The “New Man”–Not Two Natures, Two Legal States

Romans 6 describes two legal states, one of which is “free from righteousness”. We tend to judge people (even ourselves) to be saved on the evidence of something in us which wants to be better. We even like to think that it’s God in us causing us to want to be better. But the true God will not accept us into His presence based on something in us, not even based on something God has put in us. If we have not yet been legally justified by God, we are still in our sins.

Romans 6 defines the “in Christ” in terms of legally being placed into the death of Christ. The “new man” (new creation) in Christ becomes that by justification. Instead of a “sacrament” which makes you a participant in Christ, our hope as the justified is that God has counted the death of Christ as our death.

When I think of “new man”, why do I think of justification, and not only regeneration? Well, I could ask you, why do you always draw the line between two natures? Where does the Bible talk about two natures? Why don’t you draw the line between the justified and the condemned?

I am not denying the new birth or the absolute necessity for it. I am only saying that the new birth is not “union with Christ” and that it does not result in something called “the new nature”. The “new man” has to do with a change in legal state, and not first of all with a change of substance or nature.

II Corinthians 5:14 “one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live would no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sakes died and was raised. From now on, we regard no one according to the flesh (judging by morality or immorality or by other non-gospel standards)….If anyone is in Christ, there is a NEW CREATION. The old has passed; the new has come.”

“Those who live” means first of all those who are justified. The category of “we died” is not about a change of substance or nature but about an imputed legal reality.

The category of “those who live” is also not about a change of substance or nature but about an imputed reality, legal life because of justification.

The “new man” is first of all about a legal change of identity, a legal before and after. It’s not gradual; it’s an either or—- this legal state or that legal state. The new is not effected by a “sacramental feeding on Christ” but by God’s imputation of what God did in Christ in His death and resurrection.

Christ is here, yes, but not in some different way because of water or bread and wine. And also, Christ is not here, not yet, and we believe and obey and hope, waiting for the day when Christ will be here. He is not now coming down from heaven as He will someday, and we are not now going to heaven, no matter what the “minister of the sacrament” might say.

So how then are we in Christ? Only for those now in Christ legally has the old has passed. For some of the elect, God has already declared the legal verdict. One day, at the resurrection, there will be visible evidence of that verdict.

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4 Comments on “The “New Man”–Not Two Natures, Two Legal States”

  1. markmcculley Says:

    Gaffin review of Horton’s book on Covenant Union: throughout Part Two Horton voices reservations about the Reformed doctrine of regeneration. He agrees with its substance and intention but finds problematic the way it has been formulated, in particular the notion that regeneration produces a habitual change and involves the infusion of new habits (a new habitus). This he sees as a lingering residue of the medieval ontology that eventually made the Reformation necessary. These concerns, with his own proposal, are articulated especially in Chapter 10 (“Covenantal Ontology and Effectual Calling”). The promising alternative for him lies in adapting the Eastern Orthodox distinction between divine essence and energies, so that the activity of the Spirit in salvation is understood as an exercise of his energies that avoids “a causal scheme of infused habits” (213).

    I share fully Horton’s concerns about the notion sometime present in Reformed treatments of the ordo salutis that regeneration is prior to effectual calling and produces an antecedent state addressed in effectual calling. That notion is quite problematic and ought to be rejected.

  2. markmcculley Says:

    Lord’s Day 33

    Q&A 88
    Q. What is involved in genuine repentance or conversion?
    A. Two things: the dying-away of the old self, and the rising-to-life of the new.1

    1 Rom. 6:1-11; 2 Cor. 5:17; Eph. 4:22-24; Col. 3:5-10

    Q&A 89
    Q. What is the dying-away of the old self?
    A. To be genuinely sorry for sin and more and more to hate and run away from it.1

    1 Ps. 51:3-4, 17; Joel 2:12-13; Rom. 8:12-13; 2 Cor. 7:10

    Q&A 90
    Q. What is the rising-to-life of the new self?
    A. Wholehearted joy in God through Christ1 and a love and delight to live according to the will of God by doing every kind of good work.2

    1 Ps. 51:8, 12; Isa. 57:15; Rom. 5:1; 14:17
    2 Rom. 6:10-11; Gal. 2:20

    Q&A 91
    Q. What are good works?
    A. Only those which are done out of true faith,1 conform to God’s law,2 and are done for God’s glory;3 and not those based on our own opinion or human tradition.4

    1 John 15:5; Heb. 11:6
    2 Lev. 18:4; 1 Sam. 15:22; Eph. 2:10
    3 1 Cor. 10:31
    4 Deut. 12:32; Isa. 29:13; Ezek. 20:18-19; Matt. 15:7-9

  3. The two-nature view, as it was understood by Chafer and those who have followed him, is open to a number of criticisms. The Chaferian view56 of the two natures is defective, not because it is a two-nature view, but because of how the two natures are defined. Let us begin with Chafer’s explanation: “Having received the divine nature (2 Pet 1:4) while still retaining the old nature, every child of God possesses two natures; one is incapable of sinning, and the other is incapable of holiness.”57 This definition of the two natures is immediately problematic because it moves away from the truth that a nature is a complex of attributes, a set of characteristics, a disposition that characterizes the individual. To say that the new nature cannot sin suggests that it is an autonomous, separate entity, since only an entity can sin. This opens up the Chaferian view to the charge of an additional personality within the believer.

  4. markmcculley Says:

    Mark Seifrid of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary:

    perspectives-on-our-inner-struggle”Paul does not speak of the Christian struggle with sin in Romans 7. He describes a battle already lost, long ago in Adam. Nevertheless, in sheer wonder, the long-lost battle has been decided in our favor by God in Christ. The Christian is thus called to walk the very narrow path marked by the intersection of the new creation with the present fallen world. On the one side we are subject to the danger of the despair that loses sight of God’s work in Christ. On the other hand, we are subject to the danger of a pride that falsely supposes that the power of salvation is now ours, if only we realize its potential. Such a pride in its own way also loses sight of God’s work in Christ. It brings a ‘therapeutic Christianity’ that turns outward achievements, whether individual, corporate, or social, into a measure of spiritual progress and a mark of the presence of the kingdom. It does not see that what has been accomplished in Christ is located abidingly in Christ, not in ourselves. Our salvation, and therefore all true progress, both individual and corporate, does not rest in our hands…

    As Paul tells the Philippians, progress is a progress in faith (Phil 1:21). It is not a turning inward but a being-turned-outward. It is hearing the address of the gospel afresh within the changing circumstances of life. To use Paul’s language, it is again and again ‘reckoning yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus’ (Rom 6:11)… Not only the first step but every step of Christian progress begins with Paul’s sober and realistic confession in Rom 7:25b […with my flesh I serve the law of sin]. It begins with the acknowledgment that as long as we remain in this body and life the unhappy truth that we ‘serve the law of sin’ remains.”

    -Mark A. Seifrid, Perspectives on Our Struggle with Sin

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