by Fred Pruitt
From an email exchange:
I won’t wait for an answer to this, but I would like to start by asking you this question which you can answer for yourself — why are you wanting to know about one nature vs. two nature doctrines? Is it for some purely academic reason, that is, just which is the “right” way to interpret scripture, or is your desire coming from something more personal than that? I mean, are you PRESSED somehow to NEED to know this? Because the answer to this both does not come as an academic premise nor is it found as merely an academic answer, that is, something you need to know in order to score well on a test in school.
This whole truth came about through the desperation of one man’s journey, the Apostle Paul, who came to a very real and existential point of desperation whereby he cried, “O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me?” I think that is why this is issue is so confusing to so many and there are so many different viewpoints of Paul’s writings, because unless one comes within himself as a believer to this same struggle against “indwelling sin” (Rom 7:17), and then to the same point of final desperation, i.e., having nowhere else to go, no solution except more misery it seems, having no more joy in life except he finds some respite in his struggle, then I do not think one can really find in a real sense this answer. It is something the Holy Spirit works in our spirits and inner knowing first, and often the outer conscious mind is left out in the cold to flail about in fear until some light breaks through. But we MUST have that light break through — something which we simply cannot do ourselves but which MUST come from God!
Really, to me, the discovery of truth cannot be like a battle of two gunslingers, each armed with his six-gun full of scriptures or his view of scriptures, where they do battle and the one with the most scriptures on his side wins, or the one who has the most convincing arguments for what the scriptures mean. No, this must come from deep within us, where God dwells — we must know the Spirit is our teacher, and that He will lead us into all truth, which is Christ, not only through the words of scripture, but through the circumstances of life which will give flesh to the Word we have believed. That said, let’s get on with this.
Though I do not know Greek or Hebrew nor any other language except English and therefore am at the mercy of the translators of the many versions of the Bible into English, in all my reading I have never read in scripture that there is a purely “human nature.” (I will tell you I primarily use the King James but helped by many others, too.) The only “natures” referred to in scripture are the “nature of wrath” (Eph 2:3) and the “divine nature.” (2 Pet 1:4).
This is the basis for our saying man has only one nature — at a time. Before the new birth, we all participated in the nature of wrath and did the “lusts of our father, the devil.” (Jn 8:44). We were of the nature of “self-for-self,” that is, we were naturally inclined to do things in our own separated will and false consciousness of independent self, for the benefit of ourselves, whether good works (trying to be good or pious or religious) or plainly evil works. Either way, at bottom, we were for ourselves as primary.
That does not mean we were totally out of God’s sight and hearing, because as we see from the first moment of the Fall in the Garden, Adam “heard” the Lord God calling him. So we are not so far gone into the kingdom of wrath as to have become wholly devils as Satan and his legions are. But we are held captive by him, usually unwittingly, because he has convinced us, starting with our first parents, that we are just ourselves alone (independent selves) doing good or evil, which is the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. And also, God left His calling card in all of us, the Seed of the Woman (Gen 3:15), the “light that lights every man that comes into the world.” (John 1:9).
This is parenthetical, but some have actually parted with me because I state to me what the scriptures state, that even in our fallen condition, Christ is still at the heart (though unknown) of very man. The reason why I say this, not just because I believe scripture to say this, is that “deep calls unto deep” (Ps 42:7), that is, there must be something in man of God in order for man to be able to hear and respond to God. We are not yet totally out of his kingdom while we are caught in this trap of the “Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.” There is still some faint whisper of divinity within us, enough in us that the little flame can be fanned into a fire that may burst into Christ, when or if we respond to the call. God calls all men to Him, (John 12:32), and all may not respond, but except there be some “deep” in us to respond to the “deep” of God, we could not hear and respond to Him, even as the devils can no longer hear Him, except in eternal wrath and judgment. Even Paul takes the liberty to call the unredeemed Athenians who heard him on Mars Hill, “the offspring of God.” So if we are God’s offspring, even in our pre-redeemed state, there must of necessity be something of God in us, for no one has an offspring without receiving something of the parent within it — the “Seed” of the parent, whether a daffodil, apple, duck, lion, human being, or God. The visible manifests in parable form the invisible, and therefore we can see that each “seed” brings forth its life, and the “seed” of God must be somehow within us, perhaps faint and hardly an ember, but still there buried under the layers of the lie in which we are trapped. (2 Tim 2:26).
But it is plain, even that being the case, that we are trapped in the nature of wrath and we live our lives “according to the prince of the power of the air, the “spirit that works in the children of disobedience.” That is or was the state of all mankind since Adam. Now, many call that an “Adamic nature,” but I take issue with that, because the nature does not come from Adam, but from the one who entered Adam, and through Adam all of his offspring. That is, the serpent became for all of us our inner motivator of life, our inner director, and to repeat what Jesus told the Pharisees, it was “his lusts” we did. We were part and parcel of the spirit of error, deceived and deceiving others in our false independence and own-willfulness.
It is vital to see this if we are to move into total liberty. We are all children of Adam first, which simply means human, earthly, of the earth. But that is not the determining factor of our lives. It is spirit which is the inner director of flesh/earth, and as we remain in the spiritual life we inherited from the first Adam, living according to the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, we remain children of wrath, even as Adam and Eve became when they took the fruit. But the way back was made immediately to them in the symbol of the Second, Redeeming Adam, in the “seed of the woman” who would crush the head of the serpent. Spoken in the form of a dark (to the understanding) parable, but nevertheless the Light of Truth when one’s eyes are opened to see that even there in the moment of the Fall the Redeemer appeared on the scene, to be finally and fully revealed in Jesus Christ in the fullness of time.
But in order to demonstrate that the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil could not possibly save man, that he could not by “knowing good and evil” become “wise as gods,” man had necessarily to walk that road. And we all do walk that road, until by the Spirit’s intervention something happens in us where we realize our need for something or someone greater than or outside our independent minds to come through and rescue us.
Now, before this gets too long and becomes a book, let me skip to the “divine nature.” Peter tells us that we have now the “divine nature” and that in that “nature,” that is, in what has entered us and has become for us NATURE, that is, what is now “natural” to us, we have everything we need, EVERYTHING, which pertains to life and godliness. It’s ALL within us.
The Bible makes many such illustrations of this one truth — that we WERE children of wrath and did by NATURE the lusts of our father the devil, and now we are children of the “divine nature” and that now it is “natural” to us to do the works of God.
Some of the Bible pictures are the vine/branch picture in John 15. Jesus refers to Himself as the True Vine, which presupposes a “false” vine of which we were a branch before we were in Christ. But now that we are in Christ, in Jesus as our True Vine, we abide (or remain) in Him and bear His fruit, simply by our abiding or remaining — staying where we are. That’s not hard to do, to just sit there! We bear the naturally occurring fruit of the vine to which we are joined. Like a pear tree bears pears, an apple tree bears apples. A tulip bulb grows tulips! We are part of the righteousness vine so we bear righteousness.
Another simple Biblical illustration is Paul’s description of us as “vessels,” either vessels of “wrath” or “dishonor” or vessels of
“honor” or “mercy.” (Rom 9:21,22). A vessel is simply a container that contains something. We formerly “contained” wrath and now we “contain” mercy. We have not become the mercy, just as we were not the wrath. Wrath originates in the spirit of error and mercy in the spirit of truth. We are one or the other, never a mixture of the two! We may be deceived or wrongly think we are a mixture of the two, and many of us think that or are taught that, but that is not what Paul has plainly said. We are one or the other.
Likewise, we are also described as temples of the Holy Spirit, and formerly we were a temple of idols. A temple to ancient minds was where the gods lived, or where you went to do business with the gods or with God, and ancient minds understood this concept well. So Paul draws upon that to say that now we are temples, houses, containers, where the Living God dwells, and many New Testament scriptures say this very clearly. Even the writer to the Hebrews makes reference to it in Heb 3:6, saying we are the “house” of Christ. That’s pretty strong language. Now, can darkness dwell where light dwells? Of course not. Turn on the light and where is the darkness? Will Christ share His house with a lie or falsehood? Absolutely not!
Jesus cleansed the temple, not just to irritate the Pharisees and drive them mad enough to kill Him, but to demonstrate that He had come to clean out the REAL TEMPLE, which is man, to clean it of the den of thieves it had become, and to replace that den of thieves with the GLORY He had with the Father — the Shekinah glory, represented in the Old Testament as a shining Cloud and which many Christians these days are seeking to repeat, not realizing that very glory now, even this moment, is indwelling them and overshadowing their lives. Is this not what Jesus prayed in John 17, and dare we believe the Father has not answered His prayer? The whole of John 17 testifies that we are one with Christ and the Father even as Jesus was one with the Father, and that we have been given the same glory — the ULTIMATE glory — that Jesus has, because He has given it to us in Him: “And the glory thou gavest me I have given them.”
Now, where is “two natures simultaneously” in all this? How can darkness dwell in this light? It cannot. Light swallows it up. Darkness flees this light, and this is the light we have come to in Christ.
Let me then get to your specific scriptures you asked me about, so I won’t go on too far with this.
When Paul is speaking of “putting on Christ” and “putting off” the old man, etc., even reason would have to agree that he cannot be talking about “faking it.” That is, “acting like” Christ. Our works are either God’s or they are not. We either walk “in the Spirit” or we do not. It is not a moment by moment thing we do by effort or some kind of technique we learn but a level of faith that God opens to us. “After the flesh” is Paul’s way of saying we are living according to our old understanding of who we are — that is, we are just ourselves alone trying to avoid evil and trying to do God’s will.
When we come into Christ, we think we are what we have always thought we were, independent selves doing our own thing. We now think that we can “become pleasing” to God by ordering our life now by His principles. We really cannot do this, but we do not know it at first, and God lets this mind still be in us in order to bring us to a point of desperation that we MUST BURST THROUGH into light.
Because this Christian life isn’t something we just “put on” like we put on a suit of clothes. It must be something we ARE. Everything I have written above testifies to this. Have you ever “tried to act like Jesus?” Were you successful? I have tried, and was not very successful. I tried harder and was still unsuccessful. In fact, the harder I tried, the worse it got!
Now, what I have written above about WHO we are through the Cross and our being born again by the Spirit, is our inner truth from the moment of our new birth, but like little children who know nothing at birth, we don’t know really who we are in our spiritual infancy. We must learn it, be taught it by the Spirit, that we might grow up into “Him, the Head, which is Christ.” There is a travailing in our lives, “until Christ be formed in us,” as Paul told the Galatians.
What does that mean, “Christ formed in us?” After all, He is already in us, is He not?
Yes, He is, but not in our understanding or consciousness. God wants us to grow up to be CONSCIOUS, UNDERSTANDING sons, who do the will of the Father in knowledge and love, i.e., not by just being “made” to do it, but who know what we do and why we do it, for the most part. As the psalmist said, he made known to the children of Israel the “acts of God,” but to Moses he made known his “ways.” (Ps 103:7). That is what the Father is growing us up into. I see masses of spiritual children looking for God’s “acts,” wanting to see signs, wonders and miracles, but not so many willing to leave all and lose all to discover his “ways.” It cost Moses everything he had; the same for Paul and certainly for Jesus. David as well who hid in caves and deserts pursued by Saul, until Saul was dead and David received his kingdom from the Lord and not by his own hand. Even so we ourselves walk this same way — to find, with Paul, that “in me dwells no good thing” (notice he does not say in me dwells evil, but simply the absence of good), in order to be taken down to the ground in dust and ashes not able to help himself, finally only able to be pulled through by the Holy Spirit in Christ Jesus into the glorious liberation of Romans 8, where nothing, life, death, etc., could separate Paul from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord!
Paul in that famous Romans 7 passage makes reference to “sin that dwells within me, in my flesh” and many have made of that an opposing nature, that Paul fought, and therefore we fight, all our lives, but the crux of Romans 7 is the going through to the victory of Romans 8, where that false consciousness of “sin in the flesh” (false consciousness of independence, self-effort, etc.) is never mentioned again. Because once the consciousness or understanding of the Truth overwhelms you, you cannot go back to that dog-eat-dog-never-getting-through-tiring-life-or-death that is Romans 7. Paul is NOT trapped forever in Romans 7, but by the Spirit is pulled past it, because it is caused by his false sense or consciousness or self-mindedness of independence, and that is what is broken for good in that struggle, as happened to Jacob when he wrestled with the angel at Peniel (Gen 32). Jacob tried everything he could think of to avoid or appease Esau, and was down to his last vestige of hope, that at least he could run away if Esau chased him, and the Man he wrestled with crippled him so that he could not run, and he was finally bereft of all hope except in God, and that was where he “prevailed” and received the name, “Israel,” the prince who prevailed!
So that’s what all this one nature/two nature stuff means to me. It is Life itself. In Romans 7 it seems like we are two, one always struggling against the other, sometimes one “nature” on top, sometimes the other, but in pressing through into Romans 8, the “law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus sets us free from the law of sin and death.” The “law of sin and death” is the law or consciousness that says we “have to” sin, we “have to fall,” we cannot help our inconsistencies. Many many live there their whole lives, like the children of Israel who would not go into the land of Promise through unbelief, and died in the wilderness. God’s children still, but never seeing the glory realized in this life. But many go on through into a continual life in Romans 8, a life of living out of the nature of that which we are by faith, through grace, the divine nature, and learning that even though we continue in human “weakness” as Paul learned in 2 Cor 12:9 and even Jesus crucified in human weakness in 2 Cor 13:4, it is through this apparent infirmity (to the sight of man) God’s Life comes forth in love and divine humanity for others.
This is an almost inexhaustible subject, and I could go on and on, but I’ll let it rest here and let you think on this a while.