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The Mortification of Sin

July 14, 2006

I’ve been thinking a lot about obedience lately.  (I’m for it.)  I’m tempted to write about it here, but I think I’ll wait and find a way to get it into Sunday’s sermon.  In the meantime, here’s a portion of an outline I made years ago when I read John Owen’s On the Mortification of Sin

Chapter 2.  Principle assertion:

I. Mortification is the duty of believers.

 Your being dead with Christ does not excuse you from this work

 A. Indwelling sin always abides with us in this world, therefore it must be mortified.

    (Php 3:12, 2 Cor 4:16, 1 Cor 13:12, Gal 5:17, 1 Jn 1:8, Ro 7:24)

 B. Sin not only abides, it still acts. (Ro 7:23, Jas 4:5, Gal 5:17, Jas 1:14, Heb 12:1)

    If sin is always acting, then we will be lost if we are not always mortifying.

 C. Sin, if left alone, will bring forth great, scandalous, soul destroying sins. (David)

    “Every unclean thought or glance would be adultery if it could.  Every covetous desire would be oppression. Every thought of unbelief would be atheism.”

 D. This is one reason the new nature is given to us, to oppose sin and lust. (Gal 5:17)

 E. Negligence leads to apostasy (Heb 3:13)

 F. It is our duty to perfect holiness (2 Cor 7:1) and to grow in grace (2 Pe 3:18)

    “Let not that man think he makes progress in holiness who walks not over the bellies of his lusts.  He who does not kill sin in his way takes no steps towards his journey’s end. 


Two evils that attend every unmortified professor

1) in himself–he has slight thoughts of sin

2) in others–hardens them by persuading them they are in as good condition as another professor.


Chapter 3. Second general principle

II. Only Holy Spirit is sufficient for this work.

 A. Other remedies in vain  “popish devotionists”

  reasons papists can never mortify any one sin 

  1) extra biblical disciplines “Who has required these things at your hand?”

  2) neglect of giving due place and order to appointed means such as prayer, fasting, watching, meditation.  These are the streams, they see them as the fountain.

     “Duties are excellent food for a healthy soul, they are no physic for a sick soul”

 B. It is the work of the Spirit

  1) He is promised of God for this work (Ez 36:26)

  2) All our mortification is the gift of Christ (Acts 5:31, 2:33)


Question:How does the Spirit mortify sin?

1) by causing our hearts to abound in grace (Titus 3:5)

2) by a real physical efficiency on the root of sin, consuming and destroying our lusts (Is 4:4)

3) by bringing the cross into the heart, communion with Christ in his death

[He says more about this later in ch.14, which I insert here] 

The work of the Spirit in mortification

     A. Convinces the heart of the evil of sin

     B. Reveals fullness of Christ

     C. Establishes heart in expectation of relief

     D. Brings cross into our hearts with its sin-killing power

     E. Author and finisher of our sanctification

     F. Empowers prayer (Zech 12:10, Ro 8:26)


Question:If this is the work of the Spirit, why are we exhorted to it?

Php 2:13, he works in and with, not against and without.  still an act of obedience.


Chapter 4. Last general principle

III. The vigor of our spiritual life depends on the mortification of sin.

 (not the necessary or immediate cause of it, but it is a means)

A. Because only mortification will prevent sin from doing two things:

 1) Weakens the soul

  a) untunes by entangling the affections. can’t say “You are my portion”

  b) fills it with thoughts and busies it making provision for the flesh.

  c) hinders duty

 2) Darkens the soul, intercepts beams of God’s love, loses sense of privilege

B. Mortification prunes the graces of God and makes room for them to grow.  Weed the garden so the fruit can grow.

C. No peace without sincerity, mortification is evidence of sincerity, not hypocrisy.

One Comment leave one →
  1. egana permalink
    July 15, 2006 8:18 am


    Man, I ‘m gonna need about 3 hours of unbroken study before I respoond to this one… and where am i gonna find that? Late at night, when my thinking is bright, clear, and lucid? argh!

    Anyway, I am going to come away with the image of weeding the garden. that is a great image, and anyone who has seen my garden this summer will know why… *wink*

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