Having completed a basic description of what mortification of sin is and is not, in chapter 7 Owen begins describing how mortification is accomplished. Chapter 7 presents the first rule: only believers can mortify sin. “There is no death of sin without the death of Christ.” So only the one who is truly “in Christ” has the ability to mortify sin.
Only the believer in Christ is able to mortify sin because only the believer in Christ is given the Holy Spirit of Christ. And it is only the Holy Spirit who makes the work of mortification effectual. The Spirit unites us to Christ and all his benefits. It is the Spirit who unites us into the death and resurrection of Jesus: the death that makes killing sin possible; the resurrection that makes living to righteous possible.
There are three dangers of an unbeliever attempting mortification: first, it is not the work God calls unbelievers to. God calls unbelievers to repent of their sin and place faith in Jesus Christ. Secondly, an unbeliever might seem outwardly successful in the task! As the Bible indicates, even worldly wisdom is effective in changing outward behavior. But “human precepts and teachings…are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh” (Col. 2:22-23). Third, the unbeliever will ultimately fail. This failure is likely to convince him that mortification is impossible. Not realizing that mortification is impossible for the unregenerate; his failure will keep him from turning to the fountain of living waters.
Last week was not the best for me. I let other things crowd my thinking and I devote myself to mortifying my sin. This chapter basically gives me a week off of from active duties. I am a believer in Christ. He is my only hope of salvation and I am depending on him for all righteousness. So I have a week to go back and review some previous weeks…and try to do what I should be doing to put Owen’s counsel in practice. By the Spirit…