Sanctification’s Two Edges: Mortification and Vivification

Sanctification has two aspects: Mortification (the killing of sin) and Vivification (living a godly, virtuous walk, bearing the fruit of the Spirit)–dying and rising daily.

Here are strands of thought unfolding this distinction from a web search:

1. From the Abiding Fruit Blog

from Calvin’s 1541 French translation of the Institutes. This is an excellent summary of repentance in the heart of a believer.

“A long time ago, some wise men, wanting to speak of penitence (repentance) simply and purely according to the rule of Scripture, said that it consists in two parts: that is, mortification and vivification. They interpreted “mortification” as “a sorrow and great fear of heart which is conceived by the knowledge of sin and the feeling of God’s judgment.” For when someone is led to the true knowledge of his sin, he then begins to hate it and detest it; then truly he is displeased with himself in his heart and confesses that he is wretched and ashamed and hopes to be different than he is. Besides, when he is moved with a feeling of God’s judgment (for one follows the other), then, humbled, terrified and crushed, he trembles and is discouraged and loses all hope. This is the first part of penitence, which is called “contrition.” They interpreted “vivification” as a comfort produced by faith: when a person, ashamed by the consciousness of his sin and struck with the fear of God, casts his eyes on God’s goodness and mercy, on the grace and salvation which are in Jesus Christ, and is comforted, is able to breathe, and then takes heart again, and practically returns from death to life.”

[pullquote]we continue to struggle inwardly with our new identity… Subjectively experiencing this definitive reality signified and sealed to us in our baptism requires a daily dying and rising[/pullquote]

2. From Grace Online Library

Vivification: The Renewal of Life in the Believer

According to Owen a number of actions promote spiritual progress. In his work, he capsulizes numerous important elements relative to the positive aspects of sanctification. One treatise pivots on Romans 8:6: ‘For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the spirit is life and peace.’ Private means for focusing the mind on God are, for example, prayer and meditation (he elsewhere takes up Bible reading and memorization). Of the importance of meditation he notes, ‘Whosoever shall sincerely engage in this duty and shall abide constant therein, he will make such a refreshing progress in his apprehension of heavenly things as he will be greatly satisfied withal’ (Works 7:319).

Corporate aspects of positive steps toward the diminishment of the grip of indwelling sin (i.e., the fruit of the flesh) are also crucial. In fact, the elements of corporate worship–hearing the Word of God preached, and attendance upon the sacraments–are crucial. Sanctification can only occur to the extent that one’s faith is in the proper object, God in Christ.

3. From Irishanglican’s Blog

Mortification and Vivification, Michael Horton
“Progressive sanctification has two parts: mortification and vivification, “both of which happen to us by participation in Christ,” as Calvin notes (Calvin, Institutes 3.3.2, 9). The “mortification/vivification” distinction was first formulated by Melanchthon in hisCommentary on Romans (Corpus Reformatorum). These occur simultaneously and continuously throughout the Christian life, rather than in stages. Christ’s death alone is atoning, and cannot be repeated. He died for our sins, but we die to our sins. Christ  took up his cross once and for all as a sacrifice for sin, but he calls his disciples to “take up [their] cross daily,” facing persecution from within and without (Lk. 9:23). Although we have died definitively to the law and to sin (Paul uses the analogy of remarriage after a death in Romans 7: 1-6; cf. Gal. 2:19), we continue to struggle inwardly with our new identity (Ro. 7:7-24). Subjectively experiencing this definitive reality signified and sealed to us in our baptism requires a daily dying and rising.” (Michael Horton, The Christian Faith, etc., page 661)