by Bill Nugent
In all the churches I’ve been in over the years I’ve noticed signs that said ‘Do Not Smoke’ and ‘Do Not Chew Gum in the Sanctuary’ but I’ve never seen a sign that said ‘Do Not Eat the Potting Soil From the Potted Plants.’ Consider this as an illustration. Why would a church never have to post a sign to protect its potted plants from people tempted to eat potting soil? The obvious answer is simply that such a sign is unnecessary because it is not human nature for any human, even an unrepentant sinner, to eat potting soil.
It is human nature to smoke tobacco and inebriate oneself with nicotine. Hence we need a sign (a law) to restrain this aspect of human nature. It is human nature for children to chew gum and stick it under the pews. Hence we need a law to command young people to refrain from chewing gum in the sanctuary.
The fact that a sign forbidding the eating of potting soil is unnecessary teaches us something about the whole relationship between human nature and law. Where there is no human nature (propensity, inclination) to do a certain destructive thing, there is no necessity to outlaw it. This principle sheds a great deal of light on a scripture that has often been misunderstood. The scripture is“You are not under law, but under grace” (Romans 6:14 NASB).
The phrase “you are not under law” strongly infers that the reborn human spirit has no sin nature. The human spirit of the Christian believer received this new sinless nature at the time that the human spirit was regenerated at the new birth. Law is given to forbid us from doing certain behaviors. If we are not under law it means that all things are permitted. You can eat all the potting soil you want. There is no law or sign or church rule against it. How much potting soil will you eat? You will eat none because your nature restrains you. Since we are not under law it means — strange as this sounds — that we have permission to sin. Yet the spirit of the reborn believer won’t sin because the new sinless nature in his spirit restrains his spirit from sinning.
In the same way we must realize that Romans 6:14 teaches us that we are not under the Law of Moses which includes the ten commandments. This fact is confirmed in the passage in Romans 7:6-7 in Which Paul lists the tenth commandment, “thou shalt not covet,” as an example of a law that we are not under. The seventh commandment forbids adultery. How much adultery do you want to commit? Your new nature, that is the nature of your reborn spirit (not soul), restrains you. Adultery is totally repugnant to the reborn spirit. You commit no adultery (you don’t even think about it) when you walk by your reborn spirit. “But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law” (Galatians 5:18). The reborn human spirit is in total agreement with the Holy Spirit and always is led by the Holy Spirit. Yet in our immaturity we are more aware of our souls than we are of our spirits.
The inevitable question now arises: if we are not under law why is the New Testament full of commands!? Jesus said to turn the other cheek and go the extra mile. Jesus commanded us to love one another (John 13:34, 15:12). Jesus said “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (John 14:15 NASB).
Paul, the apostle, writing in Romans, the very book where he declared “you are not under law” lists many commands in the 12th and 13th chapters of that book. We are commanded to obey the governing authorities in Romans 13:1. A command (law) is needed because the sinful human nature tends to disobey governing authorities. The very fact that God gave us commands in the New Testament strongly infers that the Christian believer still has a sin nature.
So which is it? Are we under law or not under law? Does the Christian believer have a sin nature or doesn’t he? The answer is both. The reborn spirit (human spirit) of the believer has no sin nature, is not under law, cannot sin, has partaken of the divine nature, cannot backslide or lose its salvation. “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin” (1 John 3:10).
The soul of the Christian believer is in the process of being saved and is not yet fully a partaker of the divine nature. The soul of a born again Christian has a sin nature. What Paul called the “law of sin” in the passage “the law of sin which is in my members”(Rom. 7:23) is just another way of saying the “sin nature.” The soul is “being saved” (1 Cor. 1:18 NASB). “The inward man[soul] is renewed day by day” (2 Cor. 4:16), until “Christ be formed” (Gal. 4:19) in our souls.
It should not seem strange that a Christian has two natures. The early church, in resolving the monophysite controversy at the council of Chalcedon in 451 AD declared that Christ has two natures. The council issued a creed adopted by almost all the church that acknowledged that Christ has “two natures, without confusion, without change, without division, without separation . . .” Christ has a divine nature and a human nature. Both are sinless.
The sinful human nature in the soul of each Christian believer is being transformed into the sinless image of God through sanctification. As we deny self and take up the cross daily God does a mighty work in our hearts. “For it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13 NASB). By grace we will “grow up in all aspects into Him, who is the head even Christ” Ephesians 4:15 NASB. Each Christian can say that his spirit is perfect, his soul is being perfected and his body will be perfect at the resurrection.
For a more in depth discussion of sanctification I invite you to visit my website at http://www.bnugent.org/ to check out my book titled The Cross, Self-Denial and the Manifestation of the Sons of God which you can download for free with either of the following links;