Does a Christian continue to have a sinful nature?
When someone teaches a Christian doesn’t have a sinful nature they will inevitably be met with the question, “If we don’t have a sinful nature anymore why do we still sin?” This question presupposes the need of a sinful nature in order to commit a sin, but what about the first Adam? When Adam was created he didn’t have a sinful nature. Yet we know he partook of the forbidden tree which was a direct violation of God’s one and only prohibition. In other words, Adam committed a sin even though his nature wasn’t sinful.
There is no question in my mind that we are all born sinners in Adam. If someone wants to make the argument we are born with a sinful nature I wouldn’t disagree. The problem occurs when people think we carry that nature with us even after being born again.
In the New Testament there are really only two places where the word “nature” is used in this sense. The first one tells us we used to be “dead in our trespasses and sins.” We use to walk according to the “Prince of the power of the air”, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. We were by nature “Children of wrath” (Ephesians 2:1-3). In other words, we are not only born sinners we are indwelt by the “spirit of error” (1 John 4:6), hence the sinful nature.
Upon being born again the spirit of error has been replaced by the Holy Spirit. According to 2 Peter we “become a partaker of his divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4). The Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth, isn’t going to be a roommate with the spirit of error. Jesus told us we can’t serve two masters. He also told the Pharisees they were of “their father the devil” (John 8:44). Jesus had clearly come from the Heavenly Father, but those religious leaders had another father and it was his lusts they were doing. You’ve heard the old saying, “You act just like your father” haven’t you? It’s true and we can only have one either God or Satan.
God created human beings to be expressions of him. Don’t you remember? He said, “Let us make man in our image” (Genesis 1:26). We were designed to have the Spirit of God living in us so we would be an expression of his character (nature) manifested for all of creation to see. At the cross He accomplished all that was required for us to fulfill this original purpose.
According to Romans six we were “crucified with Christ and our old man, or self, died with him, in order that our old body of sin might be done away with, and we would no longer be slaves to sin.” Did you catch that? Our old self died. Wouldn’t this mean our old “sinful” nature died?
If we need a few more verses to show us our old man has died lets look at Galatians 2:20 “I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” The Apostle Paul tells us plainly it is no longer I but Christ! What part of Christ has a sinful nature? Another tells us, in Christ we have “put off the body of the sins of the flesh…” (Colossians 2:11) The old man really is dead!
Okay, you say that sounds pretty good, but let’s get back to why we still sin then. Fair enough. My answer is twofold. One reason I believe born again people sin is because they are living with an unrenewed mind. The other reason is simply because of outside temptations. If we are living with an unrenewed mind, in a world full of temptations, we are bound to fall. In Romans 12:2 we are told “Be not conformed to this world: but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” When I was born again I was 31yrs old. Believe me God had to rearrange a few things in my thinking. If we are born again in our spirit but our minds haven’t quite caught on yet we may discover parts of our lives to be the same as before. This is, I believe, why people come to the conclusion we still have a sinful nature.
The conclusion then is our nature is determined by the spirit we are in union with. Either we are in union with the spirit of error, and have a sinful nature, or we are joined to the Holy Spirit (the Spirit of truth), and we are partaking of his divine nature.
The biggest part of renewing our minds involves learning to see ourselves from God’s perspective. When we look at ourselves, or listen to what others say, we will start to believe it. If we determine we have a sinful nature based on our past experience, or how we have always thought of ourselves, it is no wonder we continue in sin. Part of what the Bible does for us is to describe God’s viewpoint on his children. He tells us “In Christ” we are whole, blameless, holy, righteous, sanctified, and justified dare I say perfect? He doesn’t look at us through the same lens the world uses.
Taken from my booklet “Some Things You Need to Know”