In Chapter 7, Owen begins with the first essential prerequisite to mortification of sin: The one seeking mortification of sin must be a true believer in Jesus Christ:
Unless a man be a believer,—that is, one that is truly ingrafted unto Christ,—he can never mortify any one sin; I do not say, unless he know himself to be so, but unless indeed he be so .
1. What does Owen mean by distinguishing between the one who merely believes himself to be a believer and the one who actually is a believer?
2. How would you distinguish between a true and false profession of faith? Where would you go in the Bible to distinguish between true and false faith? True or false concern for sin?
3. How does Owen use Romans 8:13 to prove that only a believer may mortify sin?
4. Explain this quote:
An unregenerate man may do something like it; but the work itself, so as it may be acceptable with God, he can never perform.
5. But can’t an unbeliever fully leave off some bad act, some sinful behavior?
6. If a person fully refrains from engaging in some bad act, has he mortified that sin – if he is an unbeliever?
7. Mortification begins with repentance. Consider the following discussion of counterfeit repentance by Thomas Watson:
A. “Legal terror”: someone performs an action which dreadfully troubles their conscience. In fear they leave off the behavior: “Do not be deceived: this is not repentance….It is one thing to be a terrified sinner and another thing to be a repenting sinner.”
B. A resolution, a vow to never sin again – even if it is kept is not repentance.
C. Any other reason which may result in one no longer engaging in a sin is not repentance – and thus not mortification.
D. Why are these actions of leaving off a sin not repentance for or mortification of sin?
E. How does this relate to Owen’s point that someone may not mortify sin without being a believer? What does this have to do with Romans 8:13?
8. Explain this quotation:
It is true, it is, it will be, required of every person whatever that hears the law or gospel preached, that he mortify sin. It is his duty, but it is not his immediate duty; it is his duty to do it, but to do it in God’s way. (79)
A. What does Owen mean that is the duty of one to leave off sin, but it is not the immediate duty?
B. Imagine that you meet a man who (1) makes no pretense of being a true believer and (2) who engages in some open and obvious sin. Is it right and good that the man continues in his open sin? Yet, should you tell him to knock off with the sin? Why or why not? Does it make a difference what sin he is committing? Is the difference based criminality? Disgust?
9. Consider the following quotation from Jay Adams in Competent to Counsel in light of Owen’s discussion:
Actually, counseling becomes truly nouthetic [redemptive and empowered by the Spirit] only when the counselee is a Christian. Otherwise, it is always something less. When the Holy Spirit effects regeneration in a soul, that person becomes “a new creature in Christ; old things have passed away and all things become new.” The Holy Spirit takes up his residence in the life, begins to change that life, and empowers the individual to live according to the promises and commands of Scripture.2 Unsaved counselees are neither capable of understanding God’s revealed will (cf. 1 Corinthians 2) nor capable of doing it (Romans 8:7, 8). The Holy Spirit is the one who must motivate both counselor and client. Motivation not generated by the Spirit is humanistic and cannot honor God (cf. Paul’s words on the ministry of the Spirit in Romans 8). To ignore this transforming change in counseling, to attempt to effect changes apart from God’s power, is a colossal mistake.
10. Owen explains that false repentance only “pacif[ies] the conscience without Christ” (83). Why is that bad? What is the danger?
11. Owen says that driving on to mortification without an interest in Christ “deludes them, hardens them – destroys them” (83). How? What does he mean?
12. Owen writes that mortification of sin the “peculiar work” of what? What is absolutely essential for mortification of sin?
13. Owen states the “first general rule” of mortification: What is it?