A New Nature

The apostle Paul teaches that we are a new creature in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17), which has affected our nature, the very core of our inner being. Paul says, "You were formerly darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of light" (Eph. 5:8). He doesn’t say we were in darkness, he says we were darkness. We “were by nature children of wrath” (Eph. 2:3). “Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods” (Gal. 4:8). The apostle is referring to demons, idols, and people who we put on a pedestal. We are now “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Pet. 1:4), and bondservants of Christ.

The word “nature” doesn’t occur very often in Scripture, although it seems to in the New International Version (NIV) of the bible. In the NIV “flesh” is translated as old or sinful nature, but flesh (sarx) and nature (phusis) are not the same. In Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words “phusis” comes from “phuo” meaning to bring forth, or produce, signifying the nature of a person or thing. Our new life in Christ brings forth a new nature, but we still live in a corruptible body and retain flesh patterns. Perhaps an illustration will help sort out whether we have two natures or one.

In Arizona, city parks and boulevards are decorated with ornamental orange trees, which are a much hardier stock than the trees which produce the sweet oranges we eat. Because they can survive colder temperatures, they are used for rootstock. The ornamental orange is allowed to grow to a certain height, then it is cut off, and a new life (such as a navel orange) is grafted in. Everything that grows above the graft takes on the new nature of the sweet orange. Everything below the graft retains the physical characteristics of the ornamental orange. There is only one tree when it is fully-grown. The physical growth of the tree is still dependent upon the roots that go deep into the soil for water and nutrition. What grows above the graft takes on the nature of that which was grafted in to the root stock. If you looked at the whole tree it would appear to have two natures, i.e. ornamental orange below the graft, but sweet orange above the graft.

Nobody looks at a grove of navel oranges and says, "Actually that is just a grove of root stock!" They would call them navel orange trees because they would identify the trees by their fruit. Jesus said, "So then, you will know them by their fruits" (Matt. 7:20). That is how we should identify one another. Paul says, "Therefore from now on we recognize no one according to the flesh" (2 Cor. 5:16). In other words, we are not supposed to recognize Christians for who they were in Adam, but for who they now are in Christ. That is why the Bible does not identify believers as sinners, but instead they are identified as saints.

Dr. Neil

For Spanish, see http://ficmm.org/blog