Summary: Justification does not destroy our sinful nature. It is a lens thru which we see our propensity to sin
In his writings entitled The Confessions, Saint Augustine addressed himself eloquently and passionately to the enduring spiritual questions that have stirred the minds and hearts of thoughtful men since time began. Written A.D. 397, The Confessions are a history of young Augustine's fierce struggle to overcome his licentious ways and achieve a life of spiritual grace. He offered this commentary concerning man’s propensity (inclination) to sin:
“Sin arises when things that are a minor good are pursued as though they were the most important goals in life. If money, affection or power is sought in disproportionate, obsessive ways, then sin occurs. That sin is magnified when, for these lesser goals, we fail to pursue the highest good and the finest goals. Therefore, when we ask ourselves why, in a given situation, we committed a sin, the answer is usually one of two things. Either we wanted to obtain something we didn’t have, or we feared losing something we did have.
A. Authors, philosophers, theologians and others more capable than I have considered the human condition inexplicable. How is it that man can possess two natures?
B. We understand that man possesses a sinful nature from birth; but how does one replace it with a spiritual nature upon meeting Christ? Remember now, we are not talking about our behavior, we are talking about our nature.
Ever compliment a parent on the behavior of their child just to hear them say: He’s on his best behavior he’s not like this most of the time? That is the difference between behavior and nature.
1. Christ is the power to change our behavior. Yet, some may argue that one’s behavior is merely a reflection of his nature. If we follow that line of thought, we must ask ourselves: “When I am born again, does Christ change my nature?” And here is one you’ll find even harder to answer: “If he changed my nature, why do I continue to sin?”
2. If you think that is hard to explain, try this one: “Can man possess two opposing natures at the same time?”
C. To answer these questions, we must answer three others:
1. What was the purpose of the Law (i.e., OT, Mosaic Law)?
2. Was the Law good or bad?
3. If the Law was good, how could it cause death?
D. If you begin to feel overwhelmed, don’t worry; scholars agree that Romans 6-7 are frustrating and difficult to interpret. In fact, many suggest these two chapters are among the most difficult in the entire Bible. My prayer is that by the time we leave today, you will have a new understanding of this critical component of Paul’s theology.
[Justification does not destroy our sinful nature. It is a lens thru which we see our propensity to sin.]
II. THREE QUESTIONS ABOUT THE LAW (7-13)
A. What is the purpose of the Law?
1. It reveals God’s character. Imagine trying to please God not knowing what was important to him. The Law removes the mystery of what God values in his people.
2. Through the Law we become conscious of sin (7). Where there is no law, there is no awareness of sin. (I did not say, “there is no sin”; I said “there is no awareness of sin”). The law awakens man to his sinful nature.
B. Is the Law then good or bad? The law is good (12) because it brings man to his knees before a holy God. It removes any thought of man being righteousness on his own merit.
C. If the Law is good, how could it cause death? Man is dead in sin when he does not respond to the condemnation of the Law. Paul’s answer is in v.13. This is tragic, yet the value of the Law (awareness of death and condemnation) makes it good.
III. THE BIG QUESTION: Why then, as a Christian, do I continue to struggle with sin? Do I possess two natures?
A. No. We have only one—the sinful nature. At no time in his earthly existence do we have anything but a sinful nature. So how do we explain 2 Corinthians 5:17?
1. When we accept Christ as Savior, he justifies us (declares us just, or righteous) before God; not because of our works, but because of his work on our behalf.
2. The new creation (and its subsequent nature) that we become occurs only while we are in Christ. Those who are not in Christ accept Jesus as Savior, but continue to live in the lifestyle they choose. Jesus is Savior, but not Lord.
3. Living this way brings out the sinful nature. If we are not in Christ, we pursue the interests and desires of our sinful nature (the old man) instead of the interests and desires of the new man.