From BiblePortal Wikipedia

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [1]

RENUNCIATION. —Ideas of renunciation in the teaching of Jesus may be classed under three heads: (1) renunciation of what is sinful, (2) surrender of worldly possessions, (3) special self-abnegation. It may not be possible to draw clear lines of demarcation, but these divisions are nevertheless distinct. The cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches and the lusts of other things ( Mark 4:19), that check the life of the soul as weeds choke the growth of the grain, may be said to indicate them in the reverse order.

1. Sin , of course, is to be renounced without qualification or compromise; and whatsoever leads to sin. The ‘thou shalt not’ of the Decalogue is carried into the inner sphere with an extent and thoroughness of application not known to the lawgivers of the world. ‘We have renounced,’ says St. Paul, ‘the hidden things of dishonesty’ ( 2 Corinthians 4:2). But Christ’s commands go farther. ‘If thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out’ ( Matthew 5:29-30;  Matthew 18:8-9). These laws require not only the renunciation of whatever desire, impulse, aim, or intention is contrary to the will of God, but also of things innocent that might tend to ‘lead into temptation‘; the renunciation of that trebly manifested evil ( 1 John 2:16) by which the world is placed in antagonism to the Father.

2. Renunciation in its bearing on temporal possessions is expounded in the address that followed the rebuke of covetousness ( Luke 12:13-34,  Matthew 6:19-34). Here Jesus emphasizes the distinction of the inward and the outward, the primary and the subordinate, the essential and the accidental. The life is a far greater thing than the material means of sustenance, the body by which we live is much more important than its protecting garment. ‘A man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.’ If what is primary and essential is made secure, what is secondary will follow as a matter of course. The error of the Gentiles is that they devote themselves to the secondary and neglect the fundamental. Men feed the outward life and starve the soul, or they adorn the body and disregard its real dignity. They store up wealth, but are not ‘rich toward God.’ But ‘treasure in heaven’ is the true riches. The spiritual is supreme. Our prayer should be for ‘daily bread’ or the satisfaction of necessary requirements. We should seek the Kingdom of God, in the assurance that temporal matters will find adjustment according to providential law.

3. Special self-abnegation has its clearest statement in  Matthew 19:12. Whether that passage is literal or figurative is immaterial. The value is in the principle. The duty of abandoning good may be laid on men of hesitating disposition who need to be untrammelled, or on special ministers such as the disciples, who forsook all and followed their Master that they might give undivided effort to the preaching of the gospel. The things surrendered may be possessions, kindred, or even life ( Luke 18:29). An important lesson on the subject is found in the interview of the rich ruler with Jesus ( Luke 18:18 etc.). This man was outwardly perfect, yet conscious of imperfection. He had rank, position, wealth, manners, and he had kept the Law. Jesus called on him to surrender his property and become a disciple. The first reflexion here is that formal is not real excellence; that not the outward life only, but the heart, and soul, and spirit are to be judged. Hence it is that not the righteousness of the Law, but the righteousness by faith is the hope of the Christian. With this youth may be contrasted his contemporary St. Paul, who attained to the mind of Christ, and for the sake of the higher life counted all things but loss. The second reflexion (which is virtually the same) is the ethical principle that benevolence precedes prudence, that the cause of the community is prior to that of the individual. The command to ‘sell … and give to the poor’ was the form adapted to the individual case in which the principle of renunciation was expressed in the shape of social duty. In a religion which begins with the requirement of repentance and renovation of life, and which in all aspects exalts the spiritual, subordinating the temporal and earthly, nothing is more fitting than the childlike spirit; the graces of humility, meekness, and gentleness belong to the new conception of the beautiful; while the strain of public duty requires the propelling motive of philanthropy and the ready acceptance of self-sacrifice. But renunciation is not without reward. The individual is one in a large family of brethren, and his own good is promoted by the health of the community. He who subordinates the self-regarding virtues to the altruistic, who abandons rights and possessions while he cherishes the love of God and of man, will find even in this life ‘manifold more.’ Sharing the life of others, he will receive from them more than he gives. By the frustration of false developments the basis of his personal life is strengthened; and by fellowship and service his life becomes richer, nobler, more blessed. Thus is realized the paradox ( Mark 8:35) that the Christian loses his life to save it. The dethronement of self is the beginning of moral victory and power. The path of renouncement leads to spiritual wealth.

These principles derive strength from a study of Christ’s own life. The Son of Man had no possessions, no fixed abode. He toiled for the relief of the suffering. The project of kingship He recognized as the temptation of Satan. He saved others—He could not save Himself. The model life was at all points a life of renunciation; a life, too, of uncomplaining endurance of wrong. But from the date when the cross came distinctly into view, renunciation was inculcated as a necessary condition of membership in His community. ‘If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross’ ( Matthew 16:24 etc.). Victory through cross-bearing, life through death, became the final maxims of duty. And the disciples were required at once to behold the career of their Master, and to be prepared to undergo a similar experience. The principle of renunciation took the form of a courageous facing of difficulties, a steadfast endurance of ills, a heroic encountering of persecution, and a submission even unto death. Perhaps the typical Christian is St. Paul. To him crucifixion is the image of his relation to established society. ‘The world is crucified to me and I to the world’ ( Galatians 6:14). For Christians in general his language is more restricted but not substantially different: ‘they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh’ ( Galatians 5:24). But, nevertheless, his tones are triumphant: ‘all things are yours’ ( 1 Corinthians 3:22). The cross is the centre of history, and cross-bearing is the soul of virtue; and the afflicted are ‘more than conquerors’ ( Romans 8:37).

The law of Renunciation has been repeatedly restated in modern literature. ‘Die and re-exist’ was a maxim of Goethe. Self-renouncement was expounded by Matthew Arnold ( Lit. and Dogma ) as the secret of Jesus. ‘Die to live’ is a principle of Hegelianism. This latter axiom has been expounded by Dr. E. Caird ( Hegel, ad fin.; Evolution of Religion , ii. 6–8) as the fundamental principle of a universal ethic. According to this authority, it is a law of the spiritual world, as contra-distinguished from the natural, that self-realization is to be attained by self-sacrifice. The theorem ‘die to live’ involves on the one hand absolute surrender of self and of every good to the Father of spirits, and on the other hand restoration in another form through the possession of an enlarged life filled with deeper and wider interests. The sacrifice of selfishness proves the birth of the true self, the individual deriving from the universal the good for which it exists. The death of Christ was no accidental phenomenon, but the highest revelation of the Divine in conflict with the world’s evil. The surrender of a life as a sacrifice to a cause tends to give a universal value to the life so sacrificed. This, of course, does not differentiate the death of Christ from ordinary martyrdom; but we may agree with Caird that paramount moral doctrine must accord both with the lessons of history and with the highest reason of a universal spiritual philosophy. By such tests we distinguish the true from the false renunciation, and arrive at a clearer comprehension of the Divine intuition of Jesus.

On the other side, the reverse doctrine, that self-assertion is the essence of sin, has been rightly accepted as a fundamental truth of the moral sphere. The term so used includes the exaltation of the lower nature over the higher, and the placing of the individual or particular before the social or universal. This principle denies equality of right, repudiates the primary law of love, and treats with scorn the consciences of men. Its essential manifestation is in the lust of power and pride of life, though every other selfish gratification may be included. In mediaeval ideas pride held the dark pre-eminence, and conceptions of Satan were formed therefrom. But in modern times, and especially since Milton, the historic view is modified. In the career of the master-fiend whose history is the history of evil (as that career is in Paradise Lost portrayed for all time), it is ‘pride and, worse, ambition’ that rule. True it is that down the Christian ages, and even within the Church, self-assertion has been as prominent (though not so abundant) as self-denial. But it is equally true that where such egotism has flourished spiritual life has died. See, further, art. Selfishness.

Literature.—Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible, art. ‘Self-Surrender’; Newman Smyth, Christian Ethics , p. 372 ff.; Müller, Christian Doct. of Sin , ii. 362 ff.; Channing, Complete Works [ed. 1884], p. 259 ff.; W. Archer Butler, Serm . i. 27; À Kempis, I mit. of Christ  ; George Eliot, Mill on the Floss , bk. iv. ch. 3; G. Macdonald, The Religious Sense in its Scientific Aspect (1903), 79; J. Strachan, Heb. Ideals (1902), 48.

R. Scott.

Webster's Dictionary [2]

(1): ( n.) Formal declination to take out letters of administration, or to assume an office, privilege, or right.

(2): ( n.) The act of renouncing.

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [3]

a form which constitutes a characteristic portion of the baptismal ceremonial. The person about to be baptized (or his sponsors, if an infant) renounces the works of the devil and of darkness, especially idolatry and the vices and follies of the world. This renunciation is of very great antiquity, and it was probably of apostolic origin. In the Roman Catholic Church the question is, "Hast thou renounced Satan, and all his works and all his pomps?" The candidate is expected to answer in the affirmative, turning to the west as the place of darkness. In the baptismal service of the Church of England and of the Methodist Episcopal Church the question is asked, "Dost thou renounce the devil and all his works, the vain pomp and glory of the world, with all covetous desires of the same and the carnal desires of the flesh, so that thou wilt not follow nor be led by them?" The answer is, "I renounce them all."