Renewing the Mind

New Life in Christ

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Ephesians 4:23 “And be renewed in the spirit of your mind.”

“Right thinking about the gospel produces right living in the gospel. It is truth, not activity, which makes Christianity distinct. We cannot ignore the link between gospel doctrine and gospel duty if we hope to approach genuine Christian life and successful Christian living.” — Michael P.V. Barrett

Positioned between the glorious events of the old man being put off at conversion and the new man put on by the Spirit’s regeneration is the fundamental process by which believers are changed into Christlikeness—the renewing of the mind. Paul urges believers to be continually renewed in the spirit of their minds. Before we can understand what renewal is, we must first understand what it is not.

And be renewed in the spirit of your mind. Be progressively, internally made new (by God) in your emotions, attitudes and reasoning.


Renewing the mind is not an experience to be separated from conversion.

Paul strategically places this verse between his explanation of the acts of putting off and putting on. The process of renewal, known also as progressive sanctification, must never be separated from the initial experience of conversion and regeneration. Though sanctification is not identical to conversion and regeneration, all three are vital parts of the whole. The initial acts of repentance and faith are followed by the process of spiritual growth and maturity and conclude with the final experience of entering into heaven in a glorified state. Any system of theology that excludes any of these aspects in its doctrine of salvation is in error.

Renewing the mind is not just an intellectual exercise.

Bible study and Scripture memorization are not the only activities in the renewing of the mind. A person could spend four years in a Christian university or earn a degree from a theological seminary and yet experience little spiritual maturity. Many church members regularly sit under the faithful teaching and preaching of God’s Word, but their lives reveal no apparent change. Intellectual knowledge of the Bible is obviously not equivalent to being renewed in the spirit of the mind.

Renewing the mind is not simply replacing old habits and establishing new ones.

An unregenerate man can make basic moral changes. The very things that Paul commands us to put off—lying, stealing, anger, corrupt communication—are actually things that could be superficially changed by unbelievers. Paul is talking about something far deeper than self-improvement or external character development. He is talking about a complete renovation of the inner person that can be accomplished only by God’s Spirit.

What then is the renewing of the mind?

First, “be renewed” is in the passive voice, meaning that God (not the Christian) is the primary agent of renewal. At regeneration, God reinstates His image, tarnished by the Fall, within the human soul. A new moral freedom and power is imparted through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, enabling the believer to do the will of God and to contend against the flesh principle that remains within him. Second, “be renewed” is in the present tense, meaning that sanctification is ongoing and progressive. Renewal is therefore the continual change of life that began initially at conversion. At salvation, we were introduced to Christ through the preaching of the Gospel. Christ spoke to our hearts as we heard the Word. We responded with the initial acts of repentance and faith, choosing to leave the old life of sin and entering the new life of faith. In essence, renewal is a daily living out in experience what took place in our heart at salvation.

So how does this process work in our lives?

Renewal involves daily communion with Christ through His Word.

Christ, working through His Spirit, allows us to behold His glory in the mirror of the Word (2 Cor. 3:18; 4:6). As we dwell in His presence by spending time meditating on His Word, a change begins to take place within our spirit and mind, and we develop an entirely new outlook on life. The habits of the new life flow out of this relationship that we have with Christ. This includes a change in our thinking, attitudes, choices, actions and habits (Rom. 12:2). No area of our lives remains untouched!

Renewal involves obedience.

We as believers must continually strive to bring all our thoughts under the controlling influence of the Holy Spirit. The qualities that reflect the old, corrupt lifestyle must be put away with intense commitment as He exposes our own sinfulness. God is actively energizing His people with the power and the desire to change (Phil. 2:13). Therefore, we must submissively obey these strong promptings by putting on the actions and habits that reflect the new man. In the end, the renewing of the mind entails a thorough renovation of our entire lives.

Hear Dr. Pettit preach on renewing the mind:

Join us for chapel every Monday through Thursday at 11 a.m. EST.


Steve Pettit traveled for many years with the Steve Pettit Evangelistic Team before becoming president of Bob Jones University. His ultimate goal for BJU is to prepare students to serve and love others, no matter their vocation.