Do Believers Have Two Natures?

Wow, I’ve been reading a lot this week in preparation for the Wednesday evening Bible study, on Christ giving us a NEW NATURE. Let’s discuss the concept of NATURE, which is defined as, the essential character of something, inborn character, or disposition.

OK, what is the difference between these two statements:

  1. Living in order to become a certain kind of person
  2. Living in light of the fact that you already ARE a certain kind of person

It is the difference between position and practice. Which of these two are FIXED (Position), and which is a work in PROGRESS (Practice)? So, when it comes to our nature… our new nature in Christ and POSITION before God are fixed. We are also a work in progress (because we must renew our minds and be transformed into the image of Christ), which covers our PRACTICE (sanctification).

Consider this: PIGS enjoy filth because it is their nature. FISH swim because it is their nature. TWO NATURE believers say Christians sin because it is our nature to sin.

  1. When UNBELIEVERS sin, it is because it is in their nature to sin (They don’t have the nature of Christ, so how can we expect them to behave like Christ?).
  2. When BELIEVERS sin, it is NOT because they are bound by their sinful nature, they are rather living according to the PATTERNS of their old nature.

For those saved at an early age, and those patterns had not yet developed, how does one account for lust or anger issues that one did not have prior to salvation (at let’s say age 8)? A friend in my Sunday School class had a good response, “Have you ever seen an 8-year-old have a temper tantrum? Or be fascinated by seeing picture of naked women?” Perhaps these patterns (or vestiges or leftovers from the old sin nature) had not yet turned into behaviors, but were still there even if they were not fully awakened (as we would recognize in adulthood).

Biblical Support, Please:

Consider this: When a person comes to faith in Christ there is an immediate change; they have died to the old nature (Romans 6:1-11) and have become a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). The old person no longer exists (Galatians 2:20)… God does NOT give an ADDITIONAL nature, but gives a NEW nature.

Our OLD position is one being separated from God (which was all of us through Adam, so we are all born with a sin nature, separated from God). When Christ saves a person…

  • He does not intend to join his Spirit to an old sin nature.
  • He does not intend to birth a set of spiritual Siamese Twins, half a child of Satan (through Adam) and half a child of God (through Christ).

It appears that we CANNOT be IN Adam and IN Christ at the same time. Do I sense a little push-back yet?

WHY does any of this matter? Practicality. If Christians think they are still IN Adam, they will LIVE, SPEAK, and THINK from the position of the old nature. Believers will do all they can to conquer their sinfulness and make excuses for why they fail.

HOWEVER, the Bible does NOT teach us to DEAL with our sin nature. WHY? Because Christ has already dealt with our sin nature at our salvation.

Have you noticed that we are never commanded to crucify the old person? WHY? Because it has ALREADY happened. The old man was crucified with Christ on the cross (Galatians 2:20). So, if we are saved, the old nature is ALREADY gone, the new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17).

BUT, the Bible does command us to 1) renew our mind and 2) stop living according to the flesh, those old patterns of behavior and thought (Romans 12:2, 7:18, Galatians 5:16-26). Christians must see themselves as God sees them.

I will continue this article in a separate post, but know that Charles Stanley and John MacArthur hold to this view, hardly theological lightweights. I have been for a long time a Two Natures guy (think, Survival Kit for New Christians, 1979), so this new understanding or interpretation has just come to me recently.

Knowledge is a life-long pursuit and I love to wrestle with concepts and with Scripture, but this doctrine is what I call a NON-essential. People can take this or leave this; it is not a grounds for heresy! It very well may be a matter of semantics (Check out Got Questions on the topic).

One last thought here, even though I am saved, possessing a new nature, I always have the potential to commit ANY sin (even murder, adultery, or theft). It would be heresy to claim that we can realize perfection in this life, because there was only ONE sinless God-Man. When I DO sin, I can legitimately say, “That is not who I am.”

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The Purpose of Work

Many men feel that working is part of the curse, going all the back to Adam getting thrown out of the garden (Genesis 3:17, 18-19) but notice that Adam was commanded to work in the garden before the fall, when the world was still a paradise (Genesis 2:15).

They say that man has three basic needs in life: love, purpose and significance. Many times, humans attempt to find purpose and significance in work itself. In Ecclesiastes 2:4-11, Solomon details his search for meaning in a variety of projects and works of all kinds. Even though the work brought some degree of satisfaction in accomplishment, his conclusion was: “Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 2:11).

The fact is, the curse made work laborious and difficult (which is what we often experience every day). But work is a blessed activity and the desired goal of work is found in this verse:

“So I saw that there is nothing better for people than to be happy in their work. That is why we are here! No one will bring us back from death to enjoy life after we die.” (Ecclesiastes 3:22)

“Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.” (Ephesians 4:28)

“If anyone does not provide for his own, and especially those of his own household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:28).

Even while we were with you, we gave you this command: “Those unwilling to work will not get to eat.” (2 Thessalonians 3:10)

So, why work? This brief video explains the real purpose of why we work…

Other biblical principles regarding work are:

  • Work is done not only to benefit the worker, but also for others (Exodus 23:10-11, Deuteronomy 15:7-11, Ephesians 4:28).
  • Work is a gift from God and, for His people, will be blessed (Psalm 104:1-35, 127:1-5, Ecclesiastes 3:12-13, 5:18-20, Proverbs 14:23).
  • God equips His people for their work (Exodus 31:2-11).

The Christian attitude toward work should be like Jesus: “My food, said Jesus, is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work” (John 4:34). Work is of no value except when God is in it.

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Covenants in the Bible

Covenant is a pact, treaty, alliance, or agreement between two parties of equal or of unequal authority. The covenant or testament is a central, unifying theme in Scripture, God’s covenants with individuals and the nation Israel finding final fulfillment in the new covenant in Christ Jesus. God’s covenants can be understood by humans because they are modeled on human covenants or treaties.

The Bible speaks of seven different covenants, five of which God made with the nation of Israel. Five are unconditional in nature, which means regardless of Israel’s obedience or disobedience, God will fulfill these covenants with the nation of Israel. One of the covenants is conditional, meaning this covenant will bring either blessing or cursing depending on Israel’s obedience or disobedience.

The Adamic Covenant comes in two parts: the Edenic Covenant (innocence – Genesis 1:26-30; 2:16-17) and the Adamic Covenant (grace – Genesis 3:16-19). The Edenic Covenant outlined man’s responsibility toward creation and God’s one rule regarding the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The Adamic Covenant included the curses pronounced against mankind for the sin of Adam and Eve, and includes God’s provision for that sin (Genesis 3:15).

  1. God’s Promise – Satan and mankind will be enemies.
  2. God’s Sign – Pain of childbirth, toil in work (Genesis 3:16, 17).

The Noahic Covenant was an unconditional covenant between God and Noah and mankind. After the Flood, God promised that He would never again destroy all life on earth with water. He gave the rainbow as the sign of that covenant and a reminder that God can and will judge sin (2 Peter 2:5).

  1. God’s Promise – God would never again destroy the earth with a flood.
  2. God’s Sign – Rainbow (Genesis 9:12-13).

Abrahamic Covenant (Genesis 12:1-3, 6-7; 13:14-17; 15:12-21; 17:1-14; 22:15-18). In this covenant, God promised that He would make Abraham’s name great (Genesis 12:2), that Abraham would have numerous descendants (Genesis 13:16), and that he would be the father of a multitude of nations (Genesis 17:4-5). God also made promises regarding the nation of Israel. Geographical boundaries of the Abrahamic Covenant are laid out in Genesis 12:7; 13:14-15; 15:18-21. In the Abrahamic Covenant, all the families of the world will be blessed through the line of Abraham (Genesis 12:3; 22:18). This means the Messiah, who would come from the line of Abraham.

  1. God’s Promise – Abraham’s descendants would become a great nation if they obeyed God, and He would be their God forever.
  2. God’s Sign – Smoking fire pot and blazing torch (Genesis 15:17-18).

Palestinian Covenant (Deuteronomy 30:1-10). The Palestinian Covenant amplifies the land aspect which was detailed in the Abrahamic Covenant. In this covenant, God, because of the people’s disobedience, would cause them to be scattered around the world (Deuteronomy 30:3-4), and He would eventually restore the nation together (Deuteronomy 30:5). When the nation is restored, then they will obey Him perfectly (Deuteronomy 30:8), and God will cause them to prosper (Deuteronomy 30:9). See also Deuteronomy 28, 29. Because of this covenant, the right of the Jews to live in the land is conditional upon their behavior. This partly conditional covenant has several parts:

  1. Dispersion of the Jews was to be a consequence of disobedience.
  2. Future repentance will be accomplished by God.
  3. God will regather his scattered people and restore them to the land.
  4. The people of Israel will be brought to the Lord as a nation.
  5. The enemies and oppressors of Israel will be punished.
  6. Future national prosperity and preeminence is guaranteed.

Mosaic Covenant (Exodus 19:5-6, Deuteronomy 11). The Mosaic Covenant was a conditional covenant that either brought God’s blessing for obedience or God’s cursing for disobedience. The ten commandments (found in Exodus 20) is part of the covenant. The history books of the Old Testament (Joshua-Esther) show how Israel succeeded at obeying the law or how Israel failed at keeping the law. Deuteronomy 11:26-28 details the blessing/cursing theme.

  1. God’s Promise – Israel would be God’s special people, a holy nation. But they would have to keep their part of the covenant – obedience.
  2. God’s Sign – The Exodus, and gathering for worship at Sinai (Exodus 3:12).

Davidic Covenant (2 Samuel 7:8-16). The Davidic Covenant expands the seed detail which was part of the Abrahamic Covenant. The promises to David in this passage are significant because God promised that David’s physical line of descent would last forever and that his kingdom would never pass away permanently (2 Samuel 7:16). This kingdom would have a ruling individual exercising authority over it (2 Samuel 7:16). The Davidic throne has not been in place at all times, but there will be a time when someone from the line of David will again sit on the throne and rule as king. This future king is Jesus (Luke 1:32-33).

  1. God’s Promise – Salvation would come through David’s line through the birth of the Messiah.
  2. God’s Sign – David’s line continued and the Messiah was born a descendant of David (2 Samuel 7:12).

New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-34). The New Covenant is one made with the nation of Israel and speaks about the blessings which are detailed in the Abrahamic Covenant. In the New Covenant, God promises to forgive sin and there will be a universal knowledge of the Lord (Jeremiah 31:34). It even appears that the nation of Israel will have a special relationship with God (Jeremiah 31:33).

  1. God’s Promise – Forgiveness and salvation are available through faith in Christ.
  2. God’s Sign – Christ’s resurrection.

How does the church of Jesus Christ relate to the covenants? Some people believe that the church fulfills the covenants and God will never deal with Israel again. This is called replacement theology and has little scriptural evidence. Others believe that the church initially or partially will fulfill these covenants. Many believe that the church shares in the covenants in some way, while others believe that the covenants are for Israel and for Israel alone.

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Paul and the Incarnation

Incarnation literally means “becoming the flesh.” Paul saw this event from two sides: the side of God and the side of Jesus.

The side of God:

  1. For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God [did:] sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and [as an offering] for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, (Romans 8:3)
  2. Nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:39)
  3. Namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5:19)
  4. Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift! (2 Corinthians 9:15)

The side of Jesus: the sacrifice of Christ did not begin on earth, but in eternity.

  1. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich. (2 Corinthians 8:9). This is called the kenotic theory of the incarnation, more fully described here:
  2. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, [and] being made in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore also God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE SHOULD BOW, of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:5-11)

The strange thing about this kenotic theory is that is baffles the mind yet moves the heart:

  1. God is omniscient, yet it is clear that in His earthly life there were things of which Jesus did not know (Mark 13:32)
  2. God is omnipotent, yet it is clear that there were things which Jesus in His earthly life could not do. He would even tire and needed sleep (John 4:6, Mark 4:38)
  3. God is omnipresent, yet it is clear that during His earthly life Jesus was bound by the laws of time and space.
  4. We can say that His metaphysical attributes (above) were emptied, but not His moral attributes of goodness, justice and love. This theory sets out to explain the unimaginable love of God for man.

Paul stresses the reality of the incarnation: directing his teaching against the heresy of docetism, that Jesus only appeared to be a man but in reality He had no human body at all.

  1. Concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, (Romans 1:3)
  2. For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God [did:] sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and [as an offering] for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, (Romans 8:3)

Docetism: (dokein – to seem) tried to honor the divinity of Jesus by teaching that Jesus was merely a phantom figure. Paul insisted that Jesus had a human body, if He was ever to redeem sinful man. To Paul, we are saved as much by the life of Jesus as we are by His death.

The efficacy of the life of Jesus in the work of salvation:

  1. For since by a man [came] death, by a man also [came] the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive. (1 Corinthians 15:21-22)
  2. Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned–for until the Law sin was in the world; but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come. But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many. And the gift is not like [that which came] through the one who sinned; for on the one hand the judgment [arose] from one [transgression] resulting in condemnation, but on the other hand the free gift [arose] from many transgressions resulting in justification. For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ. So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men. For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous. And the Law came in that the transgression might increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 5:12-21)

Solidarity of a people: always a member of a family, clan or a nation. a person existed not as an individual but as a unit in a society. A vivid example is in Joshua 7 (defeat at Ai as the result of one man’s disobedience after Jericho, AND the entire family being put to death by the act of one man in the family).

Paul’s argument that all men sinned in Adam:

  1. Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned– (Romans 5:12)
    • Death is the consequence of sin.
    • Adam broke the positive command of God.
  2. For until the Law sin was in the world; but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come. (Romans 5:13-14)
    • If there is no law, there is no sin, a breach in the law
    • Between Adam and Moses, no sin existed, but men died
  3. For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ. (Romans 5:17) The answer is that men died because they had all sinned in Adam.

The other side of the argument: Into this world Jesus brings the perfect righteousness and perfect obedience of God.

  1. So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men. For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous. (Romans 5:18-19)
  2. By this perfect obedience, the evil chain of sin and death is broken and a new holiness enters in. Just as the solidarity of mankind is involved in the sin of Adam, the solidarity of mankind is involved in the holiness of Christ. For this argument to be valid, the incarnation must be absolutely real. Jesus must be just as human as was Adam.

The flaw is this: our connection with Adam is a physical one where we can neither choose nor reject. Our connection with Christ is a spiritual one, it is by no means an inevitable relationship, it is something which we can either accept or reject.

Basically, no man can reasonably be condemned because he is physically connected to his ancestors, but any man must bear the responsibility for accepting or refuting his connection with Jesus.

Paul argument has an eternal truth: man is involved in a situation from which he cannot free himself, and that Christ liberated him from that tragic and impotent situation.

This material is from William Barclay, the Mind of St. Paul, 1975.

Answering God's First Question

God called to Adam and asked him, “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9) and here’s how the first man answered the first question that God had asked him: “I heard… I was afraid… I was naked… I hid.” (Genesis 3:10).

Most men don’t like open confrontation. I have known some physically big and powerful men who were afraid to go home to their five-foot-two-inch wife because they knew they would be facing a confrontation with her the minute they walked in the door.

Many men come across to their wives and children as being fearless, but the fact is, men are very afraid of themselves and of being confronted with who they really are. We know what is deep down inside. Men rarely face themselves because they really don’t know who they are or where they are—and I think they are afraid that somebody might discover the darkness that they secretly know is inside them.

Men tend to talk very easily about things that don’t really matter; seems most of us clam up when the talk turns to the things that matter the most. So we hide.

Here is the nature of relationships: you can’t have a relationship with someone if you are hiding from them.

  • Not a relationship with God.
  • Not a relationship with your wife.
  • Not a relationship with your child.
  • Not a relationship with the guy who stands next to you in the church service.

Relationships are built when we stop hiding and honestly face ourselves, and then allow ourselves to become vulnerable and open with other men. It doesn’t happen in a large group like a church service, but in small groups. That is why our small group ministry is so important.

A man sometimes acts as if he can’t hear, or as if he hasn’t heard, but the fact is, he heard—he what was said but just didn’t like what he heard.

  • He heard his wife when she said she needed more time, attention, or consideration.
  • He heard his kids when they complained that Dad wasn’t around very much.
  • He heard his daughter when she said, “I love you, Daddy,” and he heard her sigh when Daddy didn’t say anything back.

He ran and hid emotionally because he didn’t know how to give to other people what they needed. It is a cruel fact of life that we cannot pass on that which we do not possess: not leadership, compassion, integrity, confidence, love or peace.

A man who is afraid and doesn’t know what to do is a man who feels exposed, naked if you will. He will go to great lengths to hide himself…

  • To bury himself in his work
  • To get involved in an affair that doesn’t require any vulnerability on his part
  • To put up a brick-wall facade around his heart to hide his true emotions.

So men end up afraid, frustrated, whimpering inside, locked up, and impotent. And all the while, they are doing everything they can to cover up their inner feelings and emotional inadequacies.

Truth requires that you open up and share who your really are and where you really are. It requires an honest answer to God’s question, “Where are you?” rather than an excuse rooted in our own fear.