The Believer's Two Natures - "WHOSOEVER IS BORN OF GOD CANNOT SIN?"


George Cutting
The Old Nature

Well, carefully mark in the first place, that it is not some peculiar advanced attainment of just a few who may be said to have "faith for it," as it is sometimes called. It takes in the whole of the newborn race—WHOSOEVER is born of God."

But, remarks another, this statement seems to be a thorough contradiction to all that I either experience in myself or see in others! Well, it may seem so, but let us look at it a little more closely, and prayerfully, bearing in mind that the first step toward understanding the word of God is to believe it. "By faith we understand..." (Heb. xi. 3). And here I would give you an illustration, much used by a Spirit-taught servant of God, now at rest in the presence of his Lord; viz., the well-known practice of grafting an apple tree upon a crab tree stock. As you are aware, no doubt, the head of the crab tree is first cut off; then a small portion of an apple tree is carefully inserted, or "grafted in," as it is called; then it is securely guarded by a covering of clay round the joint, and left to grow and develop in the coming spring and summer.

Now let us, in thought, go to the orchard where the tree in question is planted, and enquire more about it of the gardener.

"What kind of tree do you call this?" we ask.

"An apple tree," he replies.

"But why don't you say that it is partly a crab tree and partly an apple tree?"

"Because we gardeners never think of talking like that. It was once a crab tree in the wood, now it is an apple tree in the orchard. It is really the same individual tree; but when we cut off its head, its history as a.crab tree came to an end; and when the new graft first showed signs of life, its new history as an apple tree from that day commenced."

"But doesn't this apple tree still bear crabs?"

"No! and what is more, it cannot. It is just as impossible for the apple tree to bear crabs, as it was impossible for the crab tree to bring forth apples."

But do you mean to say then, that there is nothing whatever of the "crab" nature about this tree?"

No! But I do say that there is nothing of the "crab" that has not been condemned as such, and if it should show signs of life by sending up shoots from the old stock, I at once take the knife and never think of sparing even the smallest sprout."

Let us now apply this figure. The wild crab tree represents a. man in his natural state, before he is born of God. At his second birth a new nature, like the apple tree graft, is produced in him by the Spirit and the word.

Now the apostle John, in his epistles, generally speaks of things in a very abstract way. Just as the gardener who insisted that the tree was only an "apple tree," so John in the passage referred to looks at the believer only in connection with the new nature—the divine nature he possesses as born of God. And therefore, just as it impossible for an apple tree (looked at simply as such) to bear crabs, and that because it is an apple tree, so it is equally impossible for the one who is born of God (looked at simply as such) to commit sin. "His seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God." How could a divine nature sin?

Now this divine nature was really the nature that Christ manifested in His blessed pathway through this world. Thus, He did not sin. How could He? He overcame the world. The wicked one could not touch Him. "The prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in Me" (John xiv. 30). And, as we have already seen, these are the very things that are said to be true of those who are born of God. So that the apostle can say: " Which thing is true in Him [i.e., in Christ] and in you" (1 John ii. 8). How wondrous it is! Well may we exclaim with holy adoration, "Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew Him not."

But while John speaks of the divine nature in this absolute, abstract way, he does not, on the other hand, ignore the existence of the sinful nature in the believer. So in verse 8, chapter i. of the 1st Epistle, he says: "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." Then, in chapter ii. 1, we are exhorted not to sin, and the provision pointed out if we do fall into sin, viz., an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous, who restores us again to communion with the Father, by bringing us, as His erring children, to see our folly and confess our sins. We have, moreover, the comforting assurance in verse 9, that "if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." But why faithful and just? Because Jesus Christ the righteous made full satisfaction for sins, once and forever, by His precious blood upon the cross.

Now, in Paul's writings, we have brought before us the Spirit's teaching as to the believer's entire deliverance from his old standing in Adam, and his place of complete justification and perfect acceptance in Christ. He shows us that though there are actually two distinct natures in the believer, yet that because God has condemned sin in the flesh in the person of His own Son upon the cross, we are as believers privileged to reckon that our old "crab tree" standing has, once for all, come to an end there, as before Him, judicially; that our old man has been crucified with Christ; that we have been "cut off" as men in the flesh (Col. ii. 11), and that we are no longer reckoned as "in the flesh." Thus He can speak of the time when we were in the flesh (Rom. vii. 5); and in Rom. viii. 9, can plainly state, "Ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit." Just as the tree, if it could speak, would be able to say, "I haven't lost my individuality as a tree, but though I was once a crab tree in the wood, I am now an apple tree in the garden."

How unspeakably blessed it is then, to know that God would have us see ourselves no longer in connection with the condemned life of the first Adam, but in the risen life of Christ, the last Adam. "For ye are dead," He says, "and your life is hid with Christ in God" (Col. iii. 3). "There is therefore now NO CONDEMNATION to them which are IN CHRIST JESUS" (Rom. viii. 1).

Let me add a practical word in conclusion.