Last week we began answering the question, “Do people have a sinful nature?” In that article we saw that the foundation for the mistaken idea of “sinful nature,” the doctrine of total depravity, is not something that is taught in the Bible. Since the foundation of “sinful nature” is wrong, so is the teaching of “sinful nature” itself.
This week we want to go on and show how the idea of man’s “sinful nature” actually contradicts what the Bible does say.
The Bible says that we are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27). When the very first chapter of the Bible says that we are created in “His own image,” it isn’t talking about our physical bodies. Jesus said that a spirit doesn’t have flesh and bones (Luke 24:39), and God is Spirit (John 4:24). So, if a spirit doesn’t have flesh and bones and God is Spirit, then our flesh and bones isn’t what is being referred to when the Bible says we are created in the image of God. Rather, it is our spirit – our soul – that is created in His image.
It is our “heart, soul and mind” that is created in the image of God (Matthew 22:37). The word heart, as it is used in the Greek New Testament, means “inner self … intellect” (Dictionary of Biblical Languages). It is the reasoning and thinking part of us that is created in the image of God. To love God with all our heart means that we love Him with all of our inner being – emotions, intellect, etc.
The word soul basically means “the vital force which animates the body….” But it is also used in the New Testament to mean “the seat of the feelings, desires, affections, aversions…” (Strong’s Greek Dictionary). It is not only that part of man that gives physical life (Genesis 2:7), it is also what God has given man to function as a “living being.” We, mankind, have being like the God who created us in His image. He is the living God! (Matthew 16:16), and the God of the living (Matthew 12:27).
The word mind means “the psychological faculty of understanding, reasoning, thinking, and deciding” (Louw & Nida Greek-English Lexicon). Again, it emphasizes that a living God, an intelligent and rational being, created us.
When Jesus said that we are to love God with all of our heart, soul and mind, He was emphasizing that we are to love God with everything we are – with our entire being. However, for the purposes of our discussion about the idea of man having a “sinful nature,” we should be impressed by the fact that our human nature – our heart, soul and mind – came from God. How could that which was created in the image of God be sinful? The human nature is not sinful; it is created in the image of the God who cannot lie (Titus 1:2), in whom is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5).
When we choose to sin, which we all do (Romans 3:23), we are acting contrary to our God given nature (Galatians 5:16-18). It was not man’s nature that was corrupted by sin; it was the nature of the world in which man lives that was corrupted (Romans 5:12).
Our spirit is given by and returns to God (Ecclesiastes 12:7). Therefore, it is not the spirit of a sinful nature. We are fearfully and wonderfully made, we are God’s marvelous work (Psalms 139:14). Man’s nature is wonderful and marvelous, not sinful. We are the offspring of God (Acts 17:29). God’s offspring does not have a sinful nature.
In summation, we are born into this world with a pure and innocent spirit (nature). However, because the knowledge of sin is in our world, we all eventually sin and become sinful (1 John 1:8-10). We are forgiven of our sins and restored to our original innocent state when we obey the gospel of Christ (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; Galatians 3:26-27; Acts 3:19; et. al.). We are born again, i.e. made innocent and pure in newness of life (1 Peter 1:22-23; John 3:3-5; Romans 6:3-4). Man does not have a sinful nature.
We greatly appreciate your Bible questions and look forward to your feedback. Continue the discussion on this and other topics at ChurchAtLaGrange.org/BibleQnA.