As we continue to grow in our understanding of grace, it is essential that we really understand this concept of “sin nature”. What is it and how does it apply today? I believe most churches teach a wrong concept of “sin nature”, and in doing so, many people are trapped in a fear-based, anxiety-provoking understanding of sin.
What is a “Sinful Nature”?
The Bible says we are born with a nature to sin–an inward motivation to sin. We don’t learn to sin; rather, it comes natural to us since birth. When we come into this world, our spirits are dead and we must be born again (John 3:3-7).
Today, under the New Covenant, there are only two states of existence: the natural and the spiritual. This is how Paul describes those two states by comparing Adam and Christ in 1 Corinthians 15:47-49,
The first man was of the earth, made of dust;
The second Man is the Lord from heaven.
As was the man of dust, so also are those who are made of dust;
And as is the heavenly Man, so also are those who are heavenly.
And as we have borne the image of the man of dust,
We shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man.
To move from the natural (state of Adam) to the spiritual (state of Christ), you must be born again. Once you are born again, your flesh has been crucified. According to Galatians 2:20, it is no longer you who live, but Christ in you.
The Sin Nature is Dead in Christ
Once you have put your faith in Christ and are born again, your sin nature is dead. You have died to your sinful nature and are now alive “in Christ”. You are now a new creation:
“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17, emphasis mine).
Your old self, your old nature has “passed away.” All things “have become new.” It’s a finished work!
You no longer have a sinful nature. You have the nature of Christ inside of you.
Sinful Nature versus Flesh
Today’s modern teaching of the “sinful nature” is based on some recent translations of the Bible. Modern translations like the New International Version (NIV) and New Living Translation (NLT) use the term “sinful nature” throughout the New Testament. However, it’s more of an interpretation than a translation. In both the King James Version (KJV) and New King James Version (NKJV) of the Bible, there is no use of “sinful nature”. It’s only in newer translations.
So, what is this word being used for “sinful nature”?
The Greek word that NIV and NLT translate “sinful nature” is the word sarx. It is defined as “the flesh, the meat of an animal, the body (as opposed to the soul or spirit)”.
The KJV and NKJV version simply translate sarx as “flesh”. It’s your body, the natural part of you that experiences this reality through the five senses–taste, touch, smell, hear and see. The flesh is very different than the sinful nature.
Take Romans 7:18 for example and read both the NIV and the NKJV:
- “I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out” (Romans 7:18, NIV).
- “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find” (Romans 7:18, NKJV).
Why is this important? Your flesh is this tangible part of you where sin resides. Sin lives in your flesh. But, if you believe that sin in your soul and spirit, that your nature is to sin, then your identity is all about sin management. But, if you can believe that your nature is good, that you are a child of God, then there is hope to live a victorious life. You can conquer the flesh, because Christ did.
But, I still sin.
So do I. As long as you are alive, your flesh will be prone to sin. But, God has somehow uniquely separated your soul and spirit from your body when you become a believer. Your body is dead to sin. Romans 8:10 says, “If Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.” In Christ, God considers your body dead because of sin. So, we are encouraged to do the same: “Consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:11).
We no longer have a sinful nature. It has been crucified and buried with Christ. Our new nature is the nature of Christ. He lives inside of us. If we can truly understand and believe that Christ lives in us and that we have a new nature in him, then it will empower us to walk in freedom. With the nature of Christ in us, we can overcome fear, anxiety and panic attacks.
Prayer: Father, show me that I am a new creation in Christ, that my old sinful nature has been crucified, dead and buried. I am alive in you.