The Meaning of Heart in the New Testament -- By: Elmer Towns

Journal: Grace Journal
Volume: GJ 12:1 (Winter 1971)
Article: The Meaning of Heart in the New Testament
Author: Elmer Towns


The Meaning of Heart in the New Testament

Elmer Towns

Associate Professor of Christian Education
Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

The Biblical doctrine of the heart is one of the most important studies dealing with the nonmaterial nature of man. To understand the nonmaterial nature of man, one must understand the heart of man. In Mark 12:30, Jesus commands man to love God with all his heart.1 Since we are to love God with all the heart, it is of utmost importance to the Christian life that the heart be understood. Lewis S. Chafer notes:

The word heart occurs over 600 times in the Old Testament and at least 210 times in the New Testament…. The extensive use of the word heart in all its varied implications places it in a position of extreme importance.2

Understanding the heart of man is also crucial in light of the contemporary study of the make-up of man. The Bible is not a psychology handbook, but when it speaks on this subject, the Word of God is authoritative. What the Bible has to say on the heart is, therefore, of the utmost value and will shed light on the natural man. When the Bible finds need to dip into the nonmaterial man and construct a psychology, it does not hesitate to do so. As the Bible is authoritative, what is written concerning the make-up of man must be accepted as fact.

The term “heart” (kardia) is never used in the New Testament to refer to the physical organ of man as the term is used when reference is made to heart in the Old Testament.3 But the Hebrews also used the term in reference to the nonmaterial nature of man. The use grew from the concept that the heart is essential to physical life. It was a natural transition to bring the term over to the spiritual world as was done by the time of the ministry of Jesus. The New Testament sees the heart figuratively as the center of the real person, the center of spiritual life. Oswald Chambers recognizes this centrality of the heart:

According to the Bible the heart is the centre: The centre of physical life, the centre of mercy, the centre of damnation and salvation, the centre of God’s working and the centre of the devil’s working, the centre from which everything works which moulds the human mechanism.4

Paul’s phrases, “Doing the will of God from the heart,”5 and “I have you in my heart”You must have a subscription and be logged in to read the entire article.
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