Faithlife Sermons

Partakers of the Divine Nature

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Our scripture for discussion for tonight will begin with the opening of a letter from Peter. And then I want to make some closing remarks to officially end our time together by way of a closing to a letter from Paul. But before we do. In my usual fashion I want to ask you a few questions.

Who are you?

If you remember back on one of our very first lessons when we started out time together I asked this question.
I hope you have a much deeper appreciation for this question by now. But let’s run it the other way. Instead of looking inward. Let’s look outward. You can tell a lot about a person’s heart by how they complete the following sentence.

People are.....

If we say they are dangerous! What does that about us? That we are fearful.
If we say they are lost! What does that say about us? That we can only see our own sinfulness.
But if we they are “made in the image of God”! What does that say about us? That we understand God’s purposes for us in this world.
We know we are in this world but not of it. And we know we have been saved by grace through faith in what Jesus did on the cross (Eph. 2:8–9). But as I have said before, that’s just the beginning of understanding what God is up too. We cut short the completeness of God’s plan with the Cross and the Gospel when make it only about salvation with the fall and redemption.
God’s original intention in Eden was to merge heaven and earth, He didn’t abandon that plan at the fall.
So here is our passage for tonight!
2 peter 1:2-4
2 Peter 1:2–4 ESV
2 May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. 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.

What does it mean to “become partakers of the divine nature”?

What is Peter writing about here?
Peter is contrasting the Christian belief that believers participate in the divine nature with the Greek belief that humans could become gods.[1]
Christian theology distinguishes sharing in divinity (the glorification of believers by virtue of being in the body of Christ, God’s family) from transformation to deity in the spiritual world[2]
[1]Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (2 Pe 1:4). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

WE SHALL BE LIKE HIM

Joining God’s divine family is inextricably linked to the New Testament concept of becoming like Jesus—becoming divine. The academic term describing this point of biblical theology is

“theosis.”

As one evangelical theologian laments:

The idea of divinization, of redeemed human nature somehow participating in the very life of God, is found to a surprising extent throughout Christian history, although it is practically unknown to the majority of Christians (and even many theologians) in the west.

The concept of “theosis” has strong biblical roots, and extends from the original Edenic goal of having humans joining with God in a world where Heaven and earth meet. In the beginning, God made humans to image him, to be like him, and to dwell with him.
This is present in many place in the Bible besides our passage for tonight. The message of “theosis” is that, in Christ, we are being transformed into his likeness—the perfect imager of God. Scripture is clear that immortality as a glorified human is the destiny of the believer, and that our present lives in Christ are a process of becoming what we are:
Romans 8:29 ESV
29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
2 Corinthians 3:17–18 ESV
17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
1 John 3:2 ESV
2 Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.
1 Corinthians 15:44–54 ESV
44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 46 But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. 47 The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. 48 As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. 49 Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven. 50 I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”
Theologians refer to this idea by many labels. The most common is.......

glorification.

Peter referred to it as becoming “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Pet. 1:4). John put it this way: “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are” (1 John 3:1, emphasis added). So let’s take a look at how the Bible conveys that message.

Sons of God, Seed of Abraham

When God turned the nations of the world over at Babel, he did so knowing he would start over with a new human family of his own. God called Abraham (Gen. 12:1–8) right after Babel (Gen. 11:1–9). Through Abraham and his wife Sarah, God would return to his original Edenic plan.
God’s people, the children of Abraham, the Israelites, ultimately failed to restore God’s good rule on earth. But one of those children would succeed. God would become man in Jesus, a descendant of David, Abraham, and Adam. And it was through Jesus that God’s promise to one day bless the nations he had punished at Babel was fulfilled. Paul wrote about that in several places. Here are two:
Ephesians 3:3–6 ESV
3 how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. 4 When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5 which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. 6 This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.
Galatians 3:26–29 ESV
26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.
The story of the New Testament is that a descendant of Abraham—Jesus—died and rose again to redeem not only Abraham’s ethnic descendants (Israelites/Jews) but also all the people among the nations who had formerly been disinherited from the true God. In the verses quoted just above, Paul called the inclusion of Gentiles in the family of God a mystery. It astonished him that people from the nations God had cast off, could inherit the promises given to Abraham.
In Christ, all who embrace the gospel are children of Yahweh, the true God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (John 1:12; Gal. 3:26; Rom. 8:14). This is why the New Testament talks about believers using family terms (sons, children, heir) and the language of being “adopted” by God (Rom. 8:15, 23; Eph. 1:5; Gal. 4:4). The language of inheritance is crystal clear and deliberate. It tells us who we are: the new divine-human family of God. The believer’s destiny is to become what Adam and Eve originally were: immortal, glorified imagers of God, living in God’s presence.
But even that doesn’t fully express who we are. The most amazing part is how Jesus sees us.

A Family Reunion

The first two chapters of the book of Hebrews give us a dramatic picture of God’s family.
Hebrews 1 makes the point that Jesus is “so much better than the angels” (v. 4 leb). No one is higher. After all, he’s God. In fact, the writer makes the point that since no angel was fit to become man and inherit the kingdom, angels need to worship Jesus (vv. 5–6 leb). Jesus is king.
Remarkably, when Jesus became a man, he was for a short time lower than the angels. He became one of us. Humans are lesser creatures than divine beings like angels. The writer of Hebrews asks:
Hebrews 2:6–9 ESV
It has been testified somewhere, “What is man, that you are mindful of him, or the son of man, that you care for him? You made him for a little while lower than the angels; you have crowned him with glory and honor, putting everything in subjection under his feet.” Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him. But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.
What’s the result of what Jesus did? We might say salvation. That would be right, but it misses what the writer of Hebrews wanted us to know. Because God became man in Jesus Christ, his mortal followers will be glorified—and members of the family.
He became as we are so we might become as he is:
For it was fitting for him for whom are all things and through whom are all things in bringing many sons to glory to perfect the originator of their salvation through sufferings. For both the one who sanctifies and the ones who are sanctified are all from one, for which reason he is not ashamed to call them brothers, saying,
“I will proclaim your name to my brothers;
in the midst of the assembly I will sing in praise of you.…
Behold, I and the children God has given me.”
(Heb. 2:10–13 leb)
Our entrance into God’s divine, glorified family is our destiny. Paul puts in beautifully in Romans 8:18–23:
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.… And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.
Paul encouraged believers with the same message. He told the Roman believers they were “predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, so that he should be the firstborn among many brothers” (Rom. 8:29 leb). He told the Corinthian church, “We all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another” (2 Cor. 3:18), and that our humanity would be transformed, “for this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality” (1 Cor. 15:53). For Peter, joining God’s family council meant becoming “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Pet. 1:4). John said it most simply: “We shall be like him” (1 John 3:2).

Why This Matters

As Christians, we’ve probably heard many times that we need to be like Jesus. We certainly do. But when we hear that, we tend to process it only in terms of being good, or maybe “less bad.” We turn what’s actually a nearly inconceivable idea—that we will one day be as Jesus is—into a performance obligation.
Rather than feel guilty about how much we aren’t like Jesus, and pledge in our hearts to “do better,” we need to let the blessing of what he did, and will do, rewire the way we think about being like him. We can turn Christlikeness into a task we must perform lest God be angry with us, but that’s bad theology. It turns grace into duty. Or we can be grateful that one day we will be what God is thrilled to make us—what he predestined us to be (Rom. 8:29)—and live in such a way that people enslaved to dark powers will want to join us in God’s family. One perspective looks inward; the other looks heavenward.
The Christian life now is not about the fear that we will fail to keep happy the One who loved us while we were still enslaved to darkness. The Christian life is really about grasping two concepts: our adoption into God’s family—which means Jesus is our brother, and that God loves us like he loves Jesus—and our purpose in God’s plan to restore his kingdom on earth. God is our Father. We are his children, destined to live where he lives forever. We are his coworkers, tasked with helping him release those still owned by the lord of the dead and held captive by unseen powers of darkness.
That is what the Bible is about, from Eden to Eden. That is your destiny. Your life now is not about earning your place in God’s family. That cannot be earned. It’s a gift. Your life now is showing appreciation for your adoption, enjoying it, and getting others to share it with you.[1]
CLOSING
So up to this point I have shared much of my heart with you regarding the Bible and what the Christian life should look like. To be sure I am not the only one with insights into the areas we have discussed. In fact I believe with every fiber of my being that unless the church doesn’t begin to embrace good scholarship, we will continue see churches close their doors as well as leaders rise and fall based on the direction of the cultural winds, the tribe they can gather or their desire purely to see numeric growth.
So we have discussed many things in our time together. Some broad. Some very narrow. Touched in areas of sensitivity. And I hope provided avenues to build spiritual strength.
I will confess I have grown very fond of our time together. And I have done my best to be faithful to the opportunity that both you and God have given me. My prayer is that in some small way I have been a conduit for the spirit to provide each of you with some measure of good growth, help for healing, and encouragement for the days ahead.
So I am honored to be with you, this body of believers, as it turns the page into the next chapter of its history. What lies ahead for each of us only God knows. Fo my part, I do not see this as an end, but merely as a pause. God willing and through the power and providence of The Spirit we will have the opportunity to be together again soon.
I want to leave you with a closing from Pauls letter to the Romans. In many ways I can identify with what Paul is saying here in how he sees his ministry to the Gentiles. I am certainly not an inspired apostle. But his words resonate with me particularly given our time together these last few weeks. And I share his heart as he convey’s his love for the church.
Pray with me.
God Bless and Good Night!!
[1] Heiser, M. S. (2015). Supernatural: What the Bible Teaches about the Unseen World—And Why It Matters. (D. Lambert, Ed.) (pp. 147–154). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
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