Questions From Readers
● At Ephesians 4:23, what is meant by being ‘made new in the force actuating the mind’?—U.S.A.
After discussing the need to ‘put away the old personality which conforms to one’s former course of conduct,’ the apostle Paul wrote to Christians at Ephesus: “You should be made new in the force actuating your mind.” (Eph. 4:20-23) Evidently, therefore, the ‘new force’ that should actuate our minds as Christians must be one that contrasts with the inclination of the mind belonging to the “old personality.” This “force” must be an inclination, disposition, or dominant attitude to do that which is in harmony with God’s will.
The Bible shows us that, as imperfect creatures, both our heart and mind have an inclination toward bad, from birth onward. What can this lead to? With reference to people of the nations, the apostle Paul noted that they “walk in the unprofitableness of their minds, while they are in darkness mentally, and alienated from the life that belongs to God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the insensibility of their hearts. Having come to be past all moral sense, they gave themselves over to loose conduct to work uncleanness of every sort with greediness.” (Eph. 4:17-19) Similarly, Paul reminded the Christians at Colossae of the change they had made, saying: “You who were once alienated and enemies because your minds were on the works that were wicked, he now has again reconciled by means of that one’s [Jesus’] fleshly body through his death.”—Col. 1:21, 22.
The Bible calls one who follows this wrong inclination a “physical” (literally, “soulical”) man, as distinguished from a “spiritual” man. The “physical” man’s mind is inclined toward materialistic things, toward satisfying his fleshly desires and passions. (1 Cor. 2:14, 15) The force that activates his mind has been formed in him in part by inheritance and in part by his reaction to the things he has been taught and has experienced. When a matter is presented to him, perhaps involving a moral decision, this force pushes or inclines his mind in a materialistic or fleshly direction. What should we do if we find ourselves inclining this way?
By a study of God’s Word and by the operation of God’s spirit, this activating force or dominant attitude can be changed so that it is inclined in a right direction. In this process our hearts clearly come into play. The heart motivates the mind in the effort to gain the right information and then to apply it. We thus can come to have “the mind of Christ,” who was at all times activated by the proper force, his mental inclination or dominant attitude always being spiritual. (1 Cor. 2:16) Then, whatever matters are presented to us, our minds will be activated and directed toward a proper spiritual course by a ‘new force,’ a new dominant attitude, inclination or disposition.
If we, as Christians, are to be able to resist pressures toward wrongdoing, we must continue to develop a dominant inclination to do that which is pleasing in God’s eyes. This calls for continual study of God’s Word, association with others of like precious faith, persevering in prayer and constant application of the things learned. As a result the individual’s heart and mind will come to be in full agreement that nothing should be allowed to jeopardize his standing with the Creator. Appreciating Jehovah’s love, his dominant attitude inclines him to respond to it in loyal obedience. He realizes that such obedience is right and leads to the greatest blessings, for God’s law serves to ensure the welfare of all concerned.
Hence, when confronted with temptation, the person’s dominant attitude will push him away from the temptation. He will not entertain thoughts and desires about how pleasurable it might be to take a course of action that he knows to be wrong. He will not reason that, well, he is weak and ‘God is very merciful.’ Rather, his reaction will be much like that of Joseph when Potiphar’s wife shamelessly invited him to have sex relations with her. Joseph immediately replied: “How could I commit this great badness and actually sin against God?”—Gen. 39:9.