Do Christians Still Have a Sin Nature?
Tuesday 01 January, 1980 by Dr. Bill Gillham
“The King is Dead! Long Live the King!” When I was a kid, I heard a Shakespearean actor in a film make such a statement and was thoroughly confused. How could the king be dead but alive at the same time? Little did I know that he was talking about two different people! Indeed, the former king had died and was no longer king…he had ceased to exist! But the new king, who could never have emerged as king had the old king not died, lives indeed! So long as the old king remained alive, the new king could not be “born.” But after the one’s “birth” as the new king, the old king could never again resurrect himself because he had no capability for self-resurrection! The very existence of the one precludes the existence of the other and vice versa! They cannot jump in and out of the grave, womb, grave, womb, etc.
The analogy is obvious to those who understand the Believer’s identification with Christ in His death and resurrection. The old man has indeed died (Romans 6:6, etc.) and the new man has indeed been generated by the Holy Spirit (Colossians 3:10, etc.). But, unfortunately, the pervasive position taken by most Christian leaders is that the old man is still “alive and well’ within the Believer…that sinful performance gives daily testimony to this as “fact.” The old man is seen to leap in and out of the tomb many times during the typical day. However, one seldom hears a teacher claim that the new man leaps in and out of the womb, but most never see that the very existence of either precludes the existence of its opposite! The two can’t coexist any more that the two kings can! It was the death of the old man, which enabled the new man to be born! It is impossible for the new man to exist until the old man has died, and the old man cannot resurrect himself. There is but One Life Who has such resurrection power…the Life of Christ!
Galatians 5:17 says that the “flesh lusts against the spirit” and vice versa and there is obviously a war going on inside of every Christian, but it’s not the old man versus the new man doing battle. Those cannot exist simultaneously. The Greek word interpreted “flesh” in all pertinent New Testament verses refers to the body…the physical body with its frailties and vulnerability (to sin). Romans 7:20 speaks of the power of indwelling sin (not the sin nature) working in man to produce undesirable (sinful) behavior. The power of sin simply deceives the Christian by masquerading as the old man, suggesting (deceiving) to the will that a choice be made to perform according to the old self-serving patterns programmed in previously. This is referred to as “walking after the flesh.” Satan could never deceive a Christian with a direct approach as a “little man in red underwear.” He must disguise himself if he is to have any hope of victory. There is one way and one way only to accomplish this deception and that is to masquerade in the thought life of the Christian posing as his unique version of the old man! The naive Christian will believe he, himself, is generating the unchristian suggestion and thus direct his defensive efforts against the wrong foe…what he perceives to be a darker side of himself! He fires all his bullets at a shadow! This is the explanation for the frustration depicted in Romans 7:15 “…why do I do the very thing I hate? Why can I get no victory?”
For many years it appeared to me that to adopt the posture that the sin nature was crucified in Christ (2 Cor. 5:21) would be rationalizing and excusing the Christian’s sinful performance. It seemed more logical to believe that Christians all have a sin nature against which the new man constantly must do battle. It would also appear that this is the noble, the more conservative, the more Spartan posture, and that to believe otherwise would be to fly in the face of personal experience as well as God’s Word. While subscribing to this view I was blocked from recognizing the truth of Rom. 7:20 cited previously. Though it would appear that the “two-natures” view places the greater responsibility for poor performance squarely on the Christian and that the “one-nature” view is a cop out, the opposite is actually true! So long as one embraces the former, he is constantly deceived into believing his failure is just standard Christian experience. As Scofield said (paraphrased), “This is not standard Christian experience, it’s the standard experience of most Christians,” the tragic result of faulty discipling. Once the Christian enters into identification with Christ’s death, resurrection and ascension, claiming he no longer has two natures, but is now “the righteousness of God in Christ” and “holy and blameless in His sight” he is without excuse when he sins, because he knows what it is to possess the Life (“Christ in me”) which overcomes on a moment-by-moment basis. He is discerning of how sin is able to deceive him by masquerading as the extinct “old man,” hoping the Christian will take the bait, believing that the old man has generated this impulse or thought and ends up “doing the very thing he hates.” (Rom. 7:15-20)
In reality, it is accepting as fact that Christians no longer have a sin nature that places one squarely on the hook and totally responsible to choose, moment-by-moment, against the wooings, deceptions and accusations of indwelling sin working through the flesh. “Always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus (moment-by-moment) in our body.” (2 Cor. 4:10 — NAS)
“We know that our old (unrenewed) self was nailed to the cross (Note: this isn’t just our sins that Christ paid for on the cross, although PTL for that blessed truth, but that the old “you” died there, too) with Him in order that (our) body, (which is the instrument of sin), might be made ineffective and inactive for evil, that we might no longer be slaves of sin.”(Romans 6:6 Amplified)
Indwelling sin deceives the “two-natures” Believer into rationalizing, “I’m just human. I just fail a lot and God understands it’s just my old sin nature that got the better of me.” This is the true cop out position! Such Believers often have Romans 7:15 underlined as “evidence” that their experience is “the normal Christian life,” when it is, in fact, wandering in the aimless circles of the wilderness with Canaan just a promise away. Awake sleeper! The king is dead! Long live the King!
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