The Old Nature
Mankind and Adam's Nature
If you've attended an evangelical Christian church for any length of time, eventually they get around to talking about the "old nature." And you probably gathered from what was said about it that it's not a good thing. But do you really know what it is? If someone were to ask you: "What is the old nature and where does it come from?" would you be able to answer them? Well let us see if we can put together from Scripture, just exactly what the term "old nature" means.
I. Adam's Sin Changed His Nature
The Bible tells us that Adam was created sinless and holy. Some people have called this a state of innocence, since he had not been tested or tempted yet. However, Adam's sin changed his nature. It became corrupted and his understanding became darkened (Ephesians 4:17-22).
This corrupted nature was one that became at enmity against God. Enmity is the state of being actively opposed, or hostile to someone or something. In this case Adam's nature became actively opposed to and hostile to God and His holy nature. Adam developed a sinful nature.
II. All Men Are Now Sinners
The Bible clearly teaches that this fallen corrupt nature was transmitted to the whole human race because we are all Adam's descendants (Romans 5:12ff). We all now are sinners by nature as well as by choice. Scripture goes even farther and says that, as unbelievers, we are slaves to sin (Romans 6:15-23). Because of this nature, it means that none seek after God on their own. Romans 3:10-12 says this:
As it is written, there is none righteous, no not one. There is none that seeks after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; There is none that does good, not even one (Romans 3:10-12).
We see from Romans 8:7,8 that the old nature, here referred to as the flesh, is totally incapable of pleasing God. Paul states:
"For the mind set on the flesh, (old nature), is death, and the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God. For it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God."
We can never completely understand how wonderful the Gospel is until we fully understand man's complete inability to save himself. The old nature caused us to be dead in trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1). Dead men can't save themselves. We were completely in a hopeless situation, apart from the cross.
IIIl. Because of Christ We Have Two Natures
The reason we refer to the sinful nature as old is because Jesus' death, burial and resurrection made it possible to receive a new, holy nature. It is the nature that we receive when Jesus saves us. Our Lord in John 3 referred to salvation as "being born again." When we are saved, "to be born again" means that we who were dead in trespasses and sins spiritually, are given new life in Christ. And we receive a new nature.
Once a person places his trust in Jesus Christ, he then has two natures. Until Christ returns to redeem his body, he still has the old nature. But he also has a new nature given at his salvation.
There are some who would teach, because of passages like Romans 6 and Galatians 2:20, which speak of the believer being dead to sin and the old man, or old nature, being crucified with Christ, that we no longer have the old nature. However, Paul's personal struggles in Romans 7 and the struggles of the believers throughout the history of the Church show us that this isn't the case.
Paul says that the believer, who has the new nature, has died to sin. But death in Scripture, means separation and not extinction. Physical death means separation of body from spirit, for instance. Spiritual death is the separation of the person from God. When Paul is talking about us being crucified with Christ and being dead to sin, he is saying that we are separated from the ruling power of sin in our lives. For the Christian, the old nature of sin doesn't have to rule their lives anymore because of what Christ has done on their behalf. The old nature is still there. But it no longer has the power to enslave us.
IV. The Contrast Between the Two Natures
The new nature is just the opposite of the old one that we got from Adam. Here are some contrasts:
- The old nature, or old man as Paul called it, is incapable of doing good as God counts good (Romans 7:18,19). The new nature is incapable of sinning (I John 3:9; Ephesians 4:24).
- The old nature is at war with the Spirit (Galatians 5:17). The new nature is at war with the the flesh (Galatians 5:17).
- The old nature is opposed to God and His will (Romans 7:15-23). The new nature delights in God and His will (Romans 7:18-22).
- The old nature displays the sinful works of the flesh (Galatians 5:19-21). The new nature displays the works of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).
This great battle between the old and new natures is the experience of every believer, as long as we are in this body, on this present earth. Paul talks about his struggles with not doing the good that he wants to do, and doing the evil that he doesn't want to do, in Romans 7. And in our own strength, we will lose this battle every time. It is only as we allow ourselves to be lead by the Spirit of God that we can have the victory That is why Paul tells us to "walk in the Spirit" (Galatians 5:16-26). As we do this and become more like Jesus Christ, we will become more and more mature and will sin less and less. We will more and more delight in the law of the Lord.
For those who've never accepted Christ, you don't have this struggle. But neither do you have the new nature and eternal life. If you haven't come to Christ, then you don't need to walk in the Spirit. You need to receive Jesus as your Savior. It is only through Him that you will have hope of eternal life. And it is only through Him that you will ever be able to put to death the old nature that is separating you from a Holy God. It is my prayer that you trust Christ today.