- Parent Category: FAQs
- Category: Questions about Sin and Salvation
- Published on Friday, 20 November 2009 10:56
For most of us, our earliest Christian teaching included "the Christian’s two natures: the old nature and the new nature." This was the accepted and handy way of explaining the struggle within a believer that drew him to sin when he genuinely wanted to please the Lord. Some of us may have found this confusing when we learned that orthodox Christians have historically upheld that our Lord possessed two natures. In this case, the expression means that He was truly human - although without the possibility of sin - and truly God in one unique Person.
Actually, the vocabulary of the New Testament does not use two natures to describe either teaching. That Christ is both God and man is foundational, essential truth. Godly men, who labored to defend and clarify this profound truth, distilled the Bible’s teaching into the expression two natures.
The New Testament, however, does provide the terms that describe the struggle within the believer. "For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would" (Gal 5:17). Paul also deals with this at the end of Romans 7. The problem is the flesh with its unchanged and unchangeable disposition toward sin (v 18). He perceives a law in my members, a governing principle linked with fallen humanity. This principle wars against the law of my mind, which is the result of the Spirit’s regenerating work.
Using the New Testament’s vocabulary may help us in at least two ways. Speaking about our old nature may isolate us from the problem, as though the responsibility lies with my nature, but not with me directly. Paul says, "In me (that is, in my flesh) . . ." (v 18). I am directly responsible for the problem. Second, the teaching about the flesh embraces our hope of deliverance. The flesh refers at times to our physical body of flesh (Rom 1:3; 2:28; 3:20) and at other times to our moral disposition toward sin (Rom 7:5, 18; 8:4, 5) , a principle presently inseparable from our physical body. The death of Christ has legally severed us from Adam and the consequences of his disobedience. The results of that death will eventually deliver us completely from both the physical consequence (the condemnation of death) and moral consequence (sin dwelling in me - the flesh) of the Fall. This physical and moral problem elicits Paul’s question at the end of Romans 7 (v 24). Deliverance from this body of death (JND) is what God had in mind when "the old man was crucified with Him, [in order] that the body of sin might be destroyed (brought to nothing, WEV)" (6:6). In chapter 8, Paul expands his answer, "I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord" (7:25).
The objections to using the term the old nature are likely intended to bring us to a clearer understanding of New Testament truth.