For many centuries there has been and continues to be a discussion and viable disagreement concerning the ‘old self’ and ‘new self’ within the Church. Those fires have not ceased and most likely will not.
Old Self Crucifixion
Many amongst us hold tightly to the thought that at the moment of salvation Believers receive a ‘new’ self and retain all aspects of the ‘old’ self. Salvation thus becomes only an addition, but not a transformation necessarily. The way I see it this is not consistent with biblical teaching. Paul writes in Romans 5 and 6 that the old self was done away with. The Apostle says that ‘the love of Christ controls us’ and follows with, “Therefore, from now on we recognize no one according to the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him in this way no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” 2 Corinthians 5:16-17 ESV. Paul further states that we died to sin and are alive to God in the Risen Savior, Jesus Christ, “For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin.” Romans 6:5-7. Therefore, salvation is, indeed, transformation and the old self is gone; replaced by the new self in Christ Jesus.
No Spiritual Half-Breeds
I would suggest that for a Believer in Christ to have both an old and a new self is to argue that the Believer’s spirit is half lost and without Christ and half is ‘born-again.’ How can this possibly be for there is no biblical support for such a half-breed in the Word of God. I find it impossible to assume that one can be in Adam and in Christ at the same time, and just as difficult or impossible to have an old and new self in the same body.
I do not believe Scripture gives validity to a dualistic view for the person we were before we trusted Christ is no more. Our nature has been changed and transformed. We are new creations, not merely the same old creatures with new personalities. What I do know is that the ‘old self’ is the unregenerate nature of who I once was in Adam. It is not the dark side of my new nature in Christ. The old self is no more for It has been crucified, put off, laid aside; kaput. And as defined by Webster’s, “utterly finished, defeated, or destroyed.”
The Bible uses the word ‘transformation’ in reference to the Believer in Romans 12:2 “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” The word is defined as, “to change into another form, to transform, to transfigure” and is used to describe Christ’s transfiguration. We must not separate justification (immediate transformation from death to life) from sanctification (spiritual transformation into Christ-likeness).
Who I Am IS Not Who I Was
All of this takes us to Romans 7:14-25, “Did that which is good, then, become death to me? Absolutely not! But sin, so that it would be shown to be sin, produced death in me through what is good, so that through the commandment sin would become utterly sinful. 14 For we know that the law is spiritual—but I am unspiritual, sold into slavery to sin. 15 For I don’t understand what I am doing. For I do not do what I want—instead, I do what I hate. 16 But if I do what I don’t want, I agree that the law is good. 17 But now it is no longer me doing it, but sin that lives in me. 18 For I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my flesh. For I want to do the good, but I cannot do it. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but I do the very evil I do not want! 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer me doing it but sin that lives in me. 21 So, I find the law that when I want to do good, evil is present with me. 22 For I delight in the law of God in my inner being. 23 But I see a different law in my members waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that is in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.”
Christians Serve Only God
Recalling the early days I had with these verses; about 60 years ago, my questions were simple and produced by Paul. As a 15-year-old high school freshman I had no ideas about what theology is nor any inkling about what my pastor was addressing as he was preaching through Romans. However, I did have questions.
- How, as a redeemed Christian, was Paul “being unspiritual and sold into slavery to sin?”
- How was a redeemed Christian, Paul, doing that which he hated?
- How was this redeemed Paul controlled by sin and not by the Savior?
- How does sin live in the Christian?
- As a Christian, How is “evil present with me?”
- How can God the Holy Spirit be powerless in the presence of the law of sin?
- How can a Christian be ‘wretched’ when the Risen Christ is Savior and Lord?
- How can Paul the Christian not know ‘Who would rescue ‘this body of death?’
- How can a Christin be ‘2 persons at the same time?’
- How can a Christian ‘serve the law of God and the law of sin’ at the same time?
Paul answers, “Can any of these questions and more be true?” with 2 words, “Absolutely not!” in verse 14.
Concerning the idea of serving two masters, Jesus spoke clearly, “you will love one and hate the other.” Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 10:20-21, “I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons.” Our Lord and this Apostle make it certain that a Follower of the Christ is to be obedient to God alone for the body of the Believer is the temple of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus is Lord.