The Two Natures
Our last paper was to show how perfectly and eternally all that was against the believer is cleared away forever, so that he can stand without fear before a righteous God, and enter the very presence of a thrice holy God. We saw that in Romans the scene was laid in the judgment hall; in Hebrews it was in the sanctuary, and that while in the former the death of Christ perfectly took away every penalty attaching to sin, in the latter the same death eternally took away its defilement; the summing up in the one case being that the sinner who had “come short” now rejoices in hope of God's glory; in the other, that the one who was “afar off” now has boldness to enter the holiest. But if any think that these magnificent truths exhaust the value of the death of Christ for the sinner, they are greatly mistaken.
Sins Taken Away, Life Given
So far we have only touched upon what it takes away from us—our sins, death, and the judgment of God. On the other hand, it gives us something, for out of death we get life everlasting. “The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” This eternal life in us is in fact the new nature. We receive it when we are born again. When a person believes in the Lord Jesus Christ, the entrance of the Word of God for the first time into his soul in the power of the Spirit produces a new life; in scriptural language, he is born again “of water (see 1 Pet.1:23) and of the Spirit.”
The New Nature Cannot Sin
This new nature is holy, it loves God, and it not only does not, but cannot sin (1 John 3:9), because it is born of God. It is this new nature that makes us desire the glory of God, that makes us love God's presence; otherwise, although I might no longer be shut out, I should not care to enter in. It is this life alone that enables us to glorify God in this world. Had we nothing but the old nature, sin, we should still produce nothing but sins; for just as the new is holy and cannot sin, so the old is sinful and enmity against God; those who live in it, cannot please Him (Rom. 8).
Sin and Sins
The question of sins, as we have seen, is dealt with in Romans 3, 4, and 5, and they are shown to be all forgiven in perfect righteousness. But in what follows from the middle of chapter 5 to the end of chapter 8, the question is not one of sins but of sin (or the old nature). Hence we no longer read of forgiveness; for the old nature is not forgiven, but condemned and put to death. Nor do we now read of God's righteousness, for it is no longer a question of justifying the sinner, but of his old nature being crucified with Christ. The righteousness, therefore, that we do read of (6:13,16,19) is the practical righteousness of the new nature, not God's, but mine. Now the old man is said to be crucified with Christ (6:6). I am also said to be crucified with Christ (Gal.2:20), for the old man was I; it was I myself. All my thoughts, words, and deeds flowed from this tainted source; they might please man, but could not please God. Our old man was judged and condemned at the cross of Christ. Tried by every test for 4,000 years he was found to be nothing but sin; and in raising Christ from the dead on the morning of the first day of the week, God began a new race in the second Man, and set aside the seed of the first forever. The cross of Christ is the end of the old man, and if I am to have a standing before God, it is by no cultivation or improvement of self (the Old Testament is the history of the fruitlessness of this), but in the possession of a new life, a new nature.
Sin Still in Us
But although God has done with my old nature, I have not. All that we have spoken of is a question of faith; I still feel the old evil thoughts within my heart, and shall until I leave this world. “If we say that we have no sin (no old nature in us), we deceive ourselves” (1 John 1). Inasmuch as I have died to it (Rom.6:2), that is, have done with it at the cross of Christ, and am to have (practically) no more dealings with it, I am to treat it as it is in God's sight. In short, I am to reckon myself “dead indeed unto sin.” I am not to yield any member of my body to its service.
My Personality Changed
In saying all this we find that there are three things connected with this subject — my personality and the two natures — and that you get the I (the old man) or the I (the new man) or the I apart from either. We get the three all in one verse, Romans 7:20—a most interesting passage, for it shows the “I”' (or the man himself) discovering that he is no longer connected with the old man, but the new.
Let us paraphrase it thus: “Now if I (the old nature) do that I (the new nature) would not, it is no more I (myself, the man) that do it, but sin (as a foreign body) that dwelleth in me.” So also we read in Galatians 2:20, “I (the old man) am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I (the new man) live; yet not (it is not) I, but Christ (who) liveth in me.” That is, the new nature is inseparably associated with Christ “who is our life.”
“Is it Right?” and “Is it Wrong?”
The changing of the “I” from the old to the new man is most important. It does not always take place practically on our conversion. On the contrary, do we not often hear young believers say, “I want to go to certain things, but it would not be right now,” or, “I should like to have a dress like so-and-so, or as much money as someone else.” Now here the I is plainly the old nature, for the new does not seek worldly pleasures, neither does it covet; only there is also the sense of the new life. It is not necessarily that I do the wrong things, but that I look on myself as the same person, only with a new nature within me.
Now let us look at a man when the “I” has changed places. I have “a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better,” says Paul. Or take the case of a young Christian who could truly say, “I would rather not go to those questionable things; it would give me no pleasure.” Now in both these, the I is the new nature, for the old does not desire to be with Christ, and it does not love carnal things.
I Am a New Creature
It will be readily seen from considering the above that a thousand things that were snares and temptations, when I was still allied with the old nature, are no longer so when I am living practically in the power of the new, when I no longer think of myself as a man who has a new life in him, but as a new creature in Christ Jesus, who still has indwelling sin. In the former case, the new life , and in the latter case, sin is treated as the foreign body, as the part that is not I.
We have gone over this subject again and again, because of its great importance. It is a wonderful step for the young believer when practically he finds that his thoughts, his feelings, his pleasures are changed, not that he does this or that, not because it is right merely, but because he delights in it “after the inward man.”
The only way to attain to this truly happy Christian state is by daily seeking to please Christ, daily seeking to live the new life, always looking on myself as a Christian, never allowing such a thought as “Well, of course, I should like it, but now I am a Christian.” No , if I AM a Christian, what would like it, is not myself but sin that dwelleth in me. You must own that you still have evil thoughts and passions, but always look on these as intruders, not as yourself .
Volunteers or Regulars
No doubt among the readers of these pages there will be Christians to whom sin is as a foreign body in them, and others whose old nature is still practically themselves. To use a simile, we may compare the one class to volunteers, the other to regular soldiers. Outwardly both wear a soldier's uniform, both carry arms, both are drilled, both are soldiers; and yet between the two lies an immense difference. If the volunteer is an artisan or a tradesman, when he has his uniform on, he is an artisan and a tradesman still. He thinks of his work or his shop and he feels that the volunteering is something put on, but that he himself is a civilian. Not so with the soldier of the line. He too may have been an artisan or a tradesman, but he is one no longer. It is not merely that he wears the uniform, but he himself is a soldier. A long course of separate life in the barracks, of constant association with fellow soldiers, and of daily drill, has so completely broken the old ties, that he can actually go back to the very shop where he worked and feel he is not of it. He does not belong to it; all his tastes, yes, he himself is changed. Now God has chosen us to be soldiers of the cross, not volunteers ; not to put on Christianity as a cloak, but to be living Christian men and women; and the only way we can express what spirit we are of is by our bodies. Hence the whole question is, To what do I now yield my members? Is it to the old nature, the foreign body that still dwells in me? No; I will use them myself. I love truth, I love holiness, I love the Lord, and I will serve Him with my tongue, my hands, and my feet. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.
Think not, however, this is the work of a day. The old nature which has been yourself for the last thirty years, it may be, and has had sole control over all your members, is not to be turned out in a moment. It is only by keeping it in death day by day that our members get by degrees to forget the sway of the old master, and to become accustomed to the new. You will find the old and new occupation for lips, hands, and feet in Ephesians 4 and 5.
May the Lord make each of us true soldiers of Jesus Christ, men who have practically so broken the power of the old life as to be able to return to old scenes and associations as new creatures in Christ Jesus.
We have as yet said nothing as to the channel in which the new nature flows. As this paper is already long enough, we will therefore leave the unfolding of the new life for another time.
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