A Worthy New Year’s Resolution - φρονέω

A Worthy New Year’s Resolution - φρονέω

Written by: Larry Elliott

Many years ago, as part of my theological education I was taught how to do a biblical word study. The idea was to learn the meaning and nuances of a specific Greek or Hebrew word in an exhaustive way. It was a daunting, detailed and lengthy task requiring the answering of multiple questions/steps:

  • Find and categorize all usages of the word in the NT and OT
  • Find usage of the word outside of the NT and OT
  • Using Greek and Hebrew lexicons, record different definitions
  • Compare the word with its synonyms
  • Compare how different versions translate the word
  • Determine the meaning of the word in the text and context you are studying 

Today, doing such a study simply requires you to access any of a number of web resources (NET Bible, for example), click a couple of buttons and you have the benefit of this task in one succinct definition. Amazing and so helpful!

I have multiple pages of word studies with little “bumps” on the back of the paper. The bumps are from a typewriter – the precursor to word processing and today found primarily in museums across the country. 😊

In recent weeks we (PHEFC) have studied several passages that contain a specific and important word in scripture. It occurred multiple times in both our study of Colossians 3 and Romans 8. It is the word we translate “set your mind” – φρονέω in Greek, pronounced “fron-e’-o” and is a concept that speaks to the incessant conflict between our worldly perspective/desires and our eternal perspective/desires.

In the N.T. it is translated and/or defined variably as: attitude, views that you hold, be intent on, be mentally disposed, way of thinking, to be in agreement, think the same way, to set one’s mind, what fills one’s mind.

In the O.T. it is used negatively as folly, lack of understanding, fool, simple, denier of God, idol worshippers.

It is not difficult to see the contrast that scripture establishes between the mindset that we are born into and the mind set on Christ.

Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” Colossians 3:2,3

“For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot.” Romans 8:5-7

Consider a summary:
Mind set on flesh = death
Mind set on Spirit = life & peace
Mind set on flesh = hostile to God
Mind set on Spirit = hidden in Christ

My definition: Φρονέω – one’s pervading mental habitude, one’s customary, predictable mindset that dictates his response to everything else. THIS is the response that scripture repeatedly calls us to. A response that views all of life through a biblical lens that focuses my heart on what God is doing around me, through me and in me. The tense and voice of the language suggests we are to “keep on doing this!”

I have never been particularly fond of New Year’s Resolutions. I have found them to be generally lame, self-serving considerations that are quickly abandoned when they become challenging or tedious. But if anyone were inclined to make a New Year’s Resolution for 2021, I would commend this as a worthy candidate! “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.”

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