Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Sarxful Nature?

Does anyone have the insight/inside information that the translators of the NIV had when they translated the Greek word "sarx" as "sinful nature" twenty three times in 6 of Paul's epistles??  (I counted). If so, I'd just like to understand it so I can wrap my head around the idea of how a righteous person can have a sinful nature!!

This is kind of a follow up to my last post ("New, or Improved?"), as well as the comments there.  In Christ, we have become partakers of the divine nature! (2 Peter 1:4). We have become "one spirit" with Him. (1 Cor 6:17).  God lives in us. If we had a nature that was sinful, He could not indwell us. What happened, then, is that our sinful nature that we were born with, in Adam, was crucified with Christ on the cross. It was nailed to the cross, and it died, never to be brought up again or brought to life again! We were then resurrected with brand new life - with a brand new nature. Not a sinful nature, but a nature of righteousness, holiness, blamelessness. Our nature in Adam was sinful. Our new nature in Christ is righteous. I don't believe for a moment that we have two natures coexisting together - a sinful nature and a righteous nature. It's one or the other, brother. :)

The Apostle Paul does talk about sin that dwells in our "members" (bodies). (See Romans 7, especially verses 17 and 20). Sin is not our nature; rather sin dwells in our temporary, corruptible bodies. Our bodies are not who we are. Our bodies are not our identity. Our bodies do not define who we are. Our bodies will eventually be put in the ground or burned into ashes, but "we" will live on. "We" will live on, because "we" are spiritual! We are spiritual beings with a righteous nature.

The way to overcome, and to live in victory over the sin that dwells in our bodies is not to think of ourselves as "sinners saved by grace." We are not "sinners." We are righteous saints who sometimes submit to sin that dwells in our members.

Paul, even when writing to churches who had very obvious problems with sin, never referred to them as "sinners saved by grace." He didn't say "you're not perfect, just forgiven," either. No, Paul referred to them as saints. Saints are holy people, set apart, righteous, justified, cleansed, purified. Paul addressed them as who they really were - saints - and if you read what he tells them about their sin, he in essence tells them that since they are righteous, since they are saints, since they've been forgiven, since they are holy, since they've been washed and cleansed and purified, and since the very life of Jesus lives in union with them, then by the grace of God and by the Spirit they should therefore put to death the deeds of the flesh.

Again, he does not call them sinners. He doesn't ever say they have a sinful nature. Rather, he brings to light the truth of their God-given holiness and tries to appeal to their already-secure righteous nature as the means by which to overcome and put to death the deeds of the flesh. Even when Paul refers to himself as the "chief of sinners," remember that he's not talking about his current condition. He's referring to his past. If anyone had the right to crown himself the chief of sinners, it was his past life that would reign supreme! But now, having become a partaker of the divine nature, Paul and those he wrote to, and you and I and anyone else who has been born again simply through faith, can never call themselves "sinner" again!

Why get into this, Joel? So what? Isn't it just semantics? Some say we're sinners saved by grace. Some say we're saints saved by grace. So what? We all sin in the end, right?

The reason I bring this up is because I believe that knowing who you are - your true nature, your true identity as a saint in Christ - makes all the difference in how you go about living your daily life in Christ. If you're just a "sinner" who's begging God daily for grace, then I believe you've missed the whole point of the life that God gave us. God didn't come and dwell in us so that we could say we're merely sinners saved by grace. He deposited His VERY LIFE into us! His life has become our life. His life is divine. We have become partakers of the divine nature! If we see ourselves in this light - the light of the truth of who we really are - then we will begin naturally growing in ways that "sinners" can never grow. What shows on the outside will begin to match the true reality of what has already taken place on the inside.  This all revolves around us knowing God as He truly is and knowing who we truly are in Him.

Addition to this post 3/20/16. Today I was researching a bit more on the use of the phrase "sinful nature" in the NIV. In the original NIV (1984), the word "sarx" is translated as "sinful nature" 23 times, which I noted above. What I didn't realize is that an additional two times it translates "sarx" simply as "nature," and one time it translates "sarx" as "sinful human nature," for a total of 26 times. But in the newest NIV (2011), they have changed all of these to "flesh," except in 2 instances. (Rom 7:18 and 7:25)

Why they didn't change those two, I don't know, but the main thing is that for some reason, it's only the original NIV that chose to translate "sarx" as "sinful nature." Other versions use the correct word, "flesh." I don't believe Paul ever meant to give us the impression that in Christ we have a "sinful nature."


  1. We recently heard a new one: we are really sinner-saints. I think that's found in 1 Snuffalupogus 3:4...

  2. LOL. That's like saying that beautiful flying insect over there is a caterpillar-butterfly. :)

  3. I am having hard time believing that the people who (claim to be Christians) keep on asking what they already have (forgiveness) are saved.
    Bible says, without faith it is IMPOSSIBLE to please God. Now if we ask God to forgive us again and again, is that faith?
    Without faith how are we saved?

    Christians are saints in God’s perspective because God sees us as spirit beings and spirit is what became new when we put our faith in Christ.

  4. Yep indeed, Bino, we're saints because God has exchanged our "sinner" life for a "saint" life, and we're not both.

    My thinking is that a butterfly is still a butterfly even if it still thinks it's a caterpillar, due to lack of understanding the fullness of what it really is. I think it just means that the butterfly won't enjoy the "abundant life" of being a butterfly if it thinks of itself as a caterpillar-butterfly. :)

  5. Very well said!

    Being blessed every day by your posts!!

  6. Hi Erica... or is that URKA? LOL

    Thanks for the encouragement. :)

  7. Hi Joel,

    I'm still travelling veeery slowly through your archive.

    When I read your comparison of a caterpillar and a butterfly, I thought of the story of the ugly duckling. Although he was really a swan, when he hatched, the ugly duckling was raised by a mother duck and believed he was a duck. Although he tried his best to be a duck, he was totally unsuccessful and lived most of his life in frustration and defeat. It was only when he realized that he was actually a swan that he was able to live satisfied and fulfilled.

    The same is true for us. It's only when we realize who we really are that we'll be free to be all that we can be.


  8. Aida,

    I love your ugly duckling/beautiful swan description! I think it's very true that many in the church today think they're ducks, and they bring us along and try to get us to quack and do all the things ducks do and to look like ducks, and so we go along with it because we don't realize that we're swans! You're so right, that we won't begin to live in the freedom of who we are until we realize who we truly are.

  9. Joel, thanks for your additional comments.

    Darling hubby shared his cold symptoms with me so I was a little foggy when I wrote my comments. You said so beautifully what I was trying to say but I couldn't quite get it altogether.


  10. Joel, I read your thoughts about Romans 7 referring to sin dwelling in the believers temporary corruptible bodies. My thoughts......I believe this passage is Paul referring to his life before his conversion, under the law. Throughout the whole passage he makes reference to the law. In verse 21 he says he finds a law that 'when I would do good evil is present with me'. I agree we do not have a dual nature, it's the unbeliever that has the dual nature, a nature of good and evil, Not a divine nature. In verse 23 he comments that the law in his mind has 'brought him into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members'. The Christian has the power through the new nature not to be be brought into captivity to the law of sin. Romans eight verse two says for the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. Paul's description here seems to be that he is unable to control the sinful nature that arises within him. And then he asks who shall deliver me and says that Christ will. When did Christ deliver us? that was at the cross. I believe this passage in Romans seven regarding Paul's difficulty can only be referring to Life before his conversion when he was still under the law. I don't see how it can be referencing the believer as one who is brought into captivity to the law of sin. I would be interested in hearing your thoughts.

    1. Hi Donna,

      I've been back and forth in my opinion on this over the years (especially from the time I wrote this 9 years ago), and what I've come to at the present time is still the idea that "in my members" means "in my body," and my body is still corruptible and will be buried and will rot or will burn and be turned to ashes, and that there is still this thing called the power of sin that dwells there. It's not who I am. It's not my identity. In Chapter 6 of Romans, when Paul is talking about how we've died to sin, Paul goes on to tell the believer, "do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts." This tells me that we are indeed dead to sin, spiritually speaking, but yet we have an ongoing choice as to whether or not to let it reign over us in our bodies or if we are going to reign over it by the grace of God.