Did Paul Struggle With a Sinful Nature?

Romans 7: Did Paul struggle with a sinful nature?


Did Paul Struggle With a Sinful Nature?

The importance of context

Romans 7 is a great chapter… but not so much for so many people who refuse to read it in the context of the rest of Romans and the Epistles.

It is constantly brought up when I say we have no sinful nature. People can’t seem to read it in any other light, so today I’m going to try point to Romans 7′s context and ask that you take a fresh look at verses 14-25 with me today in the greater context of the scriptures.

First lets look at what Paul thought of His sinful nature, I think the Bible is clear enough of what Paul thought, but many seem to disagree, lets start in the immediate context of Romans 7 by looking at the prior chapter.

RIP sinful nature.

“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” Romans 6:1&2

“Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?” Romans 6:3

“We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” Romans 6:4

“We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.” Romans 6:6

“For one who has died has been set free from sin.” Romans 6:7

“Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.” Romans 6:8

“So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” Romans 6:11

“For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.” Romans 6:14

“But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed,” Romans 6:17

“and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.” Romans 6:18

“But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.” Romans 6:22

That’s just a brief example of the context, but He starts in Romans 4 explaining the old nature of man and building up the argument that the old man is dead and you are a completely new creation (2 Cor 5:17) In fact he uses euphemisms for death 42 times in chapters 4-8. It’s not a topic he vaguely touches upon, it is rather the very centre of the message!

My favourite way Paul chooses to explain just how much sinful nature is not a part of you is in Col 2:11 – it’s really so graphic it’s hilarious.

He states that the sinful nature has been circumcised. Wow. Thanks Paul for such a poetic image. The point being you don’t see many circumcised men with their foreskin taped back on! Sorry, now it’s me painting the gross picture.

So from Romans 6 Paul clearly states that we are dead to sin and it should be impossible for us to sin (v2), we are slaves to righteousness (v18).

So why do we struggle? I touched on this before in my blog titled “Why do I sin?” Since some people seem to be having a hard time with that blog I will explain again in hopefully in more depth.

By grace through faith

Grace flows from Faith.

“that is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all,” Romans 4:16

“Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” Romans 5:2

“For by grace you have been saved through faith.” Ephesians 2:8

Paul talks about the importance of our minds later on again in Ephesians 4:20-24

“But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”

He here stated that by renewing our minds we put off the old self and put on the new self… sounds something like Romans 12:2

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

It’s not just Paul!

But what do other New Testament authors have to say about this?

Peter says it in this way in 1 Peter 1:13-15

“Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct”

He says that it is ignorance that causes us to fall into our past passions the NKJV says it like this “not conforming yourselves to former lusts in your ignorance”

Even James talks about our faith creating good works. He states again and again in chapter 2 that it is faith that leads to good works.

True spiritual warfare

This is the reason that Paul constantly tells us to take our thoughts captive and renew our minds!

In 2 Cor 10:4-5 he says:

“For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,”

Wow… sounds like Paul is going to war against his mind! How many demons or sinful natures does he mention going to war against here? This is a very famous passage of Paul telling the Corinthians how to clean up their actions and yet he doesn’t tell them to war against their flesh or spiritual attack, rather against their thoughts!

Anyway, lets not get derailed by the multitudes of scriptures which talk of the sin nature having died and the war only being in our mind, lets look at Romans 7.

*Note: See here for more on spiritual warfare

Romans 7:1-6 – The law died and we are married to grace

Paul continues to build his argument about us being free from sinful nature for the first half of the chapter!

First of all lets remember as he starts Romans 7 he states very clearly

Verse 1 – “Or do you not know, brethren (for I speak to those who know the law), that the law has dominion over a man as long as he lives?”

He is talking about how the law is over man as long as he lives. And then uses an analogy of how we are married to the law, but as soon as the law died we were free to marry grace. We would in fact be cheating on grace if we were to go back to the law.

Read verse 2&4:

Verse 2 – ”For a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage.”

Verse 4 – ”Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God.

Lets read on – I’m going to break this up with thoughts so you can follow it

Verse 5 – “For while we were living in the flesh,…”

It’s clear Paul thinks we no longer are!

Verse 5 continued – “…our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death.”

Verse 6 – “But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.”

So even here at the beginning of chapter 7 Paul is still telling us we are free from the law which would lead to sin. We don’t live under the law any more but rather in the Spirit which causes Godly fruit.

Romans 7:7-13 – The law was good for one thing

Paul then goes on what seems to be a derailment in v7-13 to make sure we all know he is saying the law is not bad and that it had a purpose, but that purpose was to expose sin and had no power to stop it in any way. He’s saying very clearly that while the law is good, perfect and holy, it cannot make someone good, perfect or holy. He then continues to talk about the law being good but bringing death in verses 14.

What we don’t see in most non-literal translations is the first word of verse 14, FOR, it’s key however because it links the past tense passage to the present tense passage, these are not two separate thoughts!

Romans 7:14-25 – Here it goes

With all that building to the controversial v14-25 lets read the whole batch now in the context of the rest of the scripture:

“For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.” Romans 7:14-25

First of all lets stand in awe at how short this passage is, this passage, which has single-handedly been used to argue that man still has a sinful nature. It’s crazy that so many throughout history have hung so much on the reading of this one short passage out of context.

Secondly, lets look at what history has done with the passage, before St. Augustine in the fifth century the Christian body was unanimous that Romans 7:14-25 was referring to a pre-Christian experience. I’m going to say that again to be sure you got it – for more than 300 years after the New Testament was penned NOBODY thought it was the Christian experience to struggle with sinful nature and they rather thought this passage referred to a pre-Christian experience. After Augustine stated that it was in fact “the highest stage of Christian experience” (whatever he meant by that) it was held as common opinion that it was a present Christian reality for around a thousand years. Whilst a few contested it throughout those thousand years it was not until the 1600′s that it was again really challenged on a significant level when Jacob Hermansz, more commonly known as Jacobus Arminius asked how it could possibly be the case in the context of the rest of Paul’s writings. Since then there has been strong followings of both sides of the argument.

It’s also interesting to note that Augustine personally documents in his writings that he has a massive struggle with sexual sin among other sins. All it takes for bad doctrine to creep into the church is for one man of prominence to have a bad idea that lines up with some bad theology.

So how do I choose to read this passage?

Interpretation – The options

There are three primary options that are the main trains of thought in today’s church.

1) It is either Paul talking of past experience as a Pharisee under the law, knowing he shouldn’t and trying not to sin but seeing the law waking in his sinful nature the desire to sin.

or

2) It is Paul, an ex-Pharisee, a man who is trying to renew his mind not to be a slave to the law talking about what happens when he gives in to that desire and goes back to trying to do things in his own effort. He empowers the law to breed sin because he is not resting in the truth that he has been set free from the law.

or

3) Paul is struggling with a sinful nature and is asking God to save him from his wretched sinful nature.

Option number 3 in my opinion just seems incredibly weak when read with the rest of Romans and the rest of scripture.

The first two to me would suitably fit the passage in its immediate context of just Romans 7:14-25 and in the greater context of Romans and the whole New Testament. I personally think whichever of the first two you believe is kind of irrelevant though. In my opinion the context of this chapter doesn’t seem to be about a “sinful nature” at all but rather about the law. It’s probably a mixture of both option 1 and 2 as it speaks into both situations equally whichever you choose.

However first I want to tackle one issue that will exist for many, especially those who don’t like option 1.

It’s in present tense!

To help those of you who are struggling with the matter of the ”tense” I refer to page 185 of “A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament” by H.E. Dana and Julius Mantey in which it explains how the present tense can be used as what it calls, “historical present”. It states that in historical present, “The present tense is thus employed when a past event is viewed with vividness of a present occurrence.” Now whether or not it is the case in Romans 7:14-25 is still up for interpretation, but please don’t think it isn’t a good solid argument just because of the text’s present tense.

It’s not about sinful nature at all but rather about the law

The issue Paul is arguing here works either for a non-believer or a believer because this is not an issue of the nature of man, be it sinful or righteous. Rather it’s a statement of the problem man has, either way, when they choose to go back to the law. He’s stating – “when I try to do what is right I end up messing up, and when I try to avoid what is wrong I end up doing it anyway.” What’s he saying? “When I try to live by the law, I fall short!”

The passage is about the truth that whether you love Jesus or not – if you try to go it alone and make it about your right or wrong actions you will fail in your self-righteous attempts.

Even after you are saved and set free from a sinful nature and set free from the law, if you go back to the law it will cause sin and ultimately death to spring forth in your life.

It’s clearly not about a struggle with sinful nature itself. How can I state that? Because Paul killed that thing 42 times over the space of the previous 3 and a half chapters! It’s a statement of the state of man under the law and a cry for help for someone to redeem him from this constant need to walk under the law. Who will redeem him from this curse? Jesus. Now Paul no longer walks according to the law which brings sin and death but according to the Spirit which brings freedom.

Let’s read on – Chapter 8

Verse 1 – There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.

What’s Paul saying here? We don’t walk according to the flesh – i.e. according to our actions based upon what we can do, but according to the Spirit, based upon what HE can do.

Verse 2 – For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.

He is stating that the law of the Spirit is what sets us free from the law that brings sin and death. The “law of the Spirit” is walking in tune with the voice of the Holy Spirit. The “law of sin and death” is living based upon what is right and wrong by our own efforts.

Verse 3 – For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, 4 that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

So again, we couldn’t do this on our own, our own efforts to perform the law were weak and failed. We must rely on His ability to work good works through us.

Now I really want you to get this last bit here…

Verse 5 – For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.

Verse 6 – For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.

Verse 7 – Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.

Verse 8 – So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

This sums up Romans 7 perfectly… if you are going to focus on your own flesh, your own abilities to do right and wrong you will always fail. You can not please God and will in fact end up at enmity with God – God hates self-righteousness and only desires you to enjoy being a vessel of His righteousness. Why? Because self-righteousness hurts us more than we could ever know.

Note: For more info on the law and self-righteousness I’d encourage you to read my article “What’s the role of the law in the new covenant?” which goes into this topic in much more depth.

Conclusion – Gnosticism is alive and well in the church today

I’m sure this won’t have convinced many who disagree with me, but at least if it hasn’t I pray that it at least clarifies where I am coming from and that you can see I’m not just making up my argument. I’d honestly be really interested to see someone exegetically teach the presence of a sinful nature in the believer as well as I can the absence of it and I’m no Bible teacher! It’s just too obvious when you read through Romans in context.

The idea that we still have a sinful nature, that only our spirit is whole while our body and soul are still sinful is actually a Gnostic teaching. It’s really interesting when you read historically how much the first church father’s attacked this. In fact you don’t even need to leave the Bible to the first church fathers… John and Paul attacked this Gnostic teaching all the time in their writings! What is more interesting is how we allowed such a heresy to come into the church and not only that but allow it to become a generally accepted teaching!

I can’t help but see this as being a classic case of people reading their experience into scripture. Because we struggle with sin we build a Biblical argument that agrees with us struggling, rather than look to the Bible to see what we should do to free ourselves from the struggle. Namely, believe the struggle is over.

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97 Comments

  1. Thanks Phil. I would say that the NT teaches that believers have access to the Spirit’s resources but that sin isn’t absent. Consider 1 John and the warning against those denying they have sin or Galatians where Paul clearly envisages people who may need restoring. Now—if sin is still happening–where is it coming from Phil? Surely from the nature of the being doing it! 

    • Hey Rob, good question – I’m going to do a post on 1 John this week if that would be OK, I hate to give it such a small spot as here on the comments.

      1 John is a book John wrote while in Ephesus to directly attack the preaching that was happening on in this church that Jesus did not come in the flesh (Gnosticism) The verse you are referring to is chapter 1 of John, specifically in a portion where John was directly addressing the Gnostic “believers” who are influencing the church.

      He takes them on a journey (forgive me as I’m going to quickly paraphrase the verses as I don’t have enough time to look them up properly.

      v8 “if you say you don’t have sin you deceive yourself” (the Gnostics said their spirits were perfect and it was just their dirty bodies that were the problem) 

      v9 “If you confess your sins he is faithful and will forgive you” – clearly talking about an unbeliever as we know from the rest of scripture you don’t confess to be forgiven unless you are unsaved. That is not a believers reality! (See my article on confession)

      v10 “If you say we HAVE not sinned, you make Him a liar” – now he’s treating them like believers… saying you don’t deny you were a sinful being. (Like I said, a Gnostic teaching)

      But here is my point… look what his purpose was.

      Chapter 2 
      v1 “I say this so that YOU WILL NOT SIN” – That is the whole point of the gospel, you come out of sin so that you will not sin.

      Most Christians ignore that verse… but there is more for them to ignore.

      He goes on to talk about how if you are in the light there is NO darkness in you.

      Then he says if you think you are in the light but hate your brother (sin) then you are actually in the darkness!

      And it goes on.

      Chapter 3

      v6 “Whoever abides in God does not sin” – 

      v8 “He who sins is a son of the devil”

      v9 “whoever is born of God does not sin, because His seed is in him he CANNOT sin.”

      Just some food for thought, I’ll write a blog on it this week. So keep your eye out :)

      So my point is this, sin only comes from poor beliefs. Believing incorrectly about yourself and God. If you believe you are a sinner you will sin by faith.

      Think of this? How did Adam and Eve two perfect beings without a sinful nature sin? They believed a lie that they were not like God.

      Also as an encouragement John in 1 John 1:1 gives us a get out of jail, something we all know. “IF we sin, we have an advocate, Jesus Christ”

      Basically don’t focus on sin, sinful nature, sinning etc. Focus on who you are in Christ, perfect, righteous and holy.

      Hope that helps, look out for my post later on in the week.

    • Hey Rob, not sure if you saw it but I posted a proper post on 1 John on the homepage if you want to have a look at it. Hopefully it helps clarify my point. Let me know if you have any other thoughts and questions.

    • totally disagree with your assessment of Romans 7…I am guessing you already believed something to be true and then attempted to validate it…”the things that I hate to do I practice…”..your conclusions are very weak and your understanding of the sin nature is naïve and appear ignorant…(no offense intended)

      • Honestly Mike – I came to this conclusion kicking and screaming… I most certainly didn’t want to believe it as I was quite happy with the tradition I was brought up in… that is, that I was a sinner.

        Thanks for your comment – sorry you didn’t like the conclusion I have come to.

  2. Appreciate your encouragement, I’m believing that God is going to breath on our words to speak life into those still lost in self-effort and struggling with their dead old nature, the gospel does not fall to the ground but will find good soil!

    Thanks for that link too – I will have to check out Ryan’s stuff! 

  3. MANKIND HAS NEVER HAD A SINFUL NATURE, – EVER!!! The Devil NEVER literally had children, nor can he EVER! When The Word, known on this earth as Jesus Christ, came as Son of God to REDEEM us, He came LEGALLY, with a Divine Nature, in fallen/sinful flesh. He dealt with, and overcame the negative effects of the fight that we have with our FLESH, influenced by the Kidnapper-Father, causing us to think that his character is ours. Jesus Christ, as the Firstborn of many, re-connected us FULLY to, and showed us that we can live as our TRUE DADDY/GOD, on this earth: PURE; SINLESS; WHOLE; HEALTHY etc. etc. etc. Where do we get this concept that we had a sinful nature from, anyhow!!??!! MANKIND’S ORIGIN IS/BE ” MADE IN GOD”. NOTHING CAN TAKE THAT AWAY! This term should not even be a part of our vocabulary. Unless we eliminate it COMPLETELY, we will never grasp our Position on this earth brought about by JESUS CHRIST’S FINISHED WORK.

  4. Hi Phil,

    This is excellent!!!

    I only have 1 thing I really disagree on, it is in the 1st paragraph of your conclusion where you say “and I’m no Bible teacher!”. I do believe that is a lie we need to laugh at!

    I’m so encouraged by what you write and what you have written here.

    There are many you are going to equip through your teaching gift that will equip others to build the kingdom and bring huge damage to the kingdom of darkness. YEEEHAAAA!!! He is soooo good!

    Joy to you and your lovely wife

    Gary Bird

  5. Thanks for this, Phil! It’s beautifully thorough, yet not arduously lengthy. Really easy to read and reflect on with clarity. This argument for the redemptive power of Jesus cannot be over-articulated. Again, thanks bro. This is a meal I love to eat again and again.

    • Thanks Ethan – my biggest concern was it was pretty lengthy so hearing that is like music to my ears! Hope you are doing well and enjoying Indiana with your beautiful bride! 

  6. Hi Phil!

    Really interesting stuff. The way I deal with this problem is this:

    The spirit we are born with is a dead spirit. That’s the old man, the slave to sin.
    The Spirit we receive when we are born anew is a living Spirit. That’s the slave to righteousness.

    Then we have the body, which is a vehicle to do things with in this world.
    Then we have the Flesh, which is the power that dwells in our bodies to will our bodies to do.

    Finally, our soul could also be called our personality. It is the essence of who we are as individuals. It is our heart. Each heart has a unique shape and color and design.

    The flesh encompasses the rational mind as well as base desires – the id and the ego, I guess you could call it. 
    The Spirit and the flesh are at war for power over our bodies as our bodies are used to do stuff in this world.

    If the Spirit is willing our bodies to do, it leads our bodies into righteous action.
    If the flesh is willing our bodies to do, we sin, but that sin does not reflect our true natures as believers. So if I sin, it is not I who sins, but the flesh.

    At the end of our sojourn on earth, we dispense of the body and of the flesh. The flesh is burnt up, done away with forever. We get a new body to do stuff with. No matter whether we have a dead spirit or a living Spirit, our personalities are eternal.

    Thanks and nice to meet you!

    <3 Just

    • Thanks Just – I’m enjoying being connected to you, you have some really great insights. I love the way your mind works! I’ve read some stuff about dead/living spirit etc – it’s an interesting way to see it.

    • (Screech of brakes!!!!) Sometimes I am a bit of a theological “roadrunner”. I just posted to a question to Dell above what you have JUST answered here below. Oh, man!!! Thanks for this, VERY helpful explanation. Have a great day! Chug, chug chug……

  7. This to me, has been one of the most freeing life giving interpretations of Romans. It was only as I started to believe that my old man was actually dead, did I start to see new victories in my life in regards to my so called sin nature.  

    I no longer carry that dead old body around with me.

    I put that thought to death as well.  I quite like the new sparkly me. 

    • :D So glad that dirty sinful nature is dead in the ditch and we are no longer having to carry it around.

      It’s so true what you say, the breakthrough we see is astounding once we grab ahold of this truth! When we stop thinking we are sinners the sin in our life literally falls to the side.

    • Yes RiaD, you have got it! Keep going on, What a comprehensive finished work God has done. It truly is “so great salvation” Those who fail to see Phil’s revelation are truly missing what it’s all about.

    • Hi Phil.
      What a comprehensive finished work God has done. It truly is “so great salvation” Those who fail to see Phil’s revelation of Romans 7 are truly missing what it’s all about.
      Down at the feet of Jesus all our burdens are rolled away.

  8. Haven’t read the whole article but the conclusion is sound in my opinion. I would rather be in agreement with what I am for the rest of eternity than what I am not. The finished work is just that in my opinion. I think the process we are in could be pictorally viewed as a landscape that is being transformed. I often pray that the landscape of my soul be transformed….I think the soul is where the process is…the supernatural reality of who I am is that I am a New Creation :-) God Bless, paul

  9. Good article and challenge to the way we Christians think about the “sin nature.”  Well done.  I may pose some of these questions/challenges to my small group today. Thanks

    • Thanks so much Bill,

      It certainly is a new way of thinking in light of what so many of us have been taught for so long but once the Lord has opened our eyes to this reality it’s amazing how much we find it to be the central message of the gospel. We are left amazed at how on earth we missed it for so long!
      I’d love to know how your small group went :)

  10. Christians don’t have sinful natures, but then again neither does anyone else. Sinful flesh? yes. Sinful natures? no.

    • “Sinful flesh? yes Sinful natures? no.” Hi Dell, this is 100% new concept for me and I am still trying to get my grey matter to respond. Could you share with me exactly how you personally define that difference in practical terms when you are witnessing to others? That will be of great help to me. Tnks and blessings

      • If we have a sinful nature then Christ would have as well. Christ came just as we are, in the flesh.

        The term “sinful nature” seems to be taken from the word sarx, which is the Greek word for flesh. But then when this is pointed out to those that use the word sarx for sinful nature they try and say it also means sinful nature, which is false. When that doesn’t convince you of the sinful nature teachings they say that Adam’s nature changed when he sinned, but they are saying it as if it is something different than the flesh. Okay? Well then we should see this in Genesis, right?

        When we go back to Genesis we see that their eyes were opened and they knew both good and evil. So from that we are to conclude that it is there that Adam now has a sinful nature, right? Not so fast. As we also see God says, they have become as one of us, knowing good and evil. So if knowing good and evil equates to having a sinful nature then that means God has a sinful nature to. Big problem I would say. God does curse things, but a nature is not included in that list.

        There has never been a sinful nature in scripture. The age old problem has always been the flesh. God tells the Jews to circumcise the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiffnecked (Deut 10:16). And again in Deut 30:6; And the LORD thy God will circumcise thine heart….
        This circumcision actually takes place on the cross. It is the operation made without hands. The foreskin is the flesh of the male member that is cut away in circumcision. In Christ the whole body of flesh is crucified and put to death. Just as the flesh that was cut away in circumcision is no longer alive and has been discarded, the body of flesh is no longer alive and will be discarded as well.

        Also we see that Paul tells us in Romans 8:3 that the law is weak through the flesh. He is not saying the law is weak, but because of the flesh the law falls short of granting us eternal life. Read Romans and count all the times it refers to the flesh, whether it be the body, the members or the flesh. The NIV changes it sometimes to sinful nature, so I suggest using a KJV.

        Christ came to overcome where we failed. Flesh. We could never completely overcome the drives of the flesh. We were born a natural man and our flesh became our main focus and not God. God created us to be in complete subjection to Him and us to be in complete fellowship with God. That fellowship was broken with Adam and made whole again with Christ.

        I could say much more, but not sure if you will even see this, but if you do look me up on fb and we can discuss more of it.

        • I agree that ultimately a “Sinful nature” is not a biblical phrase or a very healthy concept. Ultimately the “sinful nature” is just a lie that we embrace and experience (as a man believes in his heart, so is he). I think it describes the condition of man when he believes that He can do something without Christ… the idea of “self” which I’ve written about quite a bit on this website.

          Thanks for sharing your thoughts Dell. I’m sure it will bless many and has caused me to rethink some of those passages again :)

  11. Phil, I need your help. I have read your articles and I sense some really good points but I am still confused. Perhaps it is because it is a new paradigm for me. But worst is I cannot identify where I am confused. :)

    You say that believers are free from a sinful nature on the one hand, yet you say that if they focus on the flesh (which is carnal and at enmity with God) then the law will come in and awaken sin in them. If the latter is true, how can the former be true, at the same time? Now, you are probably right and its my understanding of what you have said that is all screwed up. So let me share where I am coming from so you (if you don’t mind) can help me unscramble it where it is..well, all screwed up! :)

    My understanding for years has been that when we are born again we become new creatures. That means we have a new perfect nature hid with Christ in God (Col 3:3). That is our inheritance through justification and identification with Christ. Nothing can take that away from us, our status remains justified in Christ forever. Meanwhile, “back at the ranch”, we still possess a sinful fallen nature (the old man) which we must daily reckon as dead and or daily die to by God’s grace. This is sanctification. What then is the effect upon our soul and spirit of the new lfie that is ours in Christ, WHILST WE ARE HERE ON EARTH? As sons and daughters of God we are have all Heaven at our disposal and we are filled with the fullness of the Spirit of Christ and empowered to live (by grace through faith) what we not able to live before we were regenerated, a righteous life. In other words all the time we are led by the Spirit we are victors over sin and that’s specifically what grace is all about insofar as sanctification is concerned. However, our works are imperfect. SInce we retain a sinful fallen nature. our works are corrupted in some way by our sinful nature. Thus, although God works in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure, we will always come short of the glory of God. Our works can never commend us to God and we can never become perfect in and of ourselves. Are you in agreement with that summation?, if so how does what you say about us being free from a sinful nature reconcile with what I have said here.

    • Hi Brian,

      I actually don’t like that way of looking at it, this is actually what I’m trying to reform in this post. I don’t think it’s fair to the text to say we have a sinful nature and that we don’t have a sinful nature (nor does it really seem all that logical)

      For me the scriptures are clear. The sinful nature is gone, dead, buried, baptized etc.

      The issue we have is that we don’t really understand that the issue is no longer a sinful nature a fleshy nature that we war against. Rather it’s our mind that wants to go back to living in the “flesh”. That flesh is gone and dead, and yet as Paul talks about in Romans 6 we can choose to try and live that life again, even though it’s dead. You can try and live as that dead man.

      The idea of “self” which ultimately is the “sinful nature” is a lie. It’s no longer such a thing, we no longer exist outside of God, we can only exist IN CHRIST. But you and I both know we manage to buy into the lie that we operate in “self” and do so on a daily basis in many ways. This is what gives sin an opportunity, this is where our screw-ups occur. When we stop living IN HIM and choose to be blind to the truth and rather live by “ourselves” without Christ and operate based on our own strength.

      This existence isn’t really an existence at all, it’s a lie. It’s not longer you who lives but Christ in you. But a lie believed can be very, very real. And in this case it certainly is a potent reality.

      So, yes our sinful nature is dead, but no we don’t struggle with that sinful nature any more we struggle with our belief. The fact we don’t believe it’s really dead and it’s not longer us who lives but Christ in us.

      Hope that helps clarify a bit, perhaps with that understanding re-reading the article might make more sense.

      • Thanks Phil, that really does help. I have an extremely analytical brain and oftentimes when it sees a sentence that doesn’t make sense it seems to stop working altogether. You will perhaps appreciate how much of a challenge this is to me, an old timer, when after 38 years of believing in a sinful nature somebody comes along and says Hey that “its a lie”! The word ‘gulp’ comes into mind here. Here’s back to the Word!!!. And, thanks again.

        • You are so welcome – there is so much stuff we’ve all believed for so long that we need to be open to seeing in a fresh light. It’s not always fun when we like the way we think and we feel like we have it all down but it’s always so transformational as we start to renew our minds to Christ’s word.

          Bless you bro – thanks for the question – it was a good one and hopefully will help others!

          • Sanctification is the outward manifestation of an inward truth.

            Jesus Christ is your sanctification, you have been sanctified in Him… any outworking of sanctification is merely the process of discovering what he has already done and believing that truth.

            If you really want to work on a “sanctification”, relentlessly go after your beliefs that contradict what God has to say about who you are in Christ, anything that contradicts the truth that you are righteous, and as you go after these beliefs you will see the bad fruit in your life fall off the tree and good fruit come forth.

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  13. Two question for you: 1. Do you believe that there is a difference between a ‘sinful’ nature and a ‘fallen, corruptible’ nature? 2. Do you believe man has a ‘fallen, corruptible’ nature?

    • Hi,

      I believe that man has become lost to a delusion that they can exist without God. This is the idea of “self” to think that we can produce good fruit with out God is silly. This is what the scripture however refers to occasionally as living “in the flesh” as opposed to “in the Spirit” it’s to live “apart from God” rather than “with God”.

      I think that what many call the sinful nature is best described as that. Have we become sinful in our very nature. No. But we have become sinful in our belief that we became enemies with God in our own minds as Paul says to the Colossians. Our mindset created this fallen identity. Any thought that is contrary to what God thinks is ultimately to embrace unbelief and enter into “sin”… this is the state of many who try daily to live without God… or even many who think they are walking with God but don’t really walk with Him at all, trying to do everything by themselves and bear good fruit themselves.

      So what am I saying. Christians are perfect, holy and righteous. That is who they are in Christ and they do not have a sinful nature, nor do they have a corrupt flesh they are having to war against. The only war is in the mind.

      Hope that helps, I’d encourage you to read some of the other articles here on this website that might help you.

      Much love,
      Phil

      • Thank you for taking the time to respond, though I fear you didn’t really answer my questions (or perhaps you did in a rather round about way). Would it be safe to say that the answer to both questions then, according to you is ‘no’?

        If so, have you ever read St. Athanasius’ masterful treatise called ‘On the Incarnation’? Here is a link to it: http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/2802.htm
        I’m curious as to what you think of his thoughts on the fact that man, as a result of the fall, is in fact fallen and corruptible by nature and is thus prone to sin.
        Thank you again, and I look forward to hearing your thoughts soon.

        • Hi again,

          I’m actually a huge fan of Athanasius, he is one of my favourite church fathers. I actually think his peace “On the Incarnation” argues the point I’m making beautifully.

          As you are hearing me say, no we don’t have a corrupt flesh but it’s important to note that this is because of what Christ has done. I don’t reject that something happened at the fall of Adam, (would I label it a corruption of the flesh or sinful nature, no… I don’t think either is a helpful or biblical way to phrase it) but what I am saying is that Jesus, the second Adam. completely overturned that work of the first Adam. We cannot allow Adam’s work to be bigger or more lasting than Jesus’s work.

          I hope that clears up what I’m saying. There was a very tangible thing that happened at the fall of man. If you want to call that a sinful nature or a corruption of the flesh then so be it. My point I’m making in this article is that whatever you want to call it… there isn’t much Biblical evidence that it survived the cross :)

          Bless you my friend.

          • +Khristos anesti!

            Thank you again for your response. It is certainly clearer this time. :-)

            My reading of St. Athanasius is just the opposite. He, in fact, argues that man *does* possess a fallen, corruptible nature. Yes, the work of Christ’s Incarnation, Crucifixion, Death and Resurrection (all of it together, not just one alone) has *begun* the healing process of mankind’s nature. Yet, the fullness of that work will not be realized until the end of days. Why do I say this? Because mankind is *still* prone to sin (and even falls into sin) as well as other consequences of Adam’s fall (viz. we hunger, we require rest, we succumb to illness, we are slaves to our passions and emotions and we still die), we cannot say that we have somehow passed through and are *now*, in this life, perfected. Theosis is a process, a journey, not a destination.

            As long as we are still in the flesh (and please note, I am saying ‘flesh’ and not ‘body’ because the Church has always taught that the two are different concepts), we are still mortal, fallen and corruptible. Yet, Christ has begun to heal us through His redemptive works. We must still struggle against the flesh until the day we are raised up and are made incorruptible and immortal by grace in full(er) communion with God.

            Again, thank you for taking the time to discuss this with me.

            God bless.

          • No problem my friend, for me I think the scripture speaks for itself, nowhere in the NT do we find room for there still being a “sinful nature”. This to me is a prime example of us reading our experience into our circumstances.

            Righteous people with perfect natures can sin… Adam and Eve did it no problem ;)

            For me the only thing that isn’t renewed is the mind. I have lots of articles on this all over my website so feel free to read around and ask any questions you like. It’s been fun dialoguing – it’s nice to meet a fellow fan of Athanasius. Even if we do disagree on what he’s saying in some areas :)

            Much love!

          • +Khristos anesti!

            Thank you, fratello mio. There were a couple of things in your answer that struck me and was hoping to address.

            Firstly, you say that ‘the scripture speaks for itself’. I honestly don’t see how you could think this since, as you can see, you and I both disagree on what the Scriptures say. If they truly did speak for themselves, there wouldn’t be this difference of opinion. The fact of the matter is, we each interpret the Scriptures. Even St. Peter tells us, ‘Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation’ and further, we see in St. Luke’s gospel that Christ Himself teaches the 2 Apostles on the road to Emmaus the Scriptures and opens their eyes to it’s meaning. There is also the example of the eunuch and St. Philip. These examples show that the Scriptures do not speak for themselves, but require proper Biblical exegesis.

            Secondly, you state that Adam and Eve had ‘perfect natures’. How can that be when they fell into sin. Scripture teaches that everything God made was *good* but it was not *perfect*. Only God is perfect. God created man good and incorruptible but only so long as man abided in God’s grace. When man rebelled, he lost that grace. Again, St. Athanasius discusses this at great length.

            Thank you again for this very interesting conversation.

            God bless!

          • Sorry I can’t keep chatting about this as it’s getting towards midnight here.

            I probably shouldn’t have said “scripture is clear”, as you said we’ve drawn very different conclusions. What I meant was “I feel scripture is clear” – having 18 times in one chapter said that the “fleshly nature” is dead and in Colossians having said it’s physically been circumcised from us to mention just a couple of passages, I genuinely think it’s very clear. As you said though we can all draw our own conclusions – and interpretation is just that, an interpretation :)

            I have no personal concept for God creating Adam and Eve as having a sinful nature. The didn’t have the Spirit abiding in them like we do but they were in relationship with God and had no concept of right, wrong or even sin. As you said “God created man good and incorruptible but only so long as man abided in God’s grace.”

            They weren’t in any way “corruptible” until they made the choice to be corrupted.

            Thanks also for the conversation – was fun chatting about these things.

          • I’m sure someone would sin for the sake of sinning, but normally speaking, no one sins for the sake of sinning. So why do we sin?

            When God created man He created man to be in complete fellowship with Him. He also created man with certain needs. Things such as food, companionship, fellowship, sex, a desire to know things, to rule over the Earth and comfort. All of this was supposed to be within the confines of a relationship with God. But once man was put out of the garden for doing what God said not to( which came about because they were led away by the lusts of the flesh) their flesh became their main focus just to survive rather than God being their main focus. In other words their flesh over rode the better understanding of their spirits.

            Nothing has changed about that. Even today before we got saved we knew right from wrong, but something was much stronger than our desire to obey what we knew to be right and holy. And to confirm within our heart that we knew what we were doing was wrong, when we saw other people doing what we ourselves were doing we would condemn them for it.

            It’s not that we are born with a sinful nature or born broken, No, we are born incomplete, something is missing in our life that gives our spirit the strength to overcome the things that draw us away from God. That something is given to us when we repent and are born again. That something is the Holy Spirit and the fellowship that God originally intended for us all along.

            I have a question for those that might read this. Who was it that walked in the cool of the day in the garden with Adam? He still desires to walk with us even today, if we will come to Him on His terms.

          • I like this way of putting it Del, this is exactly what I talk about in my teachings on walking in the Spirit rather than relying on the law (right/wrong living).

  14. Hi Phil! Great insight! Thanks for this article, it’s been a blessing. Sorry,I’ll have to divert you a little here.Please help me understand 1 Corinthians 14:34-35. Is the Apostle saying women shouldn’t preach in church

    • Hi Mule – seems you asked this twice – you can find my answer above to your other comment :)

  15. Thank you, Phil, for the thorough explanation of Romans 7. I’m in complete agreement with you about the “sinful nature”. It’s dead–crucified with Christ. From that perspective, I’m still very fascinated with Paul’s “struggles” in Romans 7.

    In your 3 possible interpretation options, I agree that option 3 is off the table. But, I’m also going to venture out and say option 1 isn’t a realistic option either. Primarily because it’s every Christian’s struggle.

    Every Christian I know struggles with “I know what to do, but don’t do it. And the things I know I shouldn’t do, I do.” Talk to any Christian out there, and they face this struggle. I have yet to meet anyone who has “arrived” and doesn’t struggle with this stuff. (I have one friend who’s really close, though. :)

    So for me, interpretation #2 is spot on — “a man trying to renew his mind”. I think that is the Christian walk — renewal of the mind, changing the way we think (repenting). The more we can truly understand that sin is gone, and that it really has no power over us, then we can yield ourselves to the Spirit and his fruit will manifest.

    • Hi Russ,

      So glad you enjoyed the article and I’m glad you came to the same conclusion of interpretation #2 as I did.

      Thanks so much for the encouragement – it was really nice to wake up and see your comment first thing today :)

      Have a great weekend!

      • Phil, another question for you about “did Paul struggle with a sin nature”. Someone pointed out to me that Paul said in first Timothy,

        “It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among WHOM I AM foremost of all.” (1 Timothy 1:15 NASB, emphasis mine).

        I looked at original Greek of “whom I am” and he was speaking in the present tense. Why would he say he was still a sinner if he had this revelation of the finished work and that he was no longer a sinner?

        Any thoughts?

        Russ

        • Hi Russ,

          Believe it or not but this one is pretty simple :) No dancing around scriptures or anything required.

          Paul says this – “it is a trustworthy statement [or saying in many translations]…”

          And then quotes a saying that was very common. “Jesus came to save sinners of which I am the worst.”

          Now we understand he is quoting a saying lets look at it in it’s context…

          “13 I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, yappointing me to his service, 13 though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, 14 and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 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. 16 But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. 17 To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.”

          You can see the whole passage is in the past tense talking about his sin and salvation the only part which is in present tense is his quoting a saying that is “a very trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance” because if you can’t believe you are a sinner and need a saviour then you are going to have a real problem on your hands. But it’s important that we see it is not how he views himself any more. We can see this through the whole council of scripture – in fact he doesn’t view anyone that way anymore but as saints. As he states in 2 for 5 – he can no longer see anyone according to the flesh but after the spirit.

          Hope that helps – sorry I can’t give a more in depth answer.

          • Phil, thank you for your personal and specific reply. I know you have a lot of readers, and you probably get tons of emails, and yet you still reply specifically to almost every one. That’s awesome!

            I’ve got a ministry website as well (http://season.org) with lots of traffic and people needing help and information, and I know how it can be a lot of work. So, great job! Keep it up!

            Russ

          • No problem – your site looks great – thanks for all you are doing to see Jesus get his full reward in His body! :)

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  18. I usually don’t get in to discussions likes this, but I read your article on the 8 lies Christians believe, as well as this and a few other articles, and I’ve got to say…I think you’re walking a really, really dangerous line when it comes to our sinful natures/flesh, etc. “Christians are perfect, holy and righteous. That is who they are in Christ and they do not have a sinful nature, nor do they have a corrupt flesh they are having to war against. The only war is in the mind.” The Bible is very, very clear that since the fall, we are born into sin, dead, at war with God, enemies of the Cross, objects of wrath. Through faith in Christ, by the grace of God, YES, I am forgiven! I am given a new nature!! The old is gone and the new is come!! Now, through Christ and the work of His Holy Spirit in me, I CAN choose to walk in holiness and obedience. Before that, due to my sinful nature, I couldn’t. So, praise God!! We are no longer held captive to sin! But…to say that we do not have corrupt flesh…are you kidding? Is that your experience?! So…does you actually never sin anymore, because you’re “perfect, holy, and righteous?” That speaks to our POSITION in Christ, but not necessarily our daily experience. That’s what sanctification is for. Daily, I am being conformed to the image of Christ. That assumes that there is stuff to BE changed…the stuff of the flesh…my propensity toward sin will, by God’s grace, becomes more and more a propensity towards holiness. I am holy in POSITION, but in daily walking it out…wow…I’ve got some work to do…ALL by the power of the Holy Spirit and His grace…but I must choose to walk in obedience. I can certainly still choose my own way…for which I will need to repent. You also said in one of your articles that Christians no longer need to ask for forgiveness. Well…if we will sin, we do. And…well…we all still sin. Thanks be to God for His grace that covers me!!! Ultimately, my sin will not be held against me on judgment day because of Jesus’ righteousness that covers me. I do believe Paul, in Romans 7, was talking about his struggle against sin as a believer. Repentance is to be a lifestyle…we hurt our brothers and sisters, we still, at times, choose rebellion. And so, we still need to ask for forgiveness…not unto salvation anymore. That is finished when I put my faith in Christ. But, to be able to continue to abide in Him, to stay in fellowship and intimacy with Him, I need to be confessing my sin and allowing Him to change me.

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts Cammie, I appreciate you taking the time to read a few different articles and try understand where I’m coming from more fully.

      I think ultimately we aren’t going to change each other’s minds by discussing this online but hopefully we can both learn from each other and be encouraged. Personally I do not hold to the belief that sanctification is a process. Sanctification happened at the cross, to me that is very clear (although I am quite content saying that you are entitled to interpret the scriptures differently – many people do).

      Do I still sin? Absolutely. Does that determine who I am though? Not at all.

      Perfect, holy, righteous people can sin. That is very clear from the scripture… it starts with two very perfect, holy and righteous people doing just that!

      So for me it’s very hard to read Romans in context to see our new identity as simply positional. If we sin, that doesn’t mean we are a sinner. Paul himself says in Galatians 2 “have you noticed I still sin, don’t let that change what Christ says about me though”.

      I’m not saying it’s impossible to sin – all I’m saying is that if we find we can sin it doesn’t mean we have a sinful nature. Despite there not being any scriptures saying we have a sinful nature as a Christian and there being many many scriptures saying we don’t we seem to experience sin in our lives and throw out what the Bible says to try explain it.

      I think it’s very unfair to change doctrine to fit our experience. Rather experience should be conformed to good doctrine.

      I see it like this, the scripture says we don’t have a sinful nature and that we can only sin to the degree we have incorrect beliefs in our lives that are contrary to what God says. So if I find that I am still sinning then I am simply not believing well – I need to change my beliefs, not what the word says.

      At the end of the day I can say this without any question… I sin exponentially less than I’ve ever done so thinking I had a sinful nature.

      For me that’s all the fruit I need.

      Love you my friend, thanks for sharing your thoughts :) I definitely don’t need people to agree with me, my only desire is that people people think for themselves, looking at the Bible for themselves with the help of the Spirit and not just through the lens of their church tradition.

      • Greetings, not a fan of commenting on blogs/posts. But here I go… I still don’t get how two “perfect” persons can sin. Genesis said they were “good”, never “perfect”. I see Job and he was called “righteous” but I’ve come to the conclusion that your reading into Adam and Eve a description that is not there. Makes me wonder if they were perfect why then would God test them with not eating from the tree?

        It seems like many of us have different definitions of words. Maybe we should bring in Merriam-Webster or any dictionary or the original Hebrew words actually used.

    • Thank you Cammie. That is what I needed to hear as a confirmation of what I know to be truth. Proverbs:
      6” for the righteous falls seven times and rises again,
      but the wicked stumble in times of calamity.”
      I learn as my Father reveals things to me. I can not know what I do not know other than Him showing me and me loving Him so much that I want to understand and obey. Yes, ignorance plays a part in why I still sin, even after salvation, but confirmation comes from Him revealing it to me and the conviction of my heart to repent and no longer practice that which has been revealed to me as sin. I humble myself, knowing that I will never know it all as God does. Therefore, as I am in the human flesh, I cannot be totally sinless at all times. I am under Grace, not the law. Does that give one a free pass to just wallow in sinfulness. NO. I love My Father and Jesus and do chose daily to pick up my cross, die to the flesh and serve Him. I do agree with Phil, in that if I find I am still sinning, it is because I need to change my bad belief and lack of knowledge. My struggle is with those that say if we are saved we will never sin again. I have come to understand that one of the fruits of salvation is the desire to please God by evaluation of ourselves constantly, so that with each passing day, we learn to sin less, but at peace that I will not be totally sinless. If I am wrong, please correct me and show me. God bless.

      • Thanks for sharing Shan. I think that while we all have problems with messing up and dropping the ball through our bad beliefs I do think it is unbiblical to put our faith in a belief that says “I will sin till the day I die”.

        The scriptures just don’t lay out that expectation… the language of the NT is “if you sin” not “when you sin”. We are born again and made righteous with the purpose of getting to the point where we manifest it. Hopefully long before we die.

        Can I say I’m there? No. But I refuse to make death my savior from sin rather than Jesus.

  19. Hi again!

    I forgot to say…something I REALLY appreciate about your blog is how gracious you are with those who disagree. Seriously…I am encouraged by that…and that’s one of the reasons I chose to comment. You are respectful and gracious and kind in your replies…and that is so God-honoring. Thank you for that! :)

    • Thanks Cammie, that’s really kind of you to say. At the end of the day, what’s the point in representing Christ if people don’t feel loved and accepted :)

  20. Phil, would you say that everyone is already a new creation, they just don’t realize it yet??? It sounds like your saying that the only thing that happens at conversion is a realization of who they already were. If everyone is already a new creation then wouldn’t they already be seated in Heavenly places as well?

    • Hey Will,

      I’m going to purposely dodge the question there because I’m going to be posting something on this in the next few weeks. It’s a really big topic and I don’t want to just gloss over it briefly and not give the topic the justice it deserves. I also run the risk of being called a universalist and a whole host of things!

      In a nutshell here is a summary that could easily be twisted, misquoted and used to burn me to a stake but I know you’ll give me grace given the very brief description it is.

      In one sense that is true, in another sense it is not. From God’s perspective every person has had the full price paid for them and they are no longer in His eyes sinners, they have been forgiven, made whole and accepted by the Father. However as Paul said to the Corinthians (heavily abriviated 2 Cor 5:16-21), “we no longer see anyone according to the flesh… God, in Christ, has reconciled the whole world to Himself… therefore we proclaim to the world, reconcile yourselves to God!”. People still need to accept His work, His forgiveness and His acceptance to experience it. Those who do not acknowledge Christ’s work in their lives still go on living in a sinful identity – no matter how much of a lie existence it is that doesn’t make the experience of this lie, nor the consequences any less real!

      Sorry it’s really brief and I know it doesn’t answer all your questions but I promise in the near future I will. Don’t panic, I’m not a universalist, I believe in hell, I believe in heaven and I believe that everyone will experience one or the other!

  21. Hi Phil,
    This has been an interesting but so confusing journey. One thing I need you to clarify for me though is” what our salvation means to us in totality and in our everyday lives in regards to sin.”
    Looking forward to your next posts, I love them and you also
    And yeah, I also believe that u are a bible teacher :)

    • Thank you Kanu,

      I would love to know a bit more about your question, I’m not exactly sure what you are asking. Could you elaborate for me?

      So glad you enjoy my posts, thanks for the kind words!

  22. Hey Phil, interesting post…I was taught that the spirit is perfect…not necessarily that the flesh is evil, but I was taught the spirit was perfect, do you think that is still Gnostic? I’ve lived with that knowledge a few years now and tried to live it out…I thought that was just ‘walking in the spirit’ as opposed to ‘walking in the flesh’…Like Jesus says the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak…maybe our spirits isn’t necessarily perfect but is our lifeforce, e.g. James 2:26 the body without the spirit is dead. And spirit is pnuema which is figuratively described as breath/air…so we know we need air to live since we breathe it, therefore maybe our spirit is our life and can do things the flesh can’t do, but isn’t necessarily perfect? Also what do you think it means if our spirit isn’t perfect? Maybe it could sin or be oppressed? If you have time to reply, what do you think Phil? :)
    God bless!

    • Hi Chris – please do understand I am not saying the Spirit is imperfect… I’m simply saying that to believe since the Spirit is perfect our flesh must be the problem is not a belief that is very healthy and is in fact the root of many Gnostic beliefs. We must understand that our flesh has been just as redeemed as the spirit.

      Thanks for asking that man! I had not realised what I had written could be read that way.

  23. Hello Phil, I have been doing a lot of searching lately, like most people. I like your articles that I have read. A couple questions for you: 1. Some say the old man is the sin nature, others say the body of sin is the din nature? Do which is correct? I understand that there is a propensity toward sin but isn’t that taken away by The Lord giving us a new heart? 2. The flesh then can mean your body or “self effort”, it says it was crucified with Christ also. So I guess I still don’t understand what the flesh is that is crucified? 3. Are we when made new, changed in substance or just character and desires? Hope I made sense, using my iPhone to type makes it hard, lol. Thank you.

    • Hi Tim – great questions…

      The confusion comes in because the scriptures often interpret the Greek word for flesh (sarx) in different ways, flesh, sinful nature, body etc.

      It also at times seems like it is meant to mean different things so that brings in some confusion as well.

      Ultimately I see it this way.

      The “sinful nature” or “flesh” is that which describes us living as “self” – when we try to live separate to Christ.

      Of course this is in itself living a lie. It is no longer us that lives but Christ in us. But we are still more than able to choose to go back to living in “the flesh”.

      Paul explains this contrast frequently in his epistles of walking in the flesh – the fruit that comes when we try to go it alone. And the better way of walking in the spirit and allowing the fruit of the Spriit to be brought forth by the spirit.

      This is how I look at it and see it.

      So yes, the self was crucified and we were made one with Christ but it doesn’t mean we are not still free to ignore that and choose to try do things in our own strength.

      Which lets face it – we all choose to do at times.

  24. It is false to assert that before Augustine Christians believed universally that Paul was unregenerate in Romans 7. There is not one commentary available from any of the Apostolic church fathers on Romans 7. The first one to hold anything close to the unregenerate Paul was Origen who was a damnable heretic. Romans chapter 6 is not teaching sinless perfectionism either. When Romans 6:14 says sin shall have no more dominion over you it means you are freed from it’s eternal consequence. Not that you have some special ability to not sin anymore. Furthermore the context is not Romans 6 through 8, it actually starts from Romans chapter 1. People who have legalistic mind sets getting to Romans 6 and think they found holy grail of works based salvation because they don’t understand what it means. Mostly because they ignore the previous 5 chapters. Being in the flesh is trusting in your obedience to the law for salvation. Most people who believe Paul was unregenerate in Romans 7 are in the flesh.

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts Phil – I have a few audio messages on this site that walk through Romans from beginning to end and so I don’t disagree that the context is greater than 5-8.

      I’m not sure I really follow the point you are trying to make however in relation to what I’ve said in this article – I might just be being a bit dumb though. Can you clarify what exactly you are trying to say?

  25. Thanks Phil for this great explanation. Before reading this post, the Spirit led me to this same interpretation a few months ago after carefully studying Romans. What an amazing truth these passages teach us! Like you said, many Christians insert their own personal experience of struggle with sin into these passages that lead them to an incorrect understanding of what Paul was trying to tell us (I was guilty of this myself). To add to the latter sad truth, most Christians cannot identify with chapter 8 because many dont know what it actually means to live by the Spirit, so they remain under the law of their own righteous acts to try and do what is right, almost always failing and giving into sin. They have heard they should live by the Spirit, but many dont know how to get to that point so it’s not something they think about often, or worst, they forget about it completely. Yet, you can’t really be a Christian if your life is not lived in the Holy Spirit. And the only way to learn how to become friends with the Holy Spirit and allow him to direct your life and transform you into the image of Christ, is through much time in REAL prayer (not just uttering the same words everyday), meditating and studying the Word AND FASTING! Blessings to you Phil and to all my brothers and sister in Christ. Let’s learn to live by the Holy Spirit! :)

    • That’s wonderful Danny – so glad that God has been showing you the same things through you study of Romans. Great thoughts – thanks so much for sharing!

  26. Hi Phil.
    If I look thru the NT it is full of instruction on how to live. Call them commands or laws, it’s the same thing. You obviously wouldn’t suggest we ignore them, so what do we do? obeying them is just like obeying all the OT laws. Nothing to do with salvation or favor, just obedience.
    I need to know what to do so how do I know unless He tells me, & then i am obedient & thats law?????

  27. Hey there. Enjoying these articles as I have been taking a second look at this book of Romans. I am closer and closer to agreeing with you on the front that the believer doesn’t have sin nature. I guess where I am headed next is…what is the person born with. No doubt is the baby introduced and surrounded by a sin-infested world that’s ready to tempt the poor thing…but what’s it’s nature like?

    • Hi Zach,

      Honestly I don’t mind too strongly what people believe here – there are scriptures that can be interpreted a few different ways to support different opinions.

      Some believe that all are born totally depraved incapable of doing good.
      Others believe that we are born with a flesh which is sinful but can do some good if we war with it.
      Others believe that we are born with a mind at enmity with God – i.e. to believe differently than God – which is the root of all sin.

      I personally lean towards the latter. But as I said there are scriptures that can be used to support either.

      Hope that helps :)

  28. I am agreeing with the statements about the believer not having a sin nature. Doesn’t add up to me. I am interested where you would land on the topic backed up a bit: what is a person born with (in regards to sin)? No doubt born into sinful fallen world where temptation is inevitable but all that can be external to the child. What’s in him nature wise in your opinion?

  29. We certainly DO have a sin nature.

    That’s what Romans 7 is all about.

    Also, the first part of Romans…1:18 – 3:20.

    If you cannot see it there (our sin nature)…and if you cannot see it in yourself…then maybe you’ll never see it.

    • Hi Steve – thanks for sharing, I’m afraid I simply can’t agree with your conclusion on what Romans 7 is about. In the immediate context of Romans 7 it’s clear its about the law. In the overall context of Romans 4-8 it’s very clear it can’t be about a sinful nature. In the overall context of scripture the argument gets weaker still for Romans 7:13-21 to be about a sinful nature.

      You are entitled to your view though and you are most certainly not alone – I just can’t come to the same conclusion.

      Thanks for sharing.

  30. Hi Phil,

    My husband and I have ben studying this passage since we got married (3 years ago), and you are exactly right in your analysis that this passage is speaking of either a saved man (maybe Paul or maybe anyone) or an unsaved man trying in his own self effort to please God…. he is under the power of the law so of course he can’t. My husband is convinced and I tend to agree that it is a man who is being convicted by the Spirit through the law of his sinfulness and total inability to please God…… who can save him from this wretchedness? Christ thank God! This passage is always pulled totally out of context…. if you read in context of the whole chapter its obvious…. its speaking of the law and its purpose….. to bring us to Christ…… the tutor-Galatians 3-23 thru 25.
    Galatians and Romans fit perfectly together.
    The only thing I view differently is the first part of the post that the law dies so we can be married to grace. Romans 7:4 says We have died To the law so we might be married to Christ (who of course is full of grace and truth)….. we have died with Christ and raised with him to bear fruit unto God. I do not believe we have a sinful nature any longer….. we are now saints not sinners….. that’s all over he new testament…… would be wonderful to hear that preached……,most pastors and teachers focus on sin and people stay in bondage to it….. people like you are need to be Behrens and study the scriptures themselves…. much error being taught. I believe we do still have the flesh because Gal 5:16 says walk in the spirit and you won’t fulfill the lusts of the flesh……. can we live a victorious spirit led life? Yes, of course, the spirit in us will cause that to happen….. our part? Trusting in Him, not ourselves to bring it about….2Cor 3:5….not that we are sufficient to think anything of ourselves but our sufficiency is of God…… everything I hear and read in the Christian community gives the Christian control over the spirit and its the other way around……we trust Him to do His good work in us. God bless you Phil…..keep studying… the Spirit teaches those who are His.

  31. Law does not cause sin Phil. It strengthens it. Reveals it. It’s already there . It is not sin nature. That has to do with the heart and mind. We have a new heart and a renewed mind. It is no longer we that live, but Christ in us. The old man is dead. However, as Paul states, there is no good in our flesh. That’s why he turns to serve the law, the spirit of life in Jesus Christ, and turns from the sin, the bound and defeated sin, leaving his flesh to it. Read the last passage of chapter 7. It is pure gospel. Our liberty is to walk in the knowledge that we are dead to sin in Christ. Dead to this evil principle in our flesh that the law strengthens. However, we are dead to the law. If we fall short in our walk and fall under this evil principle, sin, we can say, get behind me satan. I am dead to you. Believing that Christ has defeated this evil principle, gives us life. It leads to a change in behaviour. Knowing that we are no longer judged in the flesh. We are now able to walk in the Spirit. If Christians are feeling the frustration of 7:14-25, then they are living the example Paul gives that he experienced as a born again believer. Only a Christian knows the law is Spiritual. Alive once before the law came, alive in Christ. Dead in your trespasses and then being born again, alive until the law comes. And in most churches it eventually comes. And then condemnation.

  32. Hi Phil,

    Hi Phil,

    Only to those who the Spirit reveals this truth to can understand it. Everyone else reads it through human logic. As much as we try to explain this truth, they just can’t grasp it because only the Spirit can confirm it. Great job in your explanation though! Blessings

  33. Dear Phil (my Brother in the Lord),

    I am so grateful for how the Holy Spirit has worked through you, and that I FINALLY understand Romans chapters 6-8. I’ve read so much heresy on these chapters, and my head was spinning. (John McArthur only made matters worse.)

    I was a Mormon for 45 years, and I read a book called “The Miracle of Forgiveness,” when I was about 16, it written by a “prophet” (Spencer W. KImball) back in 1969. It’s given to nearly every Mormon who is in need of “repentance” (fornicators, masturbators, drinkers, smokers, etc.) I urge you to get a copy and read it very carefully. IMO, it is the most saved-by-law-and-obedience-to-law ever written, and you won’t believe how SWK turns what Paul taught totally on its head.

    Your youtube video about not being under the law took a horrible yoke off me. I now FINALLY get grace. I now FINALLY understand – what a relief! I’ve been a defense lawyer for 20 years, and all you said struck true like bullet in the forehead (it just made so much sense!), and best of all, you were basing it all on God’s word, and breaking down the scriptures like I have to break down man-made laws in court. People who criticize you have simply NOT looked up the myriad references you give to support your words, and they simply reject Paul. (As a Mormon, it was all about JOSEPH SMITH, never about Paul).

    I have shared your thoughts with my family and friends. Praise God that we no longer walk in the flesh. Praise God for your insights through the Holy Ghost. Here is an example you can you use:

    For those of you who drive a care, ask yourself this question: if you got ticketed for every traffic infraction you committed (speeding, rolling through stop signs, failure to use the blinker, etc.) how long would it take you to lose your license? If you’re honest, it will be in just ONE DAY. Nobody obey ALL the traffic laws ALL the time – not even close. We break then WHENEVER we drive. To say otherwise, is to lie. But God does not rely on cops (who are scarce), he has a record of everything. For those who live under the law, I saw this: ALL your lawbreaking in ON THE RECORD. Thus, you have no chance!!!!

  34. Thank you for an excellent article. I’m with you 100%, and as a Sunday School teacher at my church, I also strive to share the same understanding with folks. There is though a few verses in chapter 6 that I do feel like somebody snuck in like a fly that spoils the ointment. Verses Romans 6:12-13. They stick out like a sore thumb. I was scanning your article to see how you would interpret them but I found they were skipped over. Why in the world did Paul stick in these off the wall verses?

    In Romans 7:25 Paul wrote this: “I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.” Then what is the point of Romans 6:12-13 where he exhorts us to not let sin reign in our mortal body or to not present our members as instrument for unrighteousness? Or perhaps we commonly look at these verses from a wrong mindset?

    Romans 6:12-14:
    12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its desires, 13 and do not present your members to sin as instruments to be used for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who are alive from the dead and your members to God as instruments to be used for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no mastery over you, because you are not under law but under grace.

    If sin reigns in our mortal body ONLY when we obey its desires then this flies in the face of what Jesus said about sin that already starts in the heart whether we carry it out or not. Perhaps sin reigns when it still has power to condemn us when we do sin, and its desire is to put doubts in our hearts of the all sufficiency of the cross of Christ.

    And if we operates from the position of a condemned sinner, then all our deeds are in the realm of unrighteousness because they’re not from faith. It’s only when by faith we consider ourselves as dead and buried with Christ, that all our deeds become instrument for righteousness. In the parable of the prodigal son, the prodigal’s brother operates from the outlook of someone under the law, all his work is not powered by the Spirit, but by the flesh. He was serving as an instrument for unrighteousness, because whatever that is not from faith is sin.

    This is the only way I can interpret Romans 6:12-13.

  35. Did Peter, as an apostle, not deny Jesus (a SIN) three times, AFTER knowing Him? Did Paul, as an apostle, not declare himself chiefest of SINNERS (sinners SIN, by the way), AFTER knowing Him? Did King David, as a king of God, not sleep with another man’s wife (adultery and fornication are SINS), impregnate her (while SINNING), then try to deceive (deceit is SIN) that man to hide his [David’s] SIN (not confessing sin is SIN), lie (lying is a SIN) to that man, betray (betrayal is SIN) that man, and then have that man killed (murder is a SIN), AFTER knowing God? Did Noah, being the most righteous man of his day, not get drunk (drunkenness is SIN) immediately after God SAVED him from the Flood?
    Your righteousness is as filthy rags unto God, you filthy, lying, prideful, anti-Christ rag of a SINNER! I rebuke you and your false teachings, you wolf in sheep’s clothing false prophet servant of satan. You can masquerade, but you are not perfect. Only Christ can make that claim. You don’t even use the KJV. Shame on you and your New World philosophies. Good luck being perfect enough to enter Heaven. Sarcasm intended!

    1 John 1:8-10 KJV
    “8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
    9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
    10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” ~

    You say you have no sin. You deceive yourself. The truth is not in you.
    You need to confess your sins. You know what they are. Stop pretending you are perfect. That’s at least one sin, right there: pride. And we all know what comes after pride: a fall.
    You make Christ a liar (another sin). His word is not in you.

    PS- you can save you lengthy lie of an explanation. God’s Word is good enough for me. Your opinion means jack-diddly. You are destroying Christ and making yourself a god; setting yourself on high. Shame on you.

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