Day 10: May 12, 2018: Partakers of the Divine Nature
2 Peter 1:3-4: His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.
A “partaker” is one “who takes part in something with someone.” In this remarkable passage, Peter said that we who follow Jesus “may become partakers of the divine nature.” That is, we may come to “take part in godliness with God.” As the context of this statement reveals the focus is on us coming to “take part in” the excellence of God’s moral nature – his righteousness and holiness.
Verse 3a states that God has given us everything which pertains to life and godliness.
Verse 4c indicates our escape from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.
Verses 5-7 urge us to grow in the virtuous qualities of Christ-likeness.
So, the possibility is held out right at the beginning of Peter’s second letter that Christians can come to share in the righteousness which belongs to God’s own character. How is this possible?
First, Peter speaks of God’s generosity as the means of our partaking in the divine nature. He has granted us everything we need for life and godliness. Through the atoning work of Jesus Christ in his death and resurrection God has given us:
- The forgiveness of our sins (2 Peter 1:9, Colossians 1:13-14, Hebrews 10:1-18)
- Justification: we now have a right and lasting relationship with God (Romans 3:21-26; 4:1-25)
- Death to sin, and new life to God. Liberation from sin’s power, and freedom to obey God (Romans 6)
- The example of Jesus to follow, so that we will know how to live in holy love (1 Peter 2:18-25, Philippians 2:1-11)
- The living hope of eternal life with God in the new heavens and earth (1 Peter 1:3-9, Revelation 21-22)
Further, through the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit God has given us:
- Adoption as his children. By the Spirit of God, we cry out “Abba, Father” (Galatians 4:1-7, Romans 8:12-17)
- The Spirit is our teacher, comforter, guide, and advocate (John 14:15-17 and 25-31, John 15:26-27, John 16:1-14, Romans 8:26)
- The Spirit is the One who produces the characteristics of Christ in us (Galatians 5:16-26)
Second, Peter speaks of God’s calling as the means of our partaking in the divine nature. God has called us to his own glory and excellence. God has taken the initiative to call us to himself and to share his nature with us. The call of Jesus to discipleship is, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men” (Mark 1:17). As Dietrich Bonhoeffer observed about the call of Christ, “The disciple simply burns his boats and goes ahead. He is called out, and has to forsake his old life in order that he may “exist” in the strictest sense of the word. The old life is left behind, and completely surrendered.” The calling of God separates us from the old life of sin and creates new conditions in which we may pursue (by following Jesus) the glory and excellence of God.
Third, Peter speaks of God’s promises as the means of our partaking in God’s nature. “Through them [God’s precious and very great promises] you may become partakers of the divine nature.” To which promises of God was Peter referring? In one sense, he probably had in mind the full scope of God’s promises included in the plan of salvation. However, in both of his NT letters Peter consistently concentrates his readers attention on God’s promises for an eternal future with Him:
- 1 Peter 1:3-5: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
- 1 Peter 1:13: Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
- 1 Peter 4:5-7: … but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. 6 For this is why the gospel was preached even to those who are dead, that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does. 7 The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers.
- 1 Peter 5:10: And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.
- 2 Peter 1:11: For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
- 2 Peter 3:7-13: But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly. 8 But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. 10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. 11 Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, 12 waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! 13 But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.
These promises of God hold out to us the goal and hope of eternal life in God’s presence. They remind us that evil will be finally and forever punished on the day of judgment. They motivate us to live in holiness and godliness now since our future home will be the place in which “righteousness dwells.” They assure us that in his time God will “restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish” us. Thus, the promises of God empower us for the present and guarantee our future.
It is clear, therefore, that our coming to “take part in godliness with God” depends upon God’s work: his gifts, his calling, and his promises. There is, however, a role for us to play in response to and cooperation with God, and it is spelled out by Peter:
2 Peter 1:5-7: “For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.”
Take time now to seek God. This brief prayer can help you get started: “Lord, I rejoice in you. Thank you for giving me everything I need for life and godliness. Thank you for calling me to your glory and goodness. Thank you for your great and precious promises. Thank you for sharing with me your own holy nature. Help me to make every effort to grow in Christ, that I might partake more and more of your holiness. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”