2 Peter 1:3-4. 3 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.
Partakers of the divine nature.
Is this how you see your life? Would you say that you have been partaking of the divine nature today? This week? Ever? New Testament scholar John Stott called this a “claim without equal in all the New Testament.” In fact, it’s such a big statement that we often either ignore it because it seems so out of reach, or we just plain get it wrong.
Peter did not invent the phrase partakers of the divine nature. It was a common phrase in Greek philosophy. It was believed that a person could become divine through the acquisition of special knowledge (another word Peter borrows here). By gaining all this secret knowledge (the logos), a person could eventually become one with the divine (the cosmos).
Sadly, some see Peter simply smooshing Christianity and pagan thought together here in 2 Peter. But that’s not happening at all. Rather, Peter is using his culture’s language to show us the present reality of our union with Christ. Partakers of the divine nature is not our ending point as it was for the gnostic Greeks. Partaking of the divine nature is our starting point. In fact, everything in 2 Peter 1:3-4 is our starting point. It’s all from Jesus. Our relationship with, or knowledge of, Jesus has already transformed us. It has already given us everything we need for life and godliness. It has already brought us into Jesus’ own glory and excellence. It has already granted to us every promise in Christ. It has already made us partakers of the divine nature. It has already rescued us from the corruption of sin and mortality.
All of this is ours in Christ! Right now. Knowing him. Sharing him. Being alive in him.
OK, before we get too excited (too late), let’s pump the breaks and make sure we understand what partakers of the divine nature DOESN’T mean. First it doesn’t mean (as the Greeks thought) that we will eventually be absorbed into an impersonal divine essence or force. It’s not about escaping the corruption of a physical body or the material world. It’s not about sinlessness on this side of Heaven. And it doesn’t mean that one day we will become a god or God himself.
Notice that Peter doesn’t say we receive the divine nature. He says we partake, or participate in, or share in (koinonia), God’s divine nature. This is still a huge thought, but it keeps us in our place. Remember we were made to image God. To be creatures not Creator. To be human. Our union with Christ, our participation in the divine nature is all about making us more and more human, not less human and more divine. God’s plan is for us to live forever, in a physical body, on a physical New Earth, and be our unique, individual selves, forever enjoying a relationship of glory and excellence (moral goodness) with the Trinity and the rest of the family of God as worshipers of God.
And so Peter’s question becomes, in this confusing, sin stained, and sorrow filled world, is Jesus enough for us? Or do we need more than Christ?
Is his divine power enough? Or are you looking for strength in your own self-discipline, or self-anesthetizing?
Is knowing Jesus enough? Or are you searching for a greater truth beyond Christ’s own death and resurrection – everything from politics, or worldly philosophies, or “deeper” bible studies?
Is sharing the glory of Jesus by way of his sacrificial cross enough? Or are you still seeking praise, honor, and glory from your own accomplishments, performance, or potential?
Is receiving the moral excellency of Jesus’ by his shared perfect righteousness enough? Or are you still striving to prove your own goodness?
Is trusting in the precious and very great promises of Jesus’ return and ultimate salvation enough? Or are you placing your hope in short term solutions and temporary pleasures?
Is your escape from the world’s corruption through the gracious New Covenant promises of forgiven sins and new desires all you need? Or do you need more penance, more begging, more self-loathing, more dedication, and more just good old fashioned trying harder (we’ll talk about that tomorrow)?
Do you really believe that you have already been given everything you need for life and godliness today, and every day? Or are you still waiting on God to give you more than Jesus’ life? Are you still waiting for God to do more than the cross? More than the resurrection? More than “to live is Christ?”
Are you partaking of the divine nature? What do you think this means?
You in Christ
How does union with Christ give us everything we need for life and godliness?
Christ in you
How might you plan to share in the divine nature today? What would it look like?
Playlist: Share in Christ – listen in order for full effect.