According to some of our religious friends, the text in Ephesians 2:3 is supposed to teach that babies are born with a “sin nature” or a “sinful nature” and that they are under the wrath of God because of that nature. But isn’t it a monstrous and a blasphemous dogma to say that God is angry with any of his creatures for possessing the nature with which He created them? (Genesis 1:26-27). Never! God is not angry with men for possessing the nature He has given them, but only for the “perversion” of that nature (Ecclesiastes 7:29 – note the word “inventions” – KJV or “schemes” – NIV). The Bible represents God as angry with men for their wicked deeds (John 3:19), and not for the nature with which they are born.
Definition of “Nature”
The word “nature” in this text has nothing at all to do with what man is by birth. The word nature here refers to the “character” of contemporary sinners before they were converted. Note Ephesians 2:3, “Among whom also we all had our conversation (manner of life) in times past…” After their conversion to the Lord, Paul states in Romans 6:11 that their “old character” (nature) was now “dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
The word “nature” can be used in two distinct senses. It may refer to what man is involuntarily because of his birth, or it may refer to what man is voluntarily, by choice and apart from birth. The Apostle Paul uses it in the latter sense in the text under consideration. They were not children of wrath by birth. They were children of wrath because of voluntary wickedness. This is evident from the context of Ephesians 2:3. The context shows that Paul did not have his eye on their birth at all when he used the word nature. On the contrary, he had his eye wholly on the conduct of contemporary sinners before they were converted to Christianity. He calls attention in verses one and two to the fact that, before their conversion, they had “walked according to the course of this world,” in “trespasses and sins.” In verse three, he calls attention to their former fellowship with other sinners in fulfilling the “lusts of the flesh” and “the desires of the flesh and of the mind.” And then, summing up the wickedness, the guilt, and the deserved punishment of their former life, he says “and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.”
To teach from this text that babies are born with a sinful nature, and that they come into this world under the awful wrath of God because of that nature is a perverted doctrine! Do we really believe that God is really ready to let loose the terrors of his anger and the consuming fires of his wrath upon innocent little babies for the nature with which they are born? If the church is teaching such an abominable, God-dishonoring doctrine, may God forgive us!
Example Of Adam and Eve
Adam and Eve had two natures; yet we know that they were not “created” with two natures. They had the nature they were created with, which was good and upright (Genesis 1:27; Ecclesiastes 7:29), and they also had a sinful nature after they had sinned! It was this last nature, a “voluntary” nature, which made them “by nature the children of wrath.”
Three Distinct “Natures”
Men may have a “nature” in three distinct ways:
1) By Birth – This is the good and upright nature with which we are all created (Genesis 1:26-27; Ecclesiastes 7:29).
2) By Having Sinned And Come Short Of The Glory Of God (Romans 3:23) – This is a “voluntary nature” (Joshua 24:15; 1 Kings 18:21; Matthew 6:24). It is the nature that makes us enemies of God, children of the devil, and “by nature the children of wrath” (Ephesians 2:3).
3) By Being Born Again (John 3:3) – This is also a “voluntary” nature in which we, by faith, become “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4). In order for a child of God to “maintain” that “divine nature”, he (or she) must “voluntarily” and “continuously” be “transformed” and “renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him” (Romans 12:2; Colossians 3:10).
The word “nature” in the Bible, when it refers to our birth, never refers to a “sinful nature”. This is shown in Romans 2:14, which says, “For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law…” Now the word “nature” in this text does refer to the nature we receive at birth. But it is evident that the word nature used here is not a “sinful nature”. For how would a sinful nature ever cause us to “do by nature the things contained in the law”? A sinful nature would not cause us to do the things contained in the law. A sinful nature would only cause us to commit sin! (See Romans 1:26-27; Romans 2:14-15; I Corinthians 11:14). These passages show that our “nature” teaches us the differences between right and wrong, but never “causes” us to do the wrong.
To maintain that we are born with a sin nature is to charge God, the Author of our nature, with creating “sinners”. Men are not “born short of the glory of God.” They “sin and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Our Lord took on human nature and “was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). Therefore, we know that human nature is not sinful in itself. Finally, that babies are not born with a “sin nature” and are not “children of wrath” by birth is evident from what Jesus said of them: “for of such is the kingdom of God” (Luke 18:16).