We are now in a position to consider what we are taught as to the new nature itself. We have looked at its various titles and characteristics; and now we wish to learn what is said about its character and end.
1. IT CANNOT BE CHANGED.
In this respect it is like the old nature: "That which is born of the Spirit is spirit", and remains spirit (John 3:6). No known power can ever change it into flesh; or alter its character. It is divine in its origin, and perfect in its nature (1 John 3:9; 5:18). Its origin is the Spirit of God (John 6:63). Its instrument is the Word of God (1 Pet. 1:22,23; John 6:63). It is not altered or affected by any of the frailties, infirmities, or sins of the flesh. By it we are made the sons of God; and it is the token to us that God is our Father. The gift of this new nature, or spirit, is called our "sealing", which is ours on believing (13) (Eph. 1:13). Once we really learn and believe this blessed fact it becomes difficult, if not impossible, for us to pray: "take not Thy Holy Spirit from us." (14) No! God will never take away from His children that new spirit which He has put within them: for "the gifts and calling of God are without change of mind" (Rom. 11:29). If Israel, though cast off (not cast away) for a season, is "beloved for the fathers' sakes" (Rom. 11:28), the sons of God are beloved for His own sake. For, as it is written in Romans 8:30: "Whom He did predestinate [to be conformed to the image of His Son, 5:29] them He called also: and whom He called, them He justified also: and whom He justified, them He glorified also." Grace ensures glory: for "the Lord will give grace and glory" (Ps. 84:11). If He gives the grace it is the pledge that He will give the glory. It must be so. He will not make us "perfect in Christ Jesus" (Col. 1:28) and then judge us imperfect. He will not make Christ to be our righteousness and holiness (1 Cor. 1:30) and then unmake His own work.
If we are once "complete" in Christ (Col. 2:10) we cannot become incomplete. He will not deny or forsake the work of His own hands (Ps. 138:8). This mystery, or secret was "ordained by God before the world": and this is specially declared to have been "with a view to our glory" (1 Cor. 2:7). We may be perfectly sure therefore that His purpose cannot and will not fail; and that it will end in "our glory". The new nature, given by the pure grace of God, will necessarily end in the eternal glory of God. It came from God, and must return to God. This new nature cannot be forfeited - No, not even by sin: for even this contingency is provided for in 1 John 2:1,2, "If any man sin we have an Advocate with the Father Jesus Christ the righteous, and He is [and remains] the propitiation for our sins." (15) It is in this connection, with sinning, that we are reminded that God is still our "Father"; and that we are still His children: that our relationship has not been broken. "If any man sin"; What then? In that contingency we are not told what we are, but what Christ is. We are not reminded of what we have done, but what He has done. We are not turned in upon ourselves and our confession, but we are directed upward to Christ and His position. Our thoughts are not occupied with our humiliation, but with Christ's "propitiation": that is always before the Father; for Christ is there, and we are there in Him. Our confession was made once for all when we, by grace, took the place of the lost sinner (1 John 1:9); and when we laid our hand, by faith, on Christ as the sin-offering, and there owned ourselves as lost sinners. Then we were "sealed" (on this believing); and our position and standing before God was secured and assured by the gift of the new nature. So secure is our standing in Christ that two Advocates, or Comforters, are provided. The word is Parakletos and means, one called to one's side for help, comfort, advocacy or for whatever one may need. It occurs only in John's writings, and is translated "Comforter" in his Gospel, and "Advocate" in his Epistle.
But the fact remains that Christ tells us in the Gospel that we have one Advocate (the Holy Spirit) with us, that we may not sin: and the Holy Spirit tells us in the Epistle that we have another Advocate (Jesus Christ the righteous One) with the Father, if we do sin. So that all is foreknown, foreseen, and provided for; and nothing can forfeit this wondrous gift of God. Nor will God ever recall His gift, or take from us that spirit, or new nature, which He implanted in us, His sons, when He thus sealed us as His children.
2. The new nature is "LIFE AND PEACE" (Rom. 8:6). The body dead (i.e., reckoned as having died) on account of sin, but the spirit (or new nature) is life on account of righteousness. The gift of the new nature, to those who, having died with Christ, are henceforth righteous in His righteousness, is "eternal life". This is the very reason why the Lord Jesus says, "they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand" (John 10:28). This is said because of their having received the gift of eternal life. As the end of the old nature is "death", so the end of the new nature is "life", -- "eternal life" that has no end. Hence, it is written, "he that soweth unto his own flesh (the old nature), from the flesh he shall reap corruption: but he that soweth unto the pneuma (or new nature) from the pneuma he shall reap life everlasting" (Gal. 6:8). It is this that involves a third truth, and fact, as to the end of the new nature, which will be to the greatest and most blessed result of possessing this priceless gift, viz.:
3. The issue and end of the new nature will be RAPTURE and RESURRECTION (Rom. 8:11). For, "If the pneuma (i.e., the gift of the spirit, or new nature) of Him that raised up Jesus from among [the] dead dwelleth in you, He that raised up Christ from among [the] dead shall make alive again your mortal bodies also on account of His pneuma (or spirit: i.e., the new nature) that dwells in you."
Note that, twice over in this one verse, the resurrection of the Lord is mentioned: first, the fact of His own resurrection, as "Jesus" (the lowly one, humbled in death); then, the doctrine that He was raised as "Christ" the glorified One, the Head of the Body (1 Cor. 12:12); thus necessitating the resurrection of all the members of that Body. It is because these members possess "Divine spirit" or pneuma-Christou (Rom. 8:9), that they are reckoned as having risen, when He, the Head of the body, rose. This is knowing "the power of His resurrection" (Phil. 3:10). This is very different from knowing that which is taught by tradition in the present day. The possession of this new nature, if we only understand it aright, is the sure and certain pledge that we shall be actually made alive again; and that these mortal bodies of our humiliation shall be made like the glorious body of that risen Christ (Phil. 3:21). No wonder that those who do not understand the doctrine of the two natures, do not understand the doctrine of the resurrection. No wonder that they are misled by false hopes, both as to this life and the next. In this life they are possessed by the false hope of improving that which can never be improved: and as to the next life they possess the false hope of glory apart from resurrection, which can never be realized. The one is a fruitless task; and the other a groundless hope. Together, they make void the sure and certain words of Scripture: for, it is when we are "clothed upon with our house (or spiritual body) which is from heaven, that mortality shall be swallowed up of life" (2 Cor. 5:2-4). And, it is in resurrection, not till then, and therefore not at death, that "this corruptible [body] shall put on incorruption, and this mortal [body] shall put on immortality" (1 Cor. 15:54).
Traditionists subvert this precious truth; and assure us that all this takes place at death. They thus deprive the doctrine concerning the new nature of its glorious crown, which is the blessed hope that He who raised up Christ from the dead shall make alive again our mortal bodies also on account of His Divine nature which dwells in us (Rom. 8:11). It is thus that the blessed hope both of rapture and resurrection is done away with by practically saying "that the resurrection is past already" (2 Tim. 2:18). Instead of Scripture language being sufficient for the purposes of modern teachers, recourse is had to the language of pagans and spiritualists. Their terminology is adopted instead of the sure and certain words of God.
Thus man's word "passing" is put for the Scripture "falling asleep". "No death" is put instead of God's word "death". And a present "transition" is put for future "translation".
"There is no death,
What seems so is transition."
These false expressions are borrowed from spiritualism, and the quotation is made from the Unitarian platonic poet; and both are in flat contradiction to the language of the Word of God. It is what Scripture calls "handling the Word of God deceitfully" (2 Cor. 5:2). The text is used "he was not, for God took him". But, these words are used in Scripture of Enoch, who never died at all, and therefore could never need a resurrection. Enoch was "translated that he should not see death" (Heb. 11:5); and this (in Gen. 5:24) is put in other words "he was not, for God took him". But these words are used, to-day, of one who actually died. What is this but to say that the deceased obtained by death what Enoch obtained only by translation? What is this but to deny the resurrection altogether? and practically to say that (for the deceased at least) "the resurrection is past already?" (2 Tim. 2:18). What is this but the teaching of those whose "word doth eat as doth a canker ... who concerning the truth have erred ... and overthrow the faith", not of some, but of many?
An eminent American physiologist once made a statement as to the "article of death" -- a brief criticism in a religious weekly of it ended thus: "A soul awake to itself must find in death either the moment for reckoning with a judge, or the moment for speeding to a Saviour. This may be old-fashioned, but it is a true doctrine." Yes, this is "old": as old as Genesis 3:4; but it is not "true". It may be "doctrine", and it may be "theology", but it is not "Scripture". Scripture assures us (of one of these two classes at any rate) that "we which are alive and remain [to the coming of the Lord] shall in no wise precede them that are fallen asleep" (1 Thess. 4:15, R.V.). But, according to the above "old-fashioned doctrine", we shall precede them; for that, without resurrection, and without rapture, we shall "speed to a Saviour"; but according to this teaching, it will be by dying, and not by being alive and remaining till the coming of the Lord. According to the above "doctrine", 1 Thessalonians 4:15 ought to have been written: "we who are alive and remain ... shall follow them which have preceded us".
But, it is not so written. And those who are content with the words of God will continue to hold fast "that blessed hope" and to "wait for God's Son from heaven" (1 Thess. 1:10). We will not exchange "that blessed hope", which God has given us in His Word, for this false and groundless hope; which was conceived by the great enemy of that truth; born in Babylon; nursed in tradition; and held by religionists of all kinds. A false hope which is common to the Heathen, to Spiritists, and to every great false system of Religion: but which is unknown to the sure Word of God. Well did the Saviour say of this very doctrine of Resurrection, "Ye do err, not knowing the Scriptures, nor the power of God" (Matt. 22:29).
This is the conclusion, in 2 Corinthians 5:1--9 (which commences with the word "for"), of the statement which commenced in 2 Corinthians 4:14 with the words: "Knowing that He Who raised up the Lord Jesus, will raise up us also with Jesus and will present us with you."
This is the glorious end of the new nature. As the old nature ends in death and corruption, so the new nature will end in rapture or resurrection. For "the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Rom. 6:23). The one is God's judgment; the other is God's grace. The one is sin's "wages"; the other is grace's "gift". This gift is possessed, and will be enjoyed, only by those to whom it is "given". The Lord Jesus in His last prayer declared that the Father had given Him power "that He should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him" (John 17:2,6,9,11,24). Therefore it is written: "This is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He that hath the Son hath life: and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life" (1 John 5:11,12). These words state a Divine universal truth; and they are true not only of the Church, but of all to whom this "gift" shall be "given". Specially true, therefore, are they of those who are, "in Christ", sons of God, heirs of God, joint heirs with Christ.