“The last thing, brothers, is that whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is upright, whatever is holy, whatever is lovely, whatever is praiseworthy, if there is virtue and if there is praise, think on these things.”
Nobility is a term that we do not use much on this side of the pond anymore and thus the notion of why Nobles were referred to as “noble” is largely lost in our culture. The Greek word that we translate as noble is semno/ß (semnos) and it refers to a person that is dignified, serious about what it is that they are setting out to do, and worthy of respect. Another way to word it is that those who are semno/ß (semnos) are above reproach when it comes to their integrity — they live out the beliefs that they hold. At one time in history, these things were the earmarks of those who were considered nobles…not just their bloodlines. Sadly, as with many things in this world, we focus on that which is easier rather than striving toward that which is beyond our mortal grasp. We emphasize the bloodlines and not the character.
Indeed, this notion is not new and is what Paul was reacting to when he wrote that “not everyone who is from Israel is Israel” (Romans 9:6), and “not all of the children of flesh are children of God but the children of promise are considered as descendants” (Romans 9:8), and again, “for if you are Christ’s then you are Abraham’s offspring; heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:29).
So, what does it mean for the Christian to set their minds on noble things? It means that the Christian is called to set their mind on striving to be noble in every area of their life…the idea that their life would have fidelity toward the teachings of God. It is the notion, as Paul regularly applies to himself, that if people strive to imitate us they will be growing to imitate Christ. Thus, the nobility of the Kingdom of God is not rooted in a bloodline but in faith and in the character of Jesus Christ…he is the true Noble who demonstrates to us what it means to live with nobility — a nobility toward which we are called to intentionally strive.