Home > Uncategorized > Sin Nature or Divine Nature?

Sin Nature or Divine Nature?

among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
Ephesians 2:3

 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.
2 Peter 1:4

A generally accepted perspective on the Christian life is that we, even after we have been born again, maintain a “sin nature” which compels us to sin, to turn from God and to desire what is evil. A line from a famous hymn echoes this belief:

Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it
Prone to leave the God I love
Take my heart, Lord, take and seal it
Seal it for Thy courts above

But is the Christian truly prone to wander, in the sense that he will always have an unconscious and uncontrollable urge to sin? The above verses seem to indicate otherwise. The first, Ephesians 2:3, shows that we once lived “in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind,” implying that we no longer live in that state. Similarly, Paul said in Galatians 2:20, “the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God,” once again indicating a drastic change from what was, to a now Christ-centered life. Another popular verse says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

The second verse from above, 2 Peter 1:4, tells us that we “escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.” So, if we once lived in the passions of our flesh, and we have now escaped the corruption of sinful desire, then we are no longer under the curse of sin.

Furthermore, not only the curse, but the power of sin is broken in our lives, as Romans 6 says repeatedly:

6 We know that our old selfwas crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set freefrom sin…14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace…18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness…22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.

Again in Romans 8:2, Paul says, “For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.” It’s funny that one of the scriptures that is often used to support the idea of a continuing sin nature, is found in Romans 7, sandwiched between these several verses about our freedom from sin. The verses often used from Romans 7 are:

For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.

Though these sentiments are often shared by well-meaning Christians, we must read the whole context to understand what Paul was truly saying. In this chapter Paul deals with the relationship of sin and the Law. However, according to chapter 6, we are under neither, for “sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.” In fact, Romans 7 tells us the same thing in verses 4-6:

Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.

Thus, the statements about not doing what I want to do, and doing the things I hate, were a projection of the mind of the man still serving the Law, and bound by his own sin. But we have died to the Law, we are free from sin, and we now live by the Spirit! Thus the “law of sin and death” is broken by the “law of the Spirit of life.”

So then, from where do our sinful desires come? In order to answer this question more fully, we must understand the process of salvation a little better. Man consists of three parts–spirit, soul, and body–and thus salvation happens in three stages or phases:

SPIRIT
At the instant a person believes in Jesus and is born-again, their spirit, which was previously “dead in trespasses and sins” is made alive, and that person now has a perfect, spotless “inner man” bearing the image and likeness of Jesus. Inwardly, that person is now perfectly acceptable and pleasing to God – not based on his own works, but on the works of Jesus who gave His perfect righteousness to us as a gift.

BODY
We also have a promise that one day our bodies will be transformed into glorious, resurrected bodies, like the one Jesus now has. Sickness, disease, pain and suffering of any kind will not be known in these new bodies. This will occur when Jesus returns.

SOUL
The soul, or the mind, is the intermediary between the spirit and body, and is in a process of sanctification. Though our spirits are transformed instantaneously, our minds must be renewed gradually, as Romans 12:2 says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” This verse presents two potential paths – conformity with the world, or transformation into the image of Christ. The two are mutually exclusive. As we grow in faith and in the knowledge of God’s will, our minds (and thus our lives) come into alignment with the perfect righteousness of Jesus which we already possess. Our actions do not affect our standing with God, only our faith does. However, our actions do affect our human relationships, the law of sowing and reaping affects many of the circumstances and situations we face.

Thus, our continuing struggles with sin are not due to a sin nature, but to an unrenewed mind. Before you came to Christ, perhaps you were addicted to drugs or alcohol, but now you realize that God has something better for your life, and that such addictions are not pleasing to Him. Thus, by the power of the Spirit, you change your life. This happened because you began to think God’s thoughts about your situation. You acknowledged His word, and followed the leading of the Spirit and were transformed by the renewing of your mind. In fact it was the new nature within you that caused a conflict regarding the sin in your life, and compelled you to change.  The conflict is not between two opposing natures within you, one that desires to be righteous, and the other that desires sin. Rather, the conflict is between your renewed spirit, and your unrenewed thoughts.

Okay, this one’s long enough, I’ll have to make it a two-parter…

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Lauren Rossman
    August 30, 2012 at 3:14 pm

    “Our continuing struggles with sin are not due to a sin nature, but to an unrenewed mind.” This is a powerful statement! It’s empowering to know that we are free from our sin nature and that sin has no hold on us (that is an amazing thought!), It’s also challenging to know we have to CONSTANTLY walk in our new nature by renewing our minds and to cast down old thoughts that so easily entangle. I think it’s when we become passive about renewing our minds that “old mind thinking” trys to creep into our new mind. We need to put new wine into our wine skins! Thanks for the challenge, my Love!

  1. August 30, 2012 at 5:59 pm

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