The noun μεριμνα is translated as “care, anxiety, and worry.” Its root is the Greek word μεριζω (Strong’s 3307) that means “to divide, to separate.” Soμεριμνα represents a mental state or condition in which someone isoccupied with or is dwelling upon something.
Derived from the noun, the verb form μεριμναςω means “to be anxious, to be troubled” and “careful thought.” In early Greek literature it is used to convey the concept of meditation.
The noun and verb forms of μεριμνα are used in the New Testament and can convey either positive or negative understandings. Used in the positive, these words convey the idea of focused care. By contrast, their negative connotation conveys the idea of distraction in occupying the attention of the mind. We are going to study both of these uses in our eight-part study.
In this study we are going to follow these two words through the New Testament in order to observe how they are used to reveal the tool by which Satan occupies the believer’s mind. 1 Peter 5:5-8 is the foundation Scripture for our study. In this text, Peter presents μεριμνα as Satan’s only weapon against a believer in Christ.
Before we study the text in I Peter, we have to establish an understanding of the phases comprising the Christian life: the first being Salvation; the second being Growth and Change. This understanding enables us to perceive why μεριμνα is the only weapon Satan can use against a believer.
As previously stated, Salvation is the first phase of the Christian life. The Bible teaches that a person must experience a spiritual birth from the Spirit of God in order to be saved. Just believing in the Lord does not establish salvation; a person must experience the Spirit of Christ coming into their spirit or soul. The presence of the Spirit of Christ within the believer was established as the proof of salvation by the Early Church. Paul said to the Christians in Corinth,
“Test yourselves if you are in the faith, prove yourselves. Or do you not know yourselves that Jesus Christ is in you? If not you are unapproved?” (2 Corinthians 13:5 Literal Translation)
Paul also said,
“but you are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you; but if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, this one is not of Him.” (Romans 8:9 Lit. Trans.)
John in his polemic style of writing said,
“And the one keeping His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. And in this we know that He abides in us, from the Spirit which He gave to us.” (1 John 3:24 Lit. Trans.)
Again John says,
“In this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given to us of His Spirit.” (1 John 4:13Lit. Trans.)
Not only did the New Testament writers establish that a person must be born from above through a spiritual birth in Christ in order to be saved, but Paul also said,
“in whom also you, having heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, in whom also after having believed you were sealed by means of the Holy Spirit of promise, 14) who is the guarantee of our inheritance, for redemption of the possession, unto the praise of His glory.” (Ephesians 1:13,14 Lit. Trans.).
Here Paul states that Christ not only fills our soul or spirit, but our soul is additionally “sealed” by the Holy Spirit. Peter said concerning the ones who have an inheritance in heaven waiting for them,
“the ones being kept (guarded) in the power of God through faith, for salvation ready to be revealed in thelast time.” (1 Peter 1:5 Lit. Trans.)
“We know that everyone who has been born of God is not continuously sinning; but the one who has been born of God He (God) keeps him and the evil one does not touch him.” (1 John 5:18 Lit. Trans.).
So the Bible teaches and establishes that a person who is saved belongs to Christ. He is a person who is born of the Spirit of Christ and has the Spirit of Christ dwelling in his spirit or soul. This person’s soul or spirit has been sealed by the Holy Spirit. And this condition of salvation does not allow for penetration by any force or spirit into the spirit of the saved person.
The second phase of the Christian life is that of Growth and Change. It is designated as Growth and Change because growth produces change. After a person is saved by receiving the Spirit of Christ, he begins to grow by the inward working of God’s Spirit Who abides within him. The growth process takes place within the arena of the mind. Paul said,
“and do not continually be conformed to this age, but be continually transformed by means of the renewing of your mind, for you to prove what is the good, well pleasing, and perfect will of God.” (Romans 12:2 Lit. Trans.)
Paul also said,
“for you to put off the old man according to the former lifestyle, the one being corrupt according to the desires of the deceit; 23) and to be renewed by the spirit of your mind;” (Ephesians 4:22,23 Lit. Trans.).
Since a believer’s spirit is saved and sealed, the only area in which Satan can attack is the mind. Consequently, Satan is fighting for the “occupation of the attention of the mind,” also known in Scripture asμεριμνα.
Having discussed the phases of the Christian life, we can now understand the importance of Peter’s teaching in 1 Peter 5:5-8 where He says,
“Likewise, you younger ones be submissive to the older ones; and everyone put on humility while being submissive to one another; because God is resisting the proud, but is giving grace to the humble. 6) Therefore be humbled under the mighty hand of God, in order that he might exalt you in time; 7) having cast all your care (μεριμνα) upon Him, because it is a concern to Him about you. 8) Be sober, be watchful, because your adversary the devil, is walking around as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour.” (1 Peter 5:5-8 Lit. Trans.).
In this text, Peter presents μεριμνα – the occupation of the attention of the mind as the only weapon Satan uses against a believer. Peter said in Verse 6 that we should submit to God’s humbling process. The aorist participle in Verse 7 tells us that we are to submit to this humbling process having cast all of our care upon the Lord. We are to cast all of the things that are occupying our minds onto the Lord.
Peter, in verses 7,8, states that the Lord is concerned about us because our adversary, the devil, is walking around as a roaring lion. The Lord is concerned for us because Satan is looking to devour God’s people, not spiritually, but mentally. How? By occupying the attention of our minds so that we are too busy and too worried about the things of this earthly life. Consequently, we do not have the time or the focus to study and receive from God’s Word. The end result is that we fail to grow; we are saved but we remain unchanged.
We know from Job chapters 1,2 that Satan “scouts” God’s people just as an army scout surveys the opposing army before an attack. Satan scouts us in order to accuse us before God. He plans his attack upon our minds using those things he perceives as our weaknesses. Our weakness could be our career. It could be someone with whom we are too emotionally attached. It could even be an activity for which we have a passion. Satan cannot attack and penetrate a believer’s spirit, but he can and does make an all out effort to distract us by drawing our attention away from the Word of God.
“in order that we should not be taken advantage of by Satan, for we are not ignorant of his schemes.” (2 Corinthians 2:11 Lit. Trans.)
The Early Church was not ignorant of Satan’s schemes or plots and ways of attack. Peter commands,
“Be sober” and “be watchful.” (1 Peter 5:8)
We are commanded to be alert and not be “ignorant of Satan’s schemes.” The significance of the Growth and Change phase of a believer’s life cannot be overemphasized; which is why Satan works so diligently to distract us from this process using his only weapon, μεριμνα.
This week’s study served to introduce the concept of μεριμνα. Next week we will dig deeper into its meaning when we study from the teachings of Jesus Himself as presented in Matthew 6:24-34.
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