Do NIV readers have a sinful nature?

Here are two verses that seem to say contradictory things about our sinful nature:

1. In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, (Col 2:11)

2. So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin. (Rm 7:25b)

See the problem? In the first verse Paul says our sinful nature has been circumcised by Christ. His sinful nature is gone. But in the second verse he admits that he still has a sinful nature, one that keeps him enslaved to sin.

So which is it? Do we have a sinful nature or don’t we?

Better read some more scriptures:

3. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. (Gal 5:24)

Oh good, our sinful nature has gone. That’s a relief.

4. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature. (Rm 13:14)

Huh? How could I gratify the desires of my sinful nature? I thought I didn’t have one anymore?

5. For when we were controlled by the sinful nature, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in our bodies, so that we bore fruit for death. (Rm 7:5)

Now Paul’s saying it’s in our past again. We were controlled. So we’re not controlled by our sinful nature anymore right? So it’s gone right?

6. Hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord. (1 Co 5:5)

Okay, now I’m really confused. This man, who “calls himself a brother,” still has a sinful nature. His sinful nature wasn’t circumcised by Jesus but is now about to be destroyed by Satan so he can be saved. But why would the devil want to destroy someone’s sinful nature? And why would Satan want to help someone get saved?

Isn’t this a little confusing?

There is a simple explanation for these puzzling scriptures – they are all poor translations found exclusively in the New International Version (NIV) of the Bible.

What’s going on at the Zondervan factory?

I love the NIV – it’s one of my favorite English Bibles – but its translators really tied themselves in knots when it came to writing about our so-called sinful nature. Do we have a sinful nature? We don’t. Second Peter 1:4 says we are partakers of his divine nature.

In truth, the sinful nature versus new nature debate is barely mentioned in the Bible. To say you got a new nature when you were born again is like saying you got a new steering wheel when you bought a car. It’s true, but it’s only part of a larger story. When you were born again you didn’t just get a new nature, but a whole new life. You used to be dead but now you’re alive (Col 2:11). You used to be one kind of creature but now you’re another (2 Co 5:17).

So what’s going on with these six verses above?

Not only are they contradictory but some of them seem to say we have something (a sinful nature) that we clearly do not have. In five of these verses (no.s 2-6), Paul is actually talking about our flesh (sarx in Greek). The word “flesh” refers to our physical bodies or our sensual nature. It’s that part of us that we would describe as natural as opposed to spiritual. Our bodies and our natural senses were given to us by God; we need them to live.

Theologians who say that our flesh is inherently evil might as well say that Jesus was evil. Afterall, Jesus was the Living Word made flesh (Jn 1:14). True, Jesus wasn’t born under the curse of sin and death like we were. But he had all the same appetites we have and he was tempted in every way. He had the full flesh experience yet remained without sin (Heb 4:15).

Everything God made is good and that includes the flesh. The problems come when we walk after the flesh; when we choose to live in the inferior realm of the flesh rather than the superior realm of the spirit. The sinner has no choice in this matter – he remains in the flesh and the flesh is all he knows. But we who have been born of the spirit can choose. We can walk after the old way of the flesh or we can walk after the new way of the spirit (Rm 8:5).

This is why the Bible exhorts those of us who are in the spirit to walk in the spirit (Gal 5:25). It’s saying “renew your mind and choose!” Put off the old and put on the new.

There are chapters and chapters that explain this new way of life for us (e.g., Eph 4, Col 3). To choose the way of the flesh is to be, what the King Jimmy writers call, “carnal-minded.” Carnal-mindedness, for the born again spirit-filled believer, is a choice not a condition and it’s a choice that runs contrary to our new nature.

Verse 1 in the list above is a little different. In this verse the words “sinful nature” do not refer to the flesh but the “body of sin” or the “body of the sins of the flesh” that Jesus cut off you. Paul is basically saying that you were a slave to sin but you’re not anymore (see Rm 6:6). Even the NIV is clear about this: You have been “freed from sin;” “You have been set free from sin;” “You have been set free from sin” (Rm 6:7,18,22). This is wonderful news. When you were in the flesh you weren’t free to choose but now that you’re in the spirit you are!

So why do I still sin?

From time to time you’re going to sin and when you do you may wonder why you did it. Read certain passages in the NIV and you might conclude that it’s because you still possess a sinful nature. You may think that you’re hard-wired to sin and that you need to die to self. But that’s simply not true! You died already. You are not a saint with a sinful nature any more than you are a reformed sinner. Read what the Bible says about you. You are a completely new creation with new desires.

We sin because we sometimes choose to walk by sight and not by faith (Rm 14:23). We may do it out of habit. We may do it out of ignorance. But when we set our minds on inferior earthly things and indulge the lusts of the flesh we are acting out of character. We are acting hypocritically by pretending to be someone we are not.

This is an important truth because so many Christians are striving to arrive at where they already are. They’re trying to improve themselves through self-denial and, in doing so, they are walking after the flesh. They do not do what they want to do so they try harder. But they are only adding fuel to the fire. You cannot fight flesh with flesh.

The new New International Version

The good people at Zondervan recently announced an important change to the 2011 version of the NIV Bible. On page 8 of its Notes from the Committee on Bible Translation, they said, “Most occurrences of ‘sinful nature’ have become ‘flesh.’” In other words, the NIV translators have decided to use the same English word for sarx found in the King James Version and nearly every other English Bible. This is a good change and it’s already in effect. For example, if you look up Romans 13:14 on the latest version of the NIV hosted at Bible Gateway, you will find that it now says this:

Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.

NIV_flesh_or_sinful_natureBut old habits die hard. Take a look at the screenshot of this verse (right) and you will see an interesting footnote. In the note the translators qualify their change by saying:

In contexts like this, the Greek word for flesh (sarx) refers to the sinful state of human beings, often presented as a power in opposition to the Spirit.

So we’ve gone from having a sinful nature to living in a sinful state. Big improvement. My earlier point bears repeating: If the flesh is inherently sinful then Jesus was sinful, but it isn’t and he wasn’t.

Read the verse above again and you will see that the problem is not the flesh, but thinking about how to gratify the desires of the flesh. See the difference?

Most of our problems originate with our unrenewed thinking, not our corruptible flesh. Jesus had all the same desires of the flesh that you and I have, yet he never sinned. Now Christ is our life (Col 3:4). This means we have the same nature as Jesus. We also inhabit the same sort of flesh that Jesus had. Consequently, we can live the same victorious life as Jesus. How? Certainly not by trying harder in the flesh. No, we live the life we’re called to by renewing our minds and learning to walk after the spirit.

It’s a totally different way to live.

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123 Comments on Do NIV readers have a sinful nature?

  1. Your explanation is the only thing that truly makes sense in light of context and the bigger picture. Well written. This is probably one of the most difficult issues for most believers to grasp, including pastors, and yet it seems so simple when you do grasp it finally. It eluded me for a long time, and in some ways I’m only beginning to understand it, but at the same time it seems so clear.

    • It’s why you should read the word of God the only bible that God had anything to do with. King James Bible was put together with the Holy Ghost and all the rest was put together by those who walk after the flesh. After all the translators of the KJB had an average of being fluent in 3 different languages. Couldn’t be said about any of the newer translations of the bible. If you take a closer look men are actually becoming less intelligent throughout the ages. Men think so highly of themselves now. They think they are more advance than any time in history because no one else had such advance computers as us. Well now men are not capable surviving without the computers. This shows degradation nothing else.

      • Lynn Alan // August 11, 2013 at 5:33 pm //

        The translators of the King James version of the Bible were not inspired anymore than any other translator is. Only the writers themselves were inspire.All translations have some error, some more than others. What makes the NIV a poorer translation is its translation philosophy. It is more interpretive than a word for word translation (like the KJV, NKJV, ASV, NASV), but not as bad as a paraphrase.

      • I read these scriptures from the Greek Interlinear, NIV, KJV and AMP.They read the same to me and agree with the Greek Interlinear which is translated from original transcripts. The AMP had the most thorough translation. Why don’t you do the same. All except the Greek are available on Bible Gateway. Use add parallel Bible tab to look at the same scripture on up to 4 Bibles.

    • Yes, exactly. This sinful nature thing has always got me confused. Thank God for this explanation by Dr Paul I have good understanding of it now. When I just grasp this stuff now I shouted in Pidgin-English, “This man of God Dr Paul, I wash hand for your back!”.
      Meaning, “man of God Dr Paul, you too much; your teachings clear chaff from my head and fill it just with the right juicy stuff that renews my mind daily”
      Thank you sir, you’re a great help to me.

  2. Very well done.

    I just read another article and enjoyed it also “Romans 2:13 – Justified by the Law?” and wonder if the reference to our nature needs to be changed to our flesh. See following quote from the Romans 2:13 article.

    “Why is failure the inevitable consequence of trying to do the right thing? Because it’s in our nature to screw up!”


    • Thanks Scribe – you are sharp-eyed indeed. I never really liked that Romans 2:13 post – it just doesn’t zing – and I have revised the sentence you flagged above. I’m actually in the middle of a huge study of what the Bible says about sinful nature and one of the lessons I’m learning is the need to distinguish between nature that is inherited and nature that is learned (eg: that has become second nature to me). If you happen upon any other posts where I discuss sinful nature when I should probably be referring to flesh, please let me know. Thanks!

  3. Excellent Paul. Not only have you clarified some issues on the “flesh” vs “sin nature” that needed to be clarified…but you have given me a subject to bring up at home group tonight

  4. Thanks Paul. This is so important in my mind as it really clarifies for me ‘what died’ when it says past tense …. I died. The problem I’m now having is not with what you teach on your blog, although I may see some things slightly differently. It’s finding people who agree with me. Since, I believe the spirit started showing me the gospel of grace I’ve had heated conversations with christian relatives and my church leader, who I respect, but find it extremely difficult to discuss these things with, people get so defensive and act like the guardians of truth. I just find that every church I go to preaches a mixture of law and grace …. I get labeled a heretic and it’s driving me nuts. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

    • Hi Jason,
      Some people you’re going to have to love right past your differences. For instance, I sometimes click the like button on FB posts for no reason other than I like the person who wrote it – they’re a brother or sister. I might think they’re a little confused but life would be pretty awful if we turned every point of disagreement into a battleground. We’re all on a journey and we all have blind spots. I look back on my own walk at how gracious certain grace-people were to me even as I was confused and didn’t know it. That has left an impression as great as their theology. If Jesus could be a friend of sinners then we at least can be friends of saints. Love covers a multitude of shortcomings.

      If you have been given some kind of platform, then preach the undiluted truth seasoned with wisdom from above. If you’re labeled a heretic then rejoice because this is the same label that was pushed onto Jesus.

      • We are not all saints but! Truth can divide, but it separates the false from true, and speaking the truth in love is important, just because we lovey everyone doesn’t mean we can’t defend the truth and contend for the faith, lest sheep go astray

    • Crucify your flesh and God will give you the words to speak. Once you keep all the commandments and not cherish your sins God will show you mercy. Those who receive mercy are only to those who are humble (0 pride) love God and keep His commandments (You break one command you break them all and that one sin has separated you from God). The only ones who are born again are those who submitted their whole will to God. They will go against all that is in their heart. The less you desire the longer it will take for you to be born again. The less you desire the greater it is that you are giving up for Gods sake. All that I ever had was pretty much nothing and the only thing that I desire to have in this life is one thing and that is to have my own wife. One that is a virgin. Nothing else do I desire. I would like to have a house with running water but I don’t desire it as I do wanting a virgin wife. So giving up this desire is a lot harder than giving up multiple things. The more you desire the more your heart is divided. The less you desire the stronger the desire will be for what you want, thus harder to give up. In order for me to become born again I will have to give up what I desire it is also the only way God will show me mercy. He said if you find your life or live for yourself you will lose it, but if you will lose your life for My sake or give up all your desires in your life for My sake you will find it. Only those who obey will receive life. It was failure to obey that caused God to send judgment upon Israel and its the same reason why He is going to do it to America in a couple of years.

      • chrisvanrooyen // July 9, 2013 at 7:36 pm //

        Hi Jeff
        Where does Jesus fit into your comment or does he have no place, it seems that way.

      • actually, it was man’s “failure to obey” that caused God to send Jesus into the world… He was the only one who could obey perfectly – and then He took the judgement for our failure -so that His perfect obedience could be ours 😉

      • Thank you, Jeff. You’ve given me encouragement by demonstrating how far I moved towards my Dad who loves me. You are not an orphan, your Daddy has done for you what you could not. Freely receive it.

  5. I have been comparing the different versions, and in the NKJ it says sinful nature, but down the bottom of the page, it says flesh. So the problem is not limited to the NIV? The more I look, the more confused I am getting. I know ( as I was taught over 20 yrs ago ) that we do not have a sinful nature) but it is still so confusing with all the different version saying different things. AND over 14 different meanings to the Greek word sarx… how do I teach this??

    • Tracy, the issue as I see it is flesh vs spirit. It’s walking by sight (flesh) or walking by faith (spirit). As believers, we can choose. Ideally we should walk according to the spirit but there are times when we don’t. The Galatians are a prime example. The issue for them was not law vs grace – that was merely the battleground – but that they who had begun in the spirit were trying to finish the job in the flesh. More here and here.

  6. Hi Paul,
    I agree that Jesus also had a flesh or physical body, but I personally think Jesus had a perfect body that Adam had before falling into sin. After Adam sinned, he no longer has the perfect body but a degenerated body with many deformed faculties that tempts a man to sin. Unfortunately we have inherited the deformed body from Adam. If this is not evident, just consider lust. The sin of lust is exactly to fulfill the bodily need for sex which is triggered by the hormones in our body. Psychobiology even tells us that mental states such as anger or envy correlate to the active firing of neurons different parts of our brain. When we sin, we are indeed obeying the desires of the body. It is the body that tempts us to sin. With the physical body we have, we are inclined to sin because the body always tempts us to do so. I do agree with you that we have the choice not to sin, but I differ from you in thinking where the source of the sin is.

    I also don’t see the need to make a sharp distinction between “sinful natuer” and “flesh”, for the flesh IS the source of sinful desires. Whether you call it the sinful nature or flesh doesn’t matter. It is A PART OF US that tempts us to sin. Perhaps we can’t say it’s the “cause of sin”, because as you said earlier we have a choice to conform or decline. People who think we have a sinful nature also don’t think we have an excuse for sinning, because we have a chioce to either conform or decline. so it seems like the debate of whether we have a sinful nature is really a semantic one.

    I also take issue with your saying that non-christians don’t have the choice to rebel against sin. I have met non-Christians or “sinners” who realize that they have thoughts that are immoral and they could resist it by their will power. Perhaps you could argue that Christians can do better with the help of the Holy Spirit. But the fact is that non-Christians also have a choice not to sin when they realized that their thoughts do not conform to the “law of the heart” that God has put in every person.

    I have one more concern to be mentioned: If we don’t have a sinful nature in us, then how could we sin? According to you, we sin because we choose to walk according to the flesh. But how could we choose to walk in the flesh if the flesh is not part of us? I guess according to you, we walk in the flesh because we walk in the flesh. The choice is completely arbitrary. If it is arbitrary, then how are we responsible for sinning or praiseworthy for worshiping God?

    • Hi Mark, I did not say sinners were incapable of resisting sin – the success of dieters is testimony to the resolve of some. I said those in the flesh were incapable of doing anything other than walking in the flesh. A sinner can’t walk in the spirit because they haven’t been born of the spirit. I disagree with your implied view that Jesus had bodily advantages over the rest us. Hebrews 4:15 said he “has been tempted in every way, just as we are.” Why do Christians sometimes sin? Most of the time it’s either habit or ignorance.

      • I don’t think sinning is caused by ignorance. Lacking knowledge regarding what is sinful implies we’re not responsible for sinning: if I don’t know what actions are sinful, why is it my fault when I sin? But this is not that important I guess.

        I read your comment again and spotted something that I’m really uncomfortable with. You wrote ” Everything God made is good and that includes the flesh. The problems come when we walk after the flesh, when we choose to live bin the inferior realm of the flesh rather than the superior realm of the spirit”. You also wrote “True, Jesus wasn’t born under the curse of sin and death like we were. But He had all the same appetites we have and He was tempted in every way. He had the full flesh experience yet remained without sin (Heb 4:15).”

        The flesh is good, but Jesus was tempted by the flesh to sin. In what sense is the flesh good if it tempts us to sin? This brings back to my earlier point that many times we sin because we are tempted by the body’s natural desires (think about the hormone example). The proponents of “sinful nature” theory also think that the sinful nature is the same thing as bodily desires. It seems like you and the sinful nature theorists are actually having a verbal and not substantial disagreement. What you consider as the body you call it “flesh” and your opponents just call it the “sinful nature”. Once you guys come into agreement regarding definitions the disagreement will disappear.

      • I wouldn’t confuse the flesh with the Tempter. And I have in mind both meanings of the word flesh – natural body and natural life. Both come from God and He is not the Author of evil. You can be tempted to sin by lots of good things. The law is a prime example. Paul said it was good AND it inflamed sin (Rom 7:13, 5:20). The strength of sin (bad) is the law (good) (1 Cor 15:56). None of our God-given desires are evil. That we can indulge them for evil ends is a separate matter.

      • Mark, just found your post. I’m sure you know this but here goes. I think the sinful nature or flesh “walk in the flesh” is both body and soul (mind, thoughts, emotions, etc). God gave man all these things in the garden but they were pure and uncorrupted. Our “hormonal drives” were intended for good use. One man, one woman, for good pleasure for them together and to bear children. It’s how we use those drives that determines what is sin and what is not. God gave us a tongue too. We can use it for good things or use it for evil. Obviously Adam even with his perfect flesh was capable of sin before he ate of the tree, he disobeyed God. To think that Jesus was not capable of sin if He walked in His flesh is a very handy excuse for us to say we are not like Him therefore we can’t walk in the spirit because we have this sinful flesh (nature). My spirit (spirit man) is one with Christ, He lives in me. The more I understand that my spirit has already been made perfect in Christ (He loves me that much, amazingly awesume) I look to the new me and choose how to walk.

        Ignorance of sin is very real. When we point out wrong doing to someone, even our children, and fail to temper it with grace we lose our saltiness, this is a sin. At one time I did not understand this, I was ignorant. When we doubt the goodness of God and doubt what He has accomplished in us that is sin. I was ignorant. Being ignorant is being uneducated in something and we are all capable of that. In the old testament the priests made sacrifices for sins of ignorance so God says they exists.

        I received a wonderful teaching from Andrew Wommack called Spirit, Soul, and Body. It’s on his website and he has written a book as well. It really helped me to understand.
        God Bless you and I pray the Holy Spirit gives you revelation as you seek Him out.

    • Some good points here. I agree with much of this post.

  7. Hi Paul, Welcome back from your Holiday.
    Does my understanding go along with your teachings?
    Habits & ignorance of the truth of God cause for stumbling but our physical bodies are vehicles for learning & they follow the mind. If we yield to the Spirit and abide in the Christ Mind, the body experiences the things of the Spirit (Love, Peace, Harmony, Wholeness) But if we yield to the carnal mind, the things of the world, our bodies will follow and experience the things of the world ( Sin, Fear, discord, sickness etc.)

    It comes down to where you seat your mind. What you yield to and abide in.

    • My teachings only have value if they line up with what the Bible says. We don’t have two minds but we can direct our mind in two different directions. Paul said fix your eyes on Jesus and set your mind on things above (Col 3).

  8. Much of my teachings come from an unpublished minister born in the 1800’s so my wording may not go along w/ the phrases and wording many use today but I think you respect the teachings of Andrew Wommack as lining up with the Bible. A. Wommack speaks of two minds under Col 3:10, one being the physical mind and the other being the mind of our born again spirit which A. Wommack says has the Mind of Christ (under I Cor 14:14).

    • I disagree with this two mind teaching. I believe each saint has just one mind and that is the mind of Christ. It now depends on what one choose to do with it.
      You can renew it as the apostle Paul exhorts in the Bible or you can leave it unrenewed.

  9. The publisher of the NIV bible and the Satanic Bible are the same? Found out from my friend, Carl

    • The NIV is published by Zondervan. Anton Lavey’s Satanic Bible is published by a company called Avon. Both Zondervan and Avon are owned by HarperCollins (which is owned by NewsCorp, if you’re interested). So the two publishers share a parent but it’s not accurate to say that the publisher of the NIV is the same as the publisher of the Satanic Bible. I’m sure the folks at Zondervan would have a fit if you did.

  10. andy bradice // February 9, 2012 at 11:54 am // Reply

    thank you for clearing this up it helps to relate bible truths ex. new creation, remove heart of stone thanks andy

  11. Paul, not that it matters but I believe just the opposite that we still have the sin nature. I grew up in a very legalistic church and struggled with why I continued to sin. The summary of my struggle was that maybe I was not really saved. The only thing that set me free and gave me assurance of eternal life was understanding the same thing that Paul understood in Rom 7. I realized it was sin living in me and it will be that way until I am glorified. Believing the way you do I can not see how you believe that Paul was a Christian when discribing himself in Rom. 7. The way I believe set me free from the bondage I was in. Please take my statement with love because we are both brothers but just as you say the way you believe is the truth, I believe the way I believe is the truth because this truth set me free and is settled in my mind. God Bless Paul

    How long will this conflict take place within us? As long as we live in these unredeemed bodies! You and I will not be free from the influence of sin in our flesh until the Lord Jesus returns and gives us new bodies to go with the new identities we have received—but in the meantime we can grow in grace! Bob George “People to People Ministries”.

    • Hi Paul,
      No dramas – we’re all learning. Though I would point out that the sin that Paul was referring to was a noun and most definitely not him. He writes of “its lusts” (6:12), being “slaves of sin” (6:17, 20), sin “deceived me and killed me” (7:11), and said I’m not doing it but sin (7:20). Sin is something separate and seductive. The good news is don’t have to obey it any more. That’s a freedom that the unsaved don’t enjoy. They have no choice – whatever is not of faith is sin.

      The Bible says we’re new creatures. I’m not disputing your experience – we have all learned to sin and we have some unlearning to do.

    • I too was raised in a very legalistic church and taught that we did not have a sin nature, and that we either choose to sin or we don’t. The problem lies within the fact that if we are left with the choice then who is doing the choosing? Is it the flesh? If it is then we are looking to the “cause of the problem” to be the “solution of the problem.” The flesh chooses because it is divided. It needs polar opposites to make it’s choice. The Spirit is single minded. I does what it does “not” because of a choice but because of it’s essence, which is perfect and undivided. The fact is that we have two natures; the flesh and the Spirit. It’s not a matter of what we choose to do (sin or obey). It’s a matter of where we choose to dwell (Flesh or Spirit). Romans 8 makes it clear that when we live in the Spirit then we reap the rewards of that nature. When we choose the flesh then we reap the rewards of that nature. But here is the key: We cannot choose in favor of the Spirit. We can only die to the flesh, which then invokes the Spirit because the Spirit is our true nature. The ego chooses, as it’s nature is about being pro-active towards everything it wants. However, the Christian life is based in surrender and not pursuit. Christianity is based in the undoing of “self,” not the creation of a “new self,” as the flesh would have you believe.

      The sin nature (the flesh) is separate from the Spirit and should be seen as a “nature” that is to be discarded in favor of the Spirit. By seeing it as a “nature” it allows us to detach from it. If we see it as something inherent to who we are then we are stuck with it and struggle with it. Instead we should see it as an unwelcome invader in our consciousness that needs to be evicted. Only then can the Spirit live in us and become the master of our lives. Easier said than done!!!

      • Phil, can you show me in the Bible where it says we have a “sin nature”? (No quoting from the NIV either. Haha!)

      • The flesh is predisposed to sin. Sin as much is it’s nature as barking is the nature of a dog.

        Terms are changed to meet our understanding. I think that calling the flesh a sin nature is accurate.

      • And yet Jesus came in the flesh (sarx) and sinned not. Woof!

  12. Never trust the NIV, any modern version taken from the different manuscripts to what the KJV was taken is spurious! Read up on research into modern versions.

    • The NIV does have translation problems, but so does the KJV. There isn’t just “one” KJV either. There have been many many “updated” versions of the KJV over the last 400 years. No translation is 100% reliable, but many of the “problems” in various translations are in the realm of spelling and grammar issues (which can sometimes effect meaning). People have to learn how to understand context, both within the text and within the culture of the audience the author was writing to. Responsible Bible study consults multiple translations and looks at Greek / Hebrew root wording and may even study historical context information to have the best understanding. There is no single translation to “bind and rule them all”. 🙂 The only reliable text is the original Greek and Hebrew, but even to understand that, you have to know the historical and cultural context of the audience it was written to.

      • Jesus said that the Kingdom of God is with you. We need to listen to the Truth that lies in our hearts. We rely upon words that confuse and convolute the whole process and then miss the fact that as the Lord states in Hebrews 8:10: “I will write my laws on their mind and in their hearts….”

  13. It sounds like you are denying Concupiscence or Original Sin after someone is born again. Luther taught that we are simultaneously 100 percent saint and 100 percent sinner as baptized believers. You’re denying the paradox. You’re saying that we’re one or the other, but Paul at the end of his life affirmed that he was still the chief of sinners.

    Sin is not just our actual sins, but more importantly our sinful desires and lusts. It’s not just a matter of “unlearning” bad habits. You’re basically advocating a Pelagian position, that sin is simply the wrong use of our spiritual faculties.

    • Mike, those are some big words. I just know what the Holy Spirit says and what the Bible confirms: “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Cor 5:17) Last time I checked Luther didn’t write the Bible. I admire the guy but I’m not about to follow someone who calls me a sinner thus insulting the Holy One who has joined himself to me eternally.

      “As he is so are we in this world” (1 Joh 4:17). Jesus isn’t a sinner; he is holy and he calls me holy. Paul said he was, at one time, the foremost sinner. If he was still a sinner at the end of his life, as you suggest, then he must’ve been contradicting himself when he said the old has gone. Not “the old has hung around and now shares living space with the new;” neither “we are 100% old and 100% new,” but the old has gone.

      Gone means gone, not with a circumcision done at the hands of man, but cut off by God himself. This is the good news.

      • Mike Hughes // November 20, 2012 at 3:11 am //

        English Standard Version (©2001)
        If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

        Hi Paul, I apologize. I wasn’t trying to be argumentative.

        Here’s my understanding …

        We are not glorified until we either die or Jesus comes again. In this life, we die daily, returning to our baptism per Romans 6 to walk in newness of life. We will always have to contend with our flesh which is at enmity with God until we are glorified.

        The only way to reconcile all of the verses is too understand the paradox that we are simultaneously justified and sinful. Our new man must daily fight the desires of the old man, by faith, as we put to death the desires of the flesh, and put on the armor of light.

        I’ve heard it described this way … Christ came to deal with the penalty of sin, the power of sin and finally, in our glorification, the presence of sin.

        Does that sound right to you?

      • Mike, there are two issues here: identity and behavior. My identity is in Christ and he is sinless. My behavior is imperfect. My identity is not based on what I do but who I am in Christ. For instance, if you speak Spanish and like Mexican food, that doesn’t make you a Mexican. But if your parents are Mexican, then you are Mexican.

        I maintain that there is a world of difference between a sinner who sins and a saint who sins. I don’t have a sinful nature – otherwise what exactly did God cut off when I was born again? What exactly has gone? I have the mind of Christ. I have the desires of the Holy Spirit. The verse you quote from 1 John 1 is followed by an important verse – “If we confess he is faith and just to forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” I have confessed (meaning, agreed with God); I have been cleansed from all unrighteousness. Midwives don’t deliver the same baby twice. You’re either born again or you’re not and if you are you need not be born again again.

        Later John says this: “No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God” (1 John 3:9). This is not about your performance but your pedigree. Origin determines destination. In your old life you followed in the faithless footsteps of your father Adam. But you have been taken out of Adam and placed into Christ. You have become a partaker of his divine nature.

        In the next verse John adds, “This is how we know who the children of God are” (1 John 3:10). Who are the children of God? It is those who practice righteousness, not because they have to, but because they carry the righteous DNA of their righteous Father.

      • Mike Hughes // November 20, 2012 at 9:01 am //

        Exactly. I affirm what you are saying about our identity in Christ, and our new man. We are no longer to identify ourselves with our sin, as in “My name is Mike and I’m a shopaholic (for example).” “No Mike, you are a saint / christian who struggles with idolatry.”

        This seems to be what Paul was doing in Romans 7, talking about his sin as something alien, apart from himself, that at some level still hinders him. He denies himself (his flesh), does not acknowledge it as part of his identity, but only as sin dwelling in me.

        So if that’s what you are saying, I’m in full agreement. Our transformation is so radical so that there is no continuity between the old and new man.

        I think where it gets confusing is how we explain sin in the life of the believer. Our flesh still clings to us and infects everything we do, so that even when we evidence fruit of the Holy Spirit, our best fruit is still corrupted by our flesh. So for instance, my new man genuinely wants to help my neighbor, but my old man, the instant it sees my new man perform a loving act, will always take advantage in some way to try to bargain with God, or gain favor with men.

        Am I understanding you correctly? We may agree more than I thought.

      • The only thing I would disagree with Mike is in saying the flesh is evil. The flesh is the battle ground where temptations are experienced and sin is conceived but the flesh itself is neutral. Jesus came in the flesh and there was nothing sinful about him.

        The problem is not what my old man wants (he’s dead!) but in choosing to walk after his old ways – what the Bible calls walking after the flesh. The sinner has no choice in this matter. Since anything that is not of faith is sin, everything the unbeliever does is tainted with carnality. Even his very best works are worthless. The good news for the believer is that we are free to choose. We are no longer slaves to sin. We can choose to walk after the flesh or we can choose to walk after the spirit.

      • Mike Hughes // November 22, 2012 at 3:54 pm //

        Sounds good, Paul. Yeah, Jesus assumed our humanity, so we can’t say that our physical flesh is evil, which is what a lot of churches do, denying that creation was very good before the fall, and is still good in many ways.

        For describing our struggle with our sinful tendencies which remain after being born again, I like the terms flesh vs. spirit, or old man vs. new man.

        I would say we’re more free as believers than we were. But we won’t have complete freedom until glorification. If anything we see our sin more and more as we get closer to Jesus. It’s important to emphasize that our sanctification is by grace as well as our justification, otherwise people end up doubting whether or not they are a christian when they still struggle with a multitude of sins … “Why am I still sinning? Maybe my conversion wasn’t real? Maybe I need to be rebaptized or walk the aisle again, or rededicate myself, etc. This time I really, really mean it,” until they collapse from spiritual exhaustion.

        This is where Luther’s 100 percent saint and 100 percent sinner is so helpful. Simul Justus et Peccator–the idea that we are simultaneously justified and sinful. It’s not an either / or. It is a dynamic tension that exists in the life of every believer until glorification. Positionally we are 100 percent saint, seated with Christ, adopted and dearly loved. Yet there is still the daily struggle to put to death the desires of the old man, which still cling to us, dragging us down time and again…

        God bless you Paul and I hope you have an awesome Thanksgiving!!

      • Mike, I understand the concept, I just don’t agree with it. Righteousness and unrighteousness don’t mix and life stopped being a daily struggle the day I entered his rest. My behavior may be occasionally sinful, but I am not defined by my behavior. I am not sinful but Sonful.

        When my kids do wrong things, I don’t identify them as “naughty” (or “sinful”); I identify their behaviors as “naughty.” Their behavior made need to change but their identity is unchanged. They’re still my kids. Telling Christians they are sinners is a recipe for disaster. Sooner or later they will start acting like it.

      • Mike Hughes // November 29, 2012 at 12:43 pm //

        Hi Paul, Thanks so much. I appreciate your willingness to dialogue. This is a worthy discussion as it’s something a lot of Christians struggle with…. If we’re not sinners, why do we still sin? (and a follow-up question, why do we still die, since the wages of sin is death?)… “If his kids do “naughty” things, that is prima facia evidence that they are still naughty sinners. Otherwise they would not sin. See Romans 7. It’s not an either/or proposition here. Telling Christians they are sinners is only half the truth. They are justified sinners. They are also saints in Christ (but not yet in themselves). Telling Christians they are saints only is equally a recipe for disaster as their sins will testify against them and lead them to conclude they are not Christian.”

        I think it’s an important point that sins are a symptom of our sinful condition. You’re right in refusing to identify with your sin. But the fact that we still sin is conclusive evidence that we are still sinners, though now we are justified sinners for Jesus sake. We live in two realities and will continue to do so until our glorification. No matter what we tell people, our sinful condition still exists, though it is no longer counted against us because of Jesus.

      • Mike, please limit comments to 250 words or less. The questions posed are valid but I have a problem basing theology on experience rather than scripture. There is not one scripture to support the conjecture that saints are sinners. Not one. “I die daily” is a reference to the many dangers Paul faced preaching the gospel (see 1 Cor 15:32).

        My children sometimes bark like dogs. By your friend’s logic, that is prima facie evidence that they are dogs. Again, our behavior doesn’t define us – this is old covenant thinking – and it is impossible for righteousness and unrighteousness to mix. You can’t be clean and dirty at the same time. Jesus said he who believes “him who sent me… has crossed over from death to life” (John 5:24). You can’t be dead and alive at the same time. If you’re a sinner, come to Jesus and get clean. If you’re a saint, you might need your feet washed occasionally but you don’t need a bath (John 13:10). Jesus is good at what he does!

        Why do we still sin? Because we choose to sin. Hence the numerous NT admonitions to choose otherwise – to choose to walk after the spirit. This choice is not available to those dead in sin; only those who are alive in Christ. Telling Christians they are saints is a recipe they followed some 60+ times in the Bible. I also follow it.

      • Mike Hughes // November 30, 2012 at 7:02 am //

        1Tim. 1:15 The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. Per Pastor C, the Greek is decidedly present tense – of whom I AM foremost. Not was. Am. Now. Present tense Paul.

        Mark 9:24 Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” Yup. Faith and unbelief at the same time in the same person.

        11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. We must, as baptized believers, continually “reckon ourselves, count ourselves” dead to Sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. That doesn’t mean we are no longer sinners and are now completely saints. But we have been reckoned as such by God through Baptism. And we, as believers, are to agree with the forensic judgement that God has laid on us. He has declared us dead to Sin and alive to Himself in Christ.

        “Why do we still sin? Because we choose to sin.” – Well, we “choose to sin” because Sin (the condition) continues to inhere to our Adamic flesh. Or to put it simply, we still choose to sin because we still are sinners. Children barking like dogs are not dogs. True. But children barking like dogs to irritate their parents at the dinner table are sinners.

      • It seems quite a thing to condemn Christendom to sinnerhood on the basis of the solitary word “am.”

        Paul’s humility should not be taken as a recantation of everything he has already said about the transformation God works in us when we receive his grace. The old has gone – that’s the Adamic inheritance; the new has come – that’s referring to our new life. You are the temple of the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit doesn’t dwell in filthy temples any more than light dwells in dark rooms.

        Why do we reckon ourselves as dead to sin (Rom 6)? Because we ARE dead to sin (Rom 5). Paul isn’t preaching psycho-babble; he is saying, “Stop calling yourself a sinner for our old sinful self was crucified with him.” Give Jesus a little credit here. What he did for you was a tremendous work that cannot be improved upon. If you were still a sinner then it is not finished.

        Mike, I appreciate you are asking a legitimate question – why do I still sin? – but regurgitating what others have told you is not the way forward. As you can see, it just leads to strife. Ask the Holy Spirit. He will tell you what the scriptures tell you: “No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God” (1 John 3:9). Paul didn’t continue in his old life after he met Jesus and neither will you when you realize who you now are and who you no longer are. “As He is so are we in this world” (1 Jn 4:17), and Jesus is not a sinner.

      • Mike Hughes // November 30, 2012 at 8:49 am //

        1. Paul, it sounds like you’re saying that the Holy Spirit has given you direct revelation that your understanding of scripture must be correct. This while having a very limited understanding of what the Holy Spirit has revealed to others in the church throughout it’s history.

        2. The Apostle Paul’s statement cannot be swept away as humility or an isolated anomaly. He made the statement “… Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am foremost” at the end of his life. This is the Apostle Paul, who wrote most of the New Testament. The Apostle Paul has no problem calling himself a sinner.

        3. “The Holy Spirit doesn’t dwell in filthy temples” – Then no one would have the Holy Spirit. He is the Spirit who makes men holy. From Hebrews 3 … “because both the one who sanctifies and those who are *being* sanctified all have the same Father. That is why Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers”. And from Hebrews 10 … “For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are *being* sanctified.” Also Paul’s admonition to the Corinthians to not sleep with prostitutes lest you unite the Spirit of Christ with a prostitute, something they apparently had been doing.

      • 1. I am saying we should give more weight to guys who wrote the Bible than guys who didn’t.

        2. He said it one time, so yes it is isolated. The apostle of grace also said he was a Pharisee – twice! (See Acts 23:6; Php 3:5). Both times in the present tense too. I wonder what theological skyscrapers you might build on that flimsy foundation.

        3. Precisely. “For by one offering he has perfected forever them that are sanctified” (Heb 10:14). The word “being” was added by the same translators who also said we have a sinful nature. It’s not actually there.

        What did Paul call the Corinthians? “Those sanctified in Christ” (1 Cor 1:2). Although the Corinthian Christians were sinning, not once does Paul call them sinners. Instead he says they are saints (1 Cor 6:1, 2 Cor 1:1), sanctified (1 Cor 1:2), and righteous (2 Cor 6:14). He hammers their identity over and over again calling them to be who they really are – saints, not sinners.

        Paul draws a big fat line between these two poles when he says that at one time they were wicked, but “you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor 6:11). You cannot be washed and dirty, sanctified and unsanctified, justified and unjustified at the same time. I don’t mean to offend, but this both/and nonsense is plain foolishness as any child – barking or otherwise – can see.

      • Another point to make in interpreting the 1: Tim 1:15 quote is that Paul prefaces it with “this is a worthy saying…” Paul is not stating that he really is the worst sinner (that can be rejected on its face); he is saying, “This is a good attitude to take.” I consider others needs more important than my own, not because it’s true, but because it is a good practical way to handle conflicts.

  14. i have been reading this discussion the past few days… i am compelled to suggest that the issue seems to be a matter of perspective:
    are you looking at things from a human perspective or from God’s perspective? i disagree that “we live in two realities” – because from God’s perspective there is only one reality… His.

  15. The Bible never actually uses the term “nature” with respect to humans. Paul does say that as Christians we do have antagonism going on between “the mind of the flesh” versus “the mind of the spirit.” In my early Christian walk I was taught that I was dead to sin and I thought that meant that I could not be tempted by sin. And since I was tempted I had doubts about both the truth of the Bible and my own salvation. I have since come to the conclusion that when the Bible say we are dead to sin it does not mean the we are unable to respond to sin or feel sin’s allure. I means that old man is dead and so when sin stirs within, we do not automatically have to “take the bait.” Death here means separation. When a person dies their spirit leaves or is separated from the body. When Adam sinned he did not fall down dead but he instantly was separated from fellowship and communion with God. The whole point of the teaching surrounding death to sin is to say that as Christians we are able to not sin instead of saying we are not able to sin. Huge difference there. Early 20th century holiness teaching caused untolled havoc by convincing saints that since we are dead to sin, sin had been eradicated and we live in a state of sinless perfection, perfect love, etc. Romans 7 does say that sin indwells the Christian. Thankfully our new born again, Christ indwelt new man is separated and delivered from the bondage to sin. Our bodies and unrenewed minds however still enjoy the pleasures of sin. When we feel the tuggings of sin we are to reckon ourselves dead and liberated from sin and live out of our resurrected new life man by the Spirit.

    Like I said in the beginning, the Bible doesn’t use the term “nature” when discussing humans. If you simply must insist that Christians have only one nature then quickly add that we are challenged and assaulted by sin in and around us daily and it is our responsibility to live out of our new identity in Christ. Our bodies didn’t change at regeneration and won’t until Jesus comes back our we go to glory. As long as we are in these earthly bodies we will feel the tug of sin and it isn’t a sign that we aren’t saved or the Bible isn’t true.

  16. Paul- It appears that your apolgetic is misguided because of a misunderstanding of Col.2:11. The verse begins with “in whom”. The realities stated in the verse are realities found “in Christ” The “putting off” is accomplished “in Christ”. The old nature is still there. Your own personal experience will testify to that. If the old nature is gone, in the sence that it no longer exists, then why do you still have a problem with it?
    What is the effort to deny its existence? Recognize that what is to be dealt with is a sinful power that is alive in your flesh.Locating the source of the sin problem is the initial step in fixing the problem. Christ, His blood, His cross,His
    Word and His Spirit are what seperate us from the influnce, the power of sin in our flesh. The relationship with the source has been severed, in Christ. It,sin, no longer has any legal authority to dominate the believer.
    Your presupposition almost sounds like Christian Science? Are you a follower of Mary Baker Eddy.Pretending that what is existent isn’t? The non reality of all matter?


    • Bob, let me ask you this. Did unfallen Adam have a sinful nature? Did God design him with one? No. And yet a sinful power had influence over him leading to a great catastrophe. You don’t need a sinful nature to be tempted to sin and if you yield, that sin will be manifest in your flesh. Where was the source of Adam’s sin problem? It was not in him. And if you are in Christ, it is not in you. (And for my take on Romans 7, see this post.)

      The sinful/new nature debate barely figures in the Bible. It’s hardly mentioned. The NT writers understood that those in Christ are new. There is no transition, only a learning-to-walk process. “As Christ is so are we in this world” (1 Jn 4:17). Christ does not have a sinful nature. Neither do you.

      Jesus said he who believes in me has crossed over from death to life. You don’t have a foot in each camp. You – the real you – don’t have bits that are new and bits that are old – the old has gone. (Although old habits, which are not you, may remain.) It is very easy to build a sinful nature theology based on our experiences, but it’s unbiblical. We must instead interpret our experiences through Jesus. As Paul said, we must reckon ourselves dead to sin because we have died with Christ (Rom 6).

      John said, “No one who lives in him keeps on sinning” (and that’s in the NIV!). Three verses later for emphasis: “No one who is born of God will continue to sin” (1 John 3:9). According to your experiential theology, John must be a Christian Scientist.

      • Let me ask a hypothetical question: Let’s say there is a married couple who are both born-again Christians. Since some here claim that a Christian’s sinful nature is not only dead but also completely eradicated, supposing they had children, wouldn’t those children be born without a sinful nature?

      • Oh boy, Daniel. That’s a good question that will really open a can of worms and set the cat among the pigeons. I actually have strong views on that subject but as I prefer to keep the comments on each thread limited to the post above, I will save them for a separate post.

        So permit me to weasel my way out by re-stating the point I make in the post. The old/new nature debate is barely mentioned in the Bible. The terms sin- or sinful nature are not found anywhere in the Bible (with the exception of the NIV). It’s a debate they simply did not have – not because we didn’t change when we were born again but because there are better ways of understanding that change. When you were born again you became one with the Lord – your spirit became joined with his. This is a spiritual union that can be understood metaphorically as a vine plus branches. Apart from Christ you were a stick; with Christ you are a fruit-bearing branch and the essence of his life now flows through you. What you have that you did not have before is the Holy Spirit – he abides with us and makes his home with us (John 14:16-17).

        So this is the main thing – that you are one with the Lord, joined in connate union (read Romans 6 if that makes no sense). As I say, it’s best understood as a spiritual union because God is spirit (John 4:24). Does that mean the Holy Spirit moves in and rearranges your DNA? The Bible never says so. Does that mean your unborn children are automatically filled with the Holy Spirit? The Bible never says so. Everyone of us needs to receive the Gift.

    • chrisvanrooyen // April 5, 2013 at 2:46 pm // Reply

      Hi Bob.
      If the putting of is accomplished in Christ and his work is complete then the putting of is complete if we accept Christ.
      It seems Bob that you are another person that does not have the faith to live out what you believe
      The Cross in not just a great story it has transforming power.

      Even after the cross you give sin a lot of glory and power who do you follow.

  17. ” It is those who practice righteousness, not because they have to, but because they carry the righteous DNA of their righteous Father.” Does this mean we are little gods? Scary stuff. Maybe check out Christianity in Crisis: 21st Century.

    • Not scary, exciting. Maybe check out 1 Jn 3:1 – “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1st century).

      • chrisvanrooyen // April 5, 2013 at 2:10 pm //

        It seems that the greatest defeat for the fallen ones would be if God gave us the Glory they attempted to steal.To be like him.Maybe changed in the twinkling of an eye.

    • We live in a physical world and have practical duties to perform in this temporal existence. While we are performing these practical duties we are prone to sin as this physical existence requires that we leave that which is spiritual. It does not require spiritual competency to drive a nail into a piece of lumber. However when we enter into a prayer it does not require practical and physical competency to do so. We are not as prone to sin while we are praying. So how do we learn to be in this world and not of this world? This is the key. Self separation!

      • Jesus lived in a physical world and did practical things…and he never had to leave that which is spiritual… walking in the Spirit in this physical world while doing practical things is the whole point of learning how to walk in faith! the thing is… we can choose to let the Spirit guide us in even the most practical of duties… for example, i can depend on him to steady my arm as i’m driving a nail into said piece of lumber… trusting that each swing will bring about the purpose of getting the nail into the wood – without hurting myself or screwing up my project. when we trust and allow the Spirit to flow through us in our physical and practical duties, we are doing things “in” the world – but not doing them the way the world does them (ie “of” the world)

      • I agree, Jennie. But easier said than done. I’m not Jesus and cannot always live in the Spirit while doing my earthly duties. But I’m better than I used to be.

      • your right… easier said than done, but its not impossible! just like any good habit, it’s something we have to practice and exercise before it becomes a natural rythym in our lives…
        but i will share with you something that has helped me immensely in this area.
        before i became a believer, my thoughts were pretty much me having a conversation with myself… when i was born again and realized that God was inside of me listening to those conversations, i stopped having them with myself and started having them with Him instead! i didnt change what i was doing, i only changed who i was doing it with… and withought realizing it, i put myself in a continuous communion with God – all while i was doing something as practical as thinking! its not really a self seperation – its more of an integration! 🙂 think about it – the only reason we can move and breathe in these bodies is because Jesus’s Spirit lives inside of us… our old spirit is dead and our new spirit is one with Christ. wherever we go, He goes… we are never alone!

    • Well Jesus is not ashamed to call us His brothers and sisters. Hebrews 2:11 Don’t read into what this site says, thinking that because they say “xyz” they are trying to promote some kind of new-agey human gods junk. Take the written words at face values along with the scriptures given then taste and see that God is good and He does not despise His children.

      • Colleen and Paul,
        I read pretty much every post on here and agreed with most of it until I ran into the DNA thing. All I was asking for is an explanation of how DNA of the Father comes into play. The Bible says to test all things; hold fast what is good. I don’t know if my questions have offended anyone, that is not my intention. What is the point of making a statement if someone can’t ask a question about what has been said?

      • It’s a metaphor, Nathan. Nothing more. But we are most definitely his kids.

  18. Just wanna say I love ya Paul! This article and the comments back and forth have been such a blessing. Would love to meet you in person one day and shake your hand; really appreciate you bro! Much love from Nicaragua!

  19. Jennie, thanks for your input.

    It’s called “awareness” when we put our thoughts aside and live in the present moment and allow God to work in us as we detach from ourselves, our thoughts and feelings. Living in the present moment is a spiritual experience that allows us to passively become a receiver of truth instead of a pro-active creator of our experience. We are taught all of our lives to pursue what we want and this is great in our temporal world of accomplishments but is not how we connect to God.

    I wish those in the coC could realize this because their religion is about the pro-active pursuit instead of the passive surrender.

    • oh amen! “i live in the present and enjoy each moment” is on a sticky-note on my bathroom mirror! 🙂

  20. John Huckle // April 9, 2013 at 6:07 pm // Reply

    Paul, I don’t know if you have dealt with elsewhere. How about this idea? Is the Romans chapter 7 “sin mystery” solved by recognizing that Romans like Hebrews is a transitional book? Today’s believers were never under the law. Romans chapter 7 generally relates to law which does not apply to us. What do you think?

  21. chrisvanrooyen // July 9, 2013 at 8:11 pm // Reply

    The NIV goes to every effort to elevate Satan and Death. Revelation 1:5 just one example.

  22. Hi Paul,

    Thanks for your article. Insightful and well written. I have heard several people talk on this topic before but never so clearly, and with a “whole bible” approach. Challenging a few concepts that I will now have to unlearn.

    I agree wholeheartedly in a comment you made in follow-up that “I have a problem basing theology on experience rather than scripture”. When experience and scripture collide then I need to change!

    As an aside, greetings from my wife, Lisa nee B. who I understand you were in youth group with .


  23. You do error my brother. Jesus was born with the same flesh as the original Adam and Eve. They were both sinless and their blood untainted before they sinned. But when they sinned they received a fallen nature, hence the sinful nature. You cannot divide the flesh we have now from the sinful nature except by literal death or by becoming a new creature (which still inhabits the the flesh).
    That is why Jesus was born of a virgin…we get our blood from our fathers. He did not have the same nature we have now, but the one Adam and Eve had before they sinned. We have a fallen nature… Jesus shares the nature God gave us ORIGINALLY…Fallen man became a new creation…not made by God but created by man…and pro generated by him. That’s why Jesus told Nicodemus you must be born again. You become a new creation…
    The rest is revelation Jesus Himself wishes to bless you with.

    • The idea of an inherited sin gene is common, but it doesn’t come from the Bible. Jesus came from “outside” not to avoid bad genes or contaminated blood but because only a free man can liberate a slave. Adam made us a race of slaves to sin. Jesus is not part of that race and because of him neither are we.

  24. // March 12, 2014 at 1:01 am // Reply

    I was unaware of this belief that believers sin was not credited to sinful nature, but rather old habits or ignorance until a recent conversation with a friend. (I understand this oversimplifies the article, please bear with me).

    I guess my opinion so far is that no matter which belief you adhere to, believers still sin. We can argue why all day long trying to provide reasons why our position is more right than others, but all this energy would be better spent 1. Loving God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength through our obedience. 2. Loving others as ourselves through action. And 3. Going into our neighborhoods and making disciples who…do 1,2 & 3. Repeat.

  25. Andrews Babu // May 17, 2014 at 9:02 pm // Reply

    Hi mnj
    Please check this site and study “spirit,soul &body”.

  26. not sure i agree that believers no longer have the sin nature.The very fact that fleshly desires arise and we are tempted,indicates it is still present.when scripture says we are dead to and or have died to sin,i dont think that means the sin nature no longer exists. If someone says “you are dead to me”,they are not saying you dont exist…they are saying that they are not recognizing that you exist. Believers as they renew their minds are able by the Spirit to not give recognition to wrong desires.In 2Cor.5 where it says we are a new creation,the old has gone and the new has come i dont believe that is the sin nature that has gone,but rather the old way of the thinking that the sin nature perpetuates. I agree that most of our problems originate because of unrenewed thinking,it just seems to me if the sin nature was no longer present,there would be no unrenewed thinking present to renew.Recognizing who we are in Christ is the key,reckoning ourselves to be dead to sin…which is not playing make believe,but living in light of the fact that Christ took care of it,and instead of offering ourselves to sin,offer ourselves to God.

  27. When Jesus moved in He didn’t ask the sin nature to move over and make room for Him. Jesus is not roommates with the devil or our old sin nature. We do not have a black dog and white dog inside of us fighting for control. Jesus evicted the old and now we are created new in Christ 2 Corinthians 5:17 . Our old nature was a bad tenant and just as a bad tenant will leave a little bit of mess and even some damage after its been evicted our old nature tenant left stuff being in our soul that needs to be renewed or renovated. Jesus is in the process of renewing or restoring all that has been damaged by that nasty old tenant but make know mistake when Christ came in the old was taken out of the way and all things have become new in Christ

  28. “We sin because we sometimes choose to walk by sight and not by faith (Rm 14:23). We may do it out of habit. We may do it out of ignorance. ..” Amen!

  29. I am not clear as to why NIV translators kept “sinful nature” in Romans 7:18 because I believe it is the same Greek word (sarx) as Romans 13:14. I would be very grateful for an explanation – thank you!!

  30. I think most of you guys forgot about the truth that Jesus put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. There is no sin nature therefore because of the cross. In fact, there is no sin nature in both believers and unbelievers because all sins, including all sins by all people, are put away.

    People, Christians or not, only sin because of the carnal mind. The carnal mind surely can act just like the sin nature but Jesus made a way. A way to this great realization that the believers have another option, the mind of Christ. So, we have the potential to be sin-free if we live by the mind of Christ. The reason we sin is because no one has reached to the maturity yet. We will get there by keeping renewing the mind.

  31. Translations, bad ones, have really caused a twisted view.
    Great job unpacking this one.

  32. Minnaar Fourie // January 15, 2017 at 9:43 am // Reply

    Great post! I find a lot of people brought up in the Church of England, who primarily use the NIV, really struggle to grasp the new creation and that the old sinful nature is no longer a part of our new identities. I have been studying this for quite some time and thanks to teachings from in Escape2Reality, Andrew Wommack and Joseph Prince I’m beginning to better understand who I am in Christ. JP expounds brilliantly on 1 John 4:17 about: “as He is so are we in this world.” I do still find it would be good to have a post on what a human is made of – i.e. are we Spirit, soul and body or something else/less? But what is the soul – is it the heart or mind or personality of a human and is this the part that is involved when we “walk according to the flesh” or when we are carnally minded? I think I get what Joseph Prince and Andrew Wommack illustrate but I would be keen to know how you would describe the elements of a Christian in terms of their being.

    Then there is the confusing matter of sin (noun) within me as in Romans 7 that is described almost as a person that can make me behave contrary to my new nature. What is this sin (noun) all about and how does it come into me?

    Thanks for your great dedication to God’s grace and keep walking… in the Spirit.

    • Hi Minaar. The Bible doesn’t say exactly how we are made or how many parts we consist of. I know a lot of people THINK we are three-parts – body, soul, and spirit – because of that one verse in the Bible that talks about separating soul from spirit. But the Bible could just as easily be saying you cannot separate soul from spirit. We could be 4 parts or 57 parts for all we know. So anything anyone tells you will be conjecture based on bits of verses that could be saying several things.

      My personal view is the soul is the core of our being and our spirit is that part of us that connects us to the spirit world. I do not think they are hugely separate. They could be as close as fingers are to hands.

      I do not believe the new creation has sin operating in him. “As he is so are we in this world,” and Jesus has no sin. When Paul talks about the body of sin or the body of death, he is simply referring to the place where the effects of sin are felt – in our minds and bodies.

  33. Great reasoning. Gosh, we’ve certainly had ‘sinful nature’ shoved down our throats constantly.

  34. andydoerksen // August 4, 2017 at 3:35 am // Reply

    Hi, Paul. “Sinful nature” may indeed be a poor translation of /sarx/; unfortunately your article hasn’t solved anything. At one point you said:

    “Not only are [these NIV verses] contradictory but some of them seem to say we have something (a sinful nature) that we clearly do not have. In five of these verses (no.s 2-6), Paul is actually talking about our flesh (sarx in Greek).”

    We don’t get anywhere just by swapping out “sinful nature” for “flesh”; the same verses would still appear contradictory, because they’d appear to be saying we “got rid of [sarx]” but somehow “still have [sarx].”

    The resolution is of the Lutheran variety: in Christ we are perfect; in ourselves we’re not. The verses don’t contradict because in different cases Paul is referring _either_ to our legal standing in Christ _or_ to our practical state in these fallen bodies. And in these bodies the sin-impulse (what the older NIV tried to express with “sinful nature”) still resides and is operative (Rom. 7:17-23; Gal. 2:17; 1Pet. 2:11).

    You say that after you became a Christian your struggle with sin ended. That’s nonsense.

    • Yes, that would be nonsense, which is why I’ve never said it. Everyone is tempted to sin – even Jesus was tempted – and in that temptation we will either struggle or come to a place of rest. But a struggle is far more likely if the Christian believes he is inherently bent toward sin on account of a sinful nature. And rest is far more likely if he sees himself as sanctified in Christ. This is why the epistle writers constantly remind us of our true identity while exhorting us to walk in the new way of the spirit rather than the old ways of the flesh.

  35. andydoerksen // August 4, 2017 at 7:57 am // Reply

    Well, I appreciate that, but it doesn’t address the argument I made _before_ that, re. the metaphorical use of ‘sarx’ in the New Testament. There are enough such occurrences of this word that it’s obvious there’s a “sin force” (or whatever term one wants to use to capture it) operating in us at all times, until we leave this life.

    • I don’t like to use words that aren’t in the Bible so I’m not partial to sin nature or sin force or what have you. What is obvious is in this life we are tempted. That’s it.

      • “I don’t like to use words that aren’t in the Bible….”

        So you don’t believe in the Trinity, then?

        We all use words that aren’t in the Bible – starting with our English translations of non-English words; it’s only the non-English words that are in the Bible. So just by using an English Bible you’re constantly making use of “words that aren’t in the Bible.”

        The question is whether any given translational term really does capture what was intended by the original Greek or Hebrew term.

      • My point is I don’t like to replace perfectly good words that are found in the Bible (eg: flesh) with inferior substitutes that are not (eg: sin nature).

      • Okay, so you prefer a more literal translation which would say “flesh” instead of the NIV’s interpretive “sinful nature.” That’s fair; I usually study from the very literal LEB.

        So let’s talk interpretation, then. I believe “sinful nature” accurately captures Paul’s concept in those particular passages. He clearly uses “flesh” some of the time to refer to a pro-sin force within us that abides throughout this lifetime, albeit offset by the presence of the Holy Spirit in those who are saved.

  36. Paul, good name by the way, do you believe a person can backslide or fall from Grace by turning their back on Christ after they have been saved? Or do you believe in the once saved always saved ideology? (Calvinism). If one is to surmise that the so called “sin nature” is completely vanished upon salvation, then one could never fall from Grace because there would never be any temptation. The “sin nature” is there and will always be this side of Heaven. We are born into sin and therefore must repent at some point in our lives to be saved. The apostle Paul mentioned that because of the Cross, sin no longer has dominion over us. If sin is gone in the believer forever, then there is no “sin nature’. However, if one can fall from Grace, as has been mentioned several times in the word of GOD, then the “sin nature’ must still be alive in the individual, just not active if one is born again. The Holy Spirit takes over and the “sin nature” is put in to a type of sleep mode. But it can be awaken by the individual if the Cross is not the object of our faith 24/7 and we take our eyes off of Christ. But because of Christ crucified, the dominion of sin, the “sin nature”, has been broken.

    • You might be interested in my series on eternal security. Short version: God doesn’t make mistakes and he doesn’t unchild his children.

      • We do have to walk this faith out and endure to the end of our lives or until He returns so we have initial salvation when we first come to Christ which John 17:3 says knowing God and His Son Jesus Christ is eternal life so we must continue to abide in Him and with Him until we leave this earth and that is eternal salvation because then we are in eternity. So basically no one has eternal salvation eternally until they go into eternity.

      • The Bible never proclaims a probationary salvation. Whenever there is a qualifier, the word is usually eternal. In addition, there are 130+ New Testament scriptures guaranteeing the ETERNAL security of the believer. Good news, no?

      • First, you just reversed the meaning of John 17:3. If you know him you HAVE eternal life. That means NOW. It is finished. Second, I just realized reading your post that maybe we misread the idea of enduring until the end because of our pride. To think that I even could endure to the end in my own power, the hubris! No, none of this is on me. It’s all Him.

      • True – but it doesn’t follow that His child can’t “commit suicide” – i.e., apostasy. We need to take the biblical warnings against apostasy seriously, otherwise they’re meaningless. It makes zero sense to warn of something that can’t happen.

        All passages that describe eternal life are simply describing the plane of existence that is found in Christ. Such passages don’t logically require the conclusion that anyone is forced to *remain* in Christ.

    • momzilla76 // August 6, 2017 at 2:29 pm // Reply

      Our sin slavery/old man died at the cross Romans 6. Romans 7 has a battle with agreeing with God on sin yet getting tricked by sin into comitting it but then that slides right into Romans 8:1 with rejoicing. No sin nature. We still retain the ability to comit sin but we have a new nature. Vital difference. Tradition has muddy the waters by muddying up the terms we use and is not being consistent with how scripture uses them.

      • Paul in Romans 7 isn’t speaking of his present condition it only seems that way because he’s speaking in Historic Present
        God delivered Paul from the body of death

    • If I can jump in here: First, I think your sin nature being asleep and in “sleep mode” to be highly speculative. That seems to be your extrapolations from the Bible. Be careful with that.

      But consider this possibility, a regenerate human has no sin nature. However, that same human can and does sin. Then the sin would not come from a sin nature, but does have a reason or a source. If we reject the sin nature as a source, then we will look elsewhere for the reason. This might be a productive line of thinking. You might find that the “sin” is residual; that is that it comes from pre-Christian habits that have yet to be extinguished. It could be that the Christian doesn’t realize that he is free, and so remains trapped in behaviors that he could walk away from. It could be that he hasn’t truly given his life to Christ and therefore battles between his desire for God and his desire for self-gratification.

      If you have a sin nature, then I guess you must battle against it your whole life. If you don’t have a sin nature, how sad it would be to fight against an invented foe your whole life and never conquer it, while the real answers were right there in front of you the whole time.

      Perhaps the heart of this is the question of whether this thing you’re battling is a permanent part of you. Consider that Paul externalizes sin, by saying that it is not me that sins, but sin living in me (Romans 7:17). it’s not a part of me, but more of an intruder. It’s like a disease for which there is a cure. If you have a sin nature, you are not cured, just in remission.

    • There’s no question that bad things can happen to Christians who stray, as I have explained elsewhere. But to dismiss 130+ guarantees of our eternal security is akin to doubting God’s word. You are either eternally saved or you need to be.

      • Can you point to even one of those “130+ guarantees of our eternal security” which teach that it’s impossible for a genuine believer to apostatize?

      • That’s like asking me to point out scriptures that teach it’s impossible to be unborn. It’s a meaningless challenge, and not the subject of this article. Please check out the Scripture Index if you have a particular scripture in mind. Thanks.

  37. I read Romans 8:1 as saying we have no condemnation wheather we are caught in sin or not. We have no condemnation because our righteousness is not our own but what has been gifted to us by the work of the Cross and our believing and accepting His finished work on our behalf. Paul identified himself as being without sin even though he struggles with it (it is no longer I who do it but sin that dwells in me) when in Romans 7 he seeks answers as to who will deliver him from this body of death. Like many Christians we want to do right but often times fail. All Christians will have it in themselves to do what is right because that is part of our new nature. We try and overcome the flesh with the flesh and it ends in disappointment. However, if we take out sin to God and place it before Him, He will take it and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Our victory will not come by trying to do better but in abiding and resting in His Spirit as He leads along the path, Romans 8!

  38. I definitely don’t believe our physical bodies are inherently evil (which I know you already mentioned Paul). I think that our bodies are tainted by temptation which can lead to sin but the idea of being embodied is at the very core of what being human is. That’s also why heaven won’t be a spiritual existence but a physical reality on a New Earth with actual, physical resurrected bodies which are also spiritual (won’t sin). There is too much of a spiritual vs. physical warefare within the Christian community. Spiritual just means anything that is from God, it doesn’t have to be non-physical. Adam and Eve were both spiritual and physical before the Fall. They had passions, desires, they even had sex! (Won’t that blow the minds of some believers). God created our hormones and neurotransmitters perfectly and sin taints them but they are inherently a good creation. Because of sin, we have to be careful not to obey sinful desires, but if the world would have remained perfect, we would never have had to choose between our bodily desires and obeying God because there would be no sin, imagine!
    When we sing praises to God, we use our physical mouths to sing. When we love people we use our arms to hug friends and family. Heck, even when we pray or meditate (=spiritual), we have to use our brain (which fires neurons) to think! Our entire existence was created to be physical!

  39. Patrick Hng // April 28, 2018 at 9:32 pm // Reply

    Paul said: Did unfallen Adam have a sinful nature? Did God design him with one? No. And yet a sinful power had influence over him leading to a great catastrophe. You don’t need a sinful nature to be tempted to sin and if you yield, that sin will be manifest in your flesh. Where was the source of Adam’s sin problem? It was not in him. And if you are in Christ, it is not in you. BRAVO!

    Paul also said: Why do we still sin? Because we choose to sin. BRAVO Again!

    If there is no choice for us (including Adam also) to sin or not to sin then where is the free will? Walking in the ‘flesh’ is allowing the ‘self-will’ to take over instead of believing God’s word. Adam did just that. One thing is for sure, when we fail it definitely has got nothing to do with our ‘sinful nature’.

    2 Corinthians 5:21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

    We can no longer be Sin because God called us His righteousness? Who are you in Christ? The righteousness of God or Sin!

  40. I really like the breakdown of the verses and explaining the errors in the NIV many are being deceived not understanding and believing they can be in bondage to sin while being in Christ at the sametime

  41. Dr. Ellis,

    Could Jesus have sinned?

    • Hebrews 4:15 says Jesus was “tempted in all things as we are,” yet was without sin. This verse would make no sense if it was impossible for Jesus to sin. He could sin, but didn’t.

  42. “Consequently, we can live the same victorious life as Jesus.” So do you think if we live the same life as Jesus following the Spirit, we will no longer sin? And I’m not just referring to “big” sins …

    • When you walk in the spirit, you will not sin. The question is whether you will walk in the spirit or the old way of the flesh.

      • It is true that if we follow the Spirit we do not sin. But the point is whether it is possible to always follow the Holy Spirit and consequently not to sin again until Jesus returns …

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