Oftentimes many of the arguments that involve the children of GOD in their various understandings of bible doctrines hinge upon semantics and phrases that mean one thing to a certain group and quite another to a different one. If it had pleased GOD to give us a complete and clear vision of all that we are being taught in the scriptures, then I suppose we would all say things exactly the same way. I have observed many who are so certain that their viewpoint on various issues is so absolutely correct that anyone who would dare to disagree with them is considered outside of the faith or at the least on the very fringe. Most of them would quickly assert that there is room for error among GOD’s children on matters that are not “essential”, but usually one quickly finds that they think that most of their opinions are “essential”. If I have learned anything (and I sometimes seriously wonder if I have) in my short journey in the faith it is, that I can be wrong.
For instance, I know that I have probably been right about end time bible prophecy at some point in my journey because I have held just about every view that there is at one time or other. Of course, the possibility exists that everyone’s view is wrong. I am confident that the view I hold now is correct because I believe that the LORD JESUS CHRIST is coming back at the exact moment that HE intends to come back. I will leave the details surrounding it in HIS hands. Though we each may formulate our opinions about what the scripture teaches on these things we must each confess that a plausible case can be built for most of the various schemes which have been set forth. The truth is, on these matters, that we cannot be dead certain that our “opinions” are correct.
We believe that GOD is pleased to teach all of HIS children that JESUS CHRIST is the absolute LORD of glory and to give each one a heart to bow in submission before HIM, declaring HIM to be their only hope of righteousness in this world or that to come. Around those facts is the fellowship of GOD’s people built. This is the center and basis of all truth, but the LORD has said that HE sent HIS SPIRIT to abide with us in order to “guide us” into all truth which is not just the root but includes the branches and leaves as well. There is a growing up in understanding which is wrought in the sons of GOD, but it has pleased the LORD to cause that to progress at different rates and levels in HIS children. I think the purpose of that is to be a constant reminder that we have nothing that we have not received and if we do have any understanding at all it is a gift from HIM and nothing for us to boast in as if we did not receive it. So, it is with that in mind that I embark upon a few comments concerning what some call the battle between the old man and the new man, the flesh and the SPIRIT, the old nature versus the new, etc. Now if we do not believe that what we would set forth before men is the truth then we ought to keep quiet, so even though I confess that I can be wrong about these matters; I do believe that what I am herein declaring is correct according to the scriptures as I have been given light to see them.
I have read many different opinions over the years as to the meanings of scriptures concerning these issues and frankly have found none that seem absolutely correct to me. I am not herein trying to forever set the record straight nor do I presume that my “views” on the matter are sacrosanct and the end of the argument. Neither do I find this issue to be one over which I would judge someone holding a different understanding to be walking contrary to the faith. In some ways this is a very complex issue and in some ways very straightforward and simple. I offer my thoughts on this matter simply as my thoughts on the matter after many years of contemplation on it. There have no doubt been many who have set forth views on this that are much greater scholars than myself and many that have a deeper and richer understanding of spiritual matters in general. I am not interested in rehashing the opinions of others on the matter nor can I honestly promote anybody’s mindset on it regardless of how much esteem I may hold them in on other issues or how proven they may be on other issues not regarding this one. One thing that I have learned over these years of study in the scriptures, is that there are no real “experts” on the scriptures. The Bible is the written word of GOD and cannot be “expertly” deciphered. Any truth that we are given to understand from it must be revealed to us by HIS SPIRIT whom the LORD sent to guide us into all truth. May HE be pleased to direct our thoughts here.
I will from time to time quote the scriptures and offer texts that I think support my thoughts, but I am not interested in this being a “proof text” exercise. Every position that men have held on every subject, both the false and the true are always supported by many “proof texts”. There are very few “smoking guns” in the scripture but there is a contextual truth in all that is written and having an understanding of the whole of scripture is necessary to the true understanding of any passage in the scripture. We cannot just lift a passage out of its context and hold it up as any sort of proof if that scripture is not applicable to the point we are trying to make. So while I may not cite as many “proof texts” as some will like I would hope that all of the thoughts that I set forth here might be found to be taken from the scriptures as a whole. It is possible to set forth biblical truth without quoting the text verbatim and also without citing the reference. If I say that JESUS CHRIST is the LORD of glory, I am stating biblical truth which is no where exactly so stated in the pages of the Bible but it is nonetheless scriptural.
In the beginning GOD created man exactly as HE intended HIM to be at the time HE created him. Genesis 1:31 says “And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good.” We are told that HE created man in HIS “own image”. Much has been written about what that is supposed to exactly mean but the reality is that the best of opinions on the matter are but speculation. Whatever the exact meaning of it is I think that we can conclude that HE made man in some way to have a resemblance to HIMSELF. In any event we must conclude that HE made man with something that HE imparted to none of the rest of HIS creation. My own opinion is that HE gave to man the ability to have communion (i.e.; fellowship, interaction) with HIM in a way which none of the rest of this creation could ever comprehend. This is demonstrated when we read “And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden.” (Gen 3:8) It seems likely that they recognized HIM from prior conversation but in any case the events which had recently transpired had introduced fear and dread of HIS presence into them which we at least have no incidence of having been recorded before the woman was deceived and Adam disobeyed the plain commandment of the LORD.
Solomon said: “Lo, this only have I found, that God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions.” (Eccl. 7:29) This seems to indicate that man’s culpability for his actions cannot be denied even though his fall into sin and from the LORD’s presence was ordained by GOD to fulfill HIS greater purpose.
The LORD told Adam that he would “die” in the very same day that HE ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. (see Gen.2:17) We are certain that this came to pass even though Adam continued to live for more than nine hundred years in the same body of flesh and blood in which he was created. So, the death which Adam immediately experienced was not physical in nature even though we are cognizant of the fact that anything that is susceptible to physical death begins to die the moment that it is born. Therefore, we can conclude that physical death was begun in Adam even though its full fruit was not yet manifest. The immediate death (the day thou eatest) which he experienced was something just as tangible as physical death though not so easily recognized. Something died within him that was irrecoverable by his own ability. He lost all ability to have “fellowship” with his CREATOR, and GOD chose to illustrate that by casting him out of the garden of Eden where the TREE of LIFE spread forth its branches and its fruit had been his for the taking. The eyes of his understanding were darkened and he was plunged into the night from which he had no means at his disposal to extricate himself. This darkness has passed upon all subsequent generations which have sprung from his loins.
Had it pleased GOD to keep man in a state of innocence and communion, HE most surely could have. But in keeping with HIS own eternal purpose to manifest the glories of HIS grace in redemption, HE ordained that the same man HE created in HIS “image” would also fall from this lofty perch and be mired helplessly in the morass of sin and destruction. From which HE would rescue those whom HE loved with an everlasting love and had chosen in HIS SON from before the foundation of the earth. HE did this in order to demonstrate HIS mercy and HIS justice to all of creation assembled before HIM and that HE might be praised and glorified forever by those upon whom it pleased HIM to show mercy. HE also would demonstrate HIS HOLINESS and hatred of sin by the eternal destruction of those whom it pleased HIM to make vessels of wrath fitted unto it and who because of their very nature were HIS enemies.
Man, as he has sprung from Adam’s loins is a sinner by the imputation of Adam’s guilt, by an innate tendency towards sin, and by the actual fact of having committed sin at every opportunity which has been set before him. Apart from the restraining grace of GOD every man would be as wicked as the next and his existence upon the earth would soon be at an end since each one would destroy the other with fists raised unto heaven in defiance of all that is good and moral. The only reason that men are not such monsters is that GOD has been pleased to restrain them to some extent by placing in each one a measure of conscience. In this it is said that HE has written HIS law upon their hearts and they are without excuse. They are described in the scripture as being under the dominion of sin and every man who is born of woman (apart from the LORD JESUS CHRIST) has come into this world under that dominion or power. If something has dominion it means that they are at its beck and call and possess no ability to escape its clutches because its grip upon them is not external but rather intrinsic in their very fleshly nature.
In this natural fallen state man is totally incapable of having any sort of spiritual communion with the true and living GOD. Even though he can observe the creation all around himself and can even in some measure ascribe that creation to GOD, he possesses no innate ability to know or worship GOD in spirit and truth which is the only way HE will be worshipped. He is usually enabled, in some measure, to have some respect unto a sort of natural morality and to engage in it to various degrees as he sees this mode of conduct to be beneficial to himself and his society. In order that man might not think that he is basically good the LORD has been pleased to remove these restraints from some and burn their conscience with a hot iron to demonstrate the innate depravity that is in us all and to show us what we would be were it not that HE did restrain us.
Paul said, “For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness.” (Rom 6:20) which is an apt description of the man who is under the dominion of sin. So, nothing at all has to change in a man for him to remain under this dominion. Sin’s dominion is not solely manifested by a slavish continuance in its fleshly practices but is also seen in the fact that the natural man is so enslaved that he considers this bondage to be freedom and has no motivation nor inclination to be out of its grasp. He is “free to sin” without any hindrance except the natural pangs of conscience and the external restraints placed upon him by the providence of GOD.
The scripture indicates that all men born in this original natural fleshly state share the exact same “nature” even though the elect were never appointed unto the destruction which the “children of disobedience” were marked out for. “Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.” (Eph 2:3) The only differentiation between those appointed unto “wrath” and those “chosen in CHRIST” is in the sovereign mercy of GOD wherein HE chose some (HIS elect) to be delivered from this very “nature” in which they walked without any regard to HIS law.
This election is manifested to demonstrate that the salvation of men is completely the display of HIS glorious grace and is in no wise participated in by men, based on anything, either foreseen or observed in them. Nor is it the display of some “grace” which occurred according to any sort of “generation” occurring in eternity which was not preceded by HIS own free choice. HE alone is the only eternal being and all others are the product of HIS own purpose, will, and decision. “Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honor, and another unto dishonor?” (Rom 9:21) This election is the evidence of a livng vital union which HE has created between HIMSELF and those whom HE has chosen. None shall be added to that number nor can any ever be taken away.
Having loved HIS people with an everlasting love and chosen them in JESUS CHRIST before the foundation of the world HE did predestinate them unto the adoption of children (see Eph.1:5) that they should be conformed to the “image” of “HIS SON” (see Rom.8:29). The complete manifestation of this adoption and image is seen in the ultimate resurrection of their bodies since HE is the FIRST BORN among many children and the first fruits of them that sleep but the new birth of the sons of GOD is the precursor to this.
It has pleased HIM to begin that work in them by the operation of HIS SPIRIT in quickening them to life and causing them to be “born again”. This “new birth” is not the result of any action on their part any more than their natural gestation and birth was the result of any action on their part. They are in this “re-birth” restored to a state wherein they can have spiritual communion and interaction with HIM and unlike their natural father Adam have also been made to eat of the TREE of LIFE which is the SON of GOD so that they can never perish. The strength and substance of that LIFE which is in them is the LORD JESUS CHRIST himself who continually upholds them, strengthens them, and ultimately will bring them to HIMSELF in a place which HE has prepared for them.
Had it pleased the LORD HE could have delivered them completely from this fleshly body at the time of their “new birth” and caused this “corruptible (body) to put on incorruption” but in order to fulfill HIS purpose HE has not taken them “out of the world” but has chosen to demonstrate HIS power and the establishment of HIS kingdom in this world” by leaving them in the same body in which they were born It has pleased HIM to manifest the glory of HIS grace by calling out a people in this world (who still dwell in tabernacles of corruptible flesh) and writing HIS laws upon their hearts. In this HE has demonstrated a difference between HIS creation of the elect angels who HE has kept from sin and those men upon whom HE has been pleased to manifest the glory of HIS grace who have not only sinned but continued therein. Those creatures who have never fallen must only look on in wonder as HE shows the power of HIS might and the riches of HIS grace in delivering a people from the “dominion of sin” even while they live among it in these temporary houses of clay.
So, the LORD “re-births” a people (that belong to HIM, whom HE has loved with an everlasting love) at the point in time which pleases HIM. HE puts HIS SPIRIT within them, giving them eternal life. All that they lost in Adam’s fall is restored and they are given a mind (a thought process) which he never possessed, (the mind of CHRIST) and an ever-increasing awareness of the unfolding of HIS purpose and blessing in their redemption in CHRIST. “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” (2Cor. 3:18)
Now some have expostulated that when this “new birth” occurs that a “new man” is created (or in the minds of some seemingly brought from some eternal existence) and added to the “old man” that we once were and that this “new man” and “old man” now occupy the same house as incompatible roommates. In this scheme this “old man” continues on unabated as he always has unaware that he has any reason to peacefully coexist with this new resident whom he despises. This “new man” has totally different ideas and desires and so an epic battle for supremacy in the household ensues with the “old man” coming out on top one day and the “new man” the next.
Those who hold this position would normally view man as possessing an “old nature” and “a new nature” at one and the same time. This appears to me to have no foundation in scripture and I often refer to it as a “schizophrenic view”. For the essence of that doctrine says that the children of GOD possess two distinct personalities. While we are quite aware that there is indeed a struggle that is begun within the born again child of GOD we do not find it anywhere described as a struggle between two incompatible “natures”, personalities or “men” living in the same body, but rather the struggle is between the flesh and the SPIRIT “For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.” (Gal 5:17)
Paul says that the man who is dead to sin “cannot” live any longer in it and goes on to say “Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin.” (Rom 6:6-7). He said that the “old man” is dead, unless crucifixion can be described as something else. We are quite certain that he is not referring here to “our flesh” because we are painfully aware that our flesh is alive and well and contrary to the SPIRIT which indwells us. So, he must be referring to that old way and mindset wherein we were held captive to sin and free from righteousness. This was indeed our “old nature” wherein we walked at one time even as the sons of disobedience. “But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.” (Rom 7:6) We are certain that the law is not dead so what “held us” was the “principle of condemnation” which had its power in the law and is now put out of the way. Our “old man” (or nature) was that which held us captive in that way because it was free from righteousness and had no ability to escape it. “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.” (Rom 8:2)
There is now a new “principle” (law) under which we are now made to operate since we have been made “new creatures”. No longer is our mindset geared toward establishing our own righteousness by despising the truth of GOD, but we have been made something that we never were when we were subject unto the principle of the law of sin and death. We no longer “serve” sin for it has no dominion over us. Our corruptible flesh is indeed still susceptible to that way in which it has always walked as Paul describes it “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.” (Rom 7:25) This is not a competition of “natures” but a manifestation of the difference between what we are now and what we have always been.
There came a time (thankfully) when those who had been brought into the bondage of slavery in this country were set free. Many of them, having lived their whole lives in this bondage had no concept of the joys which went along with freedom. So many of them clung to the old way in which they had always lived and were still in some measure dependent on their former masters. Others recognized the glories of freedom but found it difficult to escape from the memories associated with their enslavement. Though their former masters had no power over them yet they many times trembled when he called their name and perhaps even continued to offer service to him because their former enslavement was so strong. “Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.” (Rom 6:11-12)
We have forever been set free in JESUS CHRIST if so be that the SPIRIT of CHRIST is in us. “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” (Rom 8:9) We are no longer operating in the realm of the flesh, but in the realm of the SPIRIT who has set us free from that wherein we were held and all our lifetimes were subject to bondage.
I have certainly not exhausted this subject by any means and have really only scratched the proverbial surface of it. I would conclude that those who are “born again” are not those who possess “two natures”. Rather they are privileged to have been set free from that old “nature” and way in which they were captives. The “old man” has been crucified and that place wherein he reigned without rival is now occupied by a “new man”. Those who have been born again ARE new creatures. “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (2Co 5:17) “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.” (Gal 6:15)
Until such time as we are laid in our graves and resurrected according to HIS mighty power we shall be susceptible (though not dominated or captive) to the weaknesses of this flesh wherein we have spent the days of our sojourn. In that day it shall be forever put away as our mortality is swallowed up in the victory of the resurrection. In that day we shall be manifested as the adopted sons of GOD and all doubts, fears, and troubles which have been contrary to a full enjoyment of that state shall be forever put away. Even so come LORD JESUS.mam