The Soul and the Two Natures

by Wm. Avery McClure

Taken from Grace and Truth Magazine 1923


Not infrequently good Christians actually grow angry under the slightest provocation. Often it would appear that some grow angry without any provocation whatever. Perhaps the wind blew from the wrong direction, or the sun failed to shine, or some unexpected circumstance arose that caused disappointment, — trivialities that twenty-four hours time could erase from the memory, but at the moment were sufficient to be provoking.

O, no, they do not intend to be angry, display temper, and say and do things which they afterwards regret. They do not mean to be peevish and irritable ; they do not wish to exhibit an ugly disposition and wound those who know them, but the fact is that even the most spiritual Christians occasionally do.

This is a dismaying thing to the believer who in his Bible study has not been taught to observe the principle of rightly dividing the Word. For the Christian not to understand himself is vastly more serious than to be misunderstood by others. A countless number of God's earnest children, — born-again ones, have questioned the reality of their salvation by reason of the fact that they have not understood their soul-struggles in the light of the Bible. Not long ago a man who has been a Christian for several years, committed a sin which utterly dismayed and discouraged him. During a trying experience he had become angry and cursed one of his neighbors. He was sorry for it afterwards, but both he and those Christians who knew of the affair, declared that he could never have done such a thing had he been truly converted. He doubted his salvation ; so did his friends. He did not scripturally understand his experience ; neither did they. But the skepticism into which he drifted was a profitable thing, for it made him seek to know the truth about himself. A knowledge of the Right Division Principle enabling him to distinguish between the soul and the old and new natures filled the need in his life.

In the seventh chapter of Romans in the short compass of twelve verses (14-25), the personal pronoun "I" occurs twenty-seven times. This passage has perplexed scores of God's dear children and has led to much misapprehension of the real state of the man whose experience is here described. It is sheer folly to seek to interpret this section without carefully employing the Right Division Principle. The context also, must be observed thoughtfully. The problem is, to what does the pronoun "I" refer? Does it in every occurrence refer to the soul? The passage in question is closely connected with the preceding chapter which might be appropriately called, "Dead to Sin." Death is God's means of deliverance from sin; — not our death, but the death of Christ. "Knowing this that our old man is crucified with him that the body of sin might be destroyed that henceforth we should not serve sin." (Rom. 6:6.) From this verse it is seen that there is an old man. It is the old Adam nature (human nature) the fruitful source of all actual transgression, — the instrument of Satan. Thank God, that in His view the old man was crucified when Jesus died on the cross, though in our earth state he is very much alive and entirely too active. The old man is elsewhere referred to in the Scriptures as the "flesh," "sin," "carnal mind," "iniquity," "uncleanness," etc. The presence of this wicked old nature in the Christian's body is the secret of his sinfulness. Through the sin of Adam, sin and death have come upon all.

But there is a happier fact than this. In every Christian's body there is also another man whose attributes are holiness and purity. It is the new nature received when the soul was born-again, — the new man, "which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness." (Eph. 4:24.) It is "Christ in you the hope of glory." (Col. I :27.) The new man is referred to as "the new creature," "righteousness," "newness of life," "obedience," "the gift of God," etc. But it must be remembered that only those who have received Jesus Christ as a personal Saviour are possessors of it.

Now the soul is another entity apart from these two natures, and is separate and distinct from them. It exists as it were, between the two, and can be a servant of either. Thus in the opening verges of Romans seven the Holy Spirit employed to illustrate this truth, a figure which everyone can understand, — a woman with two husbands. The soul represents the woman. The old man represents the first husband and the new man represents the second. Each of these husbands is constantly seeking service and obedience from the woman who must obey one or the other. To obey the old man, since he is to be reckoned dead, is to commit spiritual adultery. This is the sin of which the Christian is guilty when he yields to any old nature impulse or influence. To obey the new man is to do the will of God and have as a result peace and happiness and joy unspeakable.

In view of the existence in every Christian of these three separate and distinct entities, it is seen that the Right Division Principle is absolutely indispensable in correctly interpreting such a passage as Romans 7:14-25. What a muddle it would be without the principle, — but how clear it becomes when we observe the admonition of II Tim. 2:15 to "rightly divide the word of truth":

"For we know that the law is spiritual: but I (soul) am carnal sold under sin (old nature). For that which I (old nature) do I (soul) allow not, for what I (soul) would that do I (old nature) not, but what I (soul) hate, that do I (old nature). If then I (old nature) do that which I (soul) would not, I (old nature) consent unto the law that it is good. Now then it is no more I (soul) that do it, but sin (old nature) that dwelleth in me. For I (soul) know that in me (that is in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing; for to will (new nature) is present with me (soul) : but how to perform that which is good I (soul) find not. For the good that I (soul) would I (old nature) do not; but the evil which I (soul) would not, that I (old nature) do. Now if I (old nature) do that I (soul) would not, it is no more I (soul) that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I (soul) find then a law that when I (soul) would do good, evil (old nature) is present with me. For I (soul) delight in the law of God after the inward man (new nature). But I (soul) see another law (old nature) in my members warring against the law of my mind (new nature) and bringing me (soul) into captivity to the law of sin (old nature) which is in my members. O, wretched man that I (soul) am. Who shall deliver me (soul) from the body of this death (old nature). I (soul) thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I (soul) myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin."

Thus it is clear that in this wonderful chapter there are two distinct and opposing "I's" in addition to the "I" which is the man himself, — the soul. There is the old nature, the tool of the devil constantly attempting to lure the soul away from God and into satanic things. And there is the new nature, God's representative, — the new life, which just as persistently seeks to point the soul toward Jesus and to remind it of the Saviour's love. These two natures are conflicting forces and cannot be reconciled one to the other, for the one is carnal and the other is spiritual. That which the one does can never be right, — it is devilish. That which the other does can never be wrong — it is Divine. Until there is a recognition of these unlike and ever conflicting natures resident within the body of and influencing the soul of every believer in Jesus Christ, there can be no understanding, no growth, no comfort, no accounting for ten thousand things in the Christian life. The one does not become like the other; the one is not changed in its essential tendencies by the other ; but both remain unchanged and unchangeable to the end of the story.

How then is victory to be achieved? In the verse of the chapter the answer is found. thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord." Keep the eye riveted solely upon Jesus, — fixed upon Him to the exclusion of everything else. To be occupied with self and self-failures is enough to plunge one into the depths of despair and wretchedness. Never until the mind is stayed on a far brighter object than self can there be any peace or any joy. The rule laid down years ago by a saint now with the Lord, is a correct one, — "If you would be distracted, look around ; if you would be miserable, look within ; if you would be peaceful, look up." Look up!