What does the Bible mean when it says we have a sinful nature? What is a sinful nature?


Clarify (1) Share Report Asked July 30 2021 Mini Anonymous

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Closeup Jennifer Rothnie Supporter Housewife, Artist, Perpetually Curious
Despite the common term "sin nature" used, it isn't actually a phrase found in scripture. (Some translations use "sin nature" to translate "flesh" in certain instances where there seems to be a moral, not physical, meaning in mind.) 

According to Merriam-Webster's dictionary, the nature of a thing is "the inherent character or basic constitution of a person or thing" or it's "essence."

Is man inherently sinful, is his constitution tainted by the corruption of sin, or is man sinful in essence? For those answers, we have to look at several things: the creation of man, the fall of man, man post-fall, and the person of Jesus Christ.

First, we know that man was created in the image of God (Gen 1:26-27.) While this was not a perfect "exact" image of God, but more a semblance or likeness, God still pronounced His creation to be "very good" (Gen 1:31) - showing man was not created with a sinful nature.

Adam and Eve were placed in the Garden of Eden, where God spoke to them directly. They did not yet have the knowledge of Good and Evil, but trusted the words of God. One of the commands God gave Adam was to not eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, for that would lead to their certain death (Gen 2:15-16.) 

But Eve was deceived by the serpent into thinking she would not die, but that God was just afraid they would learn good and evil and become like Him. Tempted by the wisdom offered by the tree, she ate, and gave Adam the fruit to eat as well. 

Then their eyes were opened, and they became aware of their nakedness. As God said, " “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil. (Gen 3:22a.)

Following this transgression, God cursed Adam and Eve, and their progeny, with hard labor and pain in childbearing. Neither toil nor childbirth are sinful of themselves, however. And as God knows good from evil, that is also not sinful of itself.

There were, however, two changes to the nature of man here: physical mortality, and the knowledge of good and evil. All descendents of Adam and Eve are subject to that death, and gain the knowledge of good and evil as they grow.

Moving in to mankind post-fall, including Adam and Eve, the knowledge of good and evil actually stirs up evil desires in man and lures us to sin (James 1:14-15, Rom 7:8-9.) Men start desiring evil things even in young childhood (Gen 8:21.) 

That which is a good thing of itself, knowing what is right - or even more formally knowing the law - for humans leads us to the sentence of death. Because when we know the good we ought to do and do not do it, it is sin! When we know what is right, we are tempted by our own desires towards wrong. Sinners then become transgressors of the law, and enslaved to sin in their minds. It's a death that begets only more death, for the wage of sin is death. And sinners become alienated from God because of their evil behaviour (Col 1:21) - even enemies of God (Rom 5:10.)

Much could be said on the topic of every human sinning and falling short of the glory of God, but pulling it back - this is not a problem of our *nature* being sinful, as if sin was outside our control and something we were born with. Rather all men choose willingly to engage in sin, and thus fall under condemnation and need Jesus. 

As for Jesus, He was made "in every way like us" - His human brethren, in order to be the perfect High Priest (Heb 2:17.) As He was sinless (I Pet 1:19, II Cor 5:21) His holy character kept Him from sin (Luke 4, Heb 4:15.) Jesus not havig a sin nature is very strong evidence that we are not born sinful, either.

But "sin nature" can mean a variety of different things. If it is used simply to mean that men are born with a propensity to sin, or that man is born capable of learning good and evil which then leads us to sin; etc. It is a fine if sloppy/ambiguous term. But if meaning that man is born sinful in essence, born a sinner, or born already morally corrupted by sin, it does not match up with scripture.

August 01 2021 2 responses Vote Up Share Report

Mini Tim Maas Retired Quality Assurance Specialist with the U.S. Army
Sin is disobedience to God and His commandments. When God (as a holy Being -- that is, a Being without sin) created humans in His image (Genesis 1:26), He created them to be holy also, so that they could have fellowship with Him. However, He also gave them free will so that they could give Him that fellowship of their own volition, rather than by compulsion.

When humans chose to sin by yielding to the temptation to disobey the one commandment that God had given them to that point (Genesis 3:1-21), their nature became fundamentally, universally, and permanently changed to an innate tendency to commit sin, which made their former state of holy fellowship with God no longer possible, and which was passed down to all subsequent humans from the moment of their conception (Psalm 51:5) -- except for Jesus, due to the miraculous manner in which He was conceived (Matthew 1:18-25; Luke 1:26-38).

July 30 2021 0 responses Vote Up Share Report

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