Two Natures? (Part Two)

In part one, we examined the two scriptures most often used to endeavor to show the “two natures” in the child of God (Galatians 5:17 and Romans 7:15-21). In this posting, we will examine other Scriptures so used and the terminology used to identify the “two natures” doctrine.

But first, why is it important whether we do or do not believe we each have two natures, an old sin nature and a new spirit nature?  What practical difference does it make?  We know we have the spirit of God and that we also get tempted to sin.  What difference does it make if we call that having two natures or not?  It makes a practical difference.  When we recognize that our temptations are simply a matter of being drawn away of our own lusts and enticed as James declares, we also see that we have the ability to change.  We see that we do not need to continue to be torn between two opinions.  If, on the other hand, we believe that our temptations are a matter of our inherent nature, irreconcilably derived from Adam, then we are without hope.  We thus believe that we are and will always be involved in an internal power struggle; unable to overcome it, always doomed to experience inner strife.  This is not God’s will for His people.  Doctrine, when believed, has an effect on practice and life experience. If we are to live the peaceful life God intended for us, we must first have an accurate understanding of His Truth upon which our practice is to be based.

If the Word of God (as originally written) is indeed God’s Word (and it is), then the words in God’s Word are perfect, and the order of the words in God’s Word is perfect. For the Word of God to be perfect, every detail in God’s Word (as originally written) must be perfect. Thus, when speaking of the things of God, we should always say exactly what God’s Word says using the words God’s Word uses to say it.

Use of a term that does not appear in God’s Word to identify a concept allegedly in God’s Word is always suspect. If a concept is proclaimed in God’s Word, then we should use the words God’s Word uses to proclaim it. If we cannot do so, then we must question whether or not the concept indeed is presented in the Word of God.  Non-Biblical terminology nearly always brings in associations in addition to God’s written Word, even if not directly contrary to it.  The confusion is further compounded when a word or words that appear in God’s Word are used by men in a non-Biblical way.

The terms, “sin nature,” “old nature,” “new nature,” and “spirit nature” do not appear in God’s Word.  This in itself should be enough to cause us to throw these terms out.  If they have been applied to concepts that actually are expressed in God’s Word, then we should use the words God’s Word uses to express them.  The word, “nature” appears in God’s Word a number of times. “Divine nature” appears one time.  Understanding the meaning of the word, “nature” AS IT IS USED IN GOD’S WORD is essential to understanding the meaning of the term, “divine nature.” In the typical argument for the “two natures” doctrine, a current, not Biblical, meaning of “nature” has been imposed on the word, “nature” in God’s Word.

So what does “nature” mean as it is used in God’s Word? We must go to the Greek word(s), not merely the English translation. If there were some other way to present this I would, but it is unavoidable. We have to look at the Greek words involved. “Nature” as it appears in the King James Version is almost always translated from the Greek word, “phusis,” and phusis is always translated (KJV) as “nature” or “natural” (except one time when it is in combination with another word).

Vine’s Expository Dictionary:

PHUSIS, from phuo, to bring forth, produce, signifies (a) the nature (i.e., the NATURAL [emphasis mine] powers or constitution) of a person or thing.. (b) origin, birth.. (c) the regular law or order of nature.

We’ll look at other lexicons, meanings of related words, and various uses of phusis to get very convinced of what this word means, but for now, please note that the above definition indicates that phusis has only to do with that which is natural.

Let’s compare a modern dictionary definition of “nature.”

Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary:

Function: noun

Etymology: Middle English, from Middle French, from Latin natura, from natus, past participle of nasci to be born

Date: 14th century

1a: the inherent character or basic constitution of a person or thing : essence b: disposition, temperament

2a: a creative and controlling force in the universe b: an inner force or the sum of such forces in an individual

3: a kind or class usually distinguished by fundamental or essential characteristics [emphasis mine]

4: the physical constitution or drives of an organism; especially : an excretory organ or function – used in phrases like the call of nature

5: a spontaneous attitude (as of generosity)

6: the external world in its entirety

7a: humankind’s original or natural condition b: a simplified mode of life resembling this condition

8: the genetically controlled qualities of an organism

9: natural scenery

The modern definitions of “nature” are far more encompassing than the meaning of phusis, which pertains only to a natural or native condition, not to any and all “inherent” or “basic” conditions (definition #1) and certainly not to “an inner force” (definition #2b). Imposing the modern definitions of “nature” on the word when we see it in God's Word, is not sound. It changes the meaning of the text.

By the modern definition, for example, we might say of a particular man who is scrupulously and consistently honest, that “It is his nature to be honest. This would be a true statement by the modern definition of “nature; “but by the Biblical meaning of “nature,” the statement would not make any sense. If we were to reword it as “He is honest by nature,” the statement would at least make sense, but it would not be true. No man is born honest. He is not that way naturally. Phusis does not include learned or otherwise acquired attributes.

Let’s take a Biblical example:

Ephesians 2:1 And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;
2 Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:
3 Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature [phusis] the children of wrath, even as others.
4 But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,
5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)

When verse 3 says we “were by nature [phusis] the children of wrath,” it simply means that that is how we were naturally. We were born that way. If we were now to investigate “what is the nature of” being children of wrath, we would be employing a legitimate modern use of the word “nature,” but not the Biblical one. A further and even more serious departure from Biblical usage occurs, however, when the modern definition #2b above (an inner force or the sum of such forces in an individual) is imposed on this verse. There is a lot of difference between investigating the nature of being children of wrath and flatly stating that “children of wrath” IS a “nature.” The verse doesn’t say that does it? And it certainly does not say that those who have been quickened together with Christ still have any such “nature.” Nor does the verse say that those who have been quickened together with Christ have received anything called a “new nature.” God’s Word states many things we have received: spirit, righteousness, eternal life etc. But God’s Word never calls these things a new nature, so why should we? We shouldn’t.

Strong’s lexicon states that phusis, a noun, is derived from its associated verb, phuo, meaning:

5453 fu/w phuo {foo’-o}

Meaning: 1) to beget, bring forth, produce 2) to be born, to spring up, to grow 3) to shoot forth, spring up

Origin: a primary verb, probably originally, to “puff” or blow, i.e.  to swell up;; v

Usage: AV – spring up 1, spring 1, as soon as it be sprung up 1; 3

Words come in families. Meanings of the noun, verb, adjective, and adverb are related. Here are the definitions of the adjective and adverb forms also from Strong’s lexicon:

5446 phusikos foo-see-kos’

from 5449; TDNT – 9:251,1283; adj

AV – natural 3; 3

1) produced by nature, inborn

2) agreeable to nature

3) governed by (the instincts of) nature

5447 phusikos foo-see-koce’

from 5446; TDNT – 9:251,1283; adv

AV – naturally 1; 1

1) in a natural manner, by nature, under the guidance of nature: by The aid of the bodily senses

I originally intended to list each and every occurrence of phusis and each of its related words to prove the point that phusis, nature, has ONLY to do with that which is natural, but I’ll spare you. Please do that on your own if you are not convinced. I’ll just mention a few.

The first use of phusis, nature,is in Romans 1:29 where God’s Word says: “they changed the natural use into that which is against nature, and likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman” etc. If phusis could refer to just ANY set of properties as opposed to only those that are inborn, natural, this statement in God’s Word would have no meaning.

Romans 11 illustrates the meaning of this word very clearly:

Romans 11:24 For if thou wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature [phusis], and wert graffed contrary to nature [phusis] into a good olive tree: how much more shall these, which be the natural [kata phusis] branches, be graffed into their own olive tree?

When Galatians 2:15 speaks of “Jews by nature” it isn’t talking about some kind of Jew nature in people. “Jews by nature” just means they were born that way. Their parents were Israelites. A Gentile could accept Judaism, but as a proselyte he would not be a Jew by nature.

Galatians 2:15 We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles,

The last occurrence of phusis is the one people use to document the existence of the “divine nature” (or “spirit nature” or “new nature”) in the child of God.

2 Peter 1:4 Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.

Indeed, the words “divine nature” appear here, but I propose that phusis means the same thing in this verse that it means in every other verse where it occurs. We are partakers of what God is naturally, of what He has always been i.e. spirit. We have received spirit. When this simple easily documentable truth is expanded to “We have received a new spirit nature,” a modern non-Biblical definition of “nature” is imposed on previously sound Biblical exegesis. The statement becomes unnecessarily vague, opening the door to non-Biblical associations and an entire doctrine of opposing “natures.”I know what a manifestation of the spirit is. 1 Corinthians tells us very clearly. But exactly what, pray tell, is a manifestation of the “spirit nature,” and where would you go in God’s Word to document your answer? Do you see the problem?

We can “stay out of the soup” and avoid a whole lot of error by saying what God’s Word says in the way that God’s Word says it. And God’s Word NEVER refers to anything that it identifies as an “old nature,” a “sin nature,” a “new nature,” a “spirit nature,” etc.

In addition to the above and what was covered in “Two Natures? Part One,” I can think of only one more argument for the “two natures in the child of God” doctrine, and that is the references to the “old man” and the “new man” in Romans, Ephesians, and Colossians. This will be the subject of another posting, but for now, the text says “old man” not “old nature.” And Romans 6 is very clear that whoever or whatever the “old man” is or was, he is thoroughly dead. The doctrine of a continuing sin nature in the child of God cannot be supported by references to the “old man.”

See Who is the Old Man and What is He Doing?

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