“For who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:16).
When Paul wrote about having the “mind of Christ”, what exactly did he mean? Was he talking about himself, using the imperial “we”? Or was he thinking of the believers generally? “Have this mind among yourselves which you have in Christ Jesus, who though he was in the form of God did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:5).
Looking at the context in 1 Corinthians 2, we see that the initial use of the personal pronoun “I” changes to “we” and “us” later in the chapter: “And I brethren, when I came to you… however we speak wisdom among those who are mature… but God has revealed them to us through His Spirit” (vv. 1,4,10). Possibly, Paul is referring to both himself and the ecclesia. The apostle’s selection and training leads one to believe that he had the mind of Christ. After the Lord Jesus appeared to him he did not consult with “flesh and blood” for guidance; he relied solely upon the Spirit (Gal. 1:16). In this regard, he is like Jesus who was taught by the Father: “I speak to the world those things which I heard from Him… for all things that I heard from my Father I have made known to you” (John 8:26-29; 15:15).
Considering the mind of Christ
Do we, either individually or collectively, have “the mind of Christ”? Before answering the question, we must understand the meaning of the phrase.
God’s will and purpose so dominated the thinking of Jesus, that it ruled every aspect of his life. “I always do what is pleasing to him” (John 8:29). The zenith of this mindset resulted in his intense prayer, “Father, if thou art willing remove this cup from me; nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done” (Luke 22:42). There was no turning from the task ahead.
After his arrest, improper trial, and cruel humiliating treatment, Jesus was taken “like a lamb that is led to the slaughter” (Isa. 53:7). There, at Golgotha, the sinless Son of God was crucified. Rough dirty spikes were driven through his hands and feet, and into the stake. Then that stake was dropped into a hole. So commenced the crucial last hours of the mortal life of Jesus.
The people at the foot of the cross, mocked him: “He saved others, he can not save himself. If he is the King of the Jews: let him come down from the cross and we will believe in him. He trusts in God; let him deliver him now, if he desires him; for he said, ‘I am the Son of God’” (Matt. 27:41-43).
Words spoken from the cross
It is in the response to this totally unjust and undeserved mental and physical torture, that the mind of Christ was fully revealed. Any other mortal would have reacted with anger and a longing for vengeance. But this was the Son of God, and the seven utterances that proceeded from his lips during his ordeal are eloquently revealing. They show how his mind was working throughout the horrendous experience.
The first utterance from the cross was a prayer: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). As he prayed for the soldiers who had brutally beaten and mocked him, the mind of the suffering Son demonstrated the same forgiving characteristic as his Father.
Are our minds capable of asking God to forgive those who have wronged us, under the best of circumstances, let alone under rejection, stress and pain? Peter declares that Jesus “did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but trusted to him who judges justly” (1 Pet. 2:23).
Would Peter be able to say that about us?
The ultimate selfless concern
The second utterance — “Assuredly, I say to you today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43) — was spoken to the repentant criminal beside him. The mind of Jesus was so in tune with his role as the redeemer, that even in his extremity, he could reach out to succor the dying. The incident shows that it is never too late to affirm one’s conviction about the Lord’s gracious offer of mercy. The man died alongside Jesus, and he will also live with him. Do we offer the hope of life to dying individuals?
The third and last time the Lord spoke to an individual from the cross was the moving entrusting of his beloved mother to John: “He said to her ‘Woman, behold your son!’ Then he said to his disciple, ‘behold your mother’” (John 19:26,27). Despite the searing pain, the Lord had the welfare of his human nurturer on his mind and made provision for her. When we are at the point of death, will we be capable of such selfless concern?
Quoting Psalm 22
Darkness had descended when Jesus cried: “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” It was the fourth saying and means, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46). The margin shows that it is a quote from Psalm 22. Interestingly, many think that the Lord recited the complete psalm, as a way of stimulating the understanding of those in spiritual darkness.
Giving credence to this suggestion, both the fifth and six sayings are taken from Psalm 22. The former, “I thirst” (John 19:28), being the equivalent to verse 15 of the Psalm: “My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue cleaves to my jaws.” The Savior was desperately dehydrated, yet there is another level of thought possible. Jesus had taught: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness” (Matt. 5:6). Now he was thirsty for the completion of his own righteousness, in the knowledge that his obedience unto death was the way of bringing righteousness to his brethren.
Crucifying the flesh
In the sixth saying Jesus declared that the work his Father had given him was accomplished. The flesh, “with its passions and desires” (Gal. 5:24), was crucified. Victory was his, and summoning what little strength he had left, he drew a labored breath and gave the exulted cry: “It is finished” (John 19:30). This is surely the equivalent of the last verse of Psalm 22: “He has done this” (NKJ).
The seventh and final recorded communication is different in that it was spoken to the Father: “Father, into thy hand I commit my spirit” (Luke 23:46). These words of Jesus show the ultimate act of trust and dependence upon his God.
Will we develop this kind of mind so that, when death approaches, we too can confidently leave all behind, trusting in Him who judges justly?
Setting aside earthly thinking
What should be our reaction to the “mind of Christ” as revealed in the word of God? The answer comes from the scriptures: “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth… Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus” (Col. 3:2, Phil. 2:1-8, NKJ).
The mind of Jesus had developed from a deep and close relationship with his Father. He learned godliness from the scriptures and constantly prayed for guidance and more understanding. His mindset on the cross was to pray for the ignorant, offer hope to the dying, care for the helpless, recite scripture in an open rebuke and appeal to those listening and watching in darkness. Doubtless, he prayed for them to consider seriously the consequences of the unfolding events.
So we repeat the question asked earlier: do we as a body of believers have “the mind of Christ” in our midst? It is a condition that we must seek to attain, by having Christ as our head. On an individual basis, we must be aware of the need for self-analysis; we must ask: “Do I have the ‘mind of Christ’? Have I desired and allowed myself to be taught by the Father? Have I listened to His voice and absorbed His message?”
At the judgment seat, if the faithful judge sees in us a reflection of his own mind, then he will never direct at us these words: “I do not know where you come from; depart from me all you workers of iniquity!” (Luke 13:27). “I never knew you” (Matt. 7:23). Rather, in his merciful kindness he will say: “Well done, good and faithful servant… Enter into the joy of your master” (Matt. 25:21).
Shall we be with him in that day to share paradise eternally? We make the answer now by developing in ourselves the mind of Christ! That mind will direct our walk and ensure that our behavior is well pleasing to God.
Norman Luff, Brantford, ON