Paul here speaks of the activity of mortification (dealing with our sins) in the present tense, a reminder that engaging in it is constant. We may wonder why the Holy Spirit, who possesses all power, does not personally destroy the sin immediately. Yet such a response fails to recognise that God’s way of addressing the problem is for each Christian to deal with his own sin through the help that the Holy Spirit graciously will provide.
What is involved in mortification? We may suspect that something spectacular is required before we can deal with our sins. If that were the case, we would need to experience spectacular solutions continually! Of course, it all depends on what we mean by spectacular. The way to mortify our sins is to use the means of grace, especially prayer and Bible reading and Christian fellowship.
There are some ways of responding to sins that are not mortification. For example, sin has not been mortified if all we do is hide it from the observation of others by covering it up. Nor has it been mortified if all that has occurred is cessation of outward practices. Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount states clearly that heart sins have to be mortified as well as outward actions.
It has often been pointed out that we deal with sins by starving them, by thinking about Jesus and by repenting of our sins. Each of these aspects – starvation of sin, focussing on Jesus, and repenting of our sins – is an essential element in an ongoing spiritual endeavour. Their presence is incontestable evidence of a healthy Christian life, that the person who has them is being sanctified.
What are some of the blessings that are enjoyed because of their presence? First, they result in a believer becoming less sinful and more Christ-like. Second, such believers become examples to their fellow-Christians and encouragements to them that they also can deal with their sins by mortifying them. Third, their presence becomes a means of assurance of true conversion.
Fourth, believers also enjoy the fellowship of the Spirit as they proceed along the Christian pathway as he continues to lead them each step of the way. This fellowship is partly described by Paul in subsequent verses when he refers to the witness of the Spirit, and we will think about this tomorrow.