The New Birth: 3. Two Natures - the Old Not Changed or Set Aside

 •  8 min. read  •  grade level: 9
Listen from:
In the first chapter we saw that it was a positive necessity that a man should be born again, ere he could even see the Kingdom of God. This grand truth comes out in John 3. It was all over with man’s moral history when the Son of God came. If it were possible for man in the flesh, that is, in his state as a sinner, and responsible for it before God, to have been recovered or restored to God, it would have been proved by his receiving Christ when He came. It would have proved that man in the flesh was recoverable, though he had sinned. But no! “He came unto his own, and his own received him not.” — “He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not.”
How important it is for a sinner to accept this place of total, irrecoverable ruin. This is the state in which God meets him, and discloses the purpose of His heart in His gift “of eternal life which God that cannot lie, promised before the world began.” Like Israel in the 21st chapter of the Book of Numbers, who had wandered for thirty-nine years in the wilderness, and in the fortieth year, when they spoke against God, and loathed the light bread, and were dying under the bites of the fiery serpents. There was nothing now to mend in them, when God says, as it were: — “I’ll disclose a purpose — I’ll bestow life where there is nothing but death!”
So in John 3, God discloses His purpose by His Son. He does not mend man as He is — He bestows eternal life! To this end the Son of Man must be lifted up — a rejected Christ on His cross, outside the world, bearing the judgment of God against sin, is the door of exit for the sinner out of a charnel house — a place of death and ruin, where there is nothing to mend, into a new sphere in His resurrection — having eternal life! The Son of Man on His cross must bear the wrath and judgment of God on the old man, setting aside that which offended God, and thus leave God free (so to speak) to bestow eternal life in Christ, as His gift to every one who believes. But if there was this necessity on man’s side, there was another feature which came out as well. It was not the need of man merely which was the occasion of His thus acting. It was to disclose Himself. His Son comes down as the missionary of His heart, to ruined man, to reveal that it was the emanation of His own mind — the device of One whom man maligned, and whom Satan had slandered, to give proof which none could now gainsay, that “God is Love”! Love which gave unasked, its most prized and valued possession — the Only begotten of the Father — to reveal Himself — to give man a good opinion of God! It is God,” who “so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:1616For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)).
This gift of eternal life does not in any way mend or remove the old man. True the old man is judicially made an end of before God in the cross. Nor is it something in man apart from Christ. “This is the record that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son” (1 John 5).
Has my reader accepted this? learned that his evil nature, as it is now, will never go to the presence of God? If so have you accepted eternal life in the Son of God? Thus owning by faith as dead, as God has done, the evil nature which you now possess?
This life comes to the sinner, who by faith accepts it, through death. The sinner lies in death; “You, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh” (Col. 2). God sends His own Son, a sacrifice for sin — He enters this domain of death. — When entering into it, He bears the judgment of God which was on man, so fully, that God glorified in all His nature and attributes by its perfection, raises Him up from the dead; and every one who believes, “hath He quickened together with Him.” The believer now lives in Christ before God — God recognizes no other life than this; and “all his trespasses” have been “forgiven” (Col. 2:1313And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; (Colossians 2:13)). All left behind, as it were, in the grave of Christ — the nature atoned for, and set aside judicially in the death of Christ: the believer lives now on the other side of death and judgment, in the life of the risen One (John 12:2424Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. (John 12:24)), who was dead; while at the same time his old nature remains in him. This eternal life is something that he had not before: he is now a child of God, having put off “the old man,” and put on the “new” (see Eph. 4:21-2421If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: 22That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; 23And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; 24And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. (Ephesians 4:21‑24); Col. 3:9,109Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; 10And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him: (Colossians 3:9‑10)).
Let us be clear and distinct in our apprehension of this, where so many are at fault. It is true, that for condemnation, and before God, the old nature is set aside — root and branch — tree and its fruits — and is gone forever: it is not on the believer in His sight; and yet, all the while, the old nature is in him — an enemy, and to be treated as such, and overcome. He will bear about this nature till he dies or is changed.
God had sought fruit from man in the flesh, and had got none. The Lord in His own ministry in the gospel, always addresses man in the flesh, in this state as responsible. When He had tried him out, and had got no fruit in the flesh, we find Him saying of it, “The spirit is willing, the flesh is weak.” He then charges Himself with the judgment due to it, dies, and rises out of the judgment, imparts, as God’s gift, His own life, as risen, to the believer, who now lives in Him — Christ is His life — his life is hid with Christ in God (Col. 3:3,43For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. 4When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory. (Colossians 3:3‑4)). God never seeks fruit again from the old man — never addresses it, or recognizes it in any shape whatsoever. Souls, when they are not in liberty, do recognize it, and often with deep sorrow — often seek fruit from it — seek, too, to repress its workings in their own strength, and with the desire and conviction that it should be repressed before God. God addresses the new man, recognizing the Spirit as life, and as making good the life of Christ in the believer. This nature never amalgamates with the flesh. Each has its own distinctive character. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is Spirit,” that is, it has its nature from the Spirit of God, who quickens, or gives life; the flesh profits nothing.
Now, although this is so, there is no necessity in any wise that the Christian should walk in the power of old nature, or practice its outgoings in any sort whatever. Nay rather, God gives grace and power, as we may see, to overcome its workings, and keep it practically in death, where He has placed it — to reckon it dead, as He reckons it.
Paul’s own case is a remarkable one, and illustrates the fact that the old nature, the flesh, is never set aside in the believer, or changed, or improved by the very highest realization of the place he has in Christ. Even then, it needs the dealings of God to correct it, and enable the believer to hold it dead. We find in 2 Corinthians 12, that he had been in the third heaven, and could glory as to his being a “man in Christ.” He comes back to the consciousness of his life here below, and the flesh in Paul is so incorrigible, that God is necessitated to send him a thorn in it, to buffet him, lest the old man might be exalted above measure, through the abundance of the revelations. One would have thought, that if ever a man’s evil nature was likely to be removed, or extracted, or changed, it was Paul’s. Yet, no. Paul comes back to his conscious existence as a man, and he discovers that God in grace sent the needed corrective, to that which would otherwise have hindered him. Paul thought at first, it was something he had better be rid of, and he prayed thrice for its removal; but when he discovered it was the Lord’s grace in supplying that which kept him in the sense of his weakness as a man, that the strength of Christ might he unhindered to act in him, he then says, “I glory in my weakness” (as a man — not infirmities), for “when I am weak then am I strong.”
In fine, God does not remove the old nature when He imparts the new, — nor is His working the making better of the old. The believer is a compound creature, having two natures as distinct as possible the one from the other —