that by testing you may discern what is the will of God,
what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Now we move to the second part of Paul’s two-verse synopsis of the Christian life.
The first thing to understand about this verse is that it connects logically with Paul’s exhortation in verse 1 to present our bodies to God as a living sacrifice. The verb present in verse 1 is in the Greek aorist tense, signifying a one-time act—a decisive commitment of our entire selves to God. Paul then shifts to the present tense in verse 2 with two verbs that explain how we are to carry out this commitment.
Our responsibility is two-pronged: (1) avoid conforming to the way of life of the fallen culture in which we live and (2) let ourselves be transformed by the renewing of our mind. One activity is defensive and the other is offensive. These “two processes are viewed as going on all the time, a continual renunciation and renewal” (Everett Harrison). To live godly as a Christian, we must do these two things.
So to sum up: In response to God’s gift of his Son, we give ourselves to God as a sacrifice, turning away from what God says is evil and learning what God says is good so that we may practice it with the goal of pleasing him.
It is sufficient for now that we simmer in the warmth of these verses. I list below five translations of verse 2 (in addition to ESV above) for you to read and compare. Note that only three translations accurately begin verse 2 with “and” (the Greek word is kai) to signify Paul’s continuity of thought.
And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. (NASB)
And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. (NKJ)
Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. (New Living Translation)
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (NIV)
and be not conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, for your proving what is the will of God—the good, and acceptable, and perfect. (Young’s Literal Translation)
All things considered, the New Living Translation, which functions more as a paraphrase than a translation, best conveys the verse’s meaning.