How Jesus Destroys the Carnal Nature
January 20, 2022 Blogs by: Tim Jennings, M.D.

I received an email from a kind Christian gentleman who values the penal/legal model of salvation and questions the healing model that Come and Reason presents. I thought it might be helpful to share a portion of his email that expresses his concerns and my response:

Dr. Tim:

By your own definitions, man’s sinfulness or condition of sin is exactly man’s carnal nature, which you know well cannot be cured, healed, or restored. Our carnal nature will not be taken to heaven. It will either be replaced for believers at the Second Advent, or destroyed with its possessor in the second death. Our carnal nature will always oppose God and His will. There is no Healing Model to present as an atonement model.

As long as you tell your Sabbath School class members that Christ died for our sinfulness, they will admit that it is plausible. I challenge you to tell your class members that Christ died to heal our carnal nature and see what response you get.

Incidentally, you like to refer to another model of the atonement as “imposed law.” Is this fair? The term, “imposed law,” is not appropriate at all, because the God we worship never imposes Himself on anyone, or imposes anything on anyone.

Yes, I understand that “sinfulness” and the “carnal nature” are the same. Sinfulness is a condition that, because of Adam’s sin, we are born with and did not choose (Psalm 51:5). Thus, we are born terminal, not legally guilty. Every human being born since Adam is born with a condition that we did not choose; therefore, we individually are not in some “legal” situation of our making—we are in a sin-sick situation of our birth. This carnal condition is what causes acts of sin and results in death (James 1:15; Galatians 6:8). The acts of sin are symptoms of the condition, not the cause of the condition.

The plan of salvation is God’s intervention to eradicate the death condition and replace it with God’s eternal-life condition (Romans 6:23). This requires that God’s law (which is the law that life is built to operate upon) be written upon our hearts and minds (Hebrews 8:10). But we are unable to do this. This is what Christ came to do for us, to be the remedy to our condition, to eradicate (not merely heal) the carnal nature and replace the carnal nature with a righteous sinless nature that He, as a human, developed for us. This state of restoration to mature righteousness is known in the Bible as being perfect. Adam and Eve in Eden were sinless but not perfect. Jesus became our Savior when He destroyed the carnal nature and developed a perfect, sinless, and righteous human nature (Hebrews 5:9). Thus, Jesus heals humanity, not the carnal nature. At Gethsemane and the cross, Jesus chose righteousness, God’s law of love, and rejected selfishness and, thus, crucified the humanity that He inherited through Mary (Galatians 4:4), the part that “tempted him in every way like us” (Hebrews 4:15). But the part of His humanity that He received from the Holy Spirit was not destroyed at the cross; thus, He rose again on the third day as the same Jesus—same in character, identity, individuality, but with a purified and perfected humanity free of the carnal nature that tempts (Acts 1:11; 1 Thessalonians 4:14).

This is what He accomplished. And those who enter into a faith relationship with Jesus “die” to the old man, the carnal nature, and receive via the Holy Spirit a new heart and right spirit (Ezekiel 11:19). We receive a new nature—we become “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4). As Paul said, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). As Scripture teaches, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Note, the Bible does not teach that “I have been declared to be crucified with Christ,” or “that it is declared that Christ lives in me,” or “that it is accounted that we become partakers of the divine nature,” or that “Christ became sin for us so that we could be declared the righteousness of God.” No, we actually are transformed and changed; our hearts are no longer controlled by the old carnal nature, and we get a new nature—we “become the righteousness of God!”

This is beautifully expressed in the book Christ’s Object Lessons when describing the metaphor of being clothed with the robe of Christ’s righteousness:

“By His perfect obedience He has made it possible for every human being to obey God’s commandments. When we submit ourselves to Christ, the heart is united with His heart, the will is merged in His will, the mind becomes one with His mind, the thoughts are brought into captivity to Him; we live His life. This is what it means to be clothed with the garment of His righteousness. Then as the Lord looks upon us He sees, not the fig-leaf garment, not the nakedness and deformity of sin, but His own robe of righteousness, which is perfect obedience to the law of Jehovah” (p. 311).

This is the reality—actual heart/mind transformation and renewal to love what God loves and to live in harmony with the principles of God’s kingdom.

The penal/legal view is a fraud and a lie that teaches people that they are legally declared to be righteous when they remain unrighteous. It prevents people from experiencing the true healing of heart and mind that God has provided through Christ. The legal view of salvation is part of the wine of Babylon that we are to reject and for which the three angels’ messages call people out of when it calls us back to worship God as Creator. This requires that we reject human imposed-law constructs and understand that God’s laws are the design protocols upon which reality operates and, therefore, salvation is the action of God to heal, fix, recreate, restore human beings back to righteousness, which requires restoring His living law of love within us. This is the reality: All legal/penal theologies are based on Satan’s view of God’s law and keep people trapped in a hopeless system.

Regarding “imposed law,” it is a term that differentiates the design laws upon which the Creator builds reality and life (laws of gravity and physics; laws of health; law of love, liberty, truth; the moral laws; etc.) from the arbitrary laws that sinful beings make—rules that are legislated or enacted that require external enforcement by a ruling authority. God’s government never uses imposed laws or compelling power; His laws are not like human laws. Thus, the imposed-law terminology is quite accurate, and the imposed-law idea is an infection from Satan that is at the heart of the penal/legal theologies. I urge you to reject the idea that God’s law functions like human law and to begin worshiping Him as Creator—recognizing that all His laws are design laws and that the entire penal/legal construct is a fraud.

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Tim Jennings, M.D. Timothy R. Jennings, M.D., is a board-certified psychiatrist, master psychopharmacologist, Distinguished Life Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, Fellow of the Southern Psychiatric Association, and an international speaker. He served as president of the Southern and Tennessee Psychiatric Associations and is president and founder of Come and Reason Ministries. Dr. Jennings has authored many books, including The God-Shaped Brain, The God-Shaped Heart, and The Aging Brain.
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