Do Christ Followers Have a Sinful Nature?
The short answer is “No” but it’s greatly misunderstood. How about you personally, how would you answer that question before reading the remainder of this blog?
If you consider some of the sins you commit, you may conclude that you do. In that case, you would be using your behavior to determine your conclusion. God uses birth, not behavior, to define who you are.
When you hear, “I’m just a sinner saved by grace”, you have often heard it so often that you probably nod your head in agreement without giving it much thought. However, you cannot find any New Covenant scriptures which proclaim that you are a sinner as a Christ follower. You may say, what about where Paul writes in 1 Timothy 1:15? This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. If you start reading in verse 9 and then to 17, you will see the larger story he is using to make this statement. He is saying that because he persecuted the church before he met Jesus on the Damascus Road, he is the worst sinner ever and if God can save a sinner like him, He can save anyone.
When I played basketball in high school, I set a record for the most rebounds ever in the history of the school. A rebound is when you grab the basketball after it hits the backboard or rim and doesn’t go in the basket. To my knowledge, I still hold that record a few decades later. Though I have graduated from high school and no longer attend there, would it be a fair statement to say that I am the “chief rebounder” at my high school? Yes it would be though I am no longer a part of that school. It is simply a part of my past, just as Paul being the chief of sinners was a part of his past, though he says it in present tense.
Another issue is that you may have been told most of your life that you have two natures as a Christian. The old nature and the new nature. However, Romans 6:6 is very clear that your old nature died once and for all on the cross with Jesus. It’s no longer in you. You only have a new nature – your identity in Christ.
One more challenge you may find is that you grew up reading the New International Version Bible. I like it too, except where they translated the word flesh as sinful nature. That is very confusing because the old nature is dead and removed. However, God did not remove the flesh from the Christ follower. In addition, the old nature and the flesh are not the same. So when you see in places like Romans 8 that we are dealing with a sinful nature, it’s easy to make the assumption that you have one. To the NIV’s credit, the newest version changed 95% of those back to flesh, which is more accurate.
Rejoice today! Though you and I certainly act in a sinful way, you do not have a sinful nature! You have the new nature where Jesus has made His home in you! And you have the flesh which is not the old nature or the sinful nature. Galatian 2:20 says it died and no longer lives, my paraphrase.
“Why is this so important?” you may be asking? Because it goes to the very heart of the Gospel about what really happened when Jesus died on the cross for us and when we died with him. It goes to the core of who you really are deep within. Are you both a sinner and a saint? Or, are you a saint who sometimes sins? According to Romans 6, you are a saint who sometimes sins. When we teach this truth to people here at GLI and they have embraced it, we’ve watched God change them. Why? The truth always sets you free! Will you believe the truth today so you can live freer in your own life?