Overcoming Sin and Temptation: Three Classic Works by John Owen

Overcoming Sin and Temptation: Three Classic Works by John Owen


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This volume includes three classic works by John Owen on sin, temptation, and repentance in the Christian life. The editors have made this difficult-to-read Puritan accessible for the modern reader without sacrificing Owen’s work.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781433550089
Publisher: Crossway
Publication date: 03/31/2015
Edition description: Redesign
Pages: 464
Sales rank: 205,682
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

John Owen (1616–1683) was vice chancellor of Oxford University and served as advisor and chaplain to Oliver Cromwell. Among the most learned and active of the Puritans in seventeenth-century Europe, and known as the "theologian's theologian," he was accomplished both in doctrine and practical theology.

Kelly M. Kapic (PhD, King's College, University of London) is professor of theological studies at Covenant College, where he has taught for over fifteen years. Kapic has written and edited over ten books, focusing on the areas of systematic, historical, and practical theology. Kapic has also published articles in various journals and books. Kapic and his wife, Tabitha, live on Lookout Mountain with their two children.

Justin Taylor (PhD, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is the executive vice president of book publishing and book publisher at Crossway. He has edited and contributed to several books, including A God-Entranced Vision of All Things and Reclaiming the Center, and he blogs at Between Two Worlds—hosted by the Gospel Coalition.

Read an Excerpt





[So] that what I have of direction to contribute to the carrying on of the work of mortification in believers may receive order and perspicuity, I shall lay the foundation of it in those words of the apostle, "If you through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body you shall live" (Rom. 8:13), and reduce the whole to an improvement of the great evangelical truth and mystery contained in them.

The apostle having made a recapitulation of his doctrine of justification by faith, and the blessed estate and condition of them who are made by grace partakers thereof, verses 1-3 of this chapter proceed to improve it to the holiness and consolation of believers.

Among his arguments and motives unto holiness, the verse mentioned contains one from the contrary events and effects of holiness and sin: "If you live after the flesh, you shall die." What it is to "live after the flesh," and what it is to "die," that being not my present aim and business, I shall not otherwise explain than as they will fall in with the sense of the latter words of the verse, as before proposed.

In the words peculiarly designed for the foundation of the ensuing discourse, there is:

1. A duty prescribed: "Mortify the deeds of the body."

2. The persons denoted to whom it is prescribed: "You" — "if you mortify."

3. A promise annexed to that duty: "You shall live."

4. The cause or means of the performance of this duty — the Spirit: "If you through the Spirit."

5. The conditionality of the whole proposition, wherein duty, means, and promise are contained: "If you," etc.

The Conditionality: A Certain Connection

The first thing occurring in the words as they lie in the entire proposition is the conditional note, ei de: "but if." Conditionals in such propositions may denote two things —

The uncertainty of the event or thing promised, in respect of them to whom the duty is prescribed. And this takes place where the condition is absolutely necessary unto the issue, and depends not itself on any determinate cause known to him to whom it is prescribed. So we say, "If we live, we will do such a thing." This cannot be the intention of the conditional expression in this place. Of the persons to whom these words are spoken, it is said (verse 1 of the same chapter), "There is no condemnation to them."

The certainty of the coherence and connection that is between the things spoken of; as we say to a sick man, "If you will take such a potion, or use such a remedy, you will be well." The thing we solely intend to express is the certainty of the connection that is between the potion or remedy and health. And this is the use of it here. The certain connection that is between the mortifying of the deeds of the body and living is intimated in this conditional particle.

Now, the connection and coherence of things being manifold, as of cause and effect, of way and means and the end, this between mortification and life is not of cause and effect properly and strictly — for "eternal life is the gift of God through Jesus Christ" (Rom. 6:23) — but of means and end. God has appointed this means for the attaining of that end, which he has freely promised. Means, though necessary, have a fair subordination to all end of free promise. A gift, and procuring cause in him to whom it is given, are inconsistent. The intention, then, of this proposition as conditional is that there is a certain infallible connection and coherence between true mortification and eternal life: if you use this means, you shall obtain that end; if you do mortify, you shall live. And herein lies the main motive unto and enforcement of the duty prescribed.

The Persons: Believers

The next thing we meet with in the words [of Rom. 8:13] is the persons to whom this duty is prescribed, and that is expressed in the word "you," in the original included in the verb, thanatoute, "if you mortify" — that is, you believers; you to whom "there is no condemnation" (v. 1); you that are "not in the flesh, but in the Spirit" (v. 9); who are "quickened by the Spirit of Christ" (vv. 10-11); to you is this duty prescribed. The pressing of this duty immediately on any other is a notable fruit of that superstition and self-righteousness that the world is full of — the great work and design of devout men ignorant of the gospel (Rom. 10:3-4; John 15:5). Now, this description of the persons, in conjunction with the prescription of the duty, is the main foundation of the ensuing discourse, as it lies in this thesis or proposition:

The choicest believers, who are assuredly freed from the condemning power of sin, ought yet to make it their business all their days to mortify the indwelling power of sin.

The Cause and Means: The Holy Spirit

The principal efficient cause of the performance of this duty is the Spirit: ei de pneumati — "if by the Spirit." The Spirit here is the Spirit mentioned [in Rom. 8] verse 11, the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit of God, that "dwells in us" (v. 9), that "quickens us" (v. 11); "the Holy Ghost" (v. 14); the "Spirit of adoption" (v. 15); the Spirit "that makes intercession for us" (v. 26). All other ways of mortification are vain, all helps leave us helpless; it must be done by the Spirit. Men, as the apostle intimates (Rom. 9:30-32), may attempt this work on other principles, by means and advantages administered on other accounts, as they always have done, and do; but, says he, "This is the work of the Spirit; by him alone is it to be wrought, and by no other power is it to be brought about." Mortification from a self-strength, carried on by ways of self-invention, unto the end of a self-righteousness, is the soul and substance of all false religion in the world. And this is a second principle of my ensuing discourse.

The Duty: Mortify the Deeds of the Body

The duty itself, "Mortify the deeds of the body," is next to be remarked upon. Three things are here to be inquired into: (1) What is meant by the body? (2) What by the deeds of the body? (3) What by mortifying of them?

The body. "The body" at the close of the verse is the same with "the flesh" in the beginning: "If you live after the flesh you shall die; but if you ... mortify the deeds of the body" — that is, of the flesh. It is that which the apostle has all along discoursed of under the name of "the flesh," which is evident from the prosecution of the antithesis between the Spirit and the flesh, before and after. "The body," then, here is taken for that corruption and depravity of our natures whereof the body, in a great part, is the seat and instrument, the very members of the body being made servants unto unrighteousness thereby (Rom. 6:19). It is indwelling sin, the corrupted flesh or lust, that is intended. Many reasons might be given of this metonymical expression that I shall not now insist on. The "body" here is the same with palaios anthropos and soma tes hamartias, the "old man" and the "body of sin" (Rom. 6:6); or it may synecdochically express the whole person considered as corrupted, and the seat of lusts and distempered affections.

Thedeeds of the body. The word is praxeis, which, indeed, denotes the outward actions chiefly, "the works of the flesh," as they are called, ta erga tes sarkos (Gal. 5:19); which are there said to be "manifest" and are enumerated. Now, though the outward deeds are here only expressed, yet the inward and next causes are chiefly intended; the "axe is to be laid to the root of the tree" [Matt. 3:10] — the deeds of the flesh are to be mortified in their causes, from whence they spring. The apostle calls them deeds, as that which every lust tends unto; though they do but conceive and prove abortive, they aim to bring forth a perfect sin.

Having, both in the seventh and the beginning of this chapter, treated indwelling lust and sin as the fountain and principle of all sinful actions, he here mentions its destruction under the name of the effects which it does produce. Praxeis tou somatos [works of the body] are, as much as phronema tes sarkos [mind of the flesh] (Rom. 8:6), the "wisdom of the flesh," by a metonymy of the same nature with the former; or as the pathemata and epithumiai, the "passions and lusts of the flesh" (Gal. 5:24), whence the deeds and fruits of it do arise; and in this sense is "the body" used: "The body is dead because of sin" (Rom. 8:10).

To mortify. Ei thanatoute — "if you put to death" — [is] a metaphorical expression, taken from the putting of any living thing to death. To kill a man, or any other living thing, is to take away the principle of all his strength, vigor, and power, so that he cannot act or exert or put forth any proper actings of his own; so it is in this case. Indwelling sin is compared to a person, a living person, called "the old man," with his faculties and properties, his wisdom, craft, subtlety, strength; this, says the apostle, must be killed, put to death, mortified — that is, have its power, life, vigor, and strength to produce its effects taken away by the Spirit. It is, indeed, meritoriously, and by way of example, utterly mortified and slain by the cross of Christ; and the "old man" is thence said to be "crucified with Christ" (Rom. 6:6), and ourselves to be "dead" with him (Rom. 6:8), and really initially in regeneration (Rom. 6:3-5), when a principle contrary to it and destructive of it (Gal. 5:17) is planted in our hearts; but the whole work is by degrees to be carried on toward perfection all our days. Of this more in the process of our discourse. The intention of the apostle in this prescription of the duty mentioned is that:

The mortification of indwelling sin remaining in our mortal bodies, that it may not have life and power to bring forth the works or deeds of the flesh, is the constant duty of believers.

The Promise: You Shall Live

The promise unto this duty is life: "you shall live." The life promised is opposed to the death threatened in the clause foregoing, "If you live after the flesh, you shall die"; which the same apostle expresses, "You shall of the flesh reap corruption" (Gal. 6:8), or destruction from God. Now, perhaps the word may not only intend eternal life, but also the spiritual life in Christ, which here we have; not as to the essence and being of it, which is already enjoyed by believers, but as to the joy, comfort, and vigor of it: as the apostle says in another case, "now we live, if you stand fast" (1 Thess. 3:8) — "Now my life will do me good; I shall have joy and comfort with my life" — "You shall live, lead a good, vigorous, comfortable, spiritual life while you are here, and obtain eternal life hereafter."

Supposing what was said before of the connection between mortification and eternal life, as of means and end, I shall add only, as a second motive to the duty prescribed, that:

The vigor, and power, and comfort of our spiritual life depends on the mortification of the deeds of the flesh.



Having laid this foundation, a brief confirmation of the aforementioned principal deductions will lead me to what I chiefly intend, that:

The choicest believers, who are assuredly freed from the condemning power of sin, ought yet to make it their business all their days to mortify the indwelling power of sin. So the apostle, "Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth" (Col. 3:5). To whom does he speak? Such as were "risen with Christ" (v. 1); such as were "dead" with him (v. 3); such as whose life Christ was and who should "appear with him in glory" (v. 4).

Do you mortify;
Your being dead with Christ virtually, your being quickened with him, will not excuse you from this work. And our Savior tells us how his Father deals with every branch in him that bears fruit, every true and living branch. "He purges it, that it may bring forth more fruit" (John 15:2). He prunes it, and that not for a day or two, but while it is a branch in this world. And the apostle tells you what was his practice: "I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection" (1 Cor. 9:27). "I do it," says he, "daily; it is the work of my life: I omit it not; this is my business." And if this were the work and business of Paul, who was so incomparably exalted in grace, revelations, enjoyments, privileges, consolations, above the ordinary measure of believers, where may we possibly bottom an exemption from this work and duty while we are in this world? Some brief account of the reasons hereof may be given.

Indwelling Sin Always Abides, Therefore It Must Always Be Mortified

Indwelling sin always abides while we are in this world; therefore it is always to be mortified. The vain, foolish, and ignorant disputes of men about perfectly keeping the commands of God, of perfection in this life, of being wholly and perfectly dead to sin, I meddle not now with. It is more than probable that the men of those abominations never knew what belonged to the keeping of any one of God's commands and are so much below perfection of degrees that they never attained to a perfection of parts in obedience or universal obedience in sincerity. And, therefore, many in our days who have talked of perfection have been wiser and have affirmed it to consist in knowing no difference between good and evil. Not that they are perfect in the things we call good, but that all is alike to them, and the height of wickedness is their perfection. Others who have found out a new way to it, by denying original, indwelling sin, and tempering the spirituality of the law of God unto men's carnal hearts, as they have sufficiently discovered themselves to be ignorant of the life of Christ and the power of it in believers, so they have invented a new righteousness that the gospel knows not of, being vainly puffed up by their fleshly minds. For us, who dare not be wise above what is written, nor boast by other men's lines of what God has not done for us, we say that indwelling sin lives in us, in some measure and degree, while we are in this world. We dare not speak as "though we had already attained, or were already perfect" (Phil. 3:12). Our "inward man is to be renewed day by day" while here we live (2 Cor. 4:16), and according to the renovations of the new are the breaches and decays of the old. While we are here we "know but in part" (1 Cor. 13:12), having a remaining darkness to be gradually removed by our "growth in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ" (2 Pet. 3:18); and "the flesh lusts against the Spirit ... so that we cannot do the things that we would" (Gal. 5:17), and are therefore defective in our obedience as well as in our light (1 John 1:8). We have a "body of death" (Rom. 7:24), from whence we are not delivered but by the death of our bodies (Phil. 3:20). Now, it being our duty to mortify, to be killing of sin while it is in us, we must be at work. He that is appointed to kill an enemy, if he leave striking before the other ceases living, does but half his work (Gal. 6:9; Heb. 12:1; 2 Cor. 7:1).


Excerpted from "Overcoming Sin and Temptation"
by .
Copyright © 2006 Kelly M. Kapic and Justin Taylor.
Excerpted by permission of Good News Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

FOREWORD John Piper,
PREFACE: Reading John Owen: Why a New Edition? Justin Taylor,
INTRODUCTION: Life in the Midst of Battle: John Owen's Approach to Sin, Temptation, and the Christian Life Kelly M. Kapic,
OVERVIEW OF JOHN OWEN'S Of the Mortification of Sin in Believers Justin Taylor,
OVERVIEW OF JOHN OWEN'S Of Temptation: The Nature and Power of It Justin Taylor,
OVERVIEW OF JOHN OWEN'S Indwelling Sin Justin Taylor,

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"The editors of this volume have worked hard to make Owen's unrivalled insight into the Christian's inner war with sin accessible to all, and the result is truly a godsend."
J. I. Packer, Board of Governors' Professor of Theology, Regent College

"To read Owen is to mine spiritual gold. Unfortunately, as in mining, reading Owen is hard work. Now, Kelly Kapic and Justin Taylor have made Owen's work accessible to modern readers while still retaining his unique writing style."
Jerry Bridges, author, The Pursuit of Holiness

“John Owen’s wisdom is the missing link in our culture’s confusion about sexual sin. Kapic and Taylor’s matchless edition renders transparent the practical theology of one of the great Puritan thinkers, bringing Owen to accessible light without sacrificing theological integrity. I consistently use this book in women’s studies and one-on-one discipling and counseling, especially with women who struggle with unwanted lesbian desires and pornography. Understanding that indwelling sin manipulates believers and how to deal with this is, sadly, the best kept secret in contemporary evangelical discourse on sin. Understanding sin rightly allows believers to glorify God with rugged love, as Owen shows us that repentance of sin is itself the threshold to our merciful God. Every believer should read this book.”
Rosaria Butterfield, former professor of English, Syracuse University; author, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert

"With brilliant editorial efforts and insightful introductions by Kapic and Taylor, John Owen's magnificent treatises on sin and sanctification have been made available for a new generation."
David S. Dockery, President, Trinity International University

"Sin is tenacious, but by God's grace we can hate it and hunt it. John Owen provides the master guide for the sin-hunter. Kapic and Taylor bring together three of Owen's classics, clarifying them in simple ways-but all the substance, the careful, hounding arguments are still there."
Mark Dever, pastor, Capitol Hill Baptist Church, Washington, DC; president, 9Marks

"John Owen understood how the gospel makes us well. Three cheers for Kapic and Taylor for introducing a new generation to Owen's peerless works."
Sinclair B. Ferguson, Professor of Systematic Theology, Redeemer Seminary, Dallas, Texas

"John Owen is a spiritual surgeon with the rare skill to cut away the cancer of sin and bring gospel healing to the sinner's soul. Apart from the Bible, I have found his writings to be the best books ever written to help me stop sinning the same old sins."
Philip Graham Ryken, President, Wheaton College; author, Loving the Way Jesus Loves

"No writer has taught me more about the dynamics of the heart and the deceitfulness of sin than John Owen. Read this book carefully; it will help you understand your heart and experience God's grace."
C. J. Mahaney, Senior Pastor, Sovereign Grace Church, Louisville, Kentucky

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