“What is mortification of sin / the flesh?”Mortification, or to mortify, has several meanings in English.
The first meaning is to feel ashamed or embarrassed.
The second meaning of the word “mortify” is to subdue the body (or its needs and desires) through self-denial and discipline
(e.g., mortification of sin / the flesh).
The word “mortify” comes from the Latin word mortificare, which means “to kill or subdue.” We get our English words “mortuary” and “mortician” from this Latin root.
Therefore, mortification of sin / the flesh means to “kill” sin and the flesh.Biblically speaking, we find the word mortify in the King James translation of two passages:
Romans 8:13For if you live by its dictates, you will die. But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature,(Greek deeds of the body.)you will live.
So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires. Don’t be greedy, for a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world.
The Apostle Paul is exhorting his readers to “put to death” the “deeds of the body” or “what is earthly in you.”
So when the question is asked, “What is mortification of sin / the flesh?” we need to understand that as the concept of putting to death or subduing the sinful nature that still resides in believers. Let’s look at each of these passages in more depth.For if you live by its dictates, you will die. But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature,(Greek deeds of the body.)you will live.Romans 8:13
(Paul here is making a contrast between believers and non-believers.
Non-believersare those who “live according to the flesh.”
Believers are those who “by the Spirit put to death the deeds of the body.”
Often in the writings of Paul, the flesh and the spirit are contrasted.
To live “according to the flesh” is:
To have your mind set on the flesh
To have a mind that is hostile to God and does not submit to his law.
To continue living according to the sinful nature that does not obey God or live according to his law.
In a nutshell, this is the life of an unbeliever.
“living according to the flesh”is vividly described inRomans 1:18-3:20
God’s Anger at Sin18 But God shows his anger from heaven against all sinful, wicked people who suppress the truth by their wickedness. (Or who, by their wickedness, prevent the truth from being known.) 19 They know the truth about God because he has made it obvious to them. 20 For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.
21 Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. As a result, their minds became dark and confused.22 Claiming to be wise, they instead became utter fools. 23 And instead of worshiping the glorious, ever-living God, they worshiped idols made to look like mere people and birds and animals and reptiles.
24 So God abandoned them to do whatever shameful things their hearts desired. As a result, they did vile and degrading things with each other’s bodies. 25 They traded the truth about God for a lie. So they worshiped and served the things God created instead of the Creator himself, who is worthy of eternal praise! Amen. 26 That is why God abandoned them to their shameful desires. Even the women turned against the natural way to have sex and instead indulged in sex with each other. 27 And the men, instead of having normal sexual relations with women, burned with lust for each other. Men did shameful things with other men, and as a result of this sin, they suffered within themselves the penalty they deserved.
28 Since they thought it foolish to acknowledge God, he abandoned them to their foolish thinking and let them do things that should never be done. 29 Their lives became full of every kind of wickedness, sin, greed, hate, envy, murder, quarreling, deception, malicious behavior, and gossip. 30 They are backstabbers, haters of God, insolent, proud, and boastful. They invent new ways of sinning, and they disobey their parents. 31 They refuse to understand, break their promises, are heartless, and have no mercy. 32 They know God’s justice requires that those who do these things deserve to die, yet they do them anyway. Worse yet, they encourage others to do them, too.
God’s Judgment of Sin
2 You may think you can condemn such people, but you are just as bad, and you have no excuse! When you say they are wicked and should be punished, you are condemning yourself, for you who judge others do these very same things. 2 And we know that God, in his justice, will punish anyone who does such things. 3 Since you judge others for doing these things, why do you think you can avoid God’s judgment when you do the same things? 4 Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?
5 But because you are stubborn and refuse to turn from your sin, you are storing up terrible punishment for yourself. For a day of anger is coming, when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. 6 He will judge everyone according to what they have done. 7 He will give eternal life to those who keep on doing good, seeking after the glory and honour and immortality that God offers. 8 But he will pour out his anger and wrath on those who live for themselves, who refuse to obey the truth and instead live lives of wickedness.9 There will be trouble and calamity for everyone who keeps on doing what is evil—for the Jew first and also for the Gentile. ( Greek also for the Greek) 10 But there will be glory and honour and peace from God for all who do good—for the Jew first and also for the Gentile. 11 For God does not show favouritism.
12 When the Gentiles sin, they will be destroyed, even though they never had God’s written law. And the Jews, who do have God’s law, will be judged by that law when they fail to obey it. 13 For merely listening to the law doesn’t make us right with God. It is obeying the law that makes us right in his sight. 14 Even Gentiles, who do not have God’s written law, show that they know his law when they instinctively obey it, even without having heard it. 15 They demonstrate that God’s law is written in their hearts, for their own conscience and thoughts either accuse them or tell them they are doing right. 16 And this is the message I proclaim—that the day is coming when God, through Christ Jesus, will judge everyone’s secret life.
The Jews and the Law
17 You who call yourselves Jews are relying on God’s law, and you boast about your special relationship with him. 18 You know what he wants; you know what is right because you have been taught his law.19 You are convinced that you are a guide for the blind and a light for people who are lost in darkness.20 You think you can instruct the ignorant and teach children the ways of God. For you are certain that God’s law gives you complete knowledge and truth.21 Well then, if you teach others, why don’t you teach yourself? You tell others not to steal, but do you steal? 22 You say it is wrong to commit adultery, but do you commit adultery? You condemn idolatry, but do you use items stolen from pagan temples?(Greek do you steal from temples?) 23 You are so proud of knowing the law, but you dishonour God by breaking it. 24 No wonder the Scriptures say, “The Gentiles blaspheme the name of God because of you.”(Isa 52:5)25 The Jewish ceremony of circumcision has value only if you obey God’s law. But if you don’t obey God’s law, you are no better off than an uncircumcised Gentile. 26 And if the Gentiles obey God’s law, won’t God declare them to be his own people? 27 In fact, uncircumcised Gentiles who keep God’s law will condemn you Jews who are circumcised and possess God’s law but don’t obey it.28 For you are not a true Jew just because you were born of Jewish parents or because you have gone through the ceremony of circumcision. 29 No, a true Jew is one whose heart is right with God. And true circumcision is not merely obeying the letter of the law; rather, it is a change of heart produced by the Spirit. And a person with a changed heart seeks praise(Or receives praise. ) from God, not from people.God Remains Faithful3 Then what’s the advantage of being a Jew? Is there any value in the ceremony of circumcision? 2 Yes, there are great benefits! First of all, the Jews were entrusted with the whole revelation of God.( Greek the oracles of God.)3 True, some of them were unfaithful; but just because they were unfaithful, does that mean God will be unfaithful? 4 Of course not! Even if everyone else is a liar, God is true. As the Scriptures say about him,“You will be proved right in what you say, and you will win your case in court.”(Ps 51:4 )5 “But,” some might say, “our sinfulness serves a good purpose, for it helps people see how righteous God is. Isn’t it unfair, then, for him to punish us?” (This is merely a human point of view.) 6 Of course not! If God were not entirely fair, how would he be qualified to judge the world? 7 “But,” someone might still argue, “how can God condemn me as a sinner if my dishonesty highlights his truthfulness and brings him more glory?” 8 And some people even slander us by claiming that we say, “The more we sin, the better it is!” Those who say such things deserve to be condemned.
All People Are Sinners
9 Well then, should we conclude that we Jews are better than others? No, not at all, for we have already shown that all people, whether Jews or Gentiles,(Greek or Greeks. ) are under the power of sin. 10 As the Scriptures say,“No one is righteous— not even one.11 No one is truly wise; no one is seeking God.12 All have turned away; all have become useless.No one does good, not a single one.”(Pss 14:1-3; 53:1-3 )13 “Their talk is foul, like the stench from an open grave. Their tongues are filled with lies.”“Snake venom drips from their lips.”(Pss 5:9 (Greek version); 140:3.)14“Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.”(Ps 10:7 (Greek version)15 “They rush to commit murder.16 Destruction and misery always follow them.17 They don’t know where to find peace.”(Isa 59:7-8 )18 “They have no fear of God at all.”(Ps 36:1)19 Obviously, the law applies to those to whom it was given, for its purpose is to keep people from having excuses, and to show that the entire world is guilty before God. 20 For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are.
The person who lives his life according to the flesh will die. This is not speaking of physical death because that is a fate that all people will face as a result of sin. Paul is speaking of eternal death in hell.The believer, on the other hand, by the Spirit puts to death the deeds of the body. In other words, through the working of God’s Holy Spirit, who only dwells in believers, the believer engages in the process of sanctification or growing in holiness.
The believer, in contrast to the non-believer, has his mind set on the Spirit and submits to God’s law. It is important to note that the believer is not completely free from sin.
Putting to death the deeds of the body is a continual process that the believer must engage in on a daily basis. The point is that one of the marks of a true believer is one who is daily putting to death the deeds of the body. This person, the one who puts to death, or mortifies, the deeds of the body and its sinful nature will live.
Again, this is a reference to eternal life, or heaven.“Put to death what is earthly in you”Colossians 3:55 So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires. Don’t be greedy, for a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world.
Looking at the context of this passage we must look at what preceded this verse. In vv. 1-4, Paul exhorts the Colossians to seek the things that are above and to set their minds on heavenly things.
Colossians 3:1-4Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand.2 Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth.3 For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God.4 And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory.
Why? For we have died, not physically, but figuratively to sin and the old life, and our lives are now “hidden with Christ in God”(v. 3).
If this is the case, then what are we to do? The only way for the believer, whose life is hidden with Christ, must be heavenly minded,and that is if he puts to death those things that are earthly in him/her.
The contrast between heavenly and earthly does not mean that weshould have our heads in the clouds and our feet off the ground, as the expression goes, “He is so heavenly minded that he is of no earthly good.”.
It is similar to the spirit/flesh contrast Paul made in Romans, with flesh being understood as “sinful nature.”
So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires. Don’t be greedy, for a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world.6 Because of these sins, the anger of God is coming.7 You used to do these things when your life was still part of thisworld.
What is it that Paul wants us to put to death?
Sinful desires and actions such as:
Covetousness or greed which is equated with idolatry
(worshiping the things of this world)
The person whose life is characterized by these things is said to have the wrath of God upon them (v. 6). Paul notes that this was the way of life of his readers (v. 7).
All believers were at one time unbelievers and were under the wrath of God. This is a similar argument to the one Paul makes:
1 Corinthians 6:9-11
Don’t you realize that those who do wrong will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Don’t fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes, or practice homosexuality,10 or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people—none of these will inherit the Kingdom of God.11 Some of you were once like that. But you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
He says the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God. In v. 11, he says, “Some of you were once like that.”
In other words, you were like that, now you’re like this.
You were walking according to the flesh, now you’re in the Spirit.
As such, put to death those things that were of the flesh.
Grow in holiness and sanctification.So what is mortification of sin / the flesh?
In a word, it’s sanctification, the process by which the Holy Spirit works in the lives of God’s adopted children to grow them and form them into the image of God’s one and only Son, Jesus Christ.
Sanctification is God’s will for our lives
1 Thessalonians 4:3
God’s will is for you to be holy, so stay away from all sexual sin
and it is the purpose to which he has called us
For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn(Or would be supreme.) among many brothers and sisters.