The 2 Creations within Paul
by Keith Green. Article updated [25/12/09]
The way Paul was inspired to communicate in Romans 7:14-25 about the inner conflict between his fleshly sinful nature and the indwelling presence of Christ’s divine nature can be difficult to comprehend – unless it is understood that Paul was referring to these natures as two individual creations. The old creation and the new creation.
This concept is confirmed when one considers that the subject of Baptism into Christ, involving the same two creations, had just been mentioned in the previous chapter (Romans 6:3). And by referring to himself in such a way, Paul is merely describing the battle between the sinful nature (old person) and the Christlike nature (new person), which takes place within a person’s mind after they are baptized with the Holy Spirit. It is also another example of how God: “...calls those things which do not exist as though they did;...” (Romans 4:17; NKJV). In other words, in Romans 7:14-25, God is ALREADY referring to the opposing natures as two different creations, even though they are literally NOT YET, until a Christian is changed into a spirit being. A description of these two creations are as follows:
The first creation: is physical. It has a nature oriented to the five senses and is a combination of good and evil. This fleshly creation is called the “old person” in Romans 6:6.
The new, second creation: is a product of baptism into Christ by the Holy Spirit. It is sinless and Christlike in nature. Paul calls this creation, the “new person” in Ephesians 4:24. This second creation is further described in Romans 7:22 as the “inward man” or “inner being” (ESV) that delights in the law of God. Also, it is the part of a Christian’s attitude and thoughts that have been renewed by the Holy Spirit. (Titus 3:5) (See article entitled “ God’s Perspective of the New Person ”).
Discerning the two creations.
For the sake of simplicity, the two creations will be referred to as the “bad Paul” and the “good Paul”.
The ‘good Paul’ and the ‘bad Paul’ are identified in Romans 7:14-25.
14 “For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin.”[bad Paul]
15 For that which I do [bad Paul] I allow not:[good Paul] for what I would,[good Paul] that do I not;[bad Paul] but what I hate,[good Paul] that do [bad Paul].
16 If then I do [bad Paul] that which I would not [good Paul] I consent [good Paul] unto the law that it is good.
17 Now then it is no more I that do it,[good Paul] but sin that dwelleth in me[bad Paul].
18 For I know that in me [bad Paul] (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me;[good Paul] but how to perform that which is good I find not.
19 For the good that I would [good Paul] I do not: [bad Paul] but the evil which I would not, [good Paul] that I do [bad Paul].
20 Now if I do [bad Paul] that I would not [good Paul], it is no more I that do it, [good Paul] but sin that dwelleth in me [bad Paul].
21 I find then a law, that, when I would do good, [good Paul] evil is present with me [bad Paul].
22 For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: [good Paul].
23 But I see another law in my members, [bad Paul] warring against the law of my mind, [good Paul] and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.[bad Paul]
24 O wretched man that I am! [bad Paul] who shall deliver me [good Paul] from the body of this death?
25 I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself [good Paul] serve the law of God; but with the flesh [bad Paul] the law of sin.”
The two creations in more detail
In Romans 7:17, where Paul wrote that when he sinned “it is no more I that do it” he was a referring to himself as a new creation. This creation, according to the way God looks at things, came into existence when he was baptized into Christ with the Holy Spirit. Now read the complete verse in context:
“If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelt in me...” (Romans 7:16-17).
Undoubtedly, many bible students or ministers have read this verse in the past, only to quickly retract in their minds what appears to be on the surface a nonsensical statement. Surely, Paul could not mean that when he sinned it was “...no more I that do it...” After all, if it wasn’t him, who was it?
Yet, in effect, that is precisely what Paul wrote. When he sinned it wasn’t him.
This verse becomes even more intriguing when you consider the first part of the sentence “If then I do which I would not...” (Romans 7:16) In this verse, notice he acknowledges that he did sin when he said “I do” Yet in the same sentence he appears to contradict himself by saying “...now then it is no more I that do it...” (Romans 7:17)
In the above verses, Paul was not lying, but, was simply describing himself from God’s perspective – two conflicting creations within the one being. Notice in these verses Paul speaks about himself in the same way that one would normally talk about two separate entities. Hence the title of this article: “The 2 Creations within Paul.”
Now instead of dismissing some of Paul’s writings which, admittedly include “...some things hard to understand...” (2 Peter 3:16; NKJV), we just need do take into account that Paul is writing about himself as though he were two different entities. And that by doing this he is merely referring to the old and new creations (sinful nature and Christlike nature) that I have termed the ‘good Paul’ and the ‘bad Paul’– remembering that the subject of baptism into Christ, which involves these two creations, had just been mentioned in Romans 6.
The first creation is the ‘old human sinful self’ that is described as dead and buried (already) after a person is baptized into Christ with the Holy Spirit – yet in reality still existed to a large extent long after baptism, as will be explained later in this article.
The second creation is the ‘new sinless spiritual creation’ that comes into existence upon receipt of the Holy Spirit.
Therefore when Paul acknowledged that he did sin in Romans 7:16: “If then I do which I would not...” he was referring to the ongoing presence of the old sinful person.
And when Paul said in effect that its not him that sinned: “...now then it is no more I that do it”( Romans 7:17), he was referring to the new person.
Galatians 2:20 confirms the “two creation” concept is correct
In a letter addressed to various congregations in the province of Galatia, we find a passage in which Paul refers to himself once again in the same way as he did in Romans 7, with language that would normally be used if one was talking about two separate people.
In this verse however, the identity of the two creations is unmistakable. The two creations being referred to are non other than the old person and the new person that are associated with the experience of being baptized into Christ.
In Galatians 2:20, Paul states that he has been: “...crucified with Christ...”, which is a direct reference to the old creation that is described as crucified when a person is baptized into Christ by the Holy Spirit.
Read now the relevant scripture where I have also inserted in brackets the terms old and new person:
“...I (old person) am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live (new person); yet not I (old person) but Christ lives in me (new person): and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me (Galatians 2:20).
See article entitled “God’s Perspective of the New Person” for a more complete explanation that the new person refers to Christ within a Christian.
Further explanation of the two creations.
In the following verse, Paul describes his sinful nature: “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwells no good thing” (Romans 7:18). Notice the words in brackets “...(that is in my flesh)...” This terminology qualifies what Paul means by pronoun “...me...” Paul was referring to his fleshly or human existence (old person). in which as he describes: “...dwells no good thing...”
Compare this verse to a statement in Romans 8:8 in which Paul describes unconverted sinful human beings using similar terminology: “...they that are in the flesh...”
When the unconverted Paul (old person) was baptized with the Holy Spirit, the old sinful creation (sinful nature) from that point forward is referred to by God as crucified (Romans 6:6; Galatians 2:20) – a way of describing Gods grace, and how he was now overlooking Paul’s past and present sinful conduct as though that side of him it no longer existed.
This is reason Paul refers to Christians using the terminology he does in Romans 8:9 “...ye are not in the flesh...”, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you” (Romans 8:9). The phrase “...ye are not in the flesh...” is a description of how God sees a Christian with the Holy Spirit. He sees them as a righteous new creation (no longer in the flesh) and regards the old person (sinful nature) as though it were – already dead.
We can conclude therefore, that just as there are unconverted people who are referred to as “ they that are in the flesh”, there was also a Paul in the flesh, that was still subject to sin. But that person is viewed by God as though it was dead by “crucifixion” (Galatians 2:20).
Apart from the existence of a ‘Paul in the flesh’ elsewhere in scripture it can be established that there was also co-existing a ‘Paul in the spirit’ as declared in Romans 8:9:
“...But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you...”
Dwelling in the spirit can only be a reference to the new person (Christlike nature within). In Romans 7:22, ‘Paul in the spirit’ is called the “...inward man...” or inward person (accurate translation), who consents that Gods law is good (Romans 7:16). This new person is referred to in Ephesians 4:24, and consists of only Godly characteristics (true righteousness and holiness).
This new person always walks in Christ, even though the fullness of Christ will not be given until a Christian is glorified – changed to an immortal spirit being. While this new creation is not fully developed and differs in many ways from what it will eventually become, it is still referred to in scripture as the new person. It is only because of this new person – Christ’s righteousness within – that God chooses to maintain a relationship with us.
In Romans 7:18, Paul associates sin with himself in the flesh only, making a clear distinction between Paul in the flesh, and Paul in the spirit.
In Romans 7:17, Paul states when he sinned that it wasn’t him. Clearly, he was referring to the ‘new person’ of Ephesians 4:24 – the righteous new creation within that does not sin because it is the Christlike nature within us (Colossians 1:27). This new nature only fulfills Gods spiritual law and never sins. (See article entitled – “God’s Perspective of the New Person”)
The most important issue in God’s mind is that the ‘new person’ (righteous part of us) continues to be nourished and grow. It is this righteous nature, this new person, that God will preserve when we are finally born as a spirit being.
When we “...in the flesh...” sin, it is not the new person (Christ in us), but rather the old person or nature – which has only temporary physical existence and remains subject to eventual death. The old person will eventually perish for eternity – because it is not anchored to spiritual life in Christ. It does not survive the resurrection to immortality:
“The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption. It is sown in dishonour, it is raised in glory. It is sown a natural body ,it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body” (1Corinthians 15:42-44;NKJV).
Why Paul described things that way
In his letter to those in the church of God in Rome, Paul encourages Christians to focus on this new righteous nature, which is completely free from sin. By learning to view ourselves this way we adopt Gods positive perspective and avoid being deflected or discouraged by the old nature, ‘the flesh’.
So you might say, what’s the point of Paul describing things this way? I believe to help explain to us, that even though while we are human, yes unfortunately there will be a side of our nature that is still enslaved to sin as mentioned in Romans 7:14. However we should not be discouraged, but focus positively on the new creation’s God given spiritual talents. As the new creation (nature) continues to be nourished and grows we have eternal life within us. The old fleshly nature will gradually be displaced as the new creation grows. Eventually it will die for eternity (literally, not just figuratively) and only the new creation will remain.
To overly focus on the old creation is to participate in self centered preoccupation about sin, which hinders spiritual growth. Yes, we need to ask for more of God’s spirit so we can be gradually cleansed from participation in sinful conduct and grow in righteousness. However, long as we continue to ask for God’s forgiveness and continue to demonstrate faith by good works, any shortcomings are attributed to the old person who remains symbolically crucified and buried. (Galatians 2:20).
To adopt God’s perspective is to promote spiritual growth. All of God’s spirit begotten children should find this approach very encouraging.