When people look at the word “flesh” in the Bible, they automatically think “sinful nature.” That comes out of experience and not the Bible.
This may come as a shock, but we do not have a nature! For that matter, nothing in this world has a nature. Let’s illustrate so we can understand this word.
You probably have a book on your desk. Look at that book. Does that book have a nature? If it does, where would you find it? Is it in the pages? In the ink? In the binding? In the covers? When we talk about the nature of a thing, such as the book on your desk, we are talking about the total essence of the book.
The book itself does not have a nature. We simply give the basic definition of that book, the materials that make up that book. It has paper, ink, dye, stitches, and cardboard. We also know it is so many inches wide and so many inches long, and might weigh between 1 to 1 and a half pounds, etc.. That is the nature of that book compared to say, your desktop computer.
What is the nature of your computer? It has metals, wires, plastic, and is of a certain width and length, etc.. Can we take the nature of the computer and put it in your book? No. Are we able to give the computer two natures? You may say we can take the computer and melt it down and use it as a tray to hold objects. However, that would not give it two natures, that would be two applications of the nature of the thing. All you have done is change the use of the computer. You may melt the computer down and make a door stop out of it, but you have not changed the nature of it. All you have done is changed the structure of it. You may have altered its shape, but you have not given it another nature. What you have actually done is recreated it when you melted it. You changed the nature of it, but it’s still of the same substance. It wouldn’t have two natures, it would have a new nature. But the fact is, it does not have a nature at all. Nature is simply a word to define the essence of a thing. The Webster 1828 dictionary defines nature as: The essence, essential qualities or attributes of a thing, which constitute it what it is…”
To speak of anything as having a nature is a contradiction of terms. To say we have a sinful nature really means nothing. If you want to say you have a sinful nature, where is it? Is it in your mind? Is it in your soul? Is it in your body? Where is it? If you could take the sinful nature out, would you still have a nature? If you had another nature, would you then have two natures? People actually believe they have two natures! People will say, “It’s an inclination to sin.” If it is in your spirit and mind, is that the only nature you have? If you are a sinful nature, can you do other than what is consistent with your nature? In other words, would you always sin? Could you ever do righteous deeds? Would there ever be a struggle between good and evil if all you have is a sinful nature?
Questions: Where did you get that nature? Who created it?
You may answer that it was created when Adam sinned. Tell me, did Adam recreate his nature? He created his own substance? For that matter, what is sin made out of? Is sin a substance? Did Adam change the substance of his soul, body, mind and spirit when he sinned? Or, did God recreate him when he sinned? Would not the same apply to Eve? Did God retool Adam and reprogram him so that all he could to from that point was to continually sin? If sin will do that to you, if it changes your nature, and then that sin is passed down to future descendants (as we are taught), then what about when Cain sinned by murdering his brother? Did all his descendants become murderers? What about when your father sinned? Did you inherit his sinful nature as well? What about your father’s farther, his father, and his farther and so on? Did each one recreate his own nature with every act of sin so that ultimately we are the accumulation of all the sins of the past? How do you explain that when a person gets saved and supposedly gets a new nature, then has a baby, why is it the baby still ends up with a sinful nature? If a Christian gets saved, shouldn’t saints beget saints? If the baby is born with a sinful nature from saved parents, where did he get it?
Nature is not a thing. Remember, the word “nature” is defined as: The essence, essential qualities or attributes of a thing, which constitute it what it is…” Nature is not a substance, it is not a thing. The word “nature” is similar to the word “definition.” We can look at material things and define it. But where is the definition? Where would we find it? Take a look at your book again. Where would we find the definition of that book? Is it inside the book? Can you find it? Definition is simply describing the attributes of the book. The nature of the book is simply our observations about the general structure and nature of it. Nature is not an entity. Definition is not an entity. It’s a word we use to describe the essence of something.
To further understand this point, look at creation. Who created the sun, the air, wood, fire, heat, etc.? We know God did. Has man given anything to nature? No. However, we certainly can take an object and work to rearrange it and misuse what God has created, but man is not a creator.
Nothing has two natures. If something is misused or misapplied, this does not constitute a change in its nature. When Adam sinned, nothing changed in his nature. He was still of the same substance that God created. Adam’s nature did not change in body, soul, or spirit. If it did, God would have had to recreate him. The only thing that changed when Adam sinned was his relationship to God. And because of that sin, he and Eve were not allowed to stay in the garden where they could continue to eat from the tree of life which sustained their mortal bodies. That is why we grow old and die physically. Because of Adam’s sin, all his posterity is denied access to this tree of life as well. His nature did not change.
Another question. How can a person feel responsible for something that does not spring from his choice but rather governs his choice? How can he feel responsible? How can you approach a homosexual and tell him he is suppose to stop living that lifestyle if it springs from his nature? How can we rebuke him and encourage him to repent? He would only be acting within his nature, which you tell him he has, a sinful nature! The fact is, there no such adjective before the word nature in the Bible. One may find it in the NIV, but the translators made an interpretation and not a translation of the word “Sarx,” which means “flesh,” as in meat, and nothing more. We have a body of flesh (Sarx) as animal have flesh. The term “sinful nature” or “old nature” is Augustine’s theology that has infected the whole world for centuries.
We must watch the terms we use. The battle that is fought over sin doesn’t involve an “old man” vs a “new man” or a battle between ” natures”. There is no carnal nature. There is no sinful nature. There is no Adamic nature. There is no old nature. There is no new nature. You will not find these terms in the Bible. The only place you will find these terms are in the fable teachings of Original Sin.
A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump. -Gal. 5:9
For further reading, see:
The Influence Of Greek Philosophy On The Development Of Christian Theology
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