One Nature Or Two?
Some Difficult Passages Examined
One Nature Or Two?
Sunday 01 December, 1985 by Dr. Bill Gillham
Occasionally someone will make the comment to me, “You seem to concentrate a lot of your newsletter articles on the subject of whether a Christian has one nature or two. You seem to think that is important.” You can bet the homestead I think it’s important! I have dedicated my lifespan on this planet to communicating this truth to the body of Christ. That’s how important I see the issue to be. Make no mistake about it, Christian; the war within you is not between your two natures, but between your new, godly nature and the power of sin working through your flesh (your “old ways”). Read Romans 7:23 carefully. Take it apart phrase by phrase to discover that the war is between your godly mind and the power of sin which indwells your body, but not your soul or spirit! They are holy and blameless as the new man.
I find that the one particular verse which causes much confusion in the minds of many Believers is Ephesians 4:22,”That in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self (old man), which is being corrupted in accordance with the lust of deceit.” The argument postulated is that this verse teaches the old man is still alive, which indeed it seems to do. However, let’s examine the verse in its context by continuing to read, (23) and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, (24) and put on the new self (new man) which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness… Then Paul goes ahead to say essentially, “Act like the new man.”
If we are to accept the position that to lay aside the old man in verse 22 means he is still alive and must be dealt with, then to be consistent we must take the parallel position that when verse 24 tells us to put on the new man, we are still lost and have not yet put him on! Again I repeat, if lay aside in verse 22 teaches the old man is still alive, then put on in verse 24 must mean we are still dead in our sins. Obviously, this causes great problems since any man in Christ is already a new man! Look at the verb tense in verse 24! It states that the new man has been created. Since we are already new men, then pray tell, how can we put on once again what we already are! We obviously cannot! Similarly, neither can we put off what we no longer are because that old identity was dealt with in Christ at the cross! Thus, the passage cannot be approached by making the assumption that verse 22 teaches the old man is still alive.
In light of this, the passage must be interpreted as dealing with putting off our old ways of living and putting on new, godly ways. Indeed verse 23 (…be renewed in your…mind) keys us that this is the correct interpretation. The passage in essence says stop acting like who you’re not and start acting like who you are! The verse will then render an integrated interpretation which is in agreement with the teaching of Romans 6:6, etc. that the old man was done away with at the cross.
Here’s another problem area. When teaching that Christians are not sinners saved by grace, but are saints (holy ones) who sin (and hate it), I am often requested to comment on 1 Timothy 1:15, in which Paul calls himself “chief of sinners.” Frankly, I am confused by this statement by Paul and am anxious to have the Lord teach me what it means. However, I understand this much. After the cross the New Testament refers to born-again Believers as “saints” (holy ones) fifty-six times. But, this statement by Paul in 1 Timothy is the only one appearing after the cross which states that we Christians are sinners. Remember now, no one could get regenerated until the finished work of Christ on the cross. Therefore, verses referring to sinners in the Old Testament and the gospels do not refer to born-again people. What we find after the cross are verses such as Romans 5:8, …in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Note that it says when we were yet sinners, meaning that prior to regeneration we were sinner-men, but now we are new people, saints. Verses 9-10 validate this position. In light of these facts, it seems biblical and Holy Spirit-led to line up with the teaching of the fifty-six verses rather than with the one verse from 1 Timothy! Yet many agree with the one verse and ignore the fifty-six, because the one matches their experience whereas the fifty-six seem idealistic. If you are saved, but believe that you are half evil and half good, you will live a confused, roller coaster life on this planet, tossed about on the horns of whatever temptation seems to be your besetting sin. Continue to live like this and you will ultimately swallow the lie that you are actually not half evil and half good but, are more like 90% evil, alas, even 100% evil and zero good, misinterpreting Romans 7:18 by stating, “No good thing dwells in me…” the man is talking about his flesh, not his soul or spirit. Listen, brother, if you get a splinter in your foot do you become a totem pole? No, you have wood “dwelling in you.” Neither if you have “evil present in you” does that make you evil? Finish the verse (Romans 7:21) to find out your identity. You are the “one who wishes to do good.” You’re the good guy if you are a new creation in Christ. That “evil present in you (in your body)” is the power of sin, an agent of Satan. It’s not you!
Make no mistake about it, you will “life out” whatever you believe your true identity is! Believe you are a saint who sins at times, but who hates it and you’ll be highly motivated to line up your behavior to coincide with your identity. Believe you are totally evil, and it will come as no shock to you that you commit several hundred sins a day. You will live a defeated Christian life.