“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.”
There is one more aspect of Paul’s counsel to us here that we need to dwell upon…something of which we have spoken repeatedly throughout this letter that Paul writes. Paul writes of these things that are good and holy and praiseworthy and states that we must think on these things. Paul does not speak of how these things might make us feel or of how these things might move us. He says that we are to think on these matters — we are to reason them through and apply our minds in an orderly way to the ideas conveyed within that which is good and holy and praiseworthy.
The word that Paul uses here is logi/zomai (logizomai), and it means to come to a conclusion through a rational process. It refers to the notion of looking at all of the options that vie for our attention in a given area, to ponder them in our minds, and then to come to a reasoned decision about them. This is not a matter of feeling or of good wishes; this is not a matter of what emotions some experience might stir up within me; this is a matter of reasoned thought.
And if there is something that the church has abandoned over the past several decades, it is reason. Often worship services are all about how one feels. Often worship is only understood in the context of those happy songs that might be sung and one neglects that sitting under the instruction of God’s Word is also a vital aspect of worship. One also often forgets, when only the bouncy, happy songs are sung, that the Prophet-King, David, wrote more laments than he did bouncy-happy songs (not a surprise when you think about the fallen world in which we live!).
Even when it comes to doctrine…which simply is taken from the Latin word, doctrina, which means, “teaching,” people fail to use their reason. Every new idea is evaluated on the basis of preference and the feeling that it evokes rather than evaluating ideas as one rigorously reasons through the Word of God. This reasoning about the Word of God was the practice of the wise Bereans when Paul first showed up in their city (Acts 17:10-12). Shall this not be our practice as well? Woe to the church today that only moves only on the basis of their passions. Woe to the church whose feelings and emotions rule over their minds. For God has not called us to feel these things, he has called us to reason about them…to think them through…and to govern our passions with our minds and what we know is right.
There is no doubt that emotions have their place in the Christian life. God has made us with every expression of life that we attribute to the passions. Yet, the place of the passions is to be governed by the mind. The passions must be reminded by the mind what is right and true or the passions will descend into utter despair and irrationality. The mind must also defend the passions against the seduction of feeling, at least in the way feelings are often manipulated by those leading in worship or worse, from those leading into hedonistic error.
Further, the church in the west has dominantly bought the lie that there is a separation between our spiritual life and the life we live in every other context. The lie states that while reason is reserved for non-spiritual matters. Some even fear that they will lose their faith if they reason about what that which they say they believe! “If it makes you content and fulfilled,” the lie of the enemy states, “go on and have your religion, but keep it out of the marketplace.”
Yet, I tell you that Paul says that we ought to reason about our beliefs and further, if we do, it will mature and strengthen the beliefs we have! Further, Paul tells us that our religion belongs in the marketplace — do you not think that while Paul was making tents in Corinth that he was not “reasoning with” those for whom he made tents, to show the Jew that Jesus was the Christ from the scriptures and to show the Greek that Jesus was ultimately the reasonable redeemer whom we all need? Dear ones, do not give up on your minds. Do not “blindly believe” what is taught in church or in the Bible, but believe because you have reasoned them through, guided and instructed by the whole council of God. “Think on these things,” Paul says, and it will help keep you from error.
“according to my eager expectation and hope that in nothing will I be ashamed, but to be outspoken in all things, now and always, that Christ would be magnified in my body — whether through life or through death.”
Paul begins this verse with a fascinating word: ajpokaradoki/a (apokaradokia). We tend to translate the term as “eager expectation” when rendering it in English. Literally, the term means, “thoughts from the pinnacle). Perhaps the closest idea to that in the English vernacular is that we talk about “mountain top” experiences as being the best and most wonderful experiences of our lives. Well, imagine that Paul is talking about “mountaintop thoughts” as a parallel idea and you will find yourself getting very close to the meaning of this term. What makes this term particularly fascinating is that in ancient literature, it is only found within Christian writings…or perhaps I could present it this way, within Christianity alone can you find the basis for an eager expectancy, for a mountain-top thought.
Our thoughts are wonderful things. They transport us out of our circumstances and remind us that there are better things that await. Our thoughts, when grounded in the promises of God’s word, are often a corrective to our feelings and our fears…those things that often haunt us at night when no one else is around. And when we rest our thoughts in God and in his glory, we are able to face both life and death with boldness and confidence. As we read through this letter together, make a special note about how much emphasis Paul places upon his thinking and thoughts; in the world we live in, one that spends most of its time talking about feelings, you might be surprised at how often Paul focuses on thought and reason.
And thus, as he thinks expectantly toward the promise of Christ’s glory after death, Paul’s prayer and hope (understanding that hope, too, incorporates the idea of confident expectation) is that he will do nothing that would dishonor his Lord…even in suffering…so that Christ is magnified in his body at all times and in every way. Oh, how our world would be different were every Christian to embrace such a mindset in life. May it be that we all strive toward that end.