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:
- Living in order to become a certain kind of person
- 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.
- 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?).
- 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.”
Have you ever thought about BIBLICAL ILLITERACY in our day? People just don’t seem to know their Bible, even people who attend church. There are 98% of people who claim to be Christian, but…
- 80% believe people are basically good and can become good enough to keep the Law on their own
- 59% believe that faith in Jesus is not necessary for salvation
- 40% cannot identify what new birth means on a multiple-choice test (half thought it meant reincarnation)
- 33% did not affirm the trinity or the deity of Christ
- 23% do not know that Christianity affirms the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ
Here is why sound doctrine doctrine is important: If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything. Check out this passage in Colossians 1:24:
Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions.
What do you think Paul means here? Could it be that the sufferings of Jesus were not sufficient to reconcile believers to God? Is there something lacking in that which Christ has done for us? That is exactly what false teachers today will proclaim, and often the founder of that group/cult has the divine answer, or is the fulfillment of the mission of Christ (basically Jesus failed in his mission and they are here to set the record straight).
Paul was likely pointing out that Jesus’ sufferings on the cross do not accomplish the salvation of sinners UNLESS they hear and believe the gospel (Colossians 1:25). Paul’s faithfulness to his mission, including his willingness to suffer on his missionary journeys, had to be ADDED to the sufferings of Jesus in order to bring salvation to the Gentiles throughout the Roman Empire.
Jesus’ suffering on the cross was all that was necessary for their salvation, but Paul’s sufferings were necessary to proclaim the message of salvation to the lost world.
It is no secret that many people interpret Scripture in a way that is totally off base. We wonder how they come to that conclusion, especially when the come back is “What does the Bible say?” We are forced to admit that indeed the Bible may SAY that, but THAT is not what it means. No wonder Christianity is so confusing to those on the outside.
The Bible must be read, understood, interpreted and then it’s teachings applied. The first stop here is an understanding of the type and genre of the passage you are reading.
When interpreting HISTORICAL NARRATIVE, these are some principles to keep in mind:
- Context and intent are key.
- Characters are not always heroes; authors are not always intending to present moral lessons.
- God is the ultimate character of Scripture, and He is active in the lives of real people and in the events of history.
- Scripture interprets Scripture.
- Historical narrative describes, not prescribes.
- Example: Genesis 30:1-6
When interpreting WISDOM LITERATURE, these are some principles to keep in mind:
- Proverbs are general truths that are not to be interpreted as true all the time in every situation.
- Wisdom literature incorporates poetry and figurative language.
- Negative illustrations teach just as much as positive ones.
- The psalms should be interpreted within their categories and subheadings.
- God is involved even in the nitty-gritty of everyday life.
- Example: Proverbs 22:6, 26:4-5, 3:1-3 (balanced with Acts 7:54-60)
When interpreting PROPHECY, these are some principles to keep in mind:
- Seek to discover the original message of the prophet in his immediate context.
- Expect figurative language.
- Be aware of themes in prophecy, such as a call to the covenant, to social justice, and for faithfulness from the remnant of God’s people.
- Do not assume that all prophecy has been fulfilled.
- Test modern-day prophesies against the truthfulness and coherency of Scripture.
- Example: Joel 2:28-32, Deuteronomy 13:1-5, 18:21-22
When interpreting LETTERS, these are some principles to keep in mind:
- Seek to discover who wrote the letter.
- Seek to discover to whom it was written and why.
- Investigate the historical context of the audience of the letter.
- Consider the structure, sections, main points, and themes of the letter.
- Determine whether the passage is culturally mandated. If so, seek to understand the principles behind the passage, and apply them to your own circumstances.
- Example: Galatians 1:1-7, 1 Corinthians 11:6
The great thing is that Jesus does not leave us alone to interpret Scripture for and by ourselves, Luke 24:27 is quite an encouragement. He escorts us along the journey and shows us how to properly interpret the Bible.