Do Christians have a sinful nature? The reason I am bring this up is there seems much of discussions about a Believer not understanding what happens when they sin.
Much confusion is because of misinterpretation in s
ome translations of the Bible of the
Greek word sarx (which directly translated means “flesh”), the doctrine of the “sinful nature”or “indwelling sin” has been preached with such strong conviction for years.
It has caused sincere believers to try and live up to man made moral standards, without realizing that in doing this they only subject themselves to endless frustration, lack of confidence before God and an expectation of punishment to come their way.
It really breaks my heart to see people in bondage because of simply a lack of understanding of the finished work of Christ.
In the original Greek language which the New Testament was translated from, the word sarx was used to describe over a dozen different concepts, such as the sinful nature, human flesh, sexual intercourse, carnality, etc.
The W.E. Vines Expository Dictionary of Bible Words lists 14 different meanings for the word sarx.
The only way to determine the meaning of sarx in a particular part of scripture is to look at the context. Some Bible translators attempted to translate sarx into what they thought it meant in that particular context, but many got it wrong.
Only the translators of the literal translations (e.g. KJV or NKJV and a few others) did not change the word sarx into what they thought it might mean, but left it in the English verses simply as “flesh”, allowing the reader to interpret the context.
That’s why Romans 7 and some other passages appear to be so confusing in some translations, because sarx (which means “flesh”) was replaced with “sinful nature”every time!
Here’s an example of where sarx was interpreted in two different ways:
- I want you to know how much I am struggling for you and for those at Laodicea, and for all who have not met me personally [personally = sarx]. (Col 2: 1 NIV)
- For I want you to know what a great conflict I have for you and those in Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh [flesh = sarx]. (Col 2: 1 NKJV)
Now when the Bible talks about the “inward man”, the “new man”or the “new nature”, it speaks about the born again spirit of a believer.
The “sinful nature”or “old man”refers to the evil, sinful nature that every person in the earth is born with.
This nature is at enmity with God and alive to sin, but it was completely cut out from us the day we became born again:
In him (JESUS) you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ (Col 2: 11 NIV).
Notice that this is not a physical circumcision, since the verse says “not with a circumcision done by the hands of men”.
It must therefore be a spiritual circumcision, meaning the cutting away or the removal of the sinful nature.
Crucified and Buried with Christ
In Romans 6 Paul uses another image of how our old sinful nature was completely removed. At salvation, a Christian’s sinful nature is actually conveyed back through time to the cross and crucified and buried with Christ:
…knowing this, that our old man [sinful nature] was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. (Rom 6: 6 NKJV)
- After we are born again, we are not “sinners” anymore, even though we sometimes make mistakes.
There is not one verse in the entire New Covenant that calls a born again believer a “sinner”. The term “sinner” refers to a person that has not yet been born again (this is consistent throughout the entire New Testament after the cross) and yet we find most Christians today thinking: “I am just an old sinner.” No we are not!!!
Under the Old Covenant people had to be circumcised on the eighth day in accordance with the law. Under the New Covenant God circumcises the heart of the believer, removing (cutting out) the old evil nature (see Colossians 2: 11 above again) and giving us a new resurrected spirit that is created in 100% perfect righteousness like Christ.
God also writes His laws on our hearts which simply means He gives us the desire to please Him, but of course we know He is actually already pleased with us because of what Jesus did on our behalf.
- For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. (Rom 7: 22 NKJV)
This means that our new reborn spirit desires to please God and delights in Him. The following comparisons between literal and conceptual Bible translations clearly illustrate this misunderstand.
Please note we’re not criticizing certain Bible translations, rather we’re addressing the misconception in the church about a born again believer’s inner nature, as well as the translation of the word sarx: …in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature [sarx] but according to the Spirit.
Those who live according to the sinful nature [sarx] have their minds set on what that nature [sarx] desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. (Rom 8: 4-5 NIV)
Now compare: …that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh [sarx] but according to the Spirit.
For those who live according to the flesh [sarx] set their minds on the things of the flesh [sarx], but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. (Rom 8: 4 NKJV)
It is very easy to see from the first example that a believer can be made to believe that they still have a sinful nature on the inside.
However from the second example the correct interpretation can be made, namely that believers who set their thoughts on the things of their unrenewed minds, will live to try and gratify those desires and not walk according to the desires of their new born again spirit man. We do not have to battle a sinful nature anymore, the battle is now only in our minds. Our minds need to be trained (renewed) to line up with the truth of the Word of God.
- You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature [sarx]; rather, serve one another in love. (Gal 5: 13 NIV)
Compare with: For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh [sarx], but through love serve one another. (Gal 5: 13 NKJV)
Since we do not have a sinful nature anymore, we cannot actually indulge in it as mentioned by the first example here.
This is a really a no-brainer. Here’s another example: So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature [sarx]. (Gal 5: 16 NIV)
Compare with: I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh [sarx]. (Gal 5: 16 NKJV)
- We can’t gratify the desires of our sinful nature because we don’t have one!
But if we train and discipline our minds to line up according to the desires of the born again spirit on the inside, our old habits and thought patterns will begin to starve. There are many more examples to illustrate this point, but I think we get the idea.
Now consider this: The above verses, coupled with the fact that most people today believe whatever they read (without thinking about it) in whatever translation of Bible they have, plus the fact that the modern church has taught for hundreds of years that Christians do have a sinful nature (and that we have to deny this sinful nature, fight it tooth and nail and put it to death!), it is easy to see that we can be conned by texts that are read out of context.
Now we may ask: “Why then do Christians still sin? If we don’t have a sinful nature, why do we still keep on making mistakes, feeling like we are disappointing God and falling short of what we think God expects from us?”
This is what we will be talking about in my next Blog here in Jesus Without Religion