In Romans 5 it talks about how sin brought death into the world.
It then goes on to say, on vs 17 that “If, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.”
Romans 6 talks about how we HAVE died to sin, and now live to righteousness. That we WERE slaves to sin, but have become slaves of God (see Rom 6:22, but notice how most of the chapter is in past tense – we HAVE died to sin. We have BECOME slaves to God.)
The section about being a slave to whom you obey (vs 16) needs to be seen in this past tense context, because the whole chapter is in past tense.
I want to say something significant here. Notice, we have died to SIN (Not sinful nature.) Second, notice how there is never a part in the Bible that commands us to kill (or mortify) or sinful nature, but rather the DEEDS of this ‘sinful nature’ or this ‘flesh.’ Rom 8:13, “… if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”
In my studies of original sin, I’ve stumbled upon the Eastern Orthodox view (called “Ancestral Sin”) which places death and satan squarely in the middle of the original sin problem. I’m not going to talk much about Satan (yet), and I’ll admit I don’t know all of the Eastern Orthodox view entirely, so I can’t say whether I agree with it or not. So what I’m going to discuss is death, and putting ‘death’ in the center of this issue right now.
Logically, and Biblically, speaking, I have a sense that they are on the right track. Think about this. In Genesis the sin resulted in death in to the world. What is death? Death is a corruption of something.
I think the key word in this original sin problem is ‘corruption.’ Corruption came into the world because of sin, and not just man but the entire creation has been subject to this corruption (see Rom 8: 19-25.)
Consider this, that also the sin of Adam meant that God was no longer in relationship with him. Perhaps, even, God withdrew his Presence or Spirit from him (which seems obvious, and also may explain why Gen 5:3 says Adam’s son Seth was in his own likeness.) God has not withdrawn his Spirit entirely, but certainly in an intimate way. Now, under the New Covenant, this has been undone with the indwelling and infilling of the Holy Spirit.
How do you match something like Psalm 139: 14 up with Original Sin? “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”
Think of this : what happens when a being who was created to live eternally with God is now made mortal and no longer with God?
And think of this, what happens when a being who has a natural (and created) inbuilt ‘instinct’ for survival, has a limited number of days and does not have God inside them?
Is that instinct for survival wrong? No. God created us with a will to live. Would it have made sense if we were created without a will to live? Of course not. So, what happens when a being is created with a will to live but is, in fact, made mortal AND does not have the spirit of God from birth?
That being’s natural will to live goes haywire, and ‘survival of the fittest’ certainly takes over. It becomes about me and my, and I’m going to have to clamour and tramp on everyone to get ahead. I need to live, and if you’re in my way, you need to get cut down so that I can live.
What if this is what the ‘sinful nature’ is? What if everything that is natural about us isn’t evil? Say, our desires. I desire to live. I desire to eat. I desire to procreate. I desire to be loved. I desire to be happy.
Are any of these desires really evil? No. The desire to eat, for instance, isn’t evil. But what happens when this desire goes haywire? What happens when it becomes corrupt?
The simple, good, wholesome and godly desire to eat (remember, when God created human beings in Genesis, he said it was ‘good’) turns from something natural and good to something unnatural and corrupt – it turns into gluttony. There’s certainly nothing natural about gluttony. What has been natural here has been corrupted.
We’re not born, it seems, with this corruption entirely in place. We learn more corruption from a corrupted world (see 2 Peter 1:4, and 2:20.) But we are born without God, and we do inherit death which is what Romans 5 is telling us.
What’s the big deal here? The big deal is we are (mostly) taught that we are supposed to be killing the sinful nature as Christians, and – by implication – our desires are evil. This is not the entire truth, it’s a usage of words that (perhaps) is totally misunderstood. Our desires are GOOD, and NATURAL. Everything about me as a human is good and natural. These good and nature desires have been corrupted, and become more corrupted throughout my life. We are facing a disease of sorts on the human race, a corruption of what is natural and good.
Jesus makes the link between sickness and sin when he says “it is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick” (Matt 9:12) when questioned as to why he dines with sinners.
What if we are only believing for half the story here? We believe that God will kill our sinful desires. But we think this in the context that God is changing our NATURE, our very make up and being, making us something more than what we are – perhaps something more than human. However, when we read the Bible, God promises to resurrect our BODIES and wants to make a NEW Earth and a NEW Heaven. Wanting to be something more than human is not a Christian idea– more like a Platonic one.
We believe God will kill our desires (through our willpower, perhaps, or through our submission and obedience) when in fact he may want to heal our desires instead. He wants to take what has been made unnatural – what has been corrupted – and make it natural again, make it uncorrupted.
There’s no single verse in the Bible that says God is going to change our nature. It always puts the ‘sinful nature’ (which, now, may mean a corrupted nature) vs the Spirit (Gal 5:17, is a good example of this.) What if this is because your very nature, everything that makes you ACTUALLY human is perfectly good, holy, and wonderful. It is the corruption of this nature that Jesus saved us from through his death, having taken this sin and the corruption of this sin upon him by suffering what the corruption brought – death.
THEN, to show his victory over this corruption, he is raised on the third day. And, when we believe in Him, we die too to this corruption and are raised up with Him – spiritually speaking, now, but completely when He returns. The Spirit in infills us, to work towards our healing from the corruption of death, sin and Satan’s influence. The Holy Spirit heals us from our old thought patterns, our old bodily cravings (which are, in fact, just normal and good bodily cravings that have gone haywire and become corrupt.) I mean, he is more than just healing us of the issues in the mind – he is healing our entire beings. This healing process is called ‘sanctification’ and it happens slowly throughout our lives, because we’re still in mortal bodies – and still corrupted.
See, Jesus set us FREE from the corruption occuring even more, and wants to heal us from it. But he hasn’t taken us out of the corruption, because all of creation needs to be healed too and probably a whole lot of other things (which we can maybe look at some other time.)
My point, for this post, is to say that there is a possibility we’re believing God for the wrong thing. We want him to change our NATURE, when in fact he wants to HEAL our nature and make us MORE natural, and more who we actually are as human beings. Everything about sin is unnatural – lust is unnatural, jealousy is unnatural, coveting is unnatural. God wants to make us natural again.
It is easier to trust for healing of what has been corrupted than to trust that God would change my nature. Why? Because it doesn’t make sense that God created me this way, and then wants to change me. This is a problem many non-believers have with Christianity. It’s just too ascetic. A non-believer sees his desires as natural – and they are actually right. The problem, is, however, that non-believers see their SINFUL desires (like, gluttony, for instance) as natural and the church has largely agreed with them here too. We’ve said that the sinful nature is ‘human,’ because we’re all born with this ‘sinful nature’, and God wants to take away our desires and replace them with… no desires at all? We haven’t said it directly, perhaps, but certainly by implication.
If even the Church calls these sinful desires natural, then God should accept me for who I am – because he created me. This is the argument non-believers use. And I think they’re right to think this.
It must be that my sinful desires AREN’T natural, but that sinful desires are the corruption of natural desires.
However, if my desires are natural but my living them out is unnatural – and my body, mind and spirit is in need of healing and becoming natural again… well, I think many non-Christians would agree that this is in fact something they would want.
Jesus didn’t change a single person’s nature, instead he healed people and made disciples who followed Him and changed slowly. Should we be trusting for our nature to change? Or the healing of our nature? Uncorrupting what has been corrupted? Mending what has been broken? Changing us back to His Children. The second seems to fit within the biblical framework. The life of Jesus may just show us what the life of a Christian is – it shows that God wants to bring us healing (and certainly, he wants us to bring this healing to others.) We are often quite focused on the DEATH of Jesus, but we forget there’s a RESURRECTION too – and it’s not within His death that we LIVE, but it’s in His resurrection – the old has been taken away, and the new has come. We are new creatures, living in the resurrection of Jesus, the anticipation of the entire full healing of our bodies, minds and spirits. Slowly, as we live, we experience this eternal life now – we are inheriting it. We are being saved, as much as we have been saved. God brings our salvation not just through justification, but through sanctification. We are justified once, we are sanctified in increasing measure through life. Salvation has a beginning, a middle, and a final glorious end. You can’t lose your salvation, but you are still BEING saved from sin and corruption. You are being healed.
There’s so much more I would love to say here, but this post is already too long! Perhaps we should move to a pt 3 next week… would love to hear comments on these ideas, and see if the Spirit speaks to anyone through what I’m saying here ?