THE THREE NATURES OF THE CHRISTIAN
Copyright © 2006 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
The Christian has three natures: he has a sinful nature; he has a “noble and good heart”; and now Christ is being formed in him. The sinful nature is to be done away with. The noble and good heart is to be sown to the death of the cross. The third nature, Christ, is to develop and grow until it can be stated “the old has gone, the new has come.”
THE THREE NATURES OF THE CHRISTIAN
For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin—(Romans 6:6)
But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop. (Luke 8:15)
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! (II Corinthians 5:17)
In the passages above we can see the three natures that are the subject of the present essay.
The first nature is termed “the body of sin.” The body of sin is contained in our original adamic nature. It is to be destroyed from us by the work of the Spirit of God. The work of destruction is possible only as we are willing for our old self, our original adamic nature, to be crucified with Christ. The body of sin sometimes is spoken of as “the flesh.” The expression “the deeds of the flesh” refers to the sin that dwells in our body.
The second nature is termed “the old self.” This is our original adamic nature, corrupted by the body of sin. It is to be crucified so it may be raised again in Christ. In the parable of the sower the old self, our original nature, is referred to as “a noble and good heart.” I will explain this as we go along.
We see therefore that our adamic nature actually has two natures. There is our “heart,” and then there is a “body of sin,” an assortment of lusts and passions that hinder us when we attempt to obey God’s laws.
The third nature is Christ who is being formed in us through the travail of the gifts and ministries of the Holy Spirit.
The first nature, the body of sin, is familiar to us. Much is said by the Apostle Paul concerning our sinful nature.
We are told it is a law of sin that operates in our members.
Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. (Romans 7:20)
Sin lives in us. It is one of our natures, even after we become a Christian.
Paul warns us that if we do not put to death the deeds of our sinful nature we will prevent the redemption of our mortal body.
For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, (Romans 8:13)
The great error of Christian teaching is that we think we can ignore such warnings of Paul because we have been “saved by grace.” Paul writing to the Christians in Rome declared that if we live according to our sinful nature we will die. In the context of Romans 8:11-13 this means we will slay the resurrection life that is being formed in us, thus preventing our resurrection to eternal life. To ignore such a clear warning is to adhere to Satan’s advice: “You shall not surely die.”
Paul stipulated that if we obey the promptings of our sinful nature we will not inherit the Kingdom of God. This is because there is no sin in the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is not a place, such as Heaven. It is a state of being in which God and Christ rule in the saint and extend Their rule through the saint until God’s will is done in the earth as it is in Heaven.
The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21)
Christians often repeat Paul’s exhortation to the Jews: “There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
They do not often repeat the statement made three verses later:
In order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:4)
The righteousness of Him who obeyed the Law of Moses perfectly is fully met in us on the condition that we behave according to the Spirit of God and not according to our sinful nature.
To not add this explanation when we are announcing there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ is to promote a destructive interpretation of the doctrine taught by the Apostle Paul.
This destructive interpretation abounds throughout Christianity.
So much for the sinful nature. I think most of us Christians are aware we have lusts and passions in our personality that are not of the Holy Spirit.
We said previously that our original, adamic personality actually may have two parts. There is, in some people, an honest and good heart, in addition to the sinful nature. They often are conscientious and demonstrate integrity in their behavior. When such people hear the Word of Christ they diligently attend to it, obeying the commands of Christ and His Apostles. They also have a sinful nature. They seek to overcome their sinful nature and are able to emerge victorious through the Lord Jesus.
Then there are people who do not seem to have an honest and good heart to begin with. They cannot make a success of discipleship because they are accustomed to dodging around all unpleasantness. They make an initial profession of Christ. But as soon as their profession prevents their fulfilling their desires, as soon as it interferes with their pleasures, they cease seeking the Lord and walking in His ways.
The above statement touches on an area that can be misunderstood.
Is it true that there are people who do not have an honest and good heart—who are wicked through and through?
Is having an honest and good heart, as well as a sinful nature, something that is born in some people and not in others?
While we do not wish to go overboard on this subject, realizing that God will accept anyone who wishes to be righteous, a case can be made, from the Scriptures, that there are “wicked” people. The contrast between righteous and wicked people appears many times in the Book of Psalms.
One might object that this just means some people at times act righteously and others at times act wickedly. But the passages seem to be stronger than this.
For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish. (Psalms 1:6)
There may be no deep significance in the above verse. It may be nothing more than an exhortation for us to behave righteously. Or, it may indicate there are people who have an unusually wicked nature.
Lead me, O LORD, in your righteousness because of my enemies—make straight your way before me. Not a word from their mouth can be trusted; their heart is filled with destruction. Their throat is an open grave; with their tongue they speak deceit. Declare them guilty, O God! Let their intrigues be their downfall. Banish them for their many sins, for they have rebelled against you. But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you. For surely, O LORD, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield. (Psalms 5:8-12)
Is the above saying that there are people who are wicked, or is it an exhortation to righteous behavior?
O righteous God, who searches minds and hearts, bring to an end the violence of the wicked and make the righteous secure. (Psalms 7:9)
And so on and on in the Book of Psalms.
We know the Potter makes one pot to reveal His glory and another pot to reveal His wrath.
Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use? What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction? What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory—(Romans 9:21-23)
Our humanistic and democratic impulses may prevent us from perceiving the above passage. But that does not change the fact that the inspired text speaks of objects of Divine wrath prepared for destruction and objects of Divine mercy prepared in advance for glory.
But are such destinies unchangeable?
Not at all.
The objects of wrath can obtain a better destiny.
If a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work. (II Timothy 2:21)
Those called to reign with Christ must be diligent if they are to lay hold on their destiny.
Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, (II Peter 1:10)
There are powerful statements in the Scriptures relative to God’s sovereignty among the righteous and the wicked.
Not only that, but Rebekah’s children had one and the same father, our father Isaac. Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad—in order that God’s purpose in election might stand: Not by works but by him who calls—she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” Just as it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” (Romans 9:10-13)
But these men blaspheme in matters they do not understand. They are like brute beasts, creatures of instinct, born only to be caught and destroyed, and like beasts they too will perish. (II Peter 2:12)
“Born only to be caught and destroyed.” Like beasts, like people; or so it appears.
The Lord’s comments about the wheat and the weeds is relevant to this discussion.
He answered, “The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels. (Matthew 13:37-39)
I have taught previously that all of us are born weeds. When we accept Christ, wheat is planted. Then we have both the wheat of Christ and the weeds of Satan in our personality.
In the last days (I think the work of judgment may have begun already) the Holy Spirit will baptize the saints with the fire of Divine judgment so the weeds will be burned out of the Kingdom of God. The believers who refuse to be thus delivered will themselves be cast into the Divine fire, for no sin of any kind whatever will be permitted in the Kingdom of God.
This is my point of view regarding the understanding of the parable of the wheat and the weeds. Yet I know, based on some of the passages we have mentioned previously, that some people are born into the world as weeds and some as wheat. I do not believe this would violate the clear sense of the above passage from the Book of Matthew.
There are righteous people in the world who are not Christians. All of us have known folks who are just downright good people. They are generous. They have integrity. They are truthful. They are kind. I know the reader of these words has met many such people.
Then there are other people who are vile. They are “dogs,” to use a term from the last chapter of the Book of Revelation. For example, there are those (at least in America) who steal toys that were stored up by charitable organizations to be used as Christmas presents for poor children, so they may sell them and get money for their drug use. Such people are vile—brute beasts.
There are rich people who derive their money from the international prostitution rings that use children. There are some who gain money by selling pornographic pictures of children. And there are people who patronize these vile dogs, these monsters.
I do not say such vile people cannot be saved. They certainly can by repenting of their filthy practices and coming to the Lord Jesus. Whoever confesses and forsakes his or her sins will find mercy. This is an absolute biblical truth.
But I have lived long enough, and you probably have too, to note that there are many people who are vile. They are perverse. They leave a trail of destruction in their path. They have no intention of coming to Christ for salvation. In fact, they see no need to repent. Their conscience has been destroyed.
How much of such righteousness and wickedness is predestined and how much is purely human choice I am not prepared to say.
I do know the Lord Jesus told us no person can come to Him except he or she who has been drawn by the Father.
No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day. (John 6:44)
Since the above statement is true, then we must conclude with the Apostle Paul that God is sovereign in the affairs of people. For it is certain no individual can come to Christ for salvation except the Father draws him or her.
He told them, “The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables so, ‘they may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding; otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!’” (Mark 4:11,12)
I was taught in Bible school that the Lord Jesus spoke in parables so people would understand Him and remember the lesson.
This is not why Jesus taught in parables. Jesus taught in parables so the secrets of the Kingdom of God would be revealed only to those to whom such understanding was to be given. The meaning was hidden from everyone else so they could not understand the Lord, repent, and be forgiven.
Such partiality is not acceptable today. But our humanistic, democratic leanings do not change the Word of God. We are arrogant, knowing nothing at all. We are wise if we let God be God and not question His fairness.
The purpose of the present essay is to portray the three natures of the Christian.
The Christian has an evil nature, a body of sin. This nature can be overcome if the Christian will follow the Holy Spirit, putting to death the deeds of his sinful nature, and obeying the commandments of Jesus Christ and His Apostles.
The Christian also has a good nature. The good features of the adamic nature vary from individual to individual. Some are kind and generous. Others may be wise and courageous. Then there are those who are specially faithful—people of the highest integrity.
When the Gospel Seed is planted in a good heart, it will germinate and then grow. This person will conscientiously attend to the Seed until it brings fruit, which is the moral image of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The honest, good, noble individual will deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Christ every day. By so doing he crucifies his own nature, because in the course of following Christ his most intense desires may be deferred and he may be required to continue in situations he detests or are painful.
The righteous nature, no matter how excellent, cannot enter the Kingdom of God. In order to obey Christ, the righteous nature must obey the Spirit while it is being crucified.
Our righteous soul must always decrease. Christ must always increase, for Christ Himself is the Kingdom of God in us.
When we say “Christ in us” we are speaking of two occurrences.
The first occurrence is the planting and development of Christ in us. The Holy Spirit takes of the Substance of Christ and plants it in us. The seed that is planted is of the very Divine Nature.
Each day our honest, noble, conscientious nature must follow the Lord Jesus, bringing every decision of life to Him. As we do this Christ feeds us in the spirit realm with His own body and blood. We learn to live by Him as He lives by the Father.
Can you see now why only the honest heart can bring forth lasting fruit? The human nature that lacks integrity will not persevere in daily cross-carrying obedience to Christ. It may start on the Christian pilgrimage, but soon will give up because it does not possess enough integrity to patiently serve the Lord when the way becomes difficult.
This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God. Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so they may not believe and be saved. Those on the rock are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop. (Luke 8:11-15)
The Kingdom of God comes as Christ is formed in us. This is why Christ stated we must be born again if we would see or enter the Kingdom. It is the Kingdom, Christ, that is born in us.
We might say, in terms of the parable of the sower, that the seed, Christ, is sown in us and then germinates. But, as in any plant, there must come growth after germination. Whether the germinating seed ever develops to the point it bears fruit depends on the conscientiousness and integrity of the adamic nature that receives it.
We of today have made salvation a ticket. We claim that if we make a profession of belief in certain theological facts we now have our pass into Heaven. This is a travesty of the Gospel of the Kingdom of God.
Salvation is not a ticket. It is a process in which our wicked nature is overcome; our good nature is crucified; and Christ is developed and comes to full stature in our personality.
But there are two more steps if our redemption is to be complete.
When Christ has arrived at sufficient maturity in us, as we keep obeying the commandments of the Lord Jesus and His Apostles, the Father and the Son come to us and make their eternal home in us. We understand, therefore, that the expression “Christ in you” refers to the forming of Christ in us, and then the coming of the Father and the Son to dwell in us.
The Persons of God and Christ come and dwell in us; not in the good part of our adamic nature but in the portion of Christ that has been formed in us.
Jesus replied, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” (John 14:23)
Finally, when the Lord returns, our resurrected flesh and bones will be clothed with a house of eternal life from Heaven that has been formed as we have sown our body to the death of the cross during our discipleship on the earth.
Now redemption has been completed. Now we have one nature, and it is Christ.
After this the Father and the Son, who now are dwelling in our new nature, will bring to us the needy of mankind—those whom God has chosen to receive eternal life. Out from the Throne of God that has been created in us will flow rivers of the Holy Spirit that will bring eternal life and healing to the people we have inherited.
Both the Spirit and the Bride will say, “Come, drink freely without cost.” Those who respond will live in the Presence of Christ and God.
How will this understanding of the three natures help us as we serve the Lord each day?
Understanding that we, even as a Christian, have a sinful nature that must be overcome if we are to eat of the Tree of Life, gives us insight and direction as we fight the good fight of faith. Our sinful nature fights against the will of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is leading us toward the Day of Christ, the time when our mortal body is to be raised from the dead and clothed with eternal, incorruptible resurrection life.
Because of Christian teaching, the fact that we have a sin nature is often ignored. The concept is presented that once we have “accepted Christ” we can forget about our sinful nature. It is all taken care of. We will hear nothing negative at the Judgment Seat of Christ. We will be received warmly into Heaven when we die.
Nothing could be further from the truth. No individual ever will be admitted into the new Jerusalem and given access to the Tree of Life (which is Christ) until sin has been removed from his or her personality.
The environment of the new Jerusalem is holy beyond our present comprehension. The saints who compose the holy city will be able to see the Face of the Father. There is no temple, church, or synagogue inside the new Jerusalem. God and the Lamb are there in unconcealed splendor.
No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever. (Revelation 22:3-5)
The inhabitants of the new Jerusalem live in total love, total joy, total peace. Theirs is the fullness of joy for eternity.
Does anyone think that even one individual who still has a sin nature will gain entrance into such a pure, holy place? One sinful person would ruin the entire city.
But won’t God have mercy and permit a sinful believer into the new Jerusalem? God would be foolish to do so, and God is not foolish.
But didn’t the Lord Jesus invite the thief to be with Him in Paradise? Yes. The Lord descended into Paradise which at that time, scholars inform us, was in the earth. We see this to be true in that the Witch of Endor brought up Samuel out of the ground.
For one thing, we know nothing about that thief. His marvelous act of asking a dying “criminal” to remember him when He came into His Kingdom could have been the climactic utterance of a man whose whole life of seeking God had brought him to this point.
Also, descending with Jesus into the abode of departed spirits is not the same as entering the Kingdom of God or the new Jerusalem. The Scripture is absolutely clear that there is no sin in the Kingdom or in the new Jerusalem.
The great work of judgment, the new-covenant counterpart of the Jewish Day of Atonement, has begun now and will continue until the conclusion of the thousand-year Kingdom Age. During this period God will remove from His Kingdom all rebellion and all spiritual uncleanness.
After the white throne judgment (the final work of the Judgment Seat of Christ, as far as we know at this time) the glorified Christian Church will descend from Heaven to be located on the new earth for eternity. This is the Bride of the Lamb and includes every member of the royal priesthood.
All those who are deemed worthy of eternal life but are not part of God’s priesthood, will be assigned their places on the new earth. They will be ministered to by the members of the royal priesthood. They will be taught how to prepare themselves so they may enter through the gates of the new Jerusalem and gain eternal life and healing.
Then they will return to their homes outside the holy city, where they will be governed by the saints forever.
At no time, however, will a sinful nature be permitted to remain in the new Jerusalem.
Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood. (Revelation 22:14,15)
In the last days the mountain of the LORD’s temple will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills, and all nations will stream to it. Many peoples will come and say, Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so we may walk in his paths. The law will go out from Zion, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore. (Isaiah 2:2-4)
There will be no sinners in God’s holy city!
On that day HOLY TO THE LORD will be inscribed on the bells of the horses, and the cooking pots in the LORD’s house will be like the sacred bowls in front of the altar. Every pot in Jerusalem and Judah will be holy to the LORD Almighty, and all who come to sacrifice will take some of the pots and cook in them. And on that day there will no longer be a Canaanite in the house of the LORD Almighty. (Zechariah 14:20,21)
Present-day Christian teaching is utterly false when it leaves the impression we can “receive Christ” and enter Paradise in our sinful nature. It is time to blow the trumpet in Zion, to warn God’s people that they must permit the Holy Spirit to lead them in the killing of their sinful nature.
Understanding that part of our adamic nature is good but must be crucified enables us to recognize why we must deny ourselves, take up our personal cross, and follow the Lord Jesus. We now know why we cannot say “I really am a good person and I know the Lord will bring me to Heaven if I trust in Him.”
The sin and the righteousness are so entwined in our adamic nature that it is impossible for God to remove just the bad part. Also, the good part of our adamic nature, such as kindliness, honesty, truthfulness (and there are unsaved people who have these virtues in abundance) is not of eternal quality. Under enough pressure they will break down.
Human love, for example, is very fragile. It can turn to hate in a moment.
By understanding that we do indeed have good in our personality, but that our good must die in Christ and be raised again in Christ, we are encouraged and strengthened so when we are called upon to endure Job-like testings we do not react in an unprofitable manner, breaking God’s laws as we seek to escape from our imprisonment, pain, and frustration.
The Kingdom of God, the royal priesthood, is not composed of good flesh and blood people but of those who have become new creations in Christ.
The responsibility of the good part of our adamic nature is to receive the Divine Seed, Christ, and then to follow the Holy Spirit patiently as Christ is formed in us.
We can see, therefore, that understanding the differences among the three natures aids our cooperation with the Holy Spirit as He builds the Kingdom of God in us.
Our sin nature must be done away with; put to death; overcome. If we faithfully obey the Holy Spirit, then, when the Lord returns, He will completely remove all the presence of sin from us and clothe our resurrected flesh and bones with a body from Heaven that loves righteousness and hates wickedness. What a reward for faithful discipleship!
The good part of our adamic nature must submit to crucifixion. It must die in Christ and be raised in Christ to walk in newness of life. No matter how good our adamic nature is, it does not possess the eternal qualities of the Kingdom of God.
Our new nature, which is formed in us through the travail of the gifts and ministries of the Holy Spirit, and by means of other Divine devices, such as suffering, instruction, and the body and blood of Christ, is the goal of the Divine redemption.
Receiving the Lord Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and Savior is not a pass into Paradise, the new Jerusalem, or the Kingdom of God. This is what is taught, but such teaching is not scriptural or logical.
Receiving the Lord Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and Savior gives us the authority and the power to pursue the processes of redemption until we stand perfect and complete in all the will of God. Only then can we enter the new Jerusalem and inherit the Kingdom of God.
As far as our final destination is concerned, the place where we will be located for eternity, there are four possibilities: the new Jerusalem, the outer darkness, the Lake of Fire, or Hell.
What we Christians must come to realize beyond all doubt is that we will be placed where we belong; where we fit. We are preparing ourselves today for the area where the Lord God will place us. The choice is ours to make.
Let him who does wrong continue to do wrong; let him who is vile continue to be vile; let him who does right continue to do right; and let him who is holy continue to be holy. Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. (Revelation 22:11,12)
(“The Three Natures of the Christian”, 3229-1)