Thursday, March 1, 2007

Mortification of Sin

Our Thirsty Theologians (Ps 63:1) are beginning to read John Owen's classic work Mortification of Sin, which is one of three works in Overcoming Sin & Temptation from Crossway Publishing (you can read it for free here, though in a slightly less modern form). I've barely begun to scratch the surface of this work and already am under much conviction. Also immediately apparent is the tension between divine sovereignty and human responsibility, which as John MacArthur has said is evident in almost every biblical doctrine. Consider it: who is the author of Scripture? Who accomplishes sanctification? Who enables repentance, evangelism, faith, and so on? Owen makes clear, using Romans 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), that the putting to death, mortification, of sin is the responsibility of the Christian, but that it is accomplished only by the power of the Spirit.

He makes clear also that this is not a cause-effect relationship, but a ways-means-ends relationship. God has ordained this means (the striving of man against temptation) and provided all the power of this striving by His Spirit, to assuredly accomplish the ends which He has also ordained, the complete work of salvation. Just as conversion is the sole work of God, yet he chooses to use human preachers as a means to accomplish the gospel ministry. And as is the case whenever I consider how God uses us as a means I am humbled that He should deign to use such weak and meager tools. What glorious privilege! How far indeed from drudgery and bondage, which the unknowing heathen attributes to this life lived in service to Christ. How contrary to fatalism is this assurance that despite our failings God's good purpose is always accomplished, and when we do in some small way succeed in obedience He attributes it to us as righteousness! Glory and praise be unto His name, amen.

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