The sin nature - What is it?

The sin nature is that part of human beings that impels us to commit sin. The Bible teaches that we have a sin nature. Not only do we commit sin, but it is our nature to do so. This teaching is in contrast to that of many religious movements that deny original sin or total depravity. The sin nature is mentioned in Romans 7:25; 8:3; and 2 Peter 2:18. It is called the "earthly nature" in Colossians 3:5.

When God created Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, He called them "good" along with the rest of His creation. They had no sin. However, their eating of the forbidden fruit had a devastating spiritual effect. Adam and Eve's children did not follow the "good" creation of God; in fact, the first child mentioned in Scripture, Cain, murdered his brother (Genesis 4:8).

Seth, another child of Adam and Eve, was born with this sin nature as well. Genesis 5:3 notes, "When Adam had lived 130 years, he fathered a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth." Each person born since has likewise entered the world in the likeness of Adam, inheriting a sinful nature that stands in need of redemption by God's grace.

In Psalm 51:5, David says, "Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me." David saw himself as a man whose sinful parents had brought forth a sinful child. David recognized that he possessed a nature that would sin and fall short of God's glory (Romans 3:23). David's son Solomon would later write, "Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins" (Ecclesiastes 7:20).

The prophet Jeremiah also comments on the sin nature: "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?" (Jeremiah 17:9). Isaiah says, "We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away" (Isaiah 64:6).

The book of Romans offers the most comprehensive look at the human condition. In Romans 5:12, Paul writes, "Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned." Adam's sin started it all, and now we are all sinners. Those who deny the sin nature are self-deceived (1 John 1:8).

The unfortunate result of our sin nature is that we sin. Being sinners by nature, we cannot help but sin. These sins separate us from the perfect, sinless God. Yet God has provided a way to receive forgiveness through Jesus Christ. Jesus spoke of salvation as being "born again." He told Nicodemus, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, 'You must be born again'" (John 3:5-7).

Only Christ can overcome the sin nature within us. When a person trusts in Christ for salvation, he or she receives a new nature. The "natural man" becomes spiritual (see 1 Corinthians 2:14). Believers "have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator" (Colossians 3:10).

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