Is Mortification Optional?

My aim in blogging through Owen’s book is not to rehash all his arguments but to highlight the points God has impressed on me and to encourage you to pick up his book.

What strikes me in chapter 1 is the necessity of mortification. If you are a believer you must fight sin. We may believe this but are our actions consistent with that belief? I think the gospel has unfortunately been watered down to an extent that Christians can feel like the only thing necessary is their prayer of repentance. Practical holiness then becomes optional.

Certainly the Scriptures proclaim that we are saved by faith alone (Eph.2:8-9), but as Martin Luther said, the faith that saves is never alone (James 2:14-26).

Romans 8 describes the life of a Christian and it offers no middle ground.

You either walk according to the flesh or according to the Spirit. (v. 4)

You either set your minds on the things of the flesh or on the things of the Spirit. (v.5)

The mind set on the flesh is death; the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace. (v.6)

Your mind is either hostile to God or it submits to God. (v.7)

You either possess the Spirit of God or you don’t, and therefore don’t belong to him. (v.9)

So there are two options: living according to the flesh or living according to the Spirit. Living according to the flesh means your mind is set of the things of the flesh, you are hostile to God and the Spirit of God does not dwell in you. But living according to the Spirit means your mind is set on the things of the Spirit, you submit to God and the Spirit of God dwells in you.

This is the background that comes before Romans 8:13 which again says this –

“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.”

If you are a believer you are not to live according to the flesh. I think we all know this and have an understanding that we are to avoid certain sins. But Romans 8:13 says that we are not just to avoid certain sins but to put all sin to death. Putting something to death is far different from just avoiding it.

Owen’s opening argument is this:

“The vigor, and power, and comfort of our spiritual life depends on the mortification of the deeds of the flesh.”



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