What is the sin nature?

The doctrine of the sin nature is not very popular. Even many Christians balk at the idea that all people are by nature guilty before God. Those churches which believe in the sin nature do not often teach the concept. The sin nature is also referred to as original sin and, among theologians, imputed sin. What is it?

The sin nature is the part of the person that is corrupted by sin. The sin nature is more than people committing sinful acts. The sin nature is the idea that every person is spiritually damaged. The broken part of the being produces the performance of evil deeds. 

The idea of a sin nature is found in Scriptures in the contrast between the old man and the new man. The old man is that which is natural to man and is displeasing to God. The new man is that which is supernaturally created by God in the believer with the ability and desire to live for Him. Statements like, “For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners” (Romans 5:19) teach that man possesses a sin nature. The truths, “There is none righteous” (Romans 3:10) and “For all have sinned” (Romans 3:23) express the universal nature of original sin. When Christians say every one is a sinner we mean that every one does things which violate the commands of God and we mean that corruption in the person moves him to break God’s laws. 

The sin nature is something more than the evil deeds done by a person. This truth is made evident in several key Biblical passages. In Ephesians 2 All the unsaved are called “the children of disobedience”. All who have not received the saving grace of God are “by nature the child of wrath.” Left to their natural state all humans are in disobedience to God and are under His wrath.

Psalm 51 says the person is tainted by sin from the very moment of conception. (Incidentally, this passage is one reason why Christians believe life begins at conception. A lump of tissue cannot be guilty of sin.) “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.” Sin is not just an action, a thought, an emotion, an attitude, a word or a conscious choice of a mature individual. Sin is a state of being. Sin is something bound up in the nature of the person that produces sinful actions. 

The sin nature is not the physical part of the person. Body, blood, muscle, tissue and DNA are not sinful. Jesus was a flesh and blood person who possessed all the attributes of humanity. He had a normal human body yet was without sin. Likewise, Adam and Eve possessed physical bodies and were normal human beings before they sinned. Satan is the father of sin. He is an angel, a spiritual being who lacks any physical substance. The physical part of man is not the sin nature.

The sin nature resides in the spiritual part of the man. When describing the source of evil in a man, Jesus traces it to the heart. “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil . . . evil things come from within and defile the man.” (Mark 7:20-23) Man’s problem is a spiritual one. Sin erupts from the corrupted heart to affect all parts of the person. The sin nature is in the heart of man and is the spiritual corruption of the individual.

Do people with tattoos go to hell?

Tattoos are an increasingly popular way for people to decorate and modify their bodies. Tattoos have a history that stretches back thousands of years and today tattoos are a part of the culture of the most primitive tribes and the most advanced cities. Though in years past some have taught otherwise, nothing in the Bible describes tattoos as the mark of the beast. Tattoos are not an unpardonable sin. The presence of a tattoo on a person does not automatically disqualify him from heaven. No single sin condemns someone to hell. People are condemned to hell because of the sin nature, the natural bent to wickedness that all possess at birth. David says in Psalm 51, “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.” Even before a person exits the womb, he is a sinful creature. This sin nature is why people go to hell. Individual acts of sin are an expression of the sin nature which all people possess. Consequently, none are condemned to hell because of being tattooed.

Similarly, people do not go to heaven because they were good enough to not get a tattoo. None enter heaven because of an action taken or a sin avoided. Heaven is reserved only for those who trust in the grace of God and receive the gift of forgiveness purchased by Jesus on the cross. Because the problem is one of human nature, the solution is not behavioral. The solution is a transformation of nature. To enter heaven one must be given a new nature, a nature that is righteous and acceptable to God. The new nature that man needs has been provided by Jesus and is freely available to any who will turn to Christ to be cleansed of guilt and transformed into righteousness.

A full answer to the question of tattoos must also consider if it is sinful to get tattooed. Some tattoos are going to be sinful because of their content. That which is obscene or profane is sinful, even if other tattoos might be acceptable. Tattoos are prolific in our culture. The days of only a fringe few being tattooed are long gone. No longer are tattoos immediately connected with rebel groups or gangs. The New Testament does not give a specific prohibition against getting a tattoo. The Old Testament did prohibit the Israelites from getting tattooed. Leviticus 19:28 says, “Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the Lord.” Leviticus 19 contains a combination of timeless commands (do not prostitute your daughter; do not seek after wizards) and temporary commands (do not round the corner of your beards; do not eat bloody meat). The command against tattoos in verse 28 is specifically addressing the idolatrous worship of the pagans in Canaan making the prohibition against inking the flesh challenging to categorize as timeless or temporary. However, the weight of the chapter is against those things associated with idolatry and includes tattoos in the category of idolatrous practices.Though the context of Leviticus 19 does not give definite clarity on whether or not this is an absolute principle, it seems to me that the burden of proof lies with those who would defend getting a tattoo.

Though I am reluctant to communicate a definite prohibition against all tattoos, I would give a couple serious warnings. If there is any legitimate possibility the tattoo is going to be associated with idolatry, wicked groups or sinful behavior, do not get it. If you have any doubts at all about the righteousness of getting a tattoo, don’t get one. If the motivation for getting a tattoo is to look cool or to gain acceptance, don’t get one. Though tattoos may be permissible, and certainly will not condemn one to hell, the Old Testament association of tattoos with idolatry, the need to live wisely in this world and the Christian’s maintaining a Godly testimony would seem to indicate it is best for a child of God not to get inked.