When I first came to Christ I was taught that I now had two natures. One being a sinful nature and, the other being the nature of Christ. I was taught that the nature I fed the most would win out over the other. It was explained that it’s like to dogs, and they represent your two natures. If you feed the one dog and not the other he will be stronger and could, therefore, overcome the weaker dog in a confrontation.
Well, after a few years of believing this I had come to be quite frustrated and confused by the teaching. Finally, through a great deal of pouring over the book of Romans, I had to come to the conclusion, I do not have two natures. Did it help? A little. I have not come to a point where I am satisfied in the way I live my life. However, I am less frustrated and, I am a lot better than I used to be.
I found what I believe to be a really good teaching and explanation of our nature or identity in Christ as children of God. It comes from a website that I recently found, Christ In You Ministries. This excerpt is from the FAQ (frequently asked questions) page of the site. The question is being answered by Jim Fowler, owner of the site. I have found it to be quite helpful.
And the question is…
The majority of Christian teachers state that the Christian has “two natures,” but you have denied such by stating that the Christian has only “one spiritual nature.” Would you explain this difference?
In this case, we are definitely limiting our reference to the spiritual nature of the Christian person. We go back to our discussion of how derivative human beings are all indwelt and energized by God or Satan; there is no 3rd alternative called “self,” or independent, human spirit nature.
The apostle Paul told the Ephesians that in their unregenerate spiritual condition, prior to becoming Christians, they “were by nature (phusis) children of wrath” (Eph. 2:3). It was the nature of the diabolic prince of the power of the air, working in the sons of disobedience” (Eph. 2:2).
Christians, on the other hand, have had a spiritual exchange of spiritual nature. The apostle Peter explained that we have become “partakers of the divine nature (phusis)” (II Pet. 1:4). The nature, the being, of the Triune Godhead, Father, Son and H.S. has come to dwell in us. We are participating in the nature of His character.
This all gets rather fuzzy and messy, semantically ambiguous, when we turn to several of the more modern English translations such as the Living Bible, the New International Version, the Good News Bible, The Message, and the Amplified Bible. In these versions, the translations have been most injudicious and ill-advised, failing to remember that the Greek word for “nature” is phusis. They have taken other Greek words for “flesh” and “soul,” and translated them “sin nature, sinful nature, fallen nature, human nature, old nature, unregenerate nature, Adam nature, Adamic nature, depraved nature, carnal nature, flesh nature,” etc. – phrases that have no legitimate basis for such translation in the New Testament Greek text. They interpolate their own psychological and theological interpretations into the text of their translation of scripture, misleading many Christian readers into thinking it is biblical teaching. I think it is quite disingenuous and abominable!
I recall one teacher who explained that when a person becomes a Christian, they now have 2 natures in their spirit – the “old sin nature” and the “new Christ nature.” Can you imagine? It is inconceivable that a person could be half regenerated. Such teaching leads to a schizophrenic understanding of one’s spiritual identity; to a paranoid uncertainty of what/who is prompting and motivating my behavior; and a convenient excuse for blaming that old sinful part of me for sinful behavior. Is it any wonder Christians throw up their hands and do not concern themselves with holy behavior?
Many who espouse “two natures” within the Christian individual are failing to differentiate between the spiritual and the psychological. What they are calling “two natures” is really the admitted conflict of “spirit and flesh” within Christian behavior. NOT “two natures,” but the desires of the Spirit of Christ within our spirit, contrasted with the patterned desires within our soul that are inclined toward previous action and reaction responses of selfishness and sinfulness. There is, no doubt, a behavioral conflict within, as the satanic tempter utilizes the patterned desires that he helped develop to tempt us to quench the desires of the Spirit of Christ, and thus to allow him to energize sinful, misrepresentative character in our behavior via our desires.
But the Christian has only one spiritual nature. We are “partakers of the divine nature” (II Pet. 1:4), the nature of the Perfect Lord and Savior.
Listen to these quotes:
John MacArthur – “It is a serious misunderstanding to think of yourselves as having both an old and a new nature. We do not have a dual personality.”
J. Sidlow Baxter – The two natures theory is unscriptural, self? contradictory, and baneful.”
old nature, sin nature, sinful nature, human nature, Adam nature, Adamic nature, unregenerate nature, depraved nature, corrupt nature, defiled nature, carnal nature
Not one of these phrases found in the original text of the new covenant scriptures.
Thought-provoking stuff. Serves to remind me that in Romans 6 and 7 Paul identifies himself – the “real” him – with the man who loves Jesus, pursues God with all his heart, mind, soul, and strength, and mourns over personal moral failure (sin). The “persona” he eschews is the “old man” who sins, falls short, disappoints Jesus and “himself.”
Identification is the key, here. Who are we, and who do we THINK we are? Sinners, certainly. Wrong headed, willful, fatally flawed, ridiculous caricatures of the holy people we were designed to be. But we are not those who are wholly given over to following the ways of sin and “flesh.” Those days are over for the real believer.
To whole-heartedly pursue the old ways of sin is not possible for a true Christian. That is the path of misery for us who claim Christ. There is no peace of mind or heart in that course. Reminds me of the maps and charts produced before the seas were fully explored. Beyond the edges of navigational knowledge was often the legend “beyond here be dragons.” So is it for true believers who attempt to live the old life of worldly, fleshly pursuits. “Dragons” (figuratively) of disturbed lives, thoughts, the fruits of sinful living – not unlike what happens to unbelievers: shattered relationships, drug addictions, materialism, aimlessness, anger, resentment, unforgiving attitudes, sexual immorality – the entire repertoire of effects that result from living for yourself and not for Christ. This can ultimately result in God removing us from influence in the world until our Christian “sanity” returns, and we again walk with Him. In extreme cases, God has even removed such Christians from the land of the living… “for this reason many are sick among you, and some even sleep…” meaning that God has taken their physical lives to preserve their souls.
But those who follow Christ in the sincerity of their conscience also know that to live a “perfect” life is impossible, and they mourn their failures daily. “Blessed are they that mourn…” This, I believe, is part of what Jesus meant when he made this statement in Matthew.
So two natures? No, I agree with you: only one nature for the believer. The Spirit of God would not share accommodations with a “sinful nature.” One nature that loves God, wants God’s ways, yet is hampered by sin that resides in the earthly flesh. So we keep our flesh suppressed, and we continue to focus our thoughts on Jesus – we renew our minds through reading His word, and communing with Jesus in thought and meditation and corporate worship. We don’t feed the flesh – there is no hope there, no peace, no lasting satisfaction.
Who do we identify with? The new man, not the old. The old man is like a snake with its head cut off. The body wrythes reflexively, but it’s really dead. So also we must reckon ourselves dead to sin – what sin is left is reflexive – but WE are alive to Christ. Are we responsible for our failures and deliberate acts of sin? Absolutely. We are now alive to Christ, and actually have the ability to choose something besides sinful behavior. We could not do this in our unsaved state, when we were “dead in our trespasses and sins.” Then we only had the power to choose sin. “But as many as received Him, to them he gave the power to become the children of God, even to those who believe in His name: who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”
What is our reaction to personal failure in sin to be? First, it must be a response to God Himself: “Lord Jesus, I failed again. But that (sinful behavior) is not what I want. That’s not the essential “me.” “I” want to walk with You and accomplish good in your Kingdom. Please, please forgive me sin again – wash me and I will be clean. I purpose to NOT repeat this error, God help me be faithful.” This is the point, of course, where the devil crouches to spring. If we feel completely useless because of sin, we can thank Satan. He accuses us – with good reason – before the Father of being sinful and inconsistent. Here is where our faith in Christ – our advocate – aids us in resisting the devil. Because “if anyone sins, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins…” Who then can condemn us? It is Christ who justifies! Praise God.
Great to hear from you Rick.