How Do You Take Your Thoughts Captive, like the Bible Commands?

Matt Tommey
Contributing Writer
How Do You Take Your Thoughts Captive, like the Bible Commands?

"We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." 2 Corinthians 10:5

Learning how to take every thought captive as Paul teaches in 2 Corinthians 10:5 is, unfortunately, a concept most Christians are never taught. However, the importance of taking every thought captive under the Lordship of Jesus as led by the Holy Spirit is one of the most important principles a believer can employ in the process of renewing their mind. Without a clear understanding of why we take every thought captive and the power that it gives us to cooperate with the Holy Spirit in our daily lives, well-meaning, devoted Christians will be left frustrated and confused, wondering why they’re not able to experience the abundant life Jesus promised. But when you understand how to take your thoughts captive and renew your mind, life begins to quickly change for the better. Instead of being dominated by thoughts of fear, anxiety, worry, and stress, you can see life through the lens of God’s Word and His promises for your life. Taking your thoughts captive and having control of them is a gamechanger for every believer.

What Does 'Take Every Thought Captive' Mean?

Consequently, when Paul talks about “taking every thought captive”, he used the imagery of war where an enemy would be ensnared, subdued, and led away. The meaning is clear: we are in a spiritual war, a battle for our minds, and we must take seriously the charge to renew our minds according to the Word of God or be overrun by the enemy. Again, the metaphor is much more serious than just a friendly exhortation to think positively. Rather, it’s a command to purposefully go after every thought (and belief) that raises itself up in contradiction to God’s Word.

Pastor Tony Evans writes that "The apostle Paul is willing to go to battle against false apostles because he does not wage war according to the flesh (10:3). He recognizes that the warfare in which he is engaged is spiritual and requires spiritual weapons that are powerful through God for the demolition of strongholds (10:4). By “strongholds,” Paul isn’t talking about physical fortresses, of course, but about destructive patterns of thought that lead people astray and hold them hostage to sinful, harmful and addictive behavior. We know Paul is concerned with the mind because he is demolishing arguments and every proud thing that is raised up against the knowledge of God, and he wants to help believers take every thought captive to obey Christ (10:4-5). Satan’s strategy is to block the knowledge and/or application of God’s Word in the thinking of believers so that they can be held hostage by his lies, which are communicated through false teaching. If addictive behavior is present in a person’s life, that behavior is not the stronghold but merely its fruit. Strongholds can only be demolished by the knowledge of God—that is, by truth. As Jesus told his disciples, “The truth will set you free” (John 8:32). When your relationship to the living Word connects to the written Word, “you really will be free” (John 8:36). If you’re not taking every thought captive to obey Christ and are instead succumbing to a stronghold, it’s because you either don’t know the truth or aren’t making use of the truth you know. (Tony Evans Commentary)

What Does the Bible Say about Our Thoughts?

As we start this journey, let’s examine for a moment what the Bible says about our thoughts to get some context.

Not all thoughts are from God

It took me a long time to realize not every thought I had was for me or from the Lord. Rather, the thoughts that we think come from a myriad of different sources including your own interpretation of past and present situations, the enemy as he seeks to torment you, other people in your life, and of course, the Holy Spirit. Recognizing the voice of the Holy Spirit as you discern the source of thoughts you are thinking is foundational for every believer. Otherwise, it’s easy to start trusting in your own wisdom or the thoughts of others, rather than God’s voice.

John 10:27 says, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know then, and they follow me.”

Proverbs 28:26 says, “Those who trust in themselves are fools, but those who walk in wisdom are kept safe.”

Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not unto your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your path straight.”

We have to purposefully curate our thought life

Thoughts don’t exist in a vacuum. They affect every area of our life because thoughts become feelings, which turn into beliefs. Once beliefs are established in our heart and mind, they then become the fuel for actions which in turn becomes our life. Everything flows from your thought life.

Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”

We can direct our thoughts toward God

Learning to purposefully direct our thoughts toward God and the things of His Kingdom fills our imagination and inner life with His presence. When we focus on God’s presence, His Word, and actively hearing His voice, our minds are filled with His light and life, driving out the enemy and the confusing torment he often brings into our thought life.

Philippians 4:48 says, Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

Colossians 3:2-5 says, “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you dies and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.”

We can direct our thoughts away from ungodly things

Just like we can direct our thoughts toward God and delight ourselves in Him, we also should intentionally direct our thoughts away from ungodly things. Knowing what things are temptations, stumbling blocks, and potential roadblocks for us allows believers to navigate away from things that bring death and destruction, and toward things that bring life, joy, and the fruit of the Spirit.

Timothy 1:7 says, “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.”

Thoughts help to form the reality experience

God created us with a vivid and powerful imagination that produces images, thoughts, and feelings in order for us to co-labor with Him in line with our assignment in His Kingdom. The degree to which you are willing to intentionally direct your imagination under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit is the degree to which you will see the abundant life Jesus promised in John 10:10 show up in your life. Your thoughts literally form the boundaries of your life, either stopping or allowing you to step into everything God has promised you in His Kingdom as a result of the new covenant.

Proverbs 23:7 says, “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.”

Matthew 21:22 says, “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”

What Is the Context of 2 Corinthians 10:5?

In 2 Corinthians, Paul is exhorting the church at Corinth to live in unity, worthy of the calling to they have in the Lord. His desire is that they understand this spiritual dynamic of living and waging war in the spirit, rather than against him, church leaders, or even each other. Simply, it’s a call to maturity in the Kingdom. It’s a call to forgive those who have wronged you, walk in love, think about life according to the Kingdom of God and understand there’s more going on in this life than simple turf battles between people. This is a spiritual war, there are real consequences and it’s time the church understands that reality from a Kingdom perspective.

How Do We Take Our Thoughts Captive?

Taking every thought captive requires intentionality. It’s about training yourself to examine the thoughts, feelings, images, and beliefs that arise in your daily living according to the Word of God.

Foundation in this process is your willingness to invest in an intimate relationship with Jesus through personal times of worship, reading God’s Word, and being led by the Spirit. Intimacy with Jesus is the key. In His presence, you receive both revelation and grace to become intentionally aware of your thought life.

Practically, if you have a thought that comes into your mind you pause, examine it, and say “Holy Spirit, does this thought agree with God’s Word? Is this your very best for my life?” If it does, then plant it as a seed in your heart, meditate on it and encourage it to grow. God’s Word is living and active, able to affect transformation in your heart.

If you realize, however, that the thought isn’t from the Lord then you simply reject the thought and replace it with the truth of God’s Word. If the thought happens to be one that you know you’ve embraced for a long time, then simply repent for agreeing with the lies of the enemy and ask the Holy Spirit to show you His truth. Choose a Scripture verse that resonates with your heart regarding the particular situation you’re thinking about and then create an affirmation you can use to combat the lies of the enemy, should that old thought re-emerge.

As you practice taking every thought captive, over time you’ll begin to recognize the lies of the enemy more quickly and replace them with the truth of God’s Word. You’ll also realize the fruit of God’s Word manifesting in and through your life as you turn your thoughts toward Him. As you prosper in your inner life, your outer life will prosper as well. As it says in 3 John 1:2 Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.

Further Reading

6 Ways to Take Your Thoughts Captive as 2 Corinthians 10:5 Says

How Do We Take Our Thoughts Captive?

Photo credit: ©GettyImages/Natali_Mis

Matt TommeyMatt Tommey is an artist, author and mentor to thousands of Christian artists around the world. His passion is to help artists thrive spiritually, artistically and in the marketplace. You can find out more about Matt, his books and the mentoring work he does at

This article is part of our larger resource library of popular Bible verse phrases and quotes. We want to provide easy-to-read articles that answer your questions about the meaning, origin, and history of specific verses within Scripture's context. We hope that these will help you better understand the meaning and purpose of God's Word in your life today.

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