Two Natures of the Believer

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Three older posts that should probably be read before you dig into this one is Justification, Grace, and Repentance.  As this blog digs deeper into theology the reader should expect less and less posts to be stand alone.

A phrase made popular by Martin Luther is that all believers are presently “Saint and Sinner”.  Both of these are a current reality in all of us.  They don’t get along with each other as both push and pull against the other in this life.

The Steadfast Lutherans blog has a nice article on this that I recommend, but I will quote a piece of it:

 

“Too easily we imagine that we at one time were among the ungodly, but now enjoy our own inherent righteousness, or“sanctification.” We behave as if that’s what keeps us right in God’s eyes. Far too many Christians, even those in the churches who bear Luther’s namesake, ignore the dual reality that the German reformer articulated in his famous dictum that we are simultaneously justified and ungodly: fully sinner and wholly saint at the same time.”

“The Latin phrase “simul iustus et peccator,” that a Christian is“simultaneously justified and a sinner,” is the hinge on which not only Lutheran pastoral care hangs, but Lutheran theology as a whole, especially as regards justification.” – Steadfast Lutherans

 

Ultimately this understanding comes from the simple acceptance of the entire Word of God on this matter as being true.  There are many passages that teach the total sinlessness  and past tense sanctified nature of the believer.  Also true, is that many teach the sinfulness that still resides within us.

Rather than abrogate one with the other and miss out on half of the council of scripture, it is best to accept both as true and let this confession form the teaching.  Before reading I recommend you take another spin through Romans 6 and 7.  I will pull from the text but you will miss important themes without the full context.

 

Believers are Presently Perfect

 

You have heard that sanctification is a process?  This isn’t necessarily an untrue thing depending on what sense you mean that in.  If you’re speaking about the believer as a whole then yes.  But with regards to the ‘new man’ it is not the case at all.  Because of this I prefer words like Christification or Theosis to refer to a process.  The term sanctified I feel is best used to refer to the saint nature of the Believer.

 

“9 Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, 10 Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” 1 Cor 6:9-11 KJV  

 

Above notice that these words are in the past tense.  Not only that, but they are juxtaposed against wicked sins that are no longer present in those being spoken to.  This is a full and completed thing.  He is not pointing to one day when it will take place, but presently speaking that it has.

 

“1 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?; 2 God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?; 3 Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?; 4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” Rom 6:1-4 KJV 

 

What I want to point out above is that baptism is a past tense event performed upon the believer by God.  In this act we are literally dead to sin and alive to righteousness.

 

“4 Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.; 5 For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death.; 6 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 7:4-6 KJV 

“6 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.; 7 For he that is dead is freed from sin.; 8 Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him:; 9 Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. 10 For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God.; 11 Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Rom 6:6-11 KJV 

 

become dead to the law

delivered from the law

our old man is crucified

freed from sin

death hath no more dominion over him

dead indeed unto sin

alive unto God

 

Don’t fight this teaching, it is true.  The Believer is born again in the waters of their baptism.  Holy and pure and dead to sin.  Perfect in every way which Christ commanded (Matt 5:48).  This is the merit Christ has won for us.  An eternal perfection in word thought and deed, a new man created by the power of God unto salvation.

 

Believers are Presently Sinners

 

Just as the Bible teaches we are presently sinless, it also teaches us that we are sinners.  Both are true at the exact same time.  Just look at the Apostle Paul:

 

“This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.” 1 Tim 1:15 KJV 

 

The obvious implication of the above verse is that since Paul was a sinner we should expect to be too.  There are some groups out there that teach you are to expect to never sin at all, but look at Paul.  Not only was he a sinner but he called himself the chiefest.  Don’t fight it, it’s in the Bible just roll with it as true.

 

“7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” 1 John 1:7-10 KJV

 

If you say you are not a sinner then you are a liar.  John is saying this to believers, and he isn’t speaking of them before coming to faith for it speaks of being cleansed by Christ before calling you a sinner and then cleansing you again.  Read the whole chapter and see for yourself.  This is the Christian life of constant forgiveness in the waters of your baptism.

 

“15 For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.; 16 If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good.; 17 Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.; 18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.; 19 For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.; 20 Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.; 21 I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.; 22 For I delight in the law of God after the inward man:; 23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.; 24 O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?; 25 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.” Romans 7:15-25 KJV 

 

Above Paul speaks of what I can only describe as an internal tug of war between the new man and the old.  The old man pulls and gains victory over the new, and the new pulls harder and gains victory over the old.  This is an on-going struggle in our life.  One side wicked and depraved, another sinless and perfect, each hating the other and seeking the upper hand.

 

Competition

 

 

The Tug of War

 

Below Paul describes this on-going struggle.  My understanding is that rather than an “either/or” dichotomy scripture is teaching a “both/and”.  At the same time that we are perfect in the eyes of God through the shed blood of Christ there is a struggle in the flesh during this life.  Notice that Paul exhorts us to stand in this struggle and not yield to our wicked desires.

 

“22 That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; 23 And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; 24 And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.” Eph 4:22-24 KJV 

“12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.; 13 Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.; 14 For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.; 15 What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.; 16 Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?; 17 But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you.; 18 Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.; 19 I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness.” Rom 6:12-19 KJV 

It is most simply understood that the Old Man is evil and the New Man is regenerated.  The Old is sown in the earth upon our death and at that time this tug of war will be over.  In the mean time each nature fights on.

It is my opinion that this struggle is for our own good.  In this fight we must continually turn to Christ in faith, remember our baptism, seek absolution, hear the preaching of law & gospel, and receive the body and blood of Christ in bread and wine.

At the end of the day I find this understanding of scripture to be both clarifying and a great comfort.  The fight is real and it is not made less important, but knowing that salvation isn’t hinged upon temporal success or failure in fighting the Old Man lets one place this burden on Christ in faith.

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About ACTheologian

I am a layman who blogs my Biblical studies. Enjoy, please read with an open Bible and do double check with your pastor.
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One Response to Two Natures of the Believer

  1. Pingback: Augsburg Confession Article VI: About New Obedience | Armchair Theologian

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