Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Partaking of the Divine Nature

His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world. (2 Peter 1:3-4)
We were created to share in the divine nature, the nature of God. Adam was created in the image of God and received the breath of life from God’s own lips. Though he fell through disobedience, and disconnected from the divine nature, the Lord Jesus Christ came to restore and reconcile us to the Father. Through faith in Jesus Christ, we have been given a new birth — born from above by the Spirit of God. We have received the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. We are of the body of Christ and have the mighty resurrection power of God at work in us:
What is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which he worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. (Ephesians 1:19-21)

Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:20-21)
We are partakers of the divine nature. One who partakes is one who takes part. The Greek word is koinonia. It refers to partnership, participation, fellowship, commonality. See how it is used in the following passage:

The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion [koinonia] of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion [koinonia] of the body of Christ? For we, though many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of the one bread. Observe Israel after the flesh: Are not those who eat of the sacrifices partakers [koinonia] of the altar? (1 Corinthians 10:16-18)

Communion refers to the Table of the Lord — the bread and the cup, the body and the blood. It is the sign of our participation in the body of Christ, our common union with the Lord Jesus. We are identified with Him; He is identified with us. We are part of Him; He is part of us, even as the bread and wine which we consume becomes a part of us.

This is what the sacrifices of the Old Testament pointed toward. By eating of the sacrifices, there was an identification made between the sacrifice and the one who ate of it. The sacrifice represented them, and indeed became a part of those who ate. Paul said they were “partakers of the altar” (this was, of course, a figure of speech where “altar” actually speaks of that which was sacrificed).

What does it mean to be a partaker of the divine nature? The Greek word for “divine” is theois, and means to be god-like. “Nature” speaks of what we are in essence. To partake of the divine nature means to be god-like in essence. Though some Christians may be scandalized by it today, the early church caught the meaning of this and spoke of it as theosis, "becoming a god." Athanasius of Alexandria, a fourth century Greek Father of the Church, said this: “The Word became flesh, in order that we might become acceptable to Divinity. He was incarnate in order to deify us. He became man in order that we might become gods—participants of the Divine nature.” Far from being scandalized by this, the Church embraced this as part of orthodox Christian faith.

How do we participate in the divine nature? First, we need to understand that there are some aspects of the divine nature in which we could never share. For example, God is all-powerful, all-knowing and everywhere present. These are attributes which are in incommunicable. We are incapable of experiencing them. They belong to God alone. But there are other attributes of God in which we may share with Him. In 2 Peter 1:3, Peter tells us that “[God’s] divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness.” That which He gives to us by His divine power is itself divine in nature.

What are these gifts of His divine power? Peter lists some of them in 2 Peter 1:5-7: faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness and love. The apostle Paul has a similar list which he names as the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). These are gifts of God, fruits of the Spirit, attributes of the divine nature of which we have been made partakers.

In Christ, God has made us partakers of the divine nature. Learn how to walk in the gifts given by His divine power, and bring forth the fruit of the Spirit. “For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:8). When you understand who you are in Christ, and who He is in you, the world will change.