2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
1901 ASV Translation:
2 And be not fashioned according to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
I. Paul's "Appeal".
A. This summons is a "parakalesis" as distinct from a "command".
B. This summons is addressed to "brethren", effectively taking it out of the range of the message of "justification by faith".
C. This summons is rooted in a legitimate perception of what Paul calls "the mercies of God".
D. This summons is "to" a sacrifice characterized by three major qualities.
E. This summons includes a very specific follow-through.
1. The follow-through involves a rejection of what Paul's translators call "this world" and what Peter calls "the former lusts" (1 Peter 1:14).
2. The follow-through also involves the embracing of a process called "transformation by the renewal of the mind".
a. The word translated "transformed" is used four times in the New Testament and the other three are enlightening. Matthew 17:2 and Mark 9:2 both use the word to describe what happened to Jesus on what is called "the Mount of Transfiguration" (the word is translated there "transfigured"). In those texts, Jesus' "appearance" was altered so that His face and garments shone as though a brilliant light was shining through from the inside. In 2 Corinthians3:18 Paul wrote that we are "changed" into Christ's image in stages as we behold Him with an open face. This is what Paul was seeking in Romans 12:2 -- the transformation of character so that it harmonizes with that which makes function in the Eternal Day possible.
1) At issue here is this: the "transfiguration" was, most fundamentally, a releasing of the "natural Glory" that was being veiled behind "flesh" so that its brilliance began to shine from the inside through to the outside.
2) According to Paul's theology, God put His Spirit within our bodies so that the real transformation of regeneration would be from the inside out and would progress incrementally.
b. The issue of a "renewal" of the "mind" is the alteration of the "mind" to a state in which that which was imposed upon it over one's time of life is no longer there and a wholly different set of mental principles by which thinking takes place is now "in place". This is in direct contradiction to the idea of Romans 1:28 where, because of determined opposition, God "gave them up to a reprobate mind". The issue of "process" is in view in both texts, but "renewal" is upbeat and positive and "reprobation" is negative and viewed as a downward spiral in which increasingly destructive principles of thought are in control.
1) The term for "renewal" is only used by Paul in the New Testament and it is used by him only twice.
a) The other text in which Paul addresses "renewal" is Titus 3:5 where he attributes our "salvation" to "mercy" as accomplishing a "washing of regeneration" and a "renewal by the Holy Spirit".
b) When we combine Paul's two-fold references to "renewal", we have, on the one side, a "renewal" of the mind, and, on the other side, a "renewal" accomplished by the Holy Spirit. This maintains the biblical balance of the divine/human reality of salvation wherein the human alteration is accomplished by the Divine Spirit. It is a genuine, but unseen and unseeable, reality. The Holy Spirit does an actual set of actions that produce a genuine "renewal" of the person(s) upon whom He acts. But, what He does is hidden from human view, not because humans cannot see the activities of the "renewed", but because humans cannot see the drivers of such activities. What one might be inclined to call a "work of the Spirit" may, in fact, be a production of the flesh that is intended to be a deceitful hypocrisy and what one might be inclined to attribute to an "unrenewed" person may simply be an element of the flesh that the Spirit simply has not addressed. Thus, the work of the Spirit is not only indeterminate because it is inward and spiritual and hidden, its apparent absence does not necessarily indicate the absence of that Spirit.
2) The use of "mind" is complicated. That it involves the brain is highly likely, but that it is beyond the brain is also highly likely. The "mind" is that functional capacity that lies behind our choices and actions. It does not empower those choices and actions as Paul graphically illustrated in 7:23-25, but it is involved as he also indicated in 1:28. There can be a radical break between that with which the "mind" agrees and that which proceeds out of the body. But there can also be an immersion of the mind into that which proceeds out of the body. Thus, any genuine "renewal" will not come solely by a mental process.
a) Even in 1:28 Paul declares that there is a "Spirit" behind the efficacy of the "mind" that is determinate: God (the Spirit) gave them over to a reprobate mind -- an action that would have not been possible if the "mind" was the crucial entity of "power".
b) Then in 7:23-25 he actually declares the impotency of the "mind".
c) The combination of these texts reveals this: when men "resist" God, He reacts by turning them over to the actual power of their behavior and when men "agree" with God, men are "delivered from this body of death by Jesus Christ." This effectively translates into this reality: man's "spirit" is subject to greater spirits. Paul even taught this in Ephesians 2:2 (negatively) and in Galatians 5:16 (positively). But, this subjection is related to the function of the mind because that to which God delivered man in 1:28 is called "a reprobate mind" so that men "do" according to its "unseemliness". By the same token, the biblical emphasis upon "faith" as a mental function indicates that God's Spirit acts when men "believe" the Truth and "mentally" choose to put what is "at stake" in the "belief" issue atrisk.
c. It is interesting that Paul did not call it a "transformation of the heart". In the Bible, the "heart" has to do with decisions about what is "valuable" and the "mind" has to do with decisions about how to pursue the valuable. Thus, the "mind" is caught up with the issues of "Faith" and what is True in the pursuit of "Love" (i.e., "what is Valuable").