Humans Have No Nature
Perhaps the greatest stumbling block to fulfilling our divine purpose as Christians is our misunderstanding, inherited at the Fall, of our human make-up. Norman exposes this falsehood and unveils our true functioning and relationship to Christ–the heart of what he calls the Total Truth.
We now come to what I think is the most important section of this Total Truth, because it has been missed in its completeness by nearly the whole of the Bible-believing body of Christ–a bold thing to say, but it seems to me to be the fact. It concerns what we call our human nature, and that is where our problems and entanglements lie. Even if new creatures in Christ with a new nature, we mistakenly think we have an old, scarred nature–we sometimes call it "the flesh"–which persists in being like an albatross around our neck, a constant rival distracting our attention and stumbling us in our walk. It is precisely that which made Paul cry out, "O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" Wretched, yet redeemed!
It seems as if we acquired an old nature through the Fall, and now have a new nature in Christ, and the two remain deadly rivals, dog eating dog–a struggle from which we are never free in this life–the old man new man syndrome and the best we can hope for is a means of the new counteracting the old; and yet with a sense that the old always remains in us, though we are Christ’s–remains as a deadly element which Jeremiah calls "the heart deceitful above all things and desperately wicked."
By "nature" we’re not now meaning our natural faculties and capacities of body and soul. Our nature, in that sense, means the type of person we are, which is expressed through our soul and body. We may say someone has a kind nature or a harsh nature, a sensitive nature or an unfeeling nature, and so on. But the "old nature" or "new nature" is not the faculties and appetites of a person, but rather the expression of the true personality of the person.
The evangelical church seems divided between two convictions concerning these natures. Each persuasion is antagonistic to the other. One, by far the largest, maintains that we have two natures when redeemed; and we must live with that fact, battling away against the old nature as in Romans 7, and affirming that there is a deliverance in Romans 8 which we must daily apply to relieve us from the pressures of 7!
The other section of the body of believers is strong, persistent, and stoutly convinced that theirs is the truth–though they are in the minority in the whole company of believers and often are considered dangerous or suspect. They are given the general title of "holiness people." They use such terms as "entire sanctification," "perfect love," "full salvation," and are usually considered to be followers of the sanctification teaching that was reestablished in the church through John and Charles Wesley and John Fletcher. There are many precious people among them, with whom I have close links. Their conviction is that after the first stage of our new birth, which centers in justification, we must have a second radical experience of the fullness of salvation in Christ by the elimination of the old man and his total replacement by the new man "created in righteousness and true holiness" with "the heart purified by faith"–and that is the full application of our identification with Christ in His death and resurrection by the Spirit.
Both say we have a human nature. One maintains that our old nature corrupted by the Fall is supplanted by a new nature in Christ, but that the old remains–so that our new way of living is by recognizing the two, the old being counteracted by the new. The other agrees that we all start with a human nature which has become corrupted through the Fall, but holds that the impartation of the new nature in Christ in its totality, by a second work of grace, totally replaces the old nature. The term "eradication" is sometimes used, though most "holiness teachers" regard that as an over-statement of their position, not sufficiently allowing for the continuance of "infirmities."
But I am saying that the true revelation of the Bible is that we humans have no nature. We’re not created to have a nature, but to be containers of a "deity nature," a divine nature, and we humans can only ever express the nature of the one within us. All the Bible symbols of our humanity are those of being containers and expressers of one who is not our-selves, but is a god. All that matters is, "Which god?"
The illustrations used of us in our humanity are vessels, branches, body members, slaves, wives, temples. In every case that means we are the agent by which the occupant operates. As vessels, we are said to be either "vessels of wrath" or "vessels of mercy," but we must be either one or the other. The vessel of wrath, of course, is a container of the god by whom we experience wrath; and the vessel of mercy of Him by whom we receive mercy (Rom. 9:22-23). So it is not the type of vessel that is of importance, but the nature of the liquid that it contains. The branch illustration is even more explicit, for a branch is but part of a vine, the two being in life-union. A branch is merely the living means by which a vine reproduces itself in its fruit. A branch has no distinct nature; it has the nature of its vine. The fruit is of the vine, not of the branch. And when Jesus said "I am the true vine and you are the branches," He was obviously implying that there is also a false vine producing its fruit–one vine being He the true Life, and the other being the usurper (John 15).
We are called temples, and the temple was only the outer means by which the living God manifested His presence. Thus the Shekinah Glory shone through the tabernacle; and His glory is seen in us as His temples. In every case, a temple is only the dwelling place of a deity and reveals his presence, not its own. We are either a temple that contains an idol god, or one in which the living God dwells and walks. A temple has no nature but that of the god in it (1 Cor. 8:10 and 2 Cor. 6:16).
We are called married wives, and Paul distinctly says we all in the human race are married to the one husband or the other. According to Romans 7, the moment we recognize that in Christ’s death we are cut off from our old husband, Satan, then we are immediately united in a new marriage to Christ who is risen from the dead. No momentary gap between the marriages! And the point is that here he is speaking of marriage in what we might call a biological sense: the wife receives the seed of the husband and bears his children, whether "the motions of sins" or "fruit unto God." The wife is presented as merely the fruit bearer, not the fruit producer.
Then Paul, in Romans 6:16-23, calls us slaves (as it is in the Greek) and says all of us all the time are either slaves to sin or slaves to righteousness–slaves of Satan or slaves of Jesus. But slaves are merely the property of their owners, with no kind of a life of their own and doing only the work of their owner.
Finally, we are members of the body of Christ, and any body operates by the mind and will of the head, and nothing else. It has no body-led activity of its own.
So in each case the human is only the agent–as temple, manifesting the presence of the deity; as branch, expressing the nature and producing the fruit of the vine; as body member, set in action by the head; as slave, doing the will of the owner; as wife, bearing the children of the husband; and as vessel, only a container and nothing else.
The Only Two Natures
Now after this Biblical revelation of what we humans are–containers and agents–we find the Bible distinctly says that we have no nature of our own but express the nature of the particular deity indwelling us. On the one hand, Paul says in Ephesians 2 that while we were in our unredeemed condition, dead in trespasses and sins, we "walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now works in the children of disobedience and were by nature children of wrath"–not some nature of our own but of our satanic parent, his children in his wrath nature. Then on the other hand, regarding the redeemed, Peter tells us that by receiving "exceeding great and precious promises" we become "partakers of the divine nature." Quite obviously then, it’s not some human nature, but God expressing His nature by us. Here are the two deity natures expressed in our humanity.
This could not be more explicit than it is in the Biblical account about the Garden of Eden. There we are told life and death were symbolized by the eating of the fruit of the trees. The Bible tells us that if Adam and Eve had eaten of the right tree they would have received eternal life. Yet we know that eternal life is not in a fruit but in a Person–in Him who said, "I am the life." Therefore, if eating the right fruit means that into our first parents would have come the person who is eternal life, eating of the wrong fruit means that the false deity, the spirit of error, entered in and they became his dwelling place.
Now here is the point, the nitty gritty of the reality. All we redeemed humans recognize, when our eyes have been opened by grace, that we were sinners, were under the power of Satan, did his works, were his children. But do we realize that we actually were he, in the sense that humans are always manifesting the deity who expresses himself by us? Did any of us know, while unsaved, that we were Satan walking about in our human forms, or that the redeemed are Christ walking about in their human forms? We should know it now, for we are plainly told this.
I remember the surprise when I first read in 1 John 4:4, "Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world." I knew that "He in me" was the Holy Spirit, but I suddenly woke up to the fact that there was equally "he in the world" in fallen humans, just as much as the Holy Spirit is in us when redeemed. And two verses later John is saying, "Hereby know we the spirit of truth and the spirit of error." That began to open my eyes, and I began to relate it to the symbol of the fruit of the garden.
Then I became alerted to Jesus’ words as He confronted those opposing Him, as recorded in John 8:38-44. "I speak what I have seen with My Father: and you do what you have seen with your father," stated Jesus. As religious Jews they resented that, and indignantly responded, "We’re not born of fornication. We have one Father, God." Jesus answered, "If God were your Father, you would love Me." Then He broke the truth wide open and declared outright, "You are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father you will do." When I read that, my eyes were opened to the second phrase as well as the first. The first says that we humans–all of us who have not yet become children of God by faith in Jesus Christ–have Satan, not God, as our father. But the second phrase especially struck me: "
the lusts of your father you will do." Not that we are doing our own lusts, but the lusts of our father. Then all we are doing as humans is not a product of some supposed human fallen nature, but actually Satan himself expressing his own lusting nature by us! All we are, therefore, is merely the outer expression of this spirit of error, this god of this world, living his own Satan-form of life by our humanity. That was revolutionary. I had always thought I was fulfilling my own natural desires; but not so, because we have no nature of our own. We have all been fulfilling the lusts of the god of self-centeredness, and what we think are just our sins are ours only in the sense that we are joined to Satan as branch to false vine, expressing his thoughts and deeds. So when the Bible says "All have sinned," the real inner truth is that the sinner is Satan, and we in a secondary sense are participating in
This is the major area in which sin–or Satan, as the Scripture has said–has deceived us; and deceit means making us think that we are what we are not. Satan has played his greatest trick on us in making us think that life is "doing our own thing"–our own self-expression. Who of us in the wide world would ever suspect that we were not just "ourselves" in our self-activity but Satan operating in our form? Of course, Satan himself is the fundamentally deceived one, for he vainly imagines that he made himself independent when he rebelled
against God and was cast out of heaven. He imagines himself to be Mr. Independent Self, though actually he is still eternally and totally dependent on his Creator, and doing His will–as we see so clearly in the history of Job.
It is this same false concept of independence with which Satan has infected the human race. We just naturally think we are independent and doing our own thing. Independence is the huge lie swallowed by fallen, blinded, deceived humanity, and the great delusion from which we have to be finally and fully delivered before we can be our true selves. That is what Paul so perfectly explores and aims to deliver us from in Romans, chapters 6 to 8. That is the winning of the final battle over the delusion of the Fall. Our whole life has been built on the false assumption that we are just our own responsible selves, and when changes are needed they are needed in us. We can see it in our false self-righteousness, in our fallen days, when we imagined that we ourselves were living our own lives of good and evil (which we thought mainly good, with a few evil touches). Actually, all our "good" was evil, for it was a product of the spirit of independent self, the spirit of error. Self-effort good is no better than self-effort evil, being only Satan’s self-effort produced by us. It is one thing to regard ourselves as humans merely influenced by Satan; but quite another matter to realize that it is actually he just being himself and living his own quality of life by me and I merely his vessel, branch, slave, temple. I am Satan in my human form.
One reason why the natural man cannot easily accept this fact is that he regards Satan’s activity to be mainly the grosser evils like murder, theft, etc. But when our inner eyes are opened, we fully see that the spirit of error, the spirit of self-centeredness, can look highly respectable. We recognize that the self-loving self is usually disguised to make a nice appearance. So, for us who are enlightened, it is not hard to see that fallen humans are Satan–Mr. Self- centerednes s himself–in his physical form. It is a profound eye-opener to realize that all forms of our apparent self-activity–even if good, helpful, and beneficial to others –are expressions of our self-loving self and thus, in actual fact, expressions of that Satanic spirit of self-centeredness in us. Good deeds are merely a product of the "good" part of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
Two other scriptures also brought this into focus for me. First was 2 Corinthians 4:4, which speaks of the lost as those "in whom the god of this world has blinded the minds"; so there he was within us, in our unbelieving condition. The second is 1 John 3:12, in which John exhorts us to love our brothers, and adds, "Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother." When I read that I asked myself, why are the words "of that wicked one" inserted? Why not just say, "Don’t be like wicked Cain who slew his brother"? Because it was not "wicked Cain" who was the murderer, it was "that wicked one" who Jesus has said was "a murderer from the beginning," and he murdered Abel by Cain’s hands. "The lusts of your father you will do."
We Have Been Deceived About Ourselves
So we are seeing a tremendous revolutionary reality –that humans never had a nature by themselves. They were both created and later redeemed to express in simple spontaneity and naturalness Him who is God in us and who, Scripture says, "dwells in us and walks in us" (2 Cor. 6:16). Likewise after the Fall, when we had freely joined ourselves to Satan, we had no nature of our own either. So there never has been a "human" nature. Therefore there is no point in considering whether we believers have two natures or one! No, we humans have none, but tragically or gloriously, spontaneously manifest the nature of the deity in us.
But as we investigate this actual, factual relationship between God and man–in which man is nothing but the agency by whom God reveals Himself as God, and God in love-action–it becomes obvious that man is not a robot, with no free expression of him-self as a person. It is precisely the opposite. We see the total freedom of the Divine Person fulfilling His love-purposes through the total freedom of the human person. And how can that be? It is no paradox when, as we have already seen, freedom must make its choices and the free will then loves to be controlled by its choice. We still do what we want to do. There is no need to force a person’s will. All the other person need do is to attract and captivate our "want," and then we will love to act in harmony with him. Give a child another toy, and his crying after the first one disappears. People often ask, How can we conceive of God changing a person’s will if he is free? The answer is that God changes our "want," and the will follows spontaneously. Once God has captured our wills by drawing us back to Himself through Christ, then it is He in us who "wills and does of His good pleasure" (and it is always good!) and it is we who naturally, gladly, freely work it out (Phil. 2:13-14).
He who is the "Freedom of the universe" can only be His free Self by His sons as they are free. Only with freedom can there be expansion and development, so God’s universe can only be entrusted as an inheritance to those free to develop it–to persons, not automata. If there are two freedoms, that of the Creator Person and that of the created persons, the one simple necessity is that the Creator and created be in such a love-union that the sons love to fulfill the will of the Father, and yet always are consciously free in working it out. It still remains an apparent contradiction to reason and logic, I realize, but there is no contra-diction in daily living. We who are in this love-union know we are free, and we make our free decisions and carry them out into action, yet we equally laughingly and delightedly know we are doing what is worked in us to will and do. So here is the perfection of freedom which we who have found "the way" delight in, and in which we freely operate.
This revelation from the Scriptures is so central to our very being that we will go over it again, for the repeating of something this important can only help settle the truth more firmly in us. Our failure to recognize that we Christians are never independent selves and have no human nature of our own but are always, eternally, expressions of the Deity Person whose property we are, and that we manifest His nature, is the root of all our confusion and frustrations. All redeemed sons of God struggle with it in their newly awakened zeal to be the kind of people we know we ought to be. It is the root of our and Paul’s Romans 7 wretchedness." It is the blank wall of obstruction we appear to be confronted with in all of life’s problems. It also appears to us as an immovable block in our bringing Christ to others, with their deafened ears or prejudiced hearts. The false concept of independent self is the all-round blockage; indeed, it is the only blockage of all life.
It is the great deception. The serpent deceived Eve; and sin, which is Satan’s garment of deception, the Bible says, deceives us. For sin’s principle is "I’ll do things my way, not God’s way"–the precise character of Satan. So what has happened is that Satan has tricked fallen humanity into thinking that we, like himself, are really independent selves, running our own lives in our own way. He has totally blinded us to the fact that we are merely expressions of him, the false deity–actually Satan in our human forms. Who among the mil-lions of us in our lost condition ever thought that we were actually Satan manifesting himself by us? When we responded to the conviction of the Spirit–enough to know we were sinners, under the condemnation of the law, without God and without hope–we simply saw ourselves as slaves of Satan, doing his evil deeds; even children of the devil, having his character of self-loving self. But none of us recognized that actually it was he, the spirit of error, who was living his own life by us–he being the real sinner and we walking Satans (just as the redeemed become walking Christs). We were under this false conception that it was just we who were the sinners, and the sins our own evil deeds, and the self-centeredness our own distorted independent self. And it is because we did not know ourselves as "walking Satans" that we now have great difficulty in knowing ourselves as "walking Christs."
This is what ties us in knots. We have been so grossly deceived–and deceit is much more dangerous than blindness, because when blind we know we are blind, but when deceived we think we are what we are not. We shall be seeing in further detail how this illusion of our being independent selves–and so having certain responsibilities and the particular obligation to be the kind of people we know we ought to be (despite our constant failures) –is precisely what has so distorted our self-outlook. Does it not seem almost blasphemous, or certainly ridiculous and impossible, that we could actually be Christ expressing Himself in our human forms? Look at us! Yes, look at us through the illusion of being independent, responsible people who should somehow become like Him. Now contrast this with the "notion" that we are Christ in our human forms. It is blasphemy! But we will clear this hurdle, and the leap is clear, simple and sane.
So now we have had a first hard look at this revolutionary fact, plain in the Scriptures, yet hidden from (we may say) everybody who is not of the Spirit, and equally hidden from the vast majority of Bible-based believers. It is the fact of the deity-indwelt life being as much the condition of the lost as of the saved. Recognition of this is the key to living with all boldness the liberated human life.