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“Thus my heart was grieved, and I was pricked in my reins. So foolish was I, and ignorant: I was as a beast before thee. Nevertheless I am continually with thee: thou hast holden me by my right hand. Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee.” (Psalms 73:21-25)
How beastly we are by nature! How often God’s saints in this world are compelled, like Newton of old, to sigh…
“If I love, why am I thus?
Why this dull and lifeless frame?
Hardly sure can they be worse,
Who have never heard His name.”
Many of the doubts and fears God’s people experience in this world, regarding their saving interest in Christ, arise from a failure to realize that every heaven-born soul lives in this world with two natures. In Scripture these two natures are referred to as “the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts,” and “the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” (Ephesians 4:22-24), “flesh” and “spirit” (Galatians 5:16-17). These two natures are constantly at war, the flesh lusting against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh.
Re-generation not Re-formation
It is commonly assumed that in the new birth man (the natural, carnal man) is changed. That the old man is sanctified, that he who once loved sin is made to love holiness, that the enmity of the heart is slain, and that the old man renewed by grace grows more and more holy in progressive sanctification, until he is ripe for Glory and the Lord takes him home.
That fanciful dream deludes multitudes, until, after being born again, they suddenly discover that the old lusts are still there. The discovery is sometimes shocking, simply because we have been taught that they would not be. How many there are who live in constant turmoil, knowing the abiding evil of their nature, but never daring to acknowledge it, lest they be scorned by others who pretend to be holy.
The new birth is not a re-formation, but a re-generation. The new birth is not reforming the old nature of fallen man, but a re-creation of life in man by the Spirit of God. The new birth is not transforming that which is sinful into that which is righteous, but the imparting of a new, righteous nature. In the new birth Christ is formed in us, and we are made new in him (Colossians 1:27; 2 Corinthians 5:17).
In every believer there are two natures (sin and righteousness), two men (the old man Adam and the new man Christ), two principles (sin and holiness); and these two constantly oppose one another. This fact is plainly declared in Scripture (Romans 7:14-24; Galatians 5:16-22; Colossians 3:9-10; Ephesians 4:22-24). The old man, Adam, can never be sanctified; and the new man created in righteousness and true holiness, “Christ in you the hope of glory,” cannot sin (1 John 3:9).
Adam lives in us by birth. By natural generation we are made partakers of Adam’s nature. Christ lives in us by the new birth. By regeneration we are made “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4).
Creation and New Creation
God created man in his own image and after his own likeness (Genesis 1:26-27). When the Lord God had formed a body for Adam from the dust of the ground, he then “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul” (Genesis 2:7). Genesis 5:2 tells us that all men were created at one time in the creation of Adam. That is to say, every living soul descends by natural generation from Adam, partaking of his nature. All his sons and daughters are begotten in the image of their father, generation after generation (Genesis 5:3; Psalm 51:5; 58:3; Romans 5:12).
Every living soul was created in and simultaneously with “the first man Adam.” Being born of Adam, we are all partakers of his nature; and we are called by his name, “Adam” (Genesis 5:1-2). As it was in the original creation, so it is in the new creation.
As “the first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening Spirit” (1 Corinthians 15:45). All “quickened spirits” were created in and simultaneously with the “last Adam” — Christ. All, being born of him, “born of God,” are made partakers of his nature, as the Holy Spirit declares (2 Peter 1:4). The children of the “first Adam” are born of the flesh and are earthy in all their feelings and affections. The children of the “last Adam” are born of the Spirit and are heavenly, or spiritual, in their feelings and affections. The children of the first are born for the earth. The children of the last Adam are born for heaven. Those of the first are born of corruptible seed. Those of the last are born of incorruptible seed.
In the original creation we were made partakers of Adam’s nature, humanity. In the new creation of grace we are made partakers of the last Adam’s nature, “the divine nature.” That is the cause of the warfare within! These two are contrary the one to the other. We wear our Savior’s name. He has given it to us in free justification; and we have his nature. He gives that to us in free sanctification, regeneration. Christ is the Lord our Righteousness in justification (Jeremiah 23:6; 33:16), and the Lord our Holiness in sanctification (Hebrews 12:14).