The Danger of Teaching that the Believer Does Not Possess an Old Nature
Not all Reformed men hold to this position, but many do, including John MacArthur, M. LloydJones, and David Needham. It was Needham who brought this "one nature" position to the forefront by publishing his book Birthright Christian, Do You Know Who You Are? [Note: John MacArthur is dispensational in some respects (especially in the area of prophecy) but reformed in many respects. In his two books on Lordship salvation he attacks dispensationalism while at the same time claiming to be a dispensationalist. Reformed theologian, John Gerstner, described him as being as far away from dispensationalism as anyone can be and still be called a dispensationalist (from a taped message given at Geneva College, Sept. 27, 1986). See our notes on The Teaching of John MacArthur with respect to Dispensationalism.]
John MacArthur may be used as a spokesman for those who hold this position as seen in the following quotes:
Salvation is not a matter of improvement or perfection of what has previously existed. It is total transformation. At the new birth a person becomes "a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come" (2 Cor. 5:17). It is not simply that he receives something new but that he becomes someone new. The new nature is not added to the old nature but replaces it. The transformed person is a completely new "I." Biblical terminology, then, does not say that a Christian has two different natures. He has but one nature, the new nature in Christ. The old self dies and the new self lives; they do not coexist. It is not a remaining old nature but the remaining garment of sinful flesh that causes Christians to sin. The Christian is a single new person, a totally new creation, not a spiritual schizophrenic. The believer as a total person is transformed but not yet wholly perfect. He has residing sin but no longer reigning sin. He is no longer the old man corrupted but is now the new man created in righteousness and holiness, awaiting full salvation. [The MacArthur New Testament CommentaryEphesians, p. 164.]
The relation of the old self and the new self has been much disputed. Many hold that at salvation believers receive a new self but also keep the old self. Salvation thus becomes addition, not transformation. Such a view, however, is not precisely consistent with biblical teaching. At salvation the old self was done away with. [He then cites 2 Cor. 5:17 and Rom. 6:6.] Salvation is transformationthe old self is gone, replaced by the new self. [The MacArthur New Testament CommentaryColossians and Philemon, p. 148.]
Holding such a view has some very practical significance. If the believer only possesses a new nature in Christ, then we should expect the believer to be remarkably free from sin. We would expect the believer to exhibit a quality of life which is truly exceptional. John MacArthur, for example, teaches the following:
1) Christians will never be ashamed before the judgment seat of Christ. [Marks of a True Believer (Moody Press), pages 34,37. See also the comments in The MacArthur Study Bible under 1 John 2:28.]
But see 1 John 2:28.
2) Christians always have fellowship with God and nothing, not even sin, can break this fellowship. [Confession of Sin, Moody Press, pages 12-14,55. See also the comments in The MacArthur Study Bible under 1 John 1:3.]
But see John 13:8.
3) Christians are in the light and cannot walk in darkness. [Confession of Sin, pages 28,32,33,34 and Faith Works, p.167. See also the comments in The MacArthur Study Bible under 1 John 1:7].
But see Ephesians 5:8.
4) Christians do not need to confess their sins in order to be forgiven. [Confession of Sin, pages 48,52,55. MacArthur fails to distinguish between the two aspects of forgiveness. See Two Aspects of Forgiveness.]
But see 1 John 1:9 and Psalm 51.
5) Christians can no longer live in bondage to sin. [Faith Works, p. 117]
But see Galatians 5:1.
For related studies:
Dangers of Reformed Theology, Next Chapter
Dangers of Reformed Theology, Index
The Middletown Bible Church
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