Sin is Out of The Question (Mortification of Sin)

Be killing sin or it will be killing you.” – John Owen, The Mortification of Sin

There’s a real connection between coming to Christ and the very real death of Christ. In other words, a true Christian will desire a deadness to his sin that is just as real as Christ’s death on Calvary. That’s as real as it gets. Similarly, as Christ was raised to new life three days later, so also the Christian is raised to overcome sin and death by Christ’s power; no longer to walk in it.

 

“Do you mortify; do you make it your daily work; be always at it whilst you live; cease not a day from this work; be killing sin or it will be killing you.” – John Owen, The Mortification of Sin

Hyper grace is a movement which views the sacrifice of Christ for sins past, present and future, but views them in such a light that Christian holiness and Christian repentance is of little concern. A hyper-gracer might say in the name of “grace” that avoidance of sin is pointless and striving for holiness is unnecessary because I am already forgiven for it all.

On the one hand I agree that Christ imputes righteousness and fully justifies those who believe upon Him with a faith like Abraham.  I know that obedience will never in any way increase a person’s chance of salvation, nor will anyone be looked over or disqualified solely based on past sins. According to the Bible, justification comes by faith alone.

“That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all.” (Romans 4:16).

On the other hand though, hyper-grace is greatly offensive to another vital doctrine, the mortification of sin.  It is for this reason that I reject hyper-grace in totality and pray in all seriousness that those who hold to it will see its subtle deception in our age.

The doctrine of sin’s mortification states that in Christ’s cross and the death He died there is a real work of power to conquer sin and give victory to a believer. The Scripture is so specific in places like Romans 6, that it tells us the very attitude one should have towards sin, not only the act, but even the hypothetical.

“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:1-4).

Paul’s question comes in light of three truths previously stated in Romans. Let me show you.

  1. We have been justified through faith, and have peace with God through Christ. Rom 5:1
  2. Our innate sinful nature inherited from Adam is the reason for the reign of sin and death in the world, yet through the One Man, Jesus Christ, comes life. Rom 5:12-18
  3. His life given is a life of grace that reigns over death through His righteousness imputed to us. Rom 5:18-21

Should a person continue to sin in order to prove that sins rule is no match for the presence of Christ’s reigning righteousness? Paul gives an emphatic, “By no means!” Christ’s forgiveness should not relax the Christians attitude towards sin. On the contrary, Christ’s death, burial, resurrection and our forgiveness thereby should increase our hatred of sin and bolster our longing for its defeat in our daily lives.

“How can we who died to sin live any longer in it?” It’s a rhetorical question. The foundation for the answer is the following; “All who were baptized into Christ were baptized into His death.”

There’s a real connection between coming to Christ and the very real death of Christ. In other words, a true Christian will desire a deadness to his sin that is just as real as Christ’s death on Calvary. That’s as real as it gets. Similarly, as Christ was raised to new life three days later, so also the Christian is raised to overcome sin and death by Christ’s power; no longer to walk in it.

If your excuse for continued sin is that you just cannot help it, but still you do not worry because you are under grace, then you are no slave of righteousness, but of sin.  Paul does not tell us that Christ’s death will keep us from sinning, but that it most definitely keeps us from enslavement to it. Our daily aim should be for the mortification of sin and looking to the sacrifice of Jesus for the victory that is ours through faith. Yes, grace is abundant where sin abounds, but to continue in sin for any reason at all is to prove you have not been united with Him in a death and resurrection that is anything like His. “For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his (Romans 6:5).

Go back to Paul’s question.  Can you live in sin, any sin, big or small and still say you have died and risen with Christ? Certainly not.

“Let faith look on Christ in the gospel as he is set forth dying and crucified for us. Look on him under the weight of our sins, praying, bleeding, dying; bring him in that condition into thy heart by faith; apply his blood so shed to thy corruptions: do this daily.”  – John Owen, The Mortification of Sin

Joel Littlefield is Associate Pastor and Worship Leader at Calvary Chapel Crossville, Tenn. This article appeared on his blog and is used with permission.