Philippians 2:5 states, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” Does this mean that Christians no longer exercise free moral agency?


Just the opposite is true! Christians still have to make a continuing choice to obey God and to reject the wrong way, and the Bible fully explains this most remarkable and foundational truth!

As a beginning point, we need to understand that God’s intentions have always been that mankind would ultimately be given the sustainable option to choose a path leading to life and reject the one leading to death. Chapters two and three of Genesis recount the epic account of how Adam and Eve chose to disobey God. From this record we see very clearly that God gave man an opportunity to choose for himself (compare verses 16-17).

In another time, after having selected the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as His chosen people, God, nonetheless, required that the people choose to follow His way and to reject the wrong way (compare Deuteronomy 30:11-20):

“‘(Verse 15) See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil… (Verse 19) I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing, therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live.'”

In subsequent times, the Old Testament reveals the contrast of those who did choose to follow God and those who did not—importantly, this record also shows the consequences for these choices.

Following the ministry of Jesus Christ, God established His Church, and He inspired His ministers to teach the people. What was taught was obedience to God, and we have Peter’s dramatic answer to people who heard him preach:

“Then Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit’” (Acts 2:38).

Some from among this group chose to do exactly as they were instructed, and because they did, God gave them His Holy Spirit, which enabled them to obey Him more fully. Paul powerfully taught that this gift was the vital key that would allow mankind to live God’s way:

“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, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His” (Romans 8:5-9).

Carefully note that in these verses it is revealed that the Spirit of BOTH the Father and of His Son dwells in those who have repented and who have become obedient to God (compare John 14:23).

What, we may ask, is the difference once we have the Holy Spirit?

The answer lies in the WAY in which we live! Without God’s Holy Spirit we are without the power to live according to His Will. Paul describes this difference by showing that godly qualities are produced—what he calls “fruit”—if we “walk in the Spirit”; while if we engage in “the works of the flesh,” we “will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Compare Galatians 5:16-26).

A careful study of the above cited reference shows that Paul is addressing Christians, and he is appealing to them to continuously keep themselves in check regarding how they either use or reject God’s guidance through His Holy Spirit. Here is the point—Christians must choose to obey God, and they must continuously choose to overcome sin while they live in the flesh.

The resounding and repeatedly emphasized message from Jesus Christ to the Church of God is this—that each one called to the Truth of God must OVERCOME! (Compare Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 26; 3:5, 12, 21). Quite plainly, the Bible summarizes the task of mankind in this way: “‘He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son’” (Revelation 21:7). Additionally, we have this concluding statement from Jesus: “‘And behold I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me to give to every one according to his work’” (Revelation 22:12).

What can we take from these references? It is that even with the help of God’s Holy Spirit, we must still choose to overcome sin; we must choose to allow Christ living His life in us; and we must choose to allow Him to produce in us works worthy of reward in the kingdom of God! We must choose to do this! It remains our choice throughout!

But we need HELP!

Help is provided through the Holy Spirit, and it is what Paul referenced when he said, “LET this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus…” (Philippians 2:5).

In an earlier letter, Paul shows that we are TAUGHT “spiritual things” through the Spirit (compare 1 Corinthians 2:10-16—especially, verses 12 and 13). Jesus promised to continue to help His disciples following His resurrection through the power of God’s Holy Spirit: “‘I will not leave you orphans, I will come to you’” (John 14:18).

We are responsible to choose to use the Holy Spirit. Timothy, a minister of Jesus Christ, was encouraged in this regard:

“Therefore I remind you to STIR UP the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of POWER and of LOVE and of a SOUND MIND” (2 Timothy 1:6-7).

In another place, Paul warns all: “Do not QUENCH the Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 5:19).

Taking action to “stir up” or avoiding an action that might “quench” the Holy Spirit involves our choosing.

Many have been erroneously taught that one only has to “confess” and “believe in” Jesus Christ, and that nothing more is required. This would imply that Jesus Christ continues to somehow sanction wrong behavior after “conversion”. However, Jesus Christ will no more sanction sin now than He did when He lived in the flesh (Compare 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15). Furthermore, even after having received the Holy Spirit, we are warned about thinking we can take Christ’s role in our lives for granted:

“For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame” (Hebrews 6:4-6).

The fact is, Christians do still commit sins—something they must continue to overcome, and they are taught how to do so:

“If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us. My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world” (1 John 1:8-10; 2:1-2).

In addressing the two paths of living that all people face, Jesus said:

“‘Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it’” (Matthew 7:13-14).

This parable again points to the fact that individuals must choose and then continue to choose the right way—a way of resisting and overcoming sin along with learning to become completely obedient to God.

Paul shows that we must willingly learn—throughout our converted life—to think like Jesus Christ:

“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ…” (2 Corinthians 10:3-5).

This statement means more than us bringing our own thoughts in line to be obedient to Christ. On our own, we simply can’t do that. Rather, the greater implication is that we must choose to submit to allowing Christ to live His life in us through the power of God—the Holy Spirit of God the Father and of Jesus Christ! Paul knew this and it was the basis for his preaching the gospel:

“…and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith [of] Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith” (Philippians 3:9).

This point is further explained in his teaching of the Gentiles:

“… the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints. To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:26-27).


“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith [of] the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).

Neither the Father nor the Son seeks to “possess” human kind against their will. Rather, we must choose to obey God, and following conversion we must continue to choose to grow, to overcome and to conquer wrong thoughts and actions (compare 2 Peter 3:18).

Ultimately, the choice—the responsibility—is ours! We must choose. Let us all learn to make the right choice of choosing life!

Lead Writer: Dave Harris

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