If you have been around friends who attend church regularly or you grew up in a Christian environment, you may have heard the phrase “take every thought captive” before. To apply this to everyday life, it’s important to know what it means, how to do it, and why to do it.

What does it mean to take every thought captive?

The phrase originates from Paul’s second letter to the church in Corinth.

We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete. 2 Corinthians 10:5-6, ESV

When Paul introduces this idea about how to take every thought captive, he begins in verse 4. There he shares with his readers that their weapons are not earthly ones; instead, their weapons are described as “divine” and designed “to destroy strongholds.”

The word stronghold comes from the Greek word ochuroma. It was used to describe a fortress or a castle.

Read in context, Paul is telling his audience to not worry about fighting those who are against them in this life. Instead, he said to use the spiritual weapons that God gives to fight what takes hold of their minds.

He talks about “arguments” and “every lofty opinion” as if they are the real strongholds. And he provides the answer to them: recognizing what is true and what is not.

To “take every thought captive to obey Christ” is to measure a thought based on its validity to what we know is true about Christ and what He said is true.

Think of every thought as leading down one of two roads: a road that reminds you all that is true and lovely and excellent (based on Philippians 4:8) or a road that reminds you of what is false, what is unlovely, and what brings shame or hurtfulness. Taking every thought captive holds a powerful role in helping us move toward the fullness of life God provides for us.

However, we don’t have to meticulously measure every thought. The “how to” manual comes directly from Scripture.

How to take every thought captive.

To take a thought captive, we first must recognize the thoughts we’re thinking. To do that, it’s important to engage with Scripture in a variety of ways.

Engaging with Scripture is a phrase that’s characterized by interacting with the Bible so that the Holy Spirit can make God known to you. There are several definitions of engaging with Scripture, but here are six ideas for how to do that.

Write it out.

Practice reading a chapter, and then choosing just one verse to two verses to write by hand. Having to write out a verse or two helps slow you down and makes you reflect on the meaning behind the verse.

Study the context.

Look at the study portions or introductions to the chapter you’re reading. This information provides context about what the original listeners were facing. It helps to see Scripture through the lens of those who wrote it, why they wrote it, and what kind of message they intended to communicate through it.

Listen to Scripture.

Listen to Scripture through a lectio divina reading. This is a form of understanding God’s presence in Scripture. It helps to hear the verses read slowly, to ask the Lord to make one or two phrases stand out to you while you’re listening, and then to pause. God can use this format of Scripture “reading” to help you not just know the verses but know God and what He wants you to hear from His heart.

Read in community.

Read a story in Scripture with a small group of friends or one other friend. Talking about a passage with someone else not only helps you see it from another person’s perspective, but it also helps to shape the fullness of biblical context. Whereas you may read a word and bring your past to the meaning of that word, your friend might be able to help you see it for a different meaning.

Immerse yourself in the story.

Put yourself into the Scripture. Identifying where you are in a narrative of Scripture is not something you hear much about on Sundays. But taking a moment to ask the Lord, “Where am I here?” is a great way to interact with Him about His Word. He can help you see which person you’re relating to the most in that passage and why.

Engage with art.

Look up an artist’s rendering of Scripture. There are several classic artists who  –  through the ages  –  have portrayed parables from the Bible through art. Whether it’s a drawing or a painting, look at and meditate on a piece of art that depicts a specific narrative. Ask God to show you something that stands out to you.

As you engage with Scripture, it makes your relationship with Christ much more alive and real. Hearing Him can become more of a regular rhythm or practice than it might be otherwise.

Taking every thought captive as obedience to Christ.

When we take every thought captive, it is because we are trying to discern when our thoughts don’t match what Scripture teaches. The more we can relate to God through His Word, the easier it will become to recognize when our thoughts are askew.

Engagement practices go a long way toward shaping a relationship with God that aids you to recognize thoughts that are helpful and thoughts that are troublesome. Once you identify a thought or a thought pattern that doesn’t line up with God’s truth, what do you do?

Scripture teaches us to take a thought captive to the obedience of Christ. When you think about taking anything captive, you are holding it hostage. You may not be able to choose whether a thought comes to your mind that’s unhealthy or not biblical. However, you can choose whether to agree with it or not.

The practices we keep around Scripture will either help us to take every thought captive or hinder us from doing so.

How God’s character can help us take every thought captive.

As we grow in building sustainable rhythms where we engage with Scripture, we also grow in our ability to trust God’s kindness, goodness, provision, lordship, and faithfulness. These five areas help us to recognize the thoughts that aren’t in agreement with God’s thoughts.


Sometimes, thoughts assail us that make us feel less than enough. Perhaps a thought comes to mind that makes us believe we are not worthy of love or generosity. Because these thoughts are not matching with the character of the God we learn about in Scripture, they’re red-flag thoughts that we can recognize and refute.


When we doubt that God is good because of our circumstances, we forget that His goodness is not dependent on victory moments. There are dozens of examples in Scripture where a follower of Jesus doesn’t see the other side of victory. One such recording is in Hebrews 11, often called the “hall of faith” because of the people it mentions who walked with God. Many of them never saw the fulfillment of His promises during their earthy lives, but they still held onto the fact that He is good.


Upon quick inspection of a Bible index, you’ll likely find that at least 20 verses in the New Testament alone talk about the fact that God provides. He may not always provide the amount we want or use the methods with which we’re most comfortable, but God’s generosity and provision are trustworthy and enough.


As new believers, it’s sometimes tough to recognize that Jesus did not just come to be our friend or our guide in the Holy Spirit. He also came to be LORD. That means He wants to direct our lives in such a way that we can submit to what He sees as best for us  –  even if it’s different than what we prefer.

When Jesus cried out in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Nevertheless, not my will but yours be done,” He was expressing the fact that He saw the hardship that was coming to Him. (Luke 22:42, ESV) But ultimately, He surrendered because He knew God loved Him and loved all His creation.


When we go through disappointments in life, or when someone lets us down one too many times, it is that much easier to doubt God. We question if we can trust Him or if He will be faithful no matter what. In Corinthians we read the truth: “God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:9, ESV)

As we ask the Lord to show us His character, particularly in these five areas, we will be more aware of our thoughts and measure them against what God’s Word says.

Instead of believing thoughts or feelings, we can choose to believe Scripture that we’ve wrestled with, learned from, memorized, thought about, and met with God in its pages.

If you are looking for a counselor to help you on this journey of connecting to the truth of Scripture, our offices are full of trustworthy Christian counselors who can help.

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