by Kevin V. Rutherford


Babies are born into a body which is not subject to temptation and which is not subject to sin.  Babies are born with a pure spirit that is not subject to temptation and which is not subject to sin.  As the infant matures, his spirit will become subject to the temptations imposed upon it by the lusts of a developing body.  God gave us certain desires based upon the flesh, or the body that can be indulged righteously or sinfully.  Sexual desires are rightfully indulged in any scriptural marriage.  Outside of a scriptural marriage those desires are sinful. Those desires are directly related to the flesh.

When a person enters into the kingdom of God, he is able to do so because his sins have been forgiven (Acts 2:38; 22:16).  When one is added to the kingdom he is added as one without sin.  Jesus said we must become like little children to enter the kingdom (Matthew 18:3).  One must enter the kingdom without sin.  One must enter the kingdom like a little child.  Therefore little children are without sin.

The NIV translates the Greek word “sarx” as “sinful nature” in some passages.  A primary example is Romans chapter eight.  Many translations, including the ASV, KJV, and NKJV translate the word “sarx” as “flesh.”  Thayer’s Greek Lexicon gives the primary meaning of the word as “flesh,” but gives a fourth definition which speaks of men being “prone to sin.”  The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia gives the primary meaning as “flesh” with a sixth meaning as “carnal nature.”  Which translation is correct in the way the term “sarx is used in the New Testament?

If “sarx” can be correctly translated as “sinful nature” then Jesus Christ was guilty of sin.  Jesus came in the flesh, “sarx” (John 1:14).”  Did He come with a “sinful nature?”  No!  Jesus was not prone to sin, and He was not guilty of sin (1 John 3:5).  Jesus did face temptation but He did not give in to the temptation (Hebrews 4:15).

Did God give you a body (and a soul) capable of sinning?  Yes (Romans 3:23)!  Did God give you a body prone to sin?  No (James 1:12-17)!  God did not give us a “sinful nature.”

Sin may become a habit of ours.  When sin becomes a habit it becomes a part of our spiritual nature.  It only becomes that way because we continue to give in to temptation and not because we are born that way.  Ephesians 2:3 speaks of those who are “by nature the children of wrath.”  The word “nature” is a translation of the word “fusis”, which means “the nature of things (see Thayer’s).” It is that which is normal.  It was normal for those who are referred to in Ephesians 2:3 to be “children of wrath.”  Why? Was it because they were born that way?  Concerning the use of “fusis” by Paul in Ephesians 2:3 Thayer’s says this word refers to “a mode of feeling and acting which by long habit has become nature.”  They were not children of wrath because they were born that way, but

rather because they continually choose to act in that manner.  As they continued to act in that manner it became a habit for them.  It became the normal or “natural” thing for them to do.

When we continue to resist sin we grow stronger.  We choose to resist temptation.  We choose to do what is right.  When we choose to do so we become stronger and more likely to do the right thing.  What is “divine nature” becomes a part of who we are (2 Peter 1:4). God cannot sin (James 1:13). That which is natural or normal for deity is to exist without sinning.  The more we chose to do what is right, becomes a habit, and the more it becomes a part of that which is normal for us. The more we resist the devil, the more it becomes a part of our nature to do so (James 1:2, 3; 4:6-10).

Babies are not born with a sinful nature.  They are born without sin

(Ezekiel 18:20) and they are born without the ability to sin (1 John 3:4).

Sin is a transgression of God’s law (1 John 3:4).  It is not something we are born with, neither is it something that is a part of our nature at birth.   It can only become a part of our nature when we continue to devote ourselves over to sin. Sin then becomes a part of our nature by long standing habit.

Are we prone to sin?  Are we prone to righteousness?  That depends upon our choices and our actions (John 3:8,9).  Those who sin are of the devil (1 John 3:3).  This is a reference to those who are devoted to sin, those who continue to sin.  Those whose habit it is to sin.  Those who are prone to sin are of the devil.  Are Christians prone to sin?  They should not be!  Those who are born of God do not sin (I John 3:9).  They are prone to righteousness because of the choices they have continually made to resist sin. They do not have a sinful nature, but rather they have a righteous nature.  I can and I must chose to be more likely to do that which is righteous than I would be to do that which is sinful (Romans 6:1).   I must choose, and work hard to have a righteous nature.

If we are born into a sinful nature, which must be with us throughout life, then God has given us an inborn, integral, and inherent characteristic that causes us to be more likely to sin than to do what is right.  This is not consistent with Biblical teaching.   Sin is disobeying God (1 John 3:4).  Those who disobey God cannot be saved (Matthew 7:21).  If God created us with a nature that makes us more likely to sin, then He has created us in such a way that makes it more likely we will be lost.  Rather than making it more likely for us to sin, God has made it possible for us to resist every temptation (1 Corinthians 10:13).  With each temptation comes a way to resist.

In Galatians 2:20 Paul speaks of living in the “flesh.”  The Greek word is “sarx.”  Is Paul living in a “sinful nature?”  The verse itself would indicate otherwise.  Paul is not swallowed up by a sinful nature, but rather he is devoted to God.  He says, Christ is living in him at the same time he is living in the flesh. Even the NIV recognizes the distinction here and uses the word, “body instead of sinful nature.”

Back to Romans chapter eight: Note verse three: Jesus came in the “likeness of sinful flesh.  Note here that the NIV refused to translate “sarcos” [sarx] in this phrase.  Why?  Is it because they have translated that word as “sinful nature” further in the text but they are afraid to associate that translation with Christ?  This is not consistent.

Why does Romans 8:3 say “sinful flesh?”  The body is subject to temptation.  Jesus Christ while in a physical body was subject to temptation. Some might suggest that because this says the “of sinful flesh” that Jesus was not in a body exactly like ours and therefore not subject to the “sinful nature.” Hebrews 4:15 suggests that He was in a body exactly like ours.  Furthermore, there were some in the first century that were suggesting that Jesus did not have a physical body like ours.  John refutes their doctrine and refers to any who teach this as those who have the spirit of the antichrist (I John 4:3).  John said, “and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God… (I John 4:3).”  The word “flesh” is again a translation of “sarx.”  Apparently there were many in John’s day that were making this false assumption (1 John 2:18).  Interestingly the NIV completely refuses to translate the word “sarx” in 1 John 2:18. The NIV left it out completely.  Why?

Also, concerning Romans 8:3 the NIV tampers with the meaning.  The ASV, NASB, ICJV, NKJV all translate the verse in a similar way (In fact all four of these versions also use the word “flesh” instead of “sinful nature.”).  Jesus “condemned sin in the flesh.”  Jesus came in the flesh to condemn sin.  He was in the “sarx.”  Was He in a sinful nature?  No!  The NIV translators changed this also.  The NIV says, “He condemned sin in sinful man.”

Romans 8:5  deals with a choice.  Why do people live according to the flesh?  Is it because they were born into a sinful nature?  No! Nowhere in Romans 8 are we told we are born into a sinful nature.  These people are living according to the flesh because they have set their minds upon the things of the flesh.  That is what the verse says.  What about those who live according to the spirit instead of according to the flesh? They are that way because they have set their minds on spiritual things.  This is a choice, not something we are born into.

The flesh is dead if Christ and the Spirit dwell in us (Romans 8:9, 10). When we choose to live like Christ in accordance with the will of the Spirit the flesh is dead in us.  Again it is a choice.  We choose to sin habitually, or we choose to consistently act righteously.  Romans 9:12, also emphasizes the choice we have.  We are not born into a sinful nature.  We choose to sin.  We choose to make sin our nature, or habit. Some have a desire to sin, which came about as a result of their own choices, and it was not something they were born into.  We are able to put to death the deeds of the “sarx.” Is it a nature we are born into which we cannot shake? No.