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Do Christians have a sinful nature?

Quick Answer: Do Christians have a sinful nature? While the idea that Christians have a sinful nature is rampant throughout Christian teaching, the Bible does not actually teach this concept. Instead, it teaches we believers have a brand new, righteous self through the resurrection of Christ (2 Peter 1:4; Colossians 3:1; Romans 6:18). Even though we still sin, we are not sinful by nature at our core anymore. We have been born again, and we are now the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21)!

Diving Deeper: The idea that Christians have a sinful nature is popular in Christian teaching, but the Bible does not teach it. Before we believed in Christ, we were enslaved to sin and spiritually dead (Romans 6:18; Ephesians 2:1). But when we believed the Gospel, God gave us a new, righteous self and a new heart that are compatible with His nature (2 Corinthians 5:21; Colossians 3:1). We believers are no longer slaves of sin but slaves of righteousness (Romans 6:18).

Where does the idea that Christians have a “sinful nature” come from? The Greek word sarx literally means “flesh”, yet some translations (such as early editions of the NIV Bible) have mistakenly translated the term as “sinful nature.” (For comparison, see Romans 8:4 and Galatians 5:16 in the NIV 1995 versus the NASB.)

The problem with this interpretation is that it insinuates that Christians are sinful at their core, when we are actually not. For this reason, the more literal translation of sarx is preferred. Believers battle against the flesh which is a way of thinking and acting independently of Christ (Galatians 5:19-23). However, we are no longer enslaved to that way of thinking and have been set free as slaves of righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:17, 21; Romans 6:18).

In sum, believers do not have a sinful nature, yet we do experience the pull of fleshly (worldly) thinking. The flesh is a way to think (“a mind set on the flesh”) and a way to act (“walk according to the flesh”). But the flesh is not our nature; it is not us. We are new-hearted children of God who oppose the flesh (1 John 3:1; Galatians 5:17).

Let’s Make It a Conversation!
1. Can you see why believing you have a “sinful nature” is misleading? Why or why not?
2. What Bible translation(s) do you enjoy? How do they translate sarx? (See Romans 8:4, for example.)
3. How does knowing the true meaning of sarx as “flesh” (a way to think and act) help you to better understand your true spiritual nature and your true desires?

Have more questions about the flesh? Check out:
101 Bible Questions - Book101 Bible Questions: And the Surprising Answers You May Not Hear in Church is now available on Amazon!

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