Take Every Thought Captive! How To Do It

How exactly are we supposed to take every thought captive?

On the surface, it seems kind of confusing, right? Every day, thousands of thoughts flit through my brain, some noble, some sinful, and some just plain ol’ weird (who first decided they were going to eat eggs?).

In 2 Corinthians 10:5, Paul says:

We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ…

Sounds impressive, right? Destroying arguments and lofty opinions. Taking every thought captive. Paul is using the language of war. Of battle. Of hand-to-hand combat.

But what exactly does it look like to take every thought captive? Let’s look a bit deeper.

Take Every Thought Captive – The Context

It’s important to note that when Paul talks about taking every thought captive and making them all obedience to Christ, he’s NOT talking about his own thoughts. Rather, he’s talking about the sinful, incorrect, Christ-opposing worldviews of both the Corinthians and his enemies.

When his opponents try to deceive the Corinthians (and other Christians) with false doctrine, Paul takes that false doctrine captive. He destroys is by the power of God’s word.

Now, that being said, I believe we can still apply this passage to our own lives. I believe that God calls us to, in a sense, take our own thoughts captive. To not let our random thoughts dictate how we live, but instead to let Christ be our guide.

So how do we take our own thoughts captive and make them obedient to Christ?

Several ways.

Take Every Thought Captive By The Word of God

In 2 Corinthians 10:4, Paul says, “For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.”

This tells me that I can’t use natural means to take my thoughts captive. The power of positive thinking won’t work. Finding my inner Zen won’t help me wrangle my thoughts into obeying Christ. Developing a winner’s mindset isn’t the solution.

If I’m going to take my thoughts captive, I need to use supernatural weapons.

The primary weapon in my battle against my thoughts is the Word of God. The main weapon in my arsenal is the sacred scriptures.

As it says in Hebrews 4:12:

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

All of my thoughts, ideas, desires, and passions must be submitted to the word of God. They must be brought under and submitted to the all-encompassing authority of the scriptures.

When a thought arises, I must ask myself the following questions:

  • Does God’s word have anything to say about this thought?
  • Is this thought in contradiction to the Word of God?
  • Am I allowing the Bible to determine what I think or some other factor?

Don’t get me wrong, this is not easy in any way. To submit every thought to God’s word requires hard work. To let God’s word dismantle your ideas and thoughts about yourself can be extremely painful.

John Piper says:

I have experienced this very painfully. If you put your mind and thoughts really at the disposal of the apostolic teaching and say, “Anything in my thinking that needs to be destroyed, destroy it.” That can utterly undo you.

There have been seasons in my life where I have wept over the dismantling of what felt like really important structures in my brain.

The first and primary way that we take every thought captive is by daily, hourly, minute-by-minute submitting our thoughts to the word of God. We say to God, “Let my every thought be dismantled and reassembled according to your word. Destroy every lofty opinion I hold that is not in line with your word.”

The Power of Reading and Memorizing God’s Word

I would be remiss if I didn’t point out here that reading and memorizing God’s word are absolutely essential if we’re going to take every thought captive. When we store up God’s word in our hearts, the Holy Spirit is able to bring it to mind in key moments.

As Psalm 119:9-11 puts it:

How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.

When our hearts and minds are full of God’s word, it’s much easier to take every thought captive. If we don’t read and memorize God’s word, we’re going to find it much harder to bring our thoughts into submission to the Word of God.

Take Every Thought Captive By The Power Of The Holy Spirit

If we’re honest, we’ll acknowledge that there’s no way we can submit every thought to the Word of God – at least in our own strength. With thousands of thoughts occurring rapid fire every second of every day, the only way we can take every thought captive is by the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit.

Notice that when Paul talks about destroying false arguments and lofty opinions, he says that his weapons are not of the flesh. In other words, Paul isn’t relying on human willpower to take every thought captive. He doesn’t believe that if he simply buckles down, he can make every thought submit to Christ.

The reality is that we desperately need the Holy Spirit to empower us. Think about it for a second. We have thought patterns that have burned into our minds over decades. Are we really so foolish as to think that we can take those captive with our own strength?

In some ways, I think this ties into the biblical concept of praying without ceasing. The entire Christian life is meant to be lived in total dependence on God. As much as possible, we bring our thoughts before God and ask him to help us take them captive. We pray constantly, asking God to align our thoughts with his sacred word.

We recognize that we can’t fight our flesh with ordinary, human means. We need supernatural power from God in order to take every thought captive.

Only By The Power of God

Charles Spurgeon said:

There have been many who would do well if they would learn that they have nothing beyond what God has given them. And the more God has given them, the more they are in debt!

Never has this been more true than when it comes to taking every thought captive. If we are able to take our thoughts captive, it’s because God himself has given us the power.

So let us strive to take every thought captive, and as we do, let us give thanks to God for giving us the power to do so.

Hey, I'm Stephen Altrogge. I'm a dad and published author. I've written for The Gospel Coalition, Desiring God, ERLC, Church Leaders, Crosswalk, and many more outlets. You can follow me on Instagram and Facebook .