Mortification of Sin – Part 2: Relevance

Part 1: John Owen

Before we continue analyzing Owen’s work, we must establish whether this is indeed relevant to us and our current culture. This book was originially published in 1656. There have been centuries between Owen’s prompting and us. Therefore, we must identify Owen’s purpose for writing Mortification of Sin and determine whether those factors still need to be addressed today.

In the preface, he states his reasoning for the work:

  1. Professing Christians are appearing to have a great disability with sin and temptation
  2. Some men are wrongfully teaching “self-wrought-out mortification,” which is “unacquainted with the mystery of the gospel and the efficacy of the death of Christ.”[1]

Essentially, his purpose was to present gospel-centered mortification. Is this still a need in our churches today? Is our Christianity suffering with having Christians still being disabled in regards to their mortification? In my own life, I know that this is still a battle. In the church culture I’ve been exposed to, I know all too well that the church has member after member, pastor after pastor, revealing thier subservience to sin. The news soaks it up and dishes it out happily. Is not the church’s top designation that of hypocrisy, and does this not reveal that the church still struggles with understanding and implementing gospel-centered mortification?

We have not outgrown our need to mortify the sin in our lives, and here is why: indwelling sin will forever continue to be a struggle on this side of eternity. “Be killing sin or it will be killing you.” Christianity, while yet being on its pilgrimage, will have to battle sin daily. Owen makes this point clear (pp. 49-56), thus intimating that this need for gospel-mortification will never be quenched until glorification. In short, yes, we have overwhelming reason to read, study, and apply Owen’s exegesis of gospel-mortification.

Nevertheless, above our desire for mortification, we must recognize the end of mortification – i.e., what mortification is intended to promote. Observing Owen’s grand purpose, we will get a flavor of his greatest intention for writing Mortification of Sin.

“My heart’s desire unto God, and the cheif design of my life in the station wherein the good providence of God has placed me, are that mortification and universal holiness may be promoted in my own and in the hearts and ways of others, to the glory of God; so that the gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ may be adorned in all things.” [2]

Remarkable – his design in life is the promulgation of church edification by equipping them (and himself) to grow in holiness, to the glory of God, for the supremacy of Jesus and His gospel in all things. Mortification is not an end in and of itself, rather it is a means where God’s children can promote His glory. Therefore, as we seek to pursue the magnification of God and His gospel, we will be burdened with a desire to mortify sin in our lives.

[1] John Owen, Overcoming Sin and Temptation, ed. Kelly Kapic and Justin Taylor (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2006), 41.

[2] Ibid., 42.

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