Mortification of Sin -- By: John F. Macarthur, Jr.

Journal: Masters Seminary Journal
Volume: TMSJ 05:1 (Spring 1994)
Article: Mortification of Sin
Author: John F. Macarthur, Jr.


Mortification of Sin1

John F. MacArthur, Jr.

President and Professor of Pastoral Ministries

It is puzzling how a Christian who has experienced liberation from sins dominion can at times give in to temptation in his daily life. The OT account of Agag and the Amalekites is a good illustration of how Christians should deal with sin. They should not try to co-exist with it, but should remove it completely. Saul partially obeyed Gods directive, but Samuel obeyed it to the letter by killing King Agag. Christians obey Gods command to mortify sin by living a life in the Spirit and not acknowledging any obligation to the flesh. Consistent effort to mortify sin in the body comes through a life lived in the Spirit. Mortification is the believers responsibility and includes such responsibilities as abstaining from fleshly lusts, making no provision for the flesh, fixing ones heart on Christ, meditating on Gods Word, praying incessantly, exercising self-control, and being filled with the Spirit. Covering up sin, internalizing it, exchanging it for another sin, or merely repressing it do not equate to sins mortification. Continuously and uncompromisingly removing sin—resulting in a conscience free from guilt—is what the process entails.

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Mortification abates [sins] force, but doth not change its nature. Grace changeth the nature of man, but nothing can change the nature of sin….Destroyed it may be, it shall be, but cured it cannot be….If it be not overcome and destroyed, it will overcome and destroy the soul.
And herein lies no small part of its power….It is never quiet, [whether it is] conquering [or] conquered
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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 Owen2

Every honest Christian will testify that becoming a believer does not erase the tendency to sin. He still derives pleasure from sin. He still struggles with sinful habits. Some of those habits are so deeply ingrained that he still battles them after years of spiritual warfare against them. He falls into appalling, shameful sins. The truth is, he sins daily. His thoughts are not what they ought to be. His time is often wasted on frivolous and worldly pursuits. From time to time his heart grows cold to the things of God. Why does all this happen if sin’s dominion is broken?

God’s Anger Against Amalek

An OT illustration may help to shed...

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