THE TWO PERSONALITIES
We are taught by the Scriptures that every spiritually born-again person possesses two natures; the first received by our natural birth which is the “sin nature” and is anti God; the other is the new birth which is the nature of God Himself that comes through our salvation.
The sin-nature is such because we inherited it from our fore-father Adam who died spiritually because of his disobedience to God’s specific command “And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.”” <Gen.2:16-17(NIV); cf Gen.1:27; 2:7; 3:17-19; Rom.5:12>. Consequently, every living person on this earth has been born with the sin-nature, and there is nothing that any one of us can do the escape the ensuing condemnation of spiritual death <see Psa.51:5; Jer.17:9; Rom.3:10-12>. This does not mean that there are no “good” people in the world, many are quite refined and cultured, generous, charitable and even religious, but none are “righteous” or seek after God, and this fact is sometimes difficult to accept especially when it has to do with family and respected friends; because such people continually insult God’s rights, deny the divinity of Christ and are unmoved by the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ <see 1 Jn.1:10; 5:10; cf Gen.6:4-5>. Ever since the creation, mankind has struggled to improve, to eradicate wickedness and make the race better, but sadly we have only become worse. The sinful nature that is within us constantly comes about in every thought, word and action <see Mk.7:21-23; 1 Cor.2:14; Rom.8:7-8; Eph.2:3>; thus, such people cannot obey, please or understand God.
Conversely the believer in Christ, although still possessing the “old sin-nature” which is unchanged and unchangeable, has received a “new nature” which is patterned after God in righteousness and true holiness; and this is exhibited as a “new creation” and not merely a transformation. As we received the sin-nature by natural birth, we receive the new-nature by rebirth: “Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”” <Jn.3:3 (NIV); cf 1:12-13>. We must be careful, however, that we are not confused by the present popular teaching of, “The universal fatherhood of God and the universal brotherhood of mankind”, since only those who are born again spiritually are children of God and accepted into the family of God. Adam is referred to as the son of God, but the scriptures are careful to state that Seth is the son of Adam (not God) <cf Gen.1:27; 5:1-3; Lk.3:38>. So the believer is called to “put on the new self” (person) that is a characterization of righteousness and true holiness and in accord with Christ <see Rom.8:10; Eph.4:24; 2; Cor.5:17; Gal.2:20; Col.1:27; 3:3-4; 2 Pet.1:4; 1 Jn.5:11-12>.
It is important to understand that this new nature which is Christ’s, is existent within the believer together with the old sin-nature, and this fact is addressed by Paul where he comments – “So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me.” <Rom.7:21 (NIV)>, and the Scriptures have other examples of this internal conflict <cf Job. 42:6; Dan.10:7-8>. So it is evident that there is constant conflict between these two natures, and is seen in the experience of Paul where he expresses the “I’s” in his effort to overcome the conflict <see Rom.7:14-25>, and this is a discouragement and perplexes all new believers in Christ, and can only be overcome by the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives as Paul expresses – “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God — through Jesus Christ our Lord!” <Rom.7:24-25 (NIV); cf Rom.6:6; 8:13; 1 Cor.6:19-20; Gal.5:16-17>. Therefore, we are not to allow our old nature to control us causing us to yield to sinful practices, because the conflict is now between the sin-nature and the Holy Spirit <see Rom.6:11; 8:1-4, 12-14, 31; Phil.3:3; Col.3:3>.
THE BELIEVER’S STATUS AND CHARACTER
In studying the N.T. Scriptures it is very important to understand the difference between the “status” (standing) and the state or “character” of the believer in Christ. The status of all believers is the result of the work of Christ from the very moment of faith in Him, and nothing can be added or done to improve or diminish that status that we have in Christ. This places all believers on the same status level, and no one can claim to be any closer to God than another believer. We read, “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” <Jn.1:12 (NIV)> and that “…. if we are children, then we are heirs — heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ” <Rom.8:17 (NIV)>. All believers are God’s children and have equal rights to an eternal incorruptible inheritance in Christ that is set aside for us in heaven, we are a chosen group, a distinguished priesthood, we are complete in Christ and have direct access to His grace and rejoice in the anticipation of sharing His glory; we have confidence in the fact that we will live eternally with Christ in His kingdom because of the eternal life that has been given to us; we also have courage to enter His holy presence <see 1 Jn. 3:2; 5:1; 1 Pet.1:4-5; 2:9; Eph.1:11; Col.2:10; Rev.1:5-6; Rom.5:1-2; Jn.3:16; 1 Jn.5:13; Heb.10:19; Eph.1:3, 6, 13; 2:4-6, 13; 5:30; 1 Cor.12:13; 6:19>. All these things are true of every believer in Christ, and not one can be attained by any other means but by faith in the finished work of Christ; we are instantly clothed in the righteousness of God and seated with Him in the heavenly domain <see Rom.3:22; Eph.2:6>. This, then, is our status or where we stand in God’s analysis; but our state or character is no where near the level of what our status is.
Let us now look at some contrasts between our status and our actual character.
- Our Status declares that we are recipients of God’s grace and that we are expectantly awaiting Christ’s return <1 Cor.1:2-9>; while our character displays controversy, envy, strife and division <1 Cor.1:11; 3:1-3; 5:2>.
- Our status affirms that we are cleansed, sanctified and justified by God <1 Cor.6:11>; but our character shows our lack of will to endure hardship <1 Cor.6:7>.
- Our status confirms that we are members of Christ <1 Cor.6:15>; but our character shows our willful indulgence in sinful practices <1 Cor.6:15>.
- Our status produces an understanding of scriptural truths <Matt.16:16-17>; while we characteristically depend on our human understanding of what the scriptures teach <Matt.16:23>.
- Our status declares our freedom from the power of darkness <Col.1:12-13>; but our character produces anger, rage, bad language and lies <Col.3:8-9>.
There are many more contrasting differences that could be added to this list but we should observe from these listed that God’s design under grace is to establish the highest possible status for the believer, and then to encourage the believer to maintain that status in accordance with His grace; and that the Scriptures make a clear distinction between the status and the character of the believer. Positionally, God declares the believer to be “perfect” forever <Heb.10:14>; but as the believer examines his/her character in the light of scripture, the finding is like that of Paul – not yet perfect <Phil.3:12>.
In conclusion, we could say that the application of God’s Word to the lifestyle and conscience, the discipline at our Heavenly Father’s hand, the work and teaching of the Holy Spirit, difficulties and trials and the final transformation at Christ’s appearance; are all intended to align the believer’s character with the status that we received at our conversion; and in the end both status and character will be equal <see Jn.17:17; Eph.5:26; Heb.12:10; 1 Cor.11:32; Eph.4:11-12; 1 Pet.4:12-14; 1 Jn.3:2>.