There have been many questions I have struggled with as I’ve been going through the past several chapters. One is the question I’ve put as the title of this post. “Is our sinful nature really dead?”
However you answer that question colors your whole view of Romans 7, particularly verses 14-25. Is Paul talking there about himself as a non-Christian, coming into contact with the law, and facing the reality that he can’t keep it? Or is Paul talking about himself as a Christian who struggles with sin even after he is saved?
So before I actually look at the text, I’d like to address this question of the relationship between our sinful nature and ourselves.
It’s admittedly a hard question. I can see both points of view, and like I said, I’m still struggling with it. Come ten years from now, I may see things differently. But here’s my take on it for now.
As I mentioned before, the “sinful nature” is the part of us, a deeply-ingrained attitude, that was in utter rebellion against God. From the time we were born, this attitude was there, and it started to permeate every aspect of our being. Our body, our thoughts, and our actions. And it so permeated these things, that it became “us.” In other words, the sinful nature came to define who we were. So to me, the “sinful nature” or the “flesh” is really two things. It is the cause, and it is the result. To go back to our “bad infection” illustration, it’s very much like how a “zombie virus” ultimately defines the person it infects.
What happened at salvation? That part that lived in utter rebellion against God was taken away. It was crucified and it died. Now we are married and joined to Christ instead. But the problem is, we still see the residual effects of what has already died in our lives.
Let’s put it this way. A husband abuses his wife, and scars her physically and emotionally. The husband then dies. He no longer has an active effect on his wife. But the influence he wielded on his wife while he was alive is still very much active in her. The physical scars still remain as do the emotional ones.
And in many ways, the husband has defined who the wife has become. In her future relationship with men, her former husband’s influence often leads her into behavior that is harmful to her. She may date men that are abusive as her husband was, for example. Or even if she finds a good husband, she may find that she is unable to sexually respond to him because of the abuse she had received from her former husband. Only through time and the touch of a healer can she be freed from those effects that now define her.
The same is true with us and our sinful nature. Our sinful nature was distrustful of God and lived in rebellion against him. And it trained our mind, soul, and body to live that way. It came to define who we were as people. But when the sinful nature died, though that part of us no longer has an active effect on our lives, its residual effects remained. And as long as we live, we’ll be battling those residual effects.
So in the sense that the rebellious part of us that we were born with is dead, we can say our sinful nature is dead and crucified. But in the sense that our mind, soul, and body is still feeling the residual effects of that which is now dead, we can say the sinful nature is still very much alive.
The good news? The sinful nature, the part that was in utter rebellion against God, is in fact dead, and can no longer actively affect us. More importantly, the doctor is in. And that’s what we’ll see in the next few blogs.