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Home > Weekly Columns > Greek Thoughts > Archives >
Article for February 8, 2009

Greek Thoughts Archives
First available on February 8, 2009

TAPEINOPHROSUNE* - Humbleness, lowliness, humbleness of mind - Part 3


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Author Bio

Bill Klein has been a pastor, counselor, and educator for the past 36 years. He has had extensive training and education in biblical languages, and has authored a Biblical Greek course.

He is currently serving as Professor of Biblical Greek at Master's Graduate School of Divinity, and president of BTE Ministries - The Bible Translation and Exegesis Institute of America, a non-profit organization located in California that provides Bible study tapes and Greek study materials through their website


Please note that all Biblical quotes, in this and all other lessons posted to Greek Thoughts, are from The Literal English Translation of the Bible produced by BTE Ministries - The Bible Translation and Exegesis Institute of America.

This week we conclude our study of tapeinofrosu/nh (Strong's #5012 pronounced tä pā nō phrō nā**), a word that represents a humble frame of mind or attitude, which has been matured through the humbling process of life's experiences. It expresses the attitude of mind that is the end result, the actual goal, of the maturation process.

Last week, we studied this same word as part of the vocabulary Paul uses to describe the maturity of mind required of believers before their existing spiritual unity in Christ can be manifested on earth and experienced among the brethren. Paul encourages believers to walk worthily of the calling of which they are called (Ephesians 4:1-3). He says that a believer's walk is to be accompanied by a humble frame of mind, which has been developed through submission to God's humbling process. Paul lists the condition of humble mindedness as necessary to balance out or to equal the calling of which believers are called.

This week's study is also taken from Paul's writings, as he once again touches on humble mindedness. He is addressing Philippian believers.
Philippians 2:1-3

Therefore if there existsF1 any encouragement in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of Spirit, if any affections and mercies,

fulfill my joy, in order that you should think the same thing, while having the same love, being souls together, thinking the one thing;

doingF2 nothing according to self-ambition or vain glory, but in humble mindedness (tapeinofrosu/nh) considering one another as surpassing themselves,

In Philippians 2:1, Paul lists four conditions of fellowship. Each condition begins with the Greek conjunction ei´ (Strong's #1487 pronounced ā**), which is translated "if." As it is used in this verse, all four instances of ei´ indicate the first class condition assumed to be true. The English equivalent for this word, which is translated here as "if," would be the word "since." Therefore, those listening to Paul understood him to say, "Since there exists encouragement in Christ, since any comfort of love exists, since any fellowship of Spirit exists, since any affections and mercies exist…" By stating these four conditions as first class conditions assumed to be true, Paul is expressing that encouragement, comfort of love, fellowship of Spirit, affections and mercies already exist among believers. Based upon this understanding, he then commands them to fulfill his joy.

Paul's command is found in verse 2. The Greek word used here for "fulfill" is the imperative or command form of plhro/w (Strong's #4137 pronounced plā **), which relates to filling something to fullness or bringing something to completion. Paul already has expressed joy over them in Philippians 1:4, but now he is calling for the Philippian believers to bring his joy to completion (to fullness).

Paul uses the conjunction i¸na (Strong's #2443 pronounced hē nä**), which is translated " in order that," with the subjunctive mood to express the purpose for fulfilling his joy. He says, "in order that you should think the same thing…" The Greek word he uses for "should think" is the subjunctive form of frone/w (Strong's #5426 pronounced frō ō**), which literally has to do with the frame of mind. (It is also one of the words used to form our study word, tapeinofrosu/nh.) Paul is indicating that his joy would be brought to completion by the believers being of one frame of mind (having the same mindset), thinking the same thing. He then lists three characteristics that describe the "same thing" which should define their mindset.

These three characteristics are also found in verse 2. The first is "having the same love." The word Paul uses for love is aÌga/ph (Strong's #26 pronounced ä gä pā**). Since aÌga/ph love is produced by the Spirit of God (Galatians 5:22), Paul is calling for believers to be influenced by the same love—love that is produced by God's Spirit. The second characteristic is "being souls together…" This expression has to do with functioning together according to the unity of "soul" (mind) — the unity in Christ that binds all believers together. The third characteristic is "thinking the one thing…" Again Paul uses the verb frone/w (Strong's #5426) meaning "mindset" or "frame of mind," but this time he uses the participial form indicating that Christians are to continually have a mindset on the one thing—the Lord. Paul then presents a contrast.

This contrasting statement is found in verse 3. Paul says that Christians should do nothing according to self-ambition or vainglory; instead, they should do everything in humble mindedness (tapeinofrosu/nh), each considering the other as surpassing themselves. The word translated "surpassing" is uÒpere/cw (Strong's #5242 pronounced hö pĕr ĕk ō**). It expresses the idea of placing a value of superiority on another person as compared to one's self.

In these Philippian verses, as well as in those from Ephesians, Paul presents that the successful functioning of the Body of Christ requires every believer to have a humble frame of mind (or mindset). We have seen, through our study of the words related to humbleness, that a process is involved in bringing each of us to the end state of humbleness—Christian maturity. This humbling process requires time, because the resulting maturity is formed only through much experience. This process and its end result is not something we can force or produce for ourselves; it can only be the result of God's transforming work being done in us.

It is important for Christians to realize that the Lord uses His humbling process to break down the flesh, so that we become vessels fit for His use. Only in submitting to Him and to His humbling process, can His grace flow in and through us. The result of His work in us is a maturity of attitude and mind, which allows us to humbly function within the Body of Christ, genuinely esteeming all others above ourselves. This maturity of mind allows us to experience, and manifest to others, that unity which already exists spiritually among all believers in Christ.

* TAPEINOPHROSUNE is the English font spelling of the Greek word tapeinofrosu/nh.
**English pronunciation of vowel sounds & accented syllables: āle, ăm, ärm; ēve, ĕnd; īce, ǐll; ōld, ǒdd, whö; oi as in oil; ow as in cow; ūse, ŭp, rude. Bold type indicates an accented syllable.

Technical Notes:

F1: uÒpa/rxei, "there exists" is the implied verb.

F2: poiouÙntev, "doing" is the implied participle.

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