Word of the Week
March 11, 2023
Anakainōsis: God’s Inner Renewal Project
And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
“The main thing God gets out of your life is not the achievements you accomplish. It’s the person you become.” (Dallas Willard)
Parents understand this principle. We aren’t raising our kids to help pay our bills or to do the yard work we don’t want to do. No, our goal is to help them become caring, responsible people who have moved past the stage of bashing little brothers and learning how to give brotherly love. Character is the primary goal.
God intends to transform us so that our character increasingly resembles that of Jesus Christ, so we can live in His presence forever. The New Testament uses a key word to portray this process: renewal.
The Greek word for renewal is anakainōsis, which occurs twice, along with its partner verb anakainoō, which is also found twice. It comes from kainos, one of the two Greek words for “new.” Adding the extra syllable on the front means “to make new” or “to make new again.”
The two Greek words for “new”:
Neos – “new” in the sense of “recent,” but not necessarily different
Kainos – new and different, new and improved
An ancient Greek might say, “I have a neos chariot” when he replaced his dilapidated model with a used one that was only ten years old. But if he said, “I have a kainos chariot,” it meant he had the latest version fresh from the chariot factory.
Click HERE for an article that expands on these two words.
The Lord intends to produce a new, improved version of you, and this is in view whenever He speaks of anakainōsis.
Anakainōsis means a complete change for the better, a makeover of the mind and soul. The matching verb means to move from one stage to a higher stage, to invigorate. That’s what the Greek dictionaries say. Now let’s look at each of the passages where these words occur.
Titus 3:5 – He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit.
How did God save us? It wasn’t because we had accumulated a spotless record of righteousness; it was an act of sheer mercy – love in the face of our blotched record of sin.
Notice that this verse talks about the moment when we first became Christians by putting our faith in Christ. At that moment, God arranged for us to be “born again” (that’s the meaning of “regeneration”). We became His children, part of His family. And the Holy Spirit did a makeover on us, a renewal that changed our inner nature. As Paul described it in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “If any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”
Spiritual renewal is not just a program of self-improvement. It is built on the miraculous work of the Spirit of God in our lives.
2 Corinthians 4:16 – Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.
As we age, our physical bodies deteriorate little by little. Our joints ache, our reflexes slow down, and our skin wrinkles. It’s a gradual process. But Christians know that their spiritual lives don’t follow the same rules. Paul says that our inner man is being renewed day by day. Our spiritual muscles can get stronger and stronger. Our inner self can be renewed – not in a single step, but in a gradual daily process of maturity.
Colossians 3:10 – [You] have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him.
When you become a believer, says, Paul, you become a new creation. You take off one identity and put on another one. That’s a decisive transaction, but it leads to a daily process of renewal. Paul uses a present participle in this verse, suggesting that our renewal happens continually over a period of time. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, and it doesn’t happen automatically. We have a responsibility to respond to God’s work in our heart.
Finally, let’s go back to Romans 12:2. What does it mean to be transformed by the renewal of our mind?
First, it is based on the work that God did in your heart the moment you were saved. It’s not a glorified New Year’s resolution. Human effort alone cannot produce the transformation that we need.
Second, It does involve purposeful cooperation with God. As Philippians 2:12-13 says, “Work out your own salvation . . . for it is God who works in you.” The Lord calls us to cooperate with Him in shaping our minds – through Scripture, through prayer, through all the “means of grace” available to us. Each day is an opportunity to shape our thoughts by exposure to His thoughts.
It’s a paradox. God has already renewed us, but He still calls us to build on that transformation. He calls on us to work toward daily renewal of our minds, but we can only succeed because He works in us.
To expand the slogan:
The main thing God gets out of your life is the person you become.
The main thing you get out of your life is the person you become.
So the best way you can spend your life is to become the person God wants you to be!
A word on the two words for “new.” In the older classical Greek, the difference between the two words was carefully observed. Neos was new, but not necessarily different. Kainos was new and different, usually improved. However, in later Greek the distinction faded so that the words were often used interchangeably. That’s reflected in Ephesians 4:23, where anakainoō is replaced by ananeoō, with a very similar meaning. Both verses say that our minds need renewal, but Romans 12:2 makes it even clearer that this renewal involves a step forward.
Q: When 2 Corinthians 4:16 says that our “outer man” is decaying, what does the Greek word for “decay” mean?
A: In this verse, I think “outer man” is talking about our physical body. The word rendered “decay” in the NASB is diaphtheirō, which has several meanings – all rather extreme. Jesus uses it to describe the way moths destroy one’s possessions (Luke 12:33). Paul uses it to describe the thoroughly corrupted minds of false teachers (1 Timothy 6:5). Revelation uses it to describe the sinking of ships (Revelation 8:9), as well as the Lord’s destruction of those who destroy the earth (Revelation 11:18). In 2 Corinthians 4, the word describes the inevitable decline of our physical bodies that eventually ends in death. It’s a gradual process, as the Greek present tense suggests, but it’s a road to ruin in the end. Thank God that death is not the end for His people!
God knows everything that is going to happen, and He is in charge of the universe. Next week we will explore one of the key words that describes His control of things. Join us to learn about the Greek word for this.
©Ezra Project 2023