Friday, November 10, 2006

The Mortification of Sin

The following is a 5 page essay on "The Mortification of Sin" I had to write for my Principles of Sactification class. There were several questions that had to be answered for the assignment but I managed to insert my opinions anyway.

The Mortification of Sin

The mortification of sin is taught, thoroughly, and throughout the Bible with its roots springing primarily from Romans 8:13, “For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” Mortification literally means “to put to death”. The term “body” refers to “all the corruption and depravity of our natures.”[1] The mortification of sin is an active putting to death indwelling sin in the body of the believer. However, mortification of sin is not the complete elimination of sin in our fallen bodies. This will not and cannot happen in our present bodies as Paul declares in Philippians 3:12.[2] Mortification of sin is not simply an improvement of an outward appearance either. Nor is it one type of sin traded for the other. It is “the weakening of sin’s indwelling disposition.”[3] It is the believer’s fervent, vigorous, and constant waging of war against sin.

Without the Holy Spirit, no one is able to mortify their sins. It takes God’s grace in our sanctification to empower us. If the Holy Spirit is not present all methods, contrivances, and spiritual pursuits are ineffectual and worthless. Not only that, but without faith, and depending on Christ we will never mortify our sins. Man’s striving without the Spirit’s assistance will always fail.

Mortifying indwelling sin in our bodies is a command of God (Phil. 2:13, II Thess. 1:11, Rom. 8:26). God’s Law is holy, perfect and upright. The law exposes the wickedness of men. Christ came and obeyed it perfectly while we do not and cannot. However, this does not mean that we should not try to obey the law of God. Further, Christians do not have the option or the right to disobey God. By the continual mortification of our indwelling sins we are becoming more holy and becoming more righteous. We should make it our aim to personally practice the discipline of the mortification of indwelling sin. In doing this we must first fully recognize the seriousness and power of sin. If we understand the ruthlessness of sin and the depravity of our own hearts we should be alarmed and thus provoked to do something about it. We should learn to identify the subtle tactics of evil so to prepare ourselves and flee from it. If drunkenness is a besetting sin for a Christian, he should make it his practice to not even set foot into a bar or anywhere he could easily stumble. Or when dealing with sexual sins, do not be around places or people that you will be tempted to compromise, then weaken, then fall. In Genesis 39:1-22, we find Joseph as a great example for us. Potiphar’s wife continually propositioned him for illicit sex, and after continually denying her, she finally grabbed him while alone, “but he left his garment in her hand, and fled and ran outside.” He ran so fast she was left standing (and angry) with his garment in her hand! Joseph knew how to keep himself pure.

Only the most thoughtless and immature believer thinks that because of God’s grace shown to sinners, that God isn’t calling us to live holy and obedient lives. They may flatter themselves by holding their lifestyles up in comparison to a godless, perverse culture but this is vain self-deception. The standard Christians should strive for is absolute perfection, “Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.” (Matt. 5:48). As it is written, “. . . holiness, without which no one will see the Lord.” (Heb. 12:14b). The mortification of sin produces holiness in the Christian life. Becoming holy is a process whereby we grow in it over time. We are not to assume since one Christian may not be as holy as the other that therefore we should not strive for holiness. How many think this way when pursuing financial wealth? None.

Mortification is widely rejected in our culture today. There are various and sundry reasons for this. Chief of these would be the charge of “legalism”. Once mortification is taught or preached it is inevitable the moniker “legalist” will be used against you. They accuse the Christian obeying Christ’s commandments of attempting to justify themselves before God rather than obeying God. They assume mortifying one’s sins in order to live a holy and obedient life is contrary to their view of grace. This is utter foolishness and should be condemned as anti-Christian. With the spread of easy-believism it is no wonder that many professed Christians assume that they may live as they had before because of God’s grace forgiving them. This is cheap grace and it diminishes Christ’s perfect and substitutionary atoning work on the cross. This person ought to head the warnings of Christ, “For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 5:20). Mortification of sin is in no way legalistic. It is usually the “Christian” living an ungodly, disobedient life that uses the word “legalist” as an epithet against a Christian pursuing godliness. This is obviously self-serving to say the least.

It is rare to here the mortification of sins, sanctification, righteous living, and holiness being preached because of the unpopularity of it. This kind of teaching and preaching has an exposing effect on the hearer and hypocrite alike. The natural man despises this kind of teaching and to the shame of many ministers they tailor the Word of God to suit the tastes of the people. Shine a light in a dark room where someone is stealing and you will get a stark reaction to the light. Be that as it may, this teaching should be given to the church from the pulpit, and the classroom if were to be obedient disciples of Christ.

There are ways that the mortification of sins can be taught to and implemented in congregations. But this will not happen until the ministers and teachers make a concerted effort to reject the falsehood that this is somehow legalistic. To put it simply, teachers of the Word need a backbone. There first must be a reformation in the way preaching and teaching is done. This will come by an acknowledgment and repentance of sins and past failures. Many churches today resemble a circus or movie theater. They are taught a man-centered, hedonistic, or seven steps to self-fulfillment – not holiness. Being fed this type of unsatisfying candy-coated doctrine produces weak, spiritually emaciated and immature Christians who cannot tolerate the “solid food”[4] of the scripture. Indeed, the problem lies with the under-shepherds of God’s sheep and their neglect of the office they assume.

It is only when the minister of the Word or teacher starts to fear God rather than man where we will see this doctrine being faithfully proclaimed as it was in times gone by. The teaching of mortification of sins, producing holiness in the lives of believers, and growing in righteousness must be preached from the pulpit and taught from the classrooms. The preacher should not take sections of scripture teaching mortification of sins and holiness then formulate broad principles or trite little anecdotes from it. No, faithful preachers should exposit the scriptures teachings on holiness and exhort the people to obey and practice them – without apology or qualification. Clarification, however, of what scripture teaches is fine and proper. But to water the message down or remove its cutting condemnations for living disobedient and unholy lives is the devil’s work. In the classrooms, the teacher should be qualified to teach. Not just in expounding doctrine but the teaching should be evident in his life as well. His life ought to reflect these very teachings of scripture. Is he mortifying his indwelling sin whereby it is evidenced in becoming more holy and righteous? If not, he should sit down and learn from one who has proven himself.

[1] Owen, John. Sin & Temptation (Vancouver, B.C., Regent College Publishing, 2002).
[2] Philippians 3:12. Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.
[3] Ibid, p.158.
[4] Hebrews 5:12-14. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Ted Haggard

Ted Haggard news articles here, here, and here.

Before you read this post, I'd like to say I've prayed for Ted Haggard and his family along with those he pastored. I have no joy in learning this. Only deep sadness as Christ's name was profaned by a professed Christian leader yet again.

Here is a link to Ted haggard's "letter of confession" to New Life Church.

I pray that God would use his humiliation to effect spiritual regeneration in Mr. Haggard. That he would truly see his sin as an abomination like he previously taught. Repenting in dust and ashes is all Ted Haggard should be considering. Also, be praying for the wife and 5 children he has brought the worst of shame upon.

As a result of researching this and Haggard's former Presidency of the National Association of Evangelicals, I am now on to my next personal project: Discovering why the PCA is a member of this grotesque body of apostates.

Here is a link to an article on ted Haggard's doctrine before this latest revelatory news item happened.

Speaking of doctrine and the lack thereof, listen to an account of his interview on The White Horse Inn:

"The White Horse Inn" did an interview (or at least played part of an interview) with Haggard several months ago.He was categorically denying that preaching needed to be "Christ-centered". He said it just needed to be "Bible-centered", which makes me think he is talking about "principles for successful living".He also claimed to be doing pretty well with the whole "Law" thing, and when the interviewer admitted that he stumbles over the Law everyday and gave an example or two, Haggard said, "Well, stop doing that!"The rest of this post, I edited out.... I felt that maybe I was being uncharitable towards him, and I didn't want to take a chance of doing that.

See this link for more info on Haggard and his teachings.

There is a common theme in all of this. More to come to be sure.

Friday, November 03, 2006


This is a short 5 page paper for my Systematic Theology class I turned in dealing with the Trinity. It is meant to be an introduction to the doctrine of perichoresis or "mutual indwelling".



The following paper will examine the central truth of Trinitarian doctrine known as perichoresis. Reflection will be given to how a doctrine of perichoresis functions within understandings of the existence and work of God. Further reflection will examine the wider implications that such thought may have in our corporate life as Christians.

Definition of the term

The term perichoresis has been defined as, “A term used in the theology of the Trinity to indicate the intimate union, mutual indwelling, or mutual interpenetration of the three members of the Trinity with each other.[1]

Description of the Concept

The break down of the term seems to include the prefix Peri which means “around” and the stem chorea being related “to dance”. The perichoretic relationship within the Trinity is not best conceived of as a static state of being, but rather as a dynamic relationship. Like dancers in a performance there is a constant movement of overture and acceptance, each person envelops and encircles the others.

Perichoresis describes the ongoing mutual self-giving, and mutual indwelling within the divine community of the persons of the Trinity. It emphasizes that each divine person harbors the others at the center of his being. An English language alternative term is indwelling. It denies that each member of the Trinity is a separate and independent person. “For in the divine life there is no isolation, no insulation, no secretiveness, no fear of being transparent to another.”[2]

Key Biblical Texts

John 17:20-21,

I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. (John 17:20-21)

John 8:12-16,

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." So the Pharisees said to him, "You are bearing witness about yourself; your testimony is not true." Jesus answered, "Even if I do bear witness about myself, my testimony is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going, but you do not know where I come from or where I am going. You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one. Yet even if I do judge, my judgment is true, for it is not I alone who judge, but I and the Father who sent me.

John 10:37-39,

If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father." Again they sought to arrest him, but he escaped from their hands.

John 14:8-11,

Philip said to him, "Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us." Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father'? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.

Theological reflections of perichoresis in relation to the oneness of God

In the Old Testament, the exclusive worship of God bears testimony to Israel’s understanding that is essential to the proper understanding of God. The classic passage in regard to the oneness of God is Deuteronomy 6:4, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.” The biblical language of God being one is in harmony with a variety of theological constructs.

God’s oneness is characterized by his uniqueness (Unitas Singularitatis). There is an absolute distinction between the Creator and the created; there is God and there is everything else (material and immaterial). God’s oneness is also characterized by his simplicity (Unitas Simplicitatis). God in His perfection is not susceptible to divisions. God “is infinite in being and perfection, a most pure spirit, invisible, without body, parts, or passions”.[3] Commenting on this A.A. Hodge stated, “For an essential division in the one Godhead would in effect constitute two Gods; besides, the scriptures teach us that the Christian Trinity is one undivided God . . .”[4] Finally, it can be said that God’s oneness is found in his mutual indwelling (perichoresis). The very life and activity of God is a triplicate interchange of self-giving; one life indwelling the life of another as one invited and welcomed in loving hospitality.

Theological reflections of perichoresis in relation to the works of God

Perichoresis is frequently thought of in an ontological context but we should not disregard its relevance to the works of God. Our knowledge and experience of God is within the realm of creation and perhaps more beneficial to examine perichoresis in light of God’s work of creation and redemption.

His work in Creation

All three persons are involved in all the works of God in and for creation.[5] The Father (Gen 1), the Son (John 1:3;Coll 1:16), and the Spirit (Gen 1:2, Psalm 104:30) are involved in the work of Creation.

His work in Redemption

In the work of Redemption, covenant theologians have written on an intra-Trinitarian covenant sometimes called pactum salutis. This is to say that the work of redemption is in some way the work of each person. The Father elects some to salvation before the foundation of the world, the Son provides atonement for their sins, and the Spirit regenerates them so they can have faith in Christ, and sanctifies them throughout their lives.

Theological implications for the corporate life of Christians

The doctrine of perichoresis has a direct, and tangible application to the corporate life of Christians. There are some things we can take from our understanding of perichoresis such as the church being one body united, and the church as a relational being.

The Church as one

Just as there is only one God there is also only one Church – his body. As Ephesians 1:22-23 teaches us,

And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

The Church, as it is the body of Christ, is one. Ephesians 4:4-6 reads,

There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

Consider 1 Corinthians 12:12, “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.” The Church is a singular body made up of many members. Romans 12:5, “So we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.” Like the perichoretical relationship of the Trinity, the church, with its many members, are but one body in unity.

The Church as a relational being

Just as in the communal relationship of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit share in perichoresis, the Church is to be marked by a loving relationship between one another in the body. We [the Church] are all members of Christ’s body. In John 3:34, Christ gives us a “new command” to love one another. “As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” The three persons of the Trinity have perfect love for one another in their perichoretical relationship. And like this relationship, God calls us to be devoted to and honor one another (Rom 12:10), serve one another (Gal 5:13), bearing with one another (Eph 4:2), to live in harmony, being sympathetic, compassionate, and humble to one another (1 Pet 3:8). The scripture is replete with exhortations and admonitions to treat one another in a godly manner. In this way, and by doing this, the church reflects the perichoresis of the triune God.

There are a few conclusions we can draw from our study of perichoresis. One, the Trinity is indeed best conceived of as perichoresis rather than a static or separate state of being. Two, the very essence of God is relational. God is said to be love, and that love necessitates relationship within the Trinity. The church in all its mutual functions, relationships, and movements is in this sense perichoretical like the Triune God it serves. Recognizing the Godhead as a relational community of loving members, the church can model its relations with one another in the body. The church would do well to strive for such a unity as to reflect the perichoresis of the Trinity.



[1] McKim, K. Donald. Westminster Dictionary of Theological Terms (Louisville, Westminster John Knox, 1996).

[2] Plantinga, Cornelius. Trinity, Incarnation, and Atonement (Notre Dame, University of Notre Dame Press, 1989) p.28.

[3] WCF Ch 2.1

[4] Hodge, A. Archibald. The Confession of Faith (Carlise: The Banner of Truth Trust, reprinted 1998) pg. 48.

[5] Frame, John. The Doctrine of God (Phillipsburg: P&R, 2002) pg. 694


Frame, John. The Doctrine of God (Phillipsburg: P&R, 2002).

Hodge, A. Archibald. The Confession of Faith (Carlise: The Banner of Truth Trust, reprinted 1998)

McKim, K. Donald. Westminster Dictionary of Theological Terms (Louisville, Westminster John Knox, 1996).

Plantinga, Cornelius. Trinity, Incarnation, and Atonement (Notre Dame, University of Notre Dame Press, 1989)

Westminster Confession of Faith. Chapter 2, paragraph 1, Of God, and of the Holy Trinity

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