I will be using the text found in the 2006 book Overcoming Sin and Temptation, Crossway, edited by Kelly M. Kapic and Justin Taylor – all page references will be to that edition. If you have not read John Owen before, I would recommend this edition as a good starting place. The editors provide introductions, explanatory footnotes and outlines of the books; without such helps you may easily find yourself lost in the text.
Chapter One: The Foundation of Mortification.
Read the chapter through three times. The first time, just get through it from beginning to end. If you have difficulty with some idea, do your best and keep reading. Read it a second time, this time make sure you understand every element of the chapter in some detail. Look up words you do not understand. Read every verse cited in the chapter. Pay attention to every detail. Third: Go the back of the book, page 411, and read the outline for chapter one. Then read the chapter a third time noting how all the parts go together. Repeat this strategy for reading with every chapter in the book.
1. Read Romans 8 through once. Make an outline of the basic progression of thought in Roman 8. Note our 8:13 fits into the over scheme of the chapter.
2. What are the five elements of 8:13? Note that Owen does not put the five elements in the same in which they are found in the verse. He has reordered the elements so as to make the main verb (Mortify) the most important element of the text.
3. Explain what is meant by “conditionality” and “connection”. Does the word “if” in 8:13 mean that a believer has a choice as to whether to mortify sin? Do you agree with Owen’s argument concerning the word “If”?
4. Who is being addressed in 8:13? Look back over the immediately preceding context (Rom. 8:1-11): Does Owen correctly identify the class of persons who are told to “mortify sin”? There is a block quote at the top of page 47, restate that observation in your own words.
5. If you have trouble with the phrase of “efficient cause” on page here are two links which may help you understand the question of causation: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Efficient_cause#Efficient_cause and http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/aristotle-causality/. Efficient cause in this instance merely refers to the agent who actually makes something happen.
6. Look over your own life: Can you rightly say that the Holy Spirit causes you on a daily basis to kill your sin? Do you know how to distinguish between whether the Holy Spirit or your own efforts are principally responsible for your growth in holiness? If you are unclear on the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, there are many good resources which can help you get started in this area. There are entire books which cover the subject as well as sections from systematic theology.
7. How does Owen explain the phrase “deeds of the body”? Read Romans 8:1-12 and note how Paul uses the word “flesh” in that section. If you are tempted to think of “flesh” as merely your skin and bones try to make sense of the word “flesh” in Romans 8:9 using that interpretation. Read Galatians 5:16-24. What two principles are contrasted in that passage? How does the passage in Galatians help you understand the proposition that the Holy Spirit is the “efficient cause” of your sanctification?
8. What does “mortify” mean? How does Owen describe the growth in holiness? Is it fast, slow, instantaneous, possible but not likely?
9. Read the block quote on the top of page 49: restate that quotation in your own words.
10. What does the promise of “life” mean in Romans 8:13? Isn’t a Christian already alive, why does he need to do this work? Using a search tool, find at least three other verses in the New Testament which use the word “life” in the same manner. Why does God offer “life” to someone who is already alive? Compare Gen. 2:17 and Ephesians 2:1-3.