Mortification of Sin Chapter 1 – Part 1

John OwenDid I mention that Owen is hard to read?  Well, in all actuality, he is very easy to read, but to understand, that is a much different thing.  After reading, re-reading and then reading again, quite a few times, I feel like my head is about to explode.  I can remember back in the early 1990’s getting my hands on a copy of A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking.  That was  my first experience reading something that literally made me feel like my mind had grown 3 sizes.  The thoughts, the concepts, the ideas that Hawking presented gave me new insight into time and space like I had never thought of before.  Likewise, Owen is a giant in the Theological world.  The only problem is that he is a giant from another planet.  I keep looking for the Rosetta Stone so I can better make sense of what Owen is saying.  So, it seemed best to me to take up reading chapter 1 multiple times, spending much time in prayer, as well as reading others views (here, here and here) on what he had written, then go through the process again and just meditate on what he is conveying.

Let me say that even though we are saved by grace alone, by faith alone, in Christ alone, mortification is not an option that we can decide to take or leave.  Paul makes it abundantly clear that it is a required thing in the Christian life in Romans 8:13.  Ahhhhh, the tension, can’t you just feel it?

“But sir,” I hear you say, “We live under grace and Christ said ‘It is finished,’ (John 19:30).  So hasn’t he done everything that needed to be done to secure the believers salvation?”

“Why yes, yes He has,” I would reply.

“Well then, sir, if we do something, isn’t that adding to the work of Christ?  Isn’t that adding our works to the work of Christ which would mean that what Christ did is incomplete?”

Again I would have to respond, “Yes it would.”

TENSION!  Don’t you just love it?

So how are we to deal with this?  Lets turn to the 5 issues that Owen brings up in chapter 1:

  1. A duty prescribed, “Mortify the deeds of the body.”
  2. The persons to whom the duty is prescribed, “If you mortify.”
  3. The promise or reward attached to the duty, “You shall live.”
  4. What is the cause or means of the performance of this duty, “If you through the Spirit.”
  5. The promise attached to those who endeavor to put to death the deeds of the body, “Life.”

Once Owen calls out these 5 points, he then turns to the the condition of, “But if…”  As Romans 8:13 declares, “For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”  This brings up two things, an uncertain condition and an absolutely certain condition.  As someone who cannot stand heights, I could climb a tall building and look out from the observation deck and say, “If I get down off of this building, I will never put myself in a position like that again.”  Now, that may or may not be true.  It could come to a point in the future were I do the same thing again, or not.  Owen, expounding on Romans 8:13, is not saying it could or could not happen.

What Owen says is something more along the lines of this, “Oh, you are allergic to bee stings, use this Epi-pen and the swelling you are experiencing will go away and you WILL be well.” It is an absolute certainty that if you “put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”

Now, lets deal with that tension.  Romans 6:23 tells us, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:1 also tells us that “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” So how do we square this “free gift” and “no condemnation” issue?  Owen states that God has appointed ‘means’ to attain this mortification.  The free gift of eternal life is absolutely freely given.  We begin to pursue the mortification of the deeds of the body, “by the Spirit.” The gift of eternal life is free, and the Holy Spirit,which is given to us when we are saved, is the means by which we obtain the mortification of the deeds of the body.

Owen the goes on to state:

“The choicest believers, who are assuredly freed from the condemning power of sin, ought yet to make it their business all their days to mortify the indwelling power of sin.”

This is a life long battle.  One that will go on every day of our life.  This is something we do, something we fight, something we endure and struggle with every second we live as a Christian.  But the blessed hope, the good news, the confident joy we can look to and claim is that “if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”  This life is not an existence like we now have and comprehend.  This is life eternal, life free from the struggle we now fight against.  An existence, a freedom that we will never even remotely understand or imagine until “that” day, the day when we are glorified.  Sin has so clouded, shaped and warped our bodies, our minds, that even C. S. Lewis’ quote about the “…ignorant child making mud pies in the slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea,” does not even scratch the surface of the gulf that the bondage of sin has created in us compared to the freedom that will be experienced by a Christians when we are transformed.

Oh, we don’t want to hear the word, “strive,” yet me must.  By the power of the Holy Spirit, we must strive every second of our Christian existence to mortify the deeds of the body and become more Christlike.  As Paul says, “And I am sure of this, that he (God the Father) who began a good work in you will bring it to completion (by the Holy Spirit) at the day of Jesus Christ.” It will be done.

As always, please feel free to comment, critique, question, and voice cares or concerns.

Until next time:

“Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.”

 

 

God’s Will, Man’s Will and Free Will – Part 1

I have been thinking quite a lot about this over the last couple of years.  Having come from a semi-pelagian background, my world was entirely shaken and turned upside down when I realized that God is absolutely sovereign over everything, which includes salvation (Jonah 2:9).  One way of thinking about it is that God owns salvation just like he owns the entire created universe due to the fact that he created it.  If I walked into a group of people and started handing out $100 bills, who could complain that I didn’t give them one.  It is mine to give to whosoever I will to give it too.  Why is it any different with God?  The problem is, we have a flawed view of God, which is another byproduct of the fall of man, and we do not understand that all he owes us is a one-way trip to hell because of our sin.  It is His shear grace that even allows any of us to come to salvation.  Grace by it’s very definition is ‘unmerited favor’, which means that it is unmerited (wait for it, it will sink in eventually).

Ernest Reisinger wrote a piece on The Will in the late 1990’s and I want to share it here:

Introduction

This book contains a brief study on a very important but neglected subject, that is, the subject of free will. We will be considering in what sense the will is free and how important this subject is to the Christian faith.

Does salvation depend upon man’s willingness to be saved apart from a prior work of the Holy Spirit? We will see that no one is saved against his will; however, God changes the “willer” so as to make the sinner willing. We will see that the subject of free will is at the very heart of Christianity and has a profound effect on our message and method of evangelism. We will see that “whosoever will may come.” We will see that the Bible teaches that salvation depends not on man’s willingness but on God’s willingness, God’s grace, and God’s power—and if God did not have power over man’s will the whole world would go to hell. We will see that God does not exclude anyone in His invitations; however, sinners do exclude themselves.

Listen to these lines from Philip Bliss’s hymn “Whosoever Will”:

“Whosoever heareth,” shout, shout the sound!
Spread the blessed tidings all the world around;
Tell the joyful news wherever man is found,
“Whosoever will may come.”

Whosoever cometh need not delay,
Now the door is open, enter while you may;
Jesus is the true, the only Living Way:
“Whosoever will may come.”

“Whosoever will,” the promise is secure;
“Whosoever will,” forever must endure;
“Whosoever will!” ’tis life forever more;
“Whosoever will may come.”

“Whosoever will, whosoever will!”
Send the proclamation over vale and hill
‘Tis a loving Father calls the wanderer home:
“Whosoever will may come.”

If you cannot sing this hymn from the heart, then you do not understand the Biblical teaching on free will and this book should help you. You will note that the songwriter was very prudent when he wrote “whosoever will” may come. He did not say whosoever will can come.

One of the first questions that faces us in any serious study of the freedom of the will is whether there is power of the will to obey God and to do that which is spiritually good. Continue reading

Before Your Throne We Sinners Bend

Before Your Throne We Sinners BendDon Fortner

(Tune: The Doxology—LM)

 

The Father in wisdom profound a ransom for our souls has found.

Before His throne we sinners bend our hearts and pray, “Free-grace extend!”

 

Eternal Son, incarnate God, our Prophet, Priest, Redeemer, Lord,

Before Your throne we sinners bend and pray, “Savior, free-grace extend!”

 

Blest, sov’reign Spirit, by whose breath poor souls are raised to life from death,

Before Your throne we sinners bend, eternal life to us extend!

 

Great God, our Father, Spirit, Son, Eternal God, great Three in One,

Before Your throne we sinners bend, Your mercy, love, and grace extend!

Round Up

Have You Ever Had A Pastoral Visit? – It’s not books, but “boots on the ground,” that tell you what really matters when it comes to the shepherding care that Christ provides for his sheep.

A Practical Understanding Of The Sufficiency of Scripture, Part 3 – Check out Part 1, and Part 2.

The Folly Of What Noah Preached – Paul wrote, “the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18).

All Things – The gospel guarantees that we will be brought home to glory. It is by grace that we are saved from the consequences of our sin; the same grace of God in the gospel brings us home. Better, Jesus brings us home.

Quote:

Since God is the creator, he cannot be unjust.  He creates whatever objects, things, or persons he pleases.  If he had wanted elephants with two legs and robins with four legs, he would have created them so.  Created as they are, they have no ground for complaint.  To understand the Bible, one must realize that God is the sovereign creator.  There is no law superior to him that commands, “Thou shalt not create elephants with two legs”, or “Thou shalt not hate Esau.”  There are many details in the doctrine of predestination, and each should be given its due weight; but the basic, the final, the ultimate answer to all objections is the relative position of Creator to creature.  All objections presuppose that man is in some way or other independent of God and has obtained from somewhere or achieved by his own efforts some rights over against Him.  Obviously such a view is totally destructive to Christianity. – Gordon H. Clark

It’s not books, but “boots on the ground,” that tell you what really matters when it comes to the shepherding care that Christ prn.org/blog/2014/03/26/have-you-ever-had-a-pastoral-visit/#sthash.BVGmK6VV.dpuf
It’s not books, but “boots on the ground,” that tell you what really matters when it comes to the shepherding care that Christ provides for his sheep. – See more at: http://www.whitehorseinn.org/blog/2014/03/26/have-you-ever-had-a-pastoral-visit/#sthash.BVGmK6VV.dpuf
It’s not books, but “boots on the ground,” that tell you what really matters when it comes to the shepherding care that Christ provides for his sheep. – See more at: http://www.whitehorseinn.org/blog/2014/03/26/have-you-ever-had-a-pastoral-visit/#sthash.BVGmK6VV.dpuf

Round Up

Gazing On His Beauty“One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.” – Psalm 27:4

The Merciful Gift of Desperation – Do not underestimate the power of desperation to do good for your soul.

Decisional Regeneration Part 1 – Regeneration, or the new birth, is a work of God. It is not a work of man. It is not something that man does but something that God does. The new birth is a change wrought in us, not an act performed by us.

Decisional Regeneration Part 2 – “Decisional Regeneration” does not bring men to Christ any more than does Baptismal Regeneration. It is true that some are converted under such preaching, but this is in spite of the false methods used, not because of them.

Quote:

We must have faith in the rightness of all that God says or does. I hope, beloved, you do not think of God’s sovereignty as tyranny, or imagine that he ever could or would will anything but that which is right. Neither will we admit into our minds a suspicion of the incorrectness of the Word of God in any matter whatever, as though the Lord himself could err. We will not have it that God, in his Holy Book, makes mistakes about matters of history, or of science, any more than he does upon the great truths of salvation. If the Lord be God, he must be infallible; and if he can be described as in error in the little respects of human history and science, he cannot be trusted in the greater matters. My brethren, Jehovah never errs in deed, or in word; and when you find his law written either in the ten commandments, or anywhere else, you believe that there is not a precept too many, or too few. Whatever may be the precepts of the law, or of the gospel, they are pure and holy altogether. The words of the Lord are like fine gold, pure, precious, and weighty—not one of them may be neglected. We hear people talk about “minor points,” and so on; but we must not consider any word of our God as a minor thing, if by that expression is implied that it is of small importance. We must accept every single word of precept, or prohibition, or instruction, as being what it ought to be, and neither to be diminished nor increased. We should not reason about the command of God as though it might be set aside or amended. He bids: we obey. May we enter into that true spirit of obedience which is the unshaken belief that the Lord is right! Nothing short of this is the obedience of the inner man—the obedience which the Lord desires. – Charles Spurgeon

God’s Sovereignty in the Salvation of Men

A Sermon

by

Jonathan Edwards

Sermon IV of Seventeen Occasional Sermons, in The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Volume Two, The Banner of Truth Trust, Reprinted 1995, pp. 849-854.

Romans 9:18Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.

Jonathan EdwardsTHE apostle, in the beginning of this chapter, expresses his great concern and sorrow of heart for the nation of the Jews, who were rejected of God. This leads him to observe the difference which God made by election between some of the Jews and others, and between the bulk of that people and the christian Gentiles. In speaking of this he enters into a more minute discussion of the sovereignty of God in electing some to eternal life, and rejecting others, than is found in any other part of the Bible; in the course of which he quotes several passages from the Old Testament, confirming and illustrating this doctrine. In the ninth verse he refers us to what God said to Abraham, showing his election of Isaac before Ishmael – “For this is the word of promise; At this time will I come, and Sarah shall have a son:” then to what God had said to Rebecca, showing his election of Jacob before Esau; “The elder shall serve the younger:” in the thirteenth verse, to a passage from Malachi, “Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated:” in the fifteenth verse, to what God said to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy; and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion:” and the verse preceding the text, to what God says to Pharaoh, “For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might show my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth.” In what the apostle says in the text, he seems to have respect especially to the two last-cited passages: to what God said to Moses in the fifteenth verse, and to what he said to Pharaoh in the verse immediately preceding. God said to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy.” To this the apostle refers in the former part of the text. And we know how often it is said of Pharaoh, that God hardened his heart. And to this the apostle seems to have respect in the latter part of the text; “and whom he will he hardeneth.” We may observe in the text,

1. God’s different dealing with men. He hath mercy on some, and hardeneth others. When God is here spoken of as hardening some of the children of men, it is not to be understood that God by any positive efficiency hardens any man’s heart. There is no positive act in God, as though he put forth any power to harden the heart. To suppose any such thing would be to make God the immediate author of sin. God is said to harden men in two ways: by withholding the powerful influences of his Spirit, without which their hearts will remain hardened, and grow harder and harder; in this sense he hardens them, as he leaves them to hardness. And again, by ordering those things in his providence which, through the abuse of their corruption, become the occasion of their hardening. Thus God sends his word and ordinances to men which, by their abuse, prove an occasion of their hardening. So the apostle said, that he was unto some “a savour of death unto death.” So God is represented as sending Isaiah on this errand, to make the hearts of the people fat, and to make their ears heavy, and to shut their eyes; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed. Isa. 6:10. Isaiah’s preaching was, in itself, of a contrary tendency, to make them better. But their abuse of it rendered it an occasion of their hardening. As God is here said to harden men, so he is said to put a lying spirit in the mouth of the false prophets. 2 Chron. 18:22. That is, he suffered a lying spirit to enter into them. And thus he is said to have bid Shimei curse David. 2 Sam. 16:10. Not that he properly commanded him; for it is contrary to God’s commands. God expressly forbids cursing the ruler of the people. Exod. 22:28. But he suffered corruption at that time so to work in Shimei, and ordered that occasion of stirring it up, as a manifestation of his displeasure against David.

2. The foundation of his different dealing with mankind; viz. his sovereign will and pleasure. “He hath mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.” This does not imply, merely, that God never shows mercy or denies it against his will, or that he is always Continue reading