Often we feel as though we have two people living inside of us – a good one and a bad one. Unfortunately, this has also historically been taught to Christians all over the globe as well which seems to confirm how we already feel at times. However, the two-self teaching has two big problems.
First, it’s not helpful. I’ve asked many people whether this teaching has helped them overcome a specific sin, provided emotional healing, or repaired a ruptured relationship. Not one person has ever been able to show how the two-self concept produced those fruits. Why? Because it’s not God’s truth!
Which leads to the second problem: it’s not biblical. The Bible tells us we have only one self. For example, Romans 6:6 says, “We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin.”
The Greek language gives us an understanding much clearer than English does. The verb crucified is a specific aorist tense. It means the old self, or what some call the old nature, was in Christ when he died on the cross. In other words, your old self died with him on the cross. Notice that it’s past tense, meaning it has already happened. And the Greek tense tells us it happened once and for all. It is done. It will never be repeated.
Not only that, but Romans 6:4–5 tells us when we were buried with Christ, our old self was buried with Christ. When Jesus rose from the grave, he left our old self in that grave.
We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his.
Jesus will never die on a cross again, so your old self will never die on a cross in him again. It’s a done deal. The old self is not going to rise up out of the tomb where it was buried with Jesus. It’s been left there forever. Let me be clear. Once we are saved, we definitely do not have the old self—or old nature for those who use that term—living in us. That old “you” is gone forever! He or she is not ever going to rise from the grave like so many are often told. When you became a Christ follower, something amazing happened that goes all the way back to when Jesus died on the cross. You also died with Christ. In other words, your old self died along with Jesus on the cross.
When Jesus was raised from the dead, God created a brand-new self, a new you that was resurrected with him. He replaced your old identity from Adam with your new identity in Christ.
This resurrected new self is clarified in a familiar verse, 2 Corinthians 5:17: “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come” (NASB).
The phrase new creation means a new species, which says there are two kinds of humans in the world today. Spiritually speaking, some have their identity still in Adam and some have their identity now in Christ. Let me circle back to Galatians 2:20, to make this clearer. Paul said, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
For many years, when I read that verse, I thought it was speaking of a spiritual state I would arrive at one day, putting me on the highest plane of the Christian life. If you step back and read the verse carefully, however, you see it’s talking about something God has already done to us that affects our present life. Let me personalize Galatians 2:20 for you by inserting a few words to give it real meaning:
I [insert your name], [the old me in Adam], have been crucified [past tense] with Christ and I [the old me in Adam] no longer live, but Christ lives in me [the new me in Christ]. The life I [the new me in Christ] now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God [who is in me], who loved me and gave himself for me.
Do you see the difference? Do you see what God has already finished? The old self is gone and there is only one self—the new you in Christ!
(c) Mark Maulding, God’s Best-Kept Secret: Christianity Is Easier Than You Think, Grand Rapids: Baker Publishing, 2017