Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
The Apostle Paul refers to the "sinful nature," warning us that if we follow its impulses we will die spiritually, we will reap destruction. How did Paul arrive at the concept of the sinful nature? What are we to do about it?
THE SINFUL NATURE
The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. (Galatians 6:8)
The Apostle Paul refers to the "sinful nature," warning us that if we follow its impulses we will die spiritually, we will reap destruction. How did Paul arrive at the concept of the sinful nature? What are we to do about it?
The King James Version has the following:
For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. (Galatians 6:8)
"Soweth to his flesh." "Sows to please his sinful nature."
I believe the King James is closer to the literal translation of the Greek text.
"Flesh," or "sinful nature." Probably the translators of the New International Version recognized that the problem is not from our flesh as such, but from the sin that dwells in our flesh.
Paul stated that sin dwells in our flesh.
Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. (Romans 7:20)
Sin lives in us. There is a law of sin at work in the members of my body, Paul states.
Where did this evil force come from? From our parents and ancestors, probably, along with what we ourselves picked up along the way.
Suffice to say there are urges to sin present in the members of our body, and our body is spiritually dead as a result.
But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. (Romans 8:10)
Our inward nature is alive due to the righteousness ascribed to it, because we have received the atonement. Eternal life always follows righteousness.
Was there sin in the personalities of the Jews under the Law of Moses?
Yes, although I cannot remember an Old Testament passage that speaks of sin dwelling in the members of our body.
The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9)
As far as I know, unlike the New Testament, the Old Testament does not refer to a law of sin operating in our members.
But I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. (Romans 7:23)
The Old Testament certainly speaks out against sin and disobedience to God. But I canít think of any passage that states we have sinful impulses dwelling in the members of our body. Can you?
The reason for this may be that the Law of Moses made no provision for dealing with the sinful nature, the sinful compulsions residing in our flesh.
So where did Paul obtain this knowledge?
As Paul wrestled with the commandments of the Law of Moses he found that the sin dwelling in him caused him to break the commandments, leaving him condemned. Perhaps this is how he derived the idea of the sinful nature. But why isnít it mentioned somewhere in the Old Testament. Maybe it is and I canít think of it.
In any case, when Paul speaks of redemption, he does not refer to the commandments of the Law of Moses. He refers rather to the behaviors that spring from our sinful nature.
The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; Idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions And envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21)
The commandments of the Law of Moses were clear, inscribed in granite and written on parchment. "You shall not commit adultery"!
While the New Testament does have specific commandments, I think it is addressed more to the idea of victory over the entire sinful nature rather than to specific actions.
Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. (Galatians 5:24)
The New Testament certainly exhorts us to godly behavior, and we show our love for Christ by keeping His commandments. But the New is different from the Old. The New has a feature not found at all in the Old, and that is the idea of Christ, who is the Righteous Nature, being formed in us.
When we begin as a disciple of the Lord we do well to study the Scriptures that we might begin to understand what pleases the Lord and what does not. We have the Holy Spirit who assists us as we seek to obey what Christ has commanded and His Apostles have written.
But something else is true of us, that was not at all true of the worshipers under the Law of Moses. We count that we died with Christ on the crossóour entire first personality died with Christ on the cross. Our death on the cross is dramatized by our baptism in water. Our coming forth from the water signifies that we now have risen with Christ to walk in newness of lifeóbut not only risen from the dead, we have ascended with Him to the right hand of the Father in Heaven.
The Law of Moses knows nothing of such an operation.
So now we have a firstfruits of our new personality, our born-again nature, that is hidden with Christ in God.
But what is left on earth? What is left is our spirit and our soul, housed in a body that has sin residing in it.
Now the battle begins. Our renewed mind is challenging us to cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit. Our soul is tossed to and fro, one moment wanting to obey our sinful nature and the next moment wanting to obey what our mind is advising.
Paul is stressed about this conflict and is looking forward toward the redemption of his mortal body, that is, the removal from his flesh of the sinful nature. Paul groans for this redemption.
A passage I have employed on numerous occasions cannot be improved when we are considering the sinful nature.
For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, (Romans 8:13)
I donít know of a comparable passage in the Old Testament. Do you?
The Old Testament speaks of specific kinds of sin, but never of a sinful nature, as far as I am aware.
Who may ascend the hill of the LORD? Who may stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol or swear by what is false. He will receive blessing from the LORD and vindication from God his Savior. (Psalms 24:3-5)
The sinners in Zion are terrified; trembling grips the godless: "Who of us can dwell with the consuming fire? Who of us can dwell with everlasting burning?" He who walks righteously and speaks what is right, who rejects gain from extortion and keeps his hand from accepting bribes, who stops his ears against plots of murder and shuts his eyes against contemplating eviló (Isaiah 33:14,15)
"Clean hands and a pure heart."
"Does not lift up his soul to an idol or swear by what is false."
"Walks righteously and speaks what is right."
"Rejects gain from extortion and keeps his hand from accepting bribes."
"Stops his ears against plots of murder and shuts his eyes against contemplating evil."
The above certainly have to do with works of the sinful nature.
But there is something missing. The prophets tell us what God desires and what displeases Him. But what is the Jew to do about it except exert willpower?
Paul tells us if we obey the promptings of our sinful nature, the law of sin that dwells in the members of our body, we will die. We know Paul is not referring to physical death. There are numerous people who live to a ripe old age and obey the impulses of their sinful nature every day.
No, Paul is not referring to physical death. Rather he is speaking of the removal of the eternal life that was given to us when we received Christ. Remember, Paulís goal was to be delivered from the law of sin in his flesh. He is saying that if we choose to obey this law of sin we will die, that is, we will lose the eternal life issued to us at the beginning and not be given a sin-free body in the Day of Resurrection.
I know many will say we cannot lose eternal life once we have it. I believe they are mistaken. If they choose to be a slave of sin, they will die spiritually. Such is the meaning of, "the wages of sin is death." This familiar phrase is not addressed to the unsaved but to Christians.
There is no solution of the problem of the sinful nature to be found in the Law of Moses. There were strict laws of righteousness, and provision was made for the individual who sinned. But there was no way of dealing with the sinful nature by means of the Divine grace available at that time. There was only the Law, the Prophets, and the blood of animals.
But Paul warns us not about specific sins alone but about the entire sinful nature. And Paul says there is something we can do about it.
Paul directs us "put to death the misdeeds of the body." The misdeeds of the body are, of course, the actions of the sinful nature.
No such directive was issued under the Law of Moses. Why not? Probably because the Holy Spirit was not available to assist the Jews at that time.
When we set out to put to death the actions of our sinful nature we rely on the Spirit to guide us to name these actions, and then to empower us to denounce and renounce such actions, turning away from them with all our might. The effect of the authority of the blood, the Presence of the Holy Spirit of God, and our vigorous turning away from the actions, kills them. It takes the life and fire out of them. In the Day of Christ these dead forces will be removed from us altogether and our resurrected flesh and bones will be clothed with a heavenly body that is filled with the Spirit of God. Such was Paulís goalóthat of attaining to the resurrection that is out from among the dead.
We have been crucified with Christ. Now we are risen with Christ to walk in newness of life. Since we have counted our first personality as deceased, we are eligible to come before the Judgment Seat of Christ. As Peter says, the Lord is ready to judge the living.
The Holy Spirit brings to our attention that we lie on occasion. This is a symptom of the sinful nature.
What are we to do?
We confess this specific behavior as sin.
We denounce it vigorously as sin.
We renounce it, declaring it has no place in our personality.
We determine to never lie again, no matter what the circumstance is.
What does God do?
God forgives our sin on the basis of the blood atonement made on the cross.
The Holy Spirit of God takes the life, the fire from the urge to lie.
We now have been forgiven and cleansed from all unrighteousness.
If we follow this plan faithfully we will discover we now have the strength to tell the truth when we are under pressure.
If you have never tried this procedure, do so. You will be surprised at the result.
Once lying has been successfully dealt with, the Holy Spirit will lead you to another "city," so to speak. You confess it as sin, denounce it, renounce it, and resolve never to behave this way again.
It does take a while for the Holy Spirit to comb through all the elements of your personality. If you are faithful, the day will come when God is satisfied the work has been completed. You now are eligible for the redemption of your body.
As far as I can tell from Peter, the same work of judgment is taking place with deceased saints; for Peter says that Christ is judging the living and the dead.
Sooner or later every human being born on the earth will have to pass before the Judgment Seat of Christ, during his or her lifetime or in the next world. We will receive back what we have practiced, whether good or bad. We will reap what we have sown. We will be rewarded according to our works.
Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. (Revelation 22:12)
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. (II Corinthians 5:10)
I donít think the primary work of the Judgment Seat of Christ will be to pinpoint specific sins we have committed. No doubt these will be raised at some point. But God knows we did not ask to be born under condemnation and with a sinful nature.
So the thrust of the Judgment Seat of Christ has to do with what we did with our opportunities. God through Jesus Christ has given us the opportunity to put our sinful nature to death. If we are diligent in this, then God will reward us for being a faithful servant.
But if we have had opportunity to gain the victory over sin, and do not take advantage of it, then we will be regarded as a lazy, disobedient, wicked servant and the specific behaviors will be returned to us in some manner. We wanted sin, and so sin will be given to us.
Our gifts and blessings will be taken from us and given to another who has been more diligent. We ourselves will pass into spiritual darkness.
It is important to understand that Godís judgment is not against the fact that we have a sinful nature. We were born with such a nature. We did not ask for it. There may be a sincere person who has been wicked all his life. Now he or she comes to God. He is remorseful because of his past behavior. But now he does all that he knows to do. God will not punish him for all his wicked deeds. God will reward him for doing what is right when he comes to the knowledge of what God expects. Do you see the difference?
God has the power to remove our sinful nature at any time. What God is looking for is a faithful, obedient heart.
God meets people at different times in their life. Some are blessed with the visitation of God in their early years. Others when they are elderly. It does not matter. God is God. He is in control of when we are faced with Christ.
All that God requires is that we do what we know to do. God blesses faithfulness, not our perfect actions. Sometimes it is harder for a righteous person to come to God, because he trusts in his own righteousness to save him. The wicked individual, on the other hand, knows he is in a wretched condition. He is more apt to come to Christ with the right attitude, seeking the help of Christ and giving himself to Christ.
The main point of the present essay is that it is possible to put the sinful nature to death. Such destruction of the sinful nature was not possible under the Law of Moses. This may be the main difference between the old covenant and the new.
I think the reason the destruction of the old nature was not mentioned in the Old Testament is that it was not possible at that time. The worshipers had to use their knowledge of the Law and their willpower in order to live righteously.
Once we recognize that the sinful nature is not an infinite condition to which we must submit while we are alive in the world, we are a of the way toward total deliverance.
Recognize that you as a Christian have two distinct personalities. You have your old adamic personality, and you have the Divine Life of God residing in you. You have a firstfruits of your personality that already is with Christ at the right hand of God in Heaven. Also, you have the Spirit of God dwelling in your body. Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit.
There is more to your adamic personality than just the sinful nature. There is some good in everyone. But God, in order to destroy the sinful nature from you, asks you to put your whole adamic personality on the cross with Christ. Do not attempt to save any of it, because even though there is good in it, it is deceitful and falls into sin readily.
The adamic race is a marvelous creation. But it is a temporary creation and will be done away entirely when the present earth and sky flee from the Face of Christ, at the end of the Thousand-year Kingdom Age we call the Millennium.
The sinful nature is so intertwined with our adamic personality that God is taking no chances. He commands us to put our first personality to death. Once we do, God is free to begin to judge and destroy the sinful nature from us and to form Christ in us.
Again, let me stress that our sinful nature is not infinite in scope. It can be completely destroyed by the Spirit of God.
Such destruction does not take place instantly, however. Each day the Holy Spirit leads us into a new area of concern. The Holy Spirit arranges the circumstances of our life so the various faces of our sinful nature are exposed. Once they are exposed we can attack them joyfully and kill them.
One area, of which I have spoken much in other writings, is that of trust in the Antichrist world spirit. This spirit, at least in America, has to do with money and material wealth. Perhaps most American Christians are quite involved with the world spirit. We have to pray fervently so the Spirit is able to lead us out of this bondage. The Spirit teaches us to live by the grace given to us each day, instead of by trusting in our retirement plan, our stocks and bonds, our bank account.
Another deadly area comprises the lusts of our flesh and soul. These can be fires of passion that are nearly impossible to extinguish. America is saturated with demonic lust. The media buries us under the temptations of the flesh.
The demons of lust are powerful. But the Holy Spirit has greater power. When we cry out to Jesus He enables us to put to death the lust of the eyes and the flesh. If we are not faithful in overcoming the lusts of the flesh, we have no hope of being raised from the dead to meet Jesus Christ at His return.
The third, and most deadly of the problems, is our self-will. This is not a law of sin that dwells in our members but has to do with our faith in God. Are we willing to turn from our own ways and ambitions and obey Jesus Christ in every area of life? If not, we will not be successful in conquering our trust in the Antichrist world spirit and the lusts and passions of our flesh and soul.
The Spirit brings us into various prisons designed to destroy our self-love and self-will. If we are faithful and remain in the prison where we are placed, the self-will shall be destroyed from our personality and we will learn to lean on Christ for every aspect of life.
The war against self-will is, I believe, the major challenge facing Godís people of today. Will we take our gifts and try to save the world or increase our own wealth? Or will we bring our talents to Christ that He may use them whenever and however He will. Such acceptance of the will of Christ can be a strong challenge to an ambitious person.
What we are seeking is the total destruction of the sinful nature. It is possible, and has nothing to do with dying and going to Heaven. I think it is believed commonly that the issue of the sinful nature will be resolved by our physical death, or when the Lord comes. There is no Scripture whatever for these common assumptions. Physical death is an enemy. When the Lord comes, He will chasten us if we have not served Him diligently rather than rid us of our sinful nature. Physical death and the coming of the Lord are not solutions to the problem of the sinful nature.
There is to be no sin whatever in the new world of righteousness. At some point, either the sinful nature will be removed from us, or we will be removed from the Kingdom of God.
The following passages reveals that at the end of the Church Age the Lordís messengers will weed out of His Kingdom all that offends God. No doubt the sinful nature will be removed at that time.
As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. (Matthew 13:40,41)
"Everything that causes sin." This is an excellent description of the sinful nature.
Have you ever thought about the following verse?
He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devilís work. (I John 3:8)
"He who does what is sinful is of the devil." This means that the sin we commit originates with the devil. Another way of saying this would be our sinful nature is of the devil.
The Son of God appeared in order to destroy the devilís work.
What is the devilís work?
First, the sinful nature and all that proceeds from it.
Second, sickness and death. These are the result of sin
Do you know of anything else that could be termed "the devilís work?
If not, we may conclude that the Son of God came to destroy the sinful nature.
If we think of the sinful nature as being a specific set of forces that we carry around in our body, kind of like a cancer, it may help us to receive faith that it can be cut out and removed from us. It is not an integral part of us.
As Paul said, with our mind we serve God. But then there is this law of sin operating in us!
For in my inner being I delight in Godís law; But I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. (Romans 7:22,23)
Since our flesh and blood are chemical compounds and morally neutral, and sin, such as lying, is a moral force, we conclude that the "law of sin at work within my members" either comprises spiritual personalities who live in our flesh and blood, or else our flesh and blood have "doors" in them, so to speak, that leave us vulnerable to the desires of evil spirits.
When the Lord said the prince of this world had no hold on Him, it was because He had not inherited the sin nature of Adam, having been born of God.
It should be helpful to us to realize the sin nature is nothing more than a set of nasty little bondages. It is not the monolithic structure Satan would have us believe. It is as nothing for the Spirit of God to destroy all of our sin nature, because of the unlimited authority of the blood of the cross.
It makes me angry when I realize there is this cursed evil that is clinging to my personality. I do not want it. I did not ask for it. I despise it. I do not want to be its prisoner. I want it away from me completely!
God has sent Jesus to destroy this curse out of my personality; out of my flesh. I am looking forward to a new body that is free from the sinful nature.
How about you. Is this what you desire also?
The Son of God came to destroy the sinful nature. Our task is to confess our sins, as the Holy Spirit makes them clear to us. Then we are to renounce them with all our strength. God is faithful and righteous to forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Just think! If it were not for the Lord Jesus we would be bound with these chains forever.
But now the Son of God has appeared and invites us to work with Him as He destroys the work of the devil.
If we will be faithful in doing this now, during our lifetime, we will return with Him and help with the job of installing the Kingdom of God on the earth. We will be guided by Him to drive sin completely from Godís creation.
God has determined to make an end of sin. We Christians are gathering at the brink of Jordan, so to speak, preparing to cross over and commence the war against sin.
We have learned from the record of faithless Israel the destruction caused by not diligently driving out all of the enemy. No, there shall be no compromise during this war. We will not cease destroying the enemy until there is not a hair or claw of wickedness left in the entire universe of God.
The LORD your God will drive out those nations before you, little by little. You will not be allowed to eliminate them all at once, or the wild animals will multiply around you. But the LORD your God will deliver them over to you, throwing them into great confusion until they are destroyed. He will give their kings into your hand, and you will wipe out their names from under heaven. No one will be able to stand up against you; you will destroy them. (Deuteronomy 7:22-24)
Then the whole earth and its inhabitants will break forth into singing. The song will be that of the adoration of God. Righteousness and praise shall break forth in the sight of all nations.
For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the Sovereign LORD will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations. (Isaiah 61:11)