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.”

 

 

The Double Cure

Augustus Toplady wrote:

Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee;
Let the water and the blood,
From Thy riven side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure,
Cleanse me from its guilt and power.

This “double cure” is both justification and sanctification.  Each is a separate work, yet they are inseparable because both flow from union with Christ.  From this union flows justification, which takes care of the guilt of our sin, and sanctification which takes care of the power of sin over our lives.

Brian Borgman, who I highly recommend, preaches a wonderful sermon regarding this topic which can be either watched or listened to here.

Round Up

Total Depravity Is A Deplorable Doctrine – I recognize the weight of the doctrine of “total depravity”, the first of John Calvin’s Five Points. It stresses the radical corruption of the human nature, rendering him incapable of exercising saving faith and repentance and obedience to God’s righteous commands. I understand it, and I hate it.

Christ Before Pilate –  [Pilate] might have guessed that this carpenter from Nazareth could make a table or a chair, but it never entered his mind that “by Him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers; all things were created by Him, and for Him.” PDF Document

The Missing Ingredient In Many Sermons – I have seen this in some otherwise terrific sermons. Guys can be exegetically sound, communicate with clarity, illustrate with profundity, and then at the end of the sermon it tastes like grandma’s meatloaf: somewhat filling but not so memorable.

Five Truths About The Wrath Of God – We live in a day where we have set ourselves as the judge and God’s character is on trial. “How can hell be just?” “Why would God command the Israelites to destroy the Canaanites?” “Why does God always seem so angry?”

Quote:

I am dying willingly for God’s sake, if you do not hinder it. I beseech you, be not an unseasonable kindness to me. Suffer me to be eaten by the beasts, through whom I can attain to God. I am God’s wheat, and I am ground by the teeth of wild beasts that I may be found pure bread of Christ…. I long for the beasts that are prepared for me, and I pray that that may be found prompt for me. I will even entice them to devour me promptly…. Let there come on me fire and cross and struggles with wild beasts, cutting and tearing asunder…. Cruel tortures of the devil, may I but attain to Jesus Christ. – Ignatius

Develop a good theological perspective, it is important to know the whole of the Bible and what God is doing.

Frontline Apologetics

SAM_0515

Theology as it is stated in most secular dictionaries is defined as the study of the nature of God and religious belief. We should start by expressing our total and complete dedication to the God of Christianity as it is revealed to us in the Bible. Although a dictionary, secular or religious, may be helpful it is not objective in the sense that it doesn’t always presuppose the God of the Bible or exegetically utilize the God of Scripture. So, theology should be recognized as Biblical Christian theology. The study of the Triune God of Christianity as revealed to us in His Word. Therefore, our first responsibility to a  proper perspective of  theology should be to begin with an objective understanding of what theology is from the objective source.

Now, God has created all things and therefore it is necessary that in order to make proper sense of anything we…

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Assurance

PrayerMy brother in Christ, and new friend, Slimjim, over at The Domain For Truth has finished up his series on assurance.  It is a 10 part series and well worth looking at since most who call themselves “Christian” know so very little about this topic.  What is amazing to me is the fact that assurance is so obvious.  Just open your Bible to John 3:16 and it literally begs to be noticed.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”

Please understand that I am not going to make an entire theological statement on this verse.  I am convinced that many people take it way out of context, but I do want to look at one part of it.  Take a look at the last 3 words and follow along.  “Have” is something you possess.  It is something you received in the past.  “Eternal Life” is, well, eternal.  If’n you can’t figure out what the meaning of “eternal” is, please consult a dictionary.  So, when you put that together, you “HAVE ETERNAL LIFE.”  But, one other thing I want to bring out is the fact that you have eternal life whether you are a Christian or not.  We are born into “eternity,” I like to say.  One form of that eternal life is in Christ, which leads to heaven, the other form of eternal life is outside of Christ and that leads to hell.  Either way, it is eternal, never ending, always ongoing.

My hope and prayer is that you will read through the links I have posted below and first, come to a knowledge of Jesus Christ by the working of the Holy Spirit in the regeneration of your heart.  Or, if you are already a Christian, that your faith will be strengthened and the assurance that is given to us will be more evident to you.

Here are the links to the 10 part series:

Assurance of Salvation Part 1: Why study on the topic of Christian assurance?

Assurance of Salvation Part 2: Foundation for Perseverance of the Saints

Assurance of Salvation Part 3: Perseverance means a Believer Endure

Assurance of Salvation Part 4: Objections to Perseverance of the Saints

Assurance of Salvation Part 5: Christians can Know that they are saved

Assurance of Salvation Part 6: Do you understand the Gospel?

Assurance of Salvation Part 7: Questions to examine ourselves Part 1

Assurance of Salvation Part 8: Questions to examine ourselves Part 2

Assurance of Salvation Part 9: Four kinds of people and the result of our testing in the faith

Assurance of Salvation Appendix: Test your faith Survey Questions List