus. It is His focus, attitude, mindset, and orientation they are to have every moment of every day. And the passage is emphasizing the fact that they can’t produce this mindset! It is in the passive, which means that they receive the mind of Christ, they don’t earn or strive after it.
The description of Jesus’ phroneo is found in Philippians 2.6-8 (context) and focuses on His humility, obedience, servant-hearted nature, rollup your sleeves and pour your life out attitude. This seems to be a similar concept to what Paul wrote the Christians in 2.1-4 about how the attitude/mind they are to have is one of never think about yourself but rather pour your life out, consider others better than yourself, continually look out for each other’s interests.
To shrink it down into one phrase: What was going on in the life of Jesus (His mind, attitude, focus, orientation) is to be going on within the life of a Christian – they cannot produce or earn it, but when they embrace Jesus, they can’t help but be filled with His phroneo … which is demonstrated in a life that is not focused on themselves but is continually rolling up their sleeves to bleed, suffer, die, and meet the needs of the world around them.
3. What does it change? (Application)
Okay, lets make it personal. If I take the concept and apply it to my life, I could read it as this:
Do I have the phroneo of Christ? Is what was going on in the life of Jesus – never-ever think about yourself but constantly pour your life out for the world – going on in me? Have I embraced Jesus to the point where His Spirit has so captured me that my heart beats with His passion, my mind is filled with His thoughts, my attitude is replaced with His, my focus has become Jesus and now I see the world with His eyes and I can’t help myself but allow Him to spill and spend my life for others?
Or am I self-focused? Do I guard and protect my rights and possessions? Do I struggle with giving my life, time, and money away to others? Where does the majority of my focus go throughout the day – on me or others? If I allowed someone to have full access to my life: peaking into my checkbook, how I spend my “downtime,” the focus of my inner thoughts … would they see a life obsessed with Jesus, wanting Him to use my life as a vessel to pour out His love and life through?
If I find I don’t have His phroneo, would I be willing to surrender, repent, and embrace Jesus? I can’t strive for or earn His phroneo, I must receive it.
While we went rather quickly through the three questions, I encourage you to find a passage and begin working your way through it. Make observations, ask questions, seek to go deeper than a mere read-through. Allow the Spirit to reveal Himself to you, and I promise, it will radically change your life.
Question: What questions about Saturation Bible Study arise as you work through the 3 questions? Ask them in the comments below.