The Seventeenth Sunday of Ordinary Time

Romans 8:12-13

The Necessity of the Mortification of Sin in Believers

We have seen thus far throughout chapter eight that the difference between believers and unbelievers in that the former set their minds on things of the Spirit or heaven while the latter set their minds on things of the flesh or this world.  For Paul this is simply a fact: Believers do this and unbelievers do that.  Today we deal with not just the fact that believers do this (people born of the Spirit) but the necessity of doing so.  Much of what I will write in this devotion comes from John Owen’s classic, The Mortification of Sin in Believers.  It is a pity that preachers do not preach much on this topic today as it was especially important to the Reformers and Puritans.  Our sins are forgiven but Paul would have us also to understand that indwelling sin which remains in the believer is not to be tolerated but must be put to death (Latin: mors, mortis, meaning “death,” thus, to mortify or put to death).

Taking 8:13, “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,” Owen writes: “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” (WJO 6:7).  He doubts not that such people are believers; after all, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”  But Owen understands Paul to be saying that having been freed from sin’s condemnation, we must now work to be freed from its power.  Now this can only be done “by the Spirit,” but we sense that we are required to cooperate in this endeavor; indeed, if we are believers, we shall strongly desire to sincerely engage in this holy effort that we may grow in grace and godliness and thus draw closer to our saving God.

But we must also hear the words of warning: “For if you live according to the flesh you will die,” and Paul certainly means eternal death.  This is no place to waste time on debates between Calvinists and Arminians.  We must hear the word of God and tremble before it.  Again I quote Owen: “Do you mortify; do you make it your daily work; be always at it while you live; cease not a day from this work; be killing sin or it will be killing you (WJO 6:9; italics added).  Did you hear that last line?  Indwelling sin will not take a holiday; it will hound you the rest of your life and seek to destroy you.  Therefore, you must destroy it, finding ways to deprive it of its vigor and strength.  It is a fight to the death and one you cannot avoid.  This is one of the reasons why heaven is called “rest,” rest from the temptations of sin.  And we are promised victory, but we must enter the lists and do battle.

Author: The Reformed Baptist

My name is Stephen Taylor, ordained Baptist minister of eighteen years pastoral experience with a Ph.D. in Historical Theology from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. Better than that, I am married to a godly woman, Karla, who has been very patient with me since 1989. I have two daughters, both of whom I homeschooled for extended periods of time, who became godly young women, and who ran off and married godly young men, all of which is very proper. The oldest daughter has even seen fit to bless me with a grandson and a granddaughter, and my youngest daughter with a grandson, all three of whom are bundles of exceeding joy. As you can see, I am quite blessed. This website is dedicated to helping people grow in the wisdom and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ through the gift of writing that the Lord has given to me. It is specifically about helping His people grow in godliness, the theme you see repeated above. I write devotions with this aim and hope that they might be of some help to God’s people. Full disclosure: I am of a Reformed bent, meaning that my understanding of Scripture is primarily informed by the Reformers and their successors of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. However, as a student of church history and theology, I strive to remain true to that teaching handed down once for all unto the saints through every age of the Church. I like to think of myself as a “catholic” Christian, as the Reformers thought of themselves. At any rate, feel free to read, pray, and contact me if you wish, or correct me if need be. As you can see, I tend to follow the church year. Of course, I make no special claims about these devotions. I know very well that others have written better and plumbed the depths of God’s word with greater insight. But if my musings help someone draw closer to the Lord, well then, I have my reward. Blessings to you and may the God and Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ speak to you that word which He knows you especially need to hear. Grace & peace, Stephen Taylor

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