Mortifying the deeds of the body
Why?

In a Brief Survey of the Epistle of Paul to the Romans
Based on sermons preached in PCC Worship Services, July 2003 to Sep 2005
Part 33b of 83


12  Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. 13  For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. 14  For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God” (Romans 8:12-14).

[We saw in the first instalment of this study, that the apostle Paul is addressing believers in this text. Believe are doubly indebted to God to mortify the deeds of the body. In this second instalment, we shall consider why it is important for us to mortify the deeds of the flesh. —JJL]

2.  Why?

Paul says:

13 For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.

Why is it important for us to “mortify the deeds of the body” (v. 13)? Paul inspired answer is that if you fail to do so you will die! This is a warning. But it comes with a promise as well: If you do so, you shall live. This is a promise.

Now, does this mean that Paul believes that salvation is in the hand of the child of God? Is he saying that it is in your hand whether you would live or die? Is he telling the regenerate that they can loose their salvation (as the Arminians claim)? Is he telling the unregenerate that they can attain to life by “mortifying the deeds of the body”?

No, no; this would be contrary to what he teaches elsewhere. He has made it very clear that by the deeds of the flesh shall no man be justified. And he has made it clear that those who are in Christ will persevere unto the very end. In fact later in this chapter he will make will make it abundantly clear in a most a glorious discourse that nothing shall separate us from the love of Christ.

What then is Paul saying when he says: “if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live” (v. 13)?

To understand what he is saying, we must remember that Paul is by the Spirit addressing us as the members of the church. He calls us brethren, as we saw. He tells us we are all debtors to Christ. This is what we ought to be! But at the same time, it is a fact that in every congregation there will be wheat and tare, true and false believers.

With that in mind, we see that the apostle is warning his readers that that those who do not mortify the deeds of the flesh will prove themselves to be still in the bonds of sin and iniquity.

They will be cut off from the Vine or the Olive Tree and they will die. In parable of the Vine and branches (John 15), our Lord is referring to the visible church. The apostle Paul is also referring to the visible church in his analogy of the Olive Tree in Romans 11.

One who remains unfruitful will be cut off. He may be cut off by the church, if the church scandalised by his unfruitfulness. Christ has committed the keys of the kingdom to his under-shepherds or elders in His church. But if they do not troubled by his unbelief and unfruitfulness, Christ will discover it. And He will himself cut him off at his death. He will die.

Such as “live after the flesh” are spiritually unfruitful. They will die.

On the other hand, those who “through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body” will bear spiritual fruit. They will live on. They will live on abundantly today.

“I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” says our Lord (Jn 10:10).

And they will persevere to the end and they will live abundantly forever and ever in heaven.

In other words, whether you mortify the deed of your body or not is a question of life and death. In a sense, whether you claim to be a believer or not? Or whether you are a member of a sound church or not? Or whether you partake of the Lord’s Supper or not? Are not really questions of life and death. But whether you mortify the deeds of your body is a question of life and death.

Yes, justification is by grace through faith in Christ alone. There is no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus. If you are in Christ, you will not be condemned because Christ was condemned on your behalf. You are justified. This is a legal declaration. It happens outside of you.

But this cannot be divorced from what happens in you. Those whom God justifies, He also sanctifies. Those whom God declares to be righteous in Christ, He also sends His Spirit to change their heart and to indwell them. When that happens, they will not walk after the flesh, but will mortify the deeds of the body.

So we may say: Those who are justified in Christ will mortify the deeds of the body. And conversely, those who will mortify the deeds of the body are justified in Christ.

No one will truly mortify the deeds of his body if he is not justified. None one who is justified will fail to mortify the deeds of his body.

If you claim to be justified, but you do not mortify the deeds of your body, you are fooling yourself.

But with this in mind, we must ask the most important question: What is it to mortify the deeds of the body?

…to be Continued Next Issue

—JJ Lim