Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Bringing Many Sons to Glory

For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of our salvation perfect through sufferings. For both He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren. (Hebrews 2:10-11)
“It was fitting,” the author of Hebrews says, for the Captain of our Salvation (Jesus) to be made “perfect through sufferings.” Made “perfect” does not refer to Jesus in His own nature or being, as if He was somehow flawed. Rather, it is about His role in our salvation. The word “perfect” refers to completion. In order for Him to make our salvation complete, it was necessary for Him to suffer.

Why was it fitting that the Lord of all and Creator of everything should come and suffer anything? Would it not be a disgrace for the Most High to become so low, and that for the sake of sinful man? Yet we are told that it was indeed fitting, appropriate for Him to do so.

But why? God did not do this for any of the angels who fell in satan’s rebellion, but He immediately moved to do so when Adam sinned. Why for us and not for the angels?

Look back in Hebrews 2:5. “For He has not put the world to come, of which we speak, in subjection to angels. But one testified in a certain place, saying” [here the author quotes Psalm 8:4-6]:
What is man that You are mindful of him,
Or the son of man that You take care of him?
You have made him a little lower than the angels;
You have crowned him with glory and honor,
And set him over the works of Your hands.
You have put all things in subjection under his feet.
Then the author of Hebrews makes this observation: “For in that He put all in subjection under him, He left nothing that is not put under him” (v. 8).

Consider carefully what he has just said: The world to come is not placed in subjection to angels, but God has created and cared for man and place all things in subjection under his feet.


See, God created man in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26). This was never said of angels, or of any other creature except man. Then God blessed them — male and female — and gave them dominion over all the earth, to subdue it, that is, to bring it into line with the plan of God. That is what David was talking about in Psalm 8.

When Adam sinned, the image of God in us was marred, but God’s purpose remained. That is why the Son of God “became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). He is the perfect man who fulfills Psalm 8 and God’s purpose for mankind. In Him, we are made complete, perfected in the salvation for which He suffered.
Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil. (Hebrews 2:14)

Jesus partook of human nature — flesh and blood — but not the nature of angels. Why? Because man was created in the image and likeness of God; angels were not. God created man, not angels, to have dominion, with all things in subjection to him.

So it was fitting, quite appropriate, that Jesus would come and suffer for our salvation. It was not a matter of divine necessity, but of divine grace. For there was no necessity upon God to create man in the first place, much less to give him dominion over His creation. That was pure grace. Then God graciously restored and fulfilled that plan at the terrible price of the Cross.

Man was created in the image and likeness of God, and Jesus became human, partaking of flesh and blood in order to redeem us and “bring many sons to glory.” This glory is not about a place we go to but a state of being in which we exist, the glory of God we were originally created to bear. We are, by this, true sons of God and the brothers of the Lord Jesus. As the author of Hebrews says, “For this reason, He is not ashamed to call them brothers.”

Jesus partook of human nature that we might partake of the divine nature (2 Peter 2:4) as sons of God restored to glory.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Divine Union with God

I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that they world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given to them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me. (John 17:20-23)
This is a prayer Jesus prayed for His disciples and, by extension, all who believe in Him through their witness. It is a prayer for union with God, that we may be one with Jesus and each other, just as Jesus is one with the Father. If Jesus is in union with the Father, and we are in union with Jesus — well, you do the math.

We were created for union with God from the very beginning, when God created man in His image and according to His likeness. No other creature, not even the angels of heaven, are said to be created this way. This likeness gives us the capacity to enjoy union with God. Like joins to like.

Of course we know that Adam rebelled against God in the Garden of Eden and lost vital connection with God. In Jesus Christ, that connection is restored for all who believe. We are reconciled through Him to enjoy fellowship with the Father once again.

When mankind fell into the bondage of sin, Jesus “became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). The reason He could do this was because man was created in the image and likeness of God. He did not become an angel when satan and his angels rebelled against God; they were not created in the likeness of God, as man was.

Man is unique among all God’s creatures, and uniquely fitted for union with Him. Second Peter speaks about this union in terms of 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 through lust. (2 Peter 1:3-4)
We are “partakers” of the divine nature. The Greek word is koinonia, which can also be translated as “fellowship,” “partners,” “companions,” and “communion.” It speaks of union. Here it is used of our participation in the divine nature.The early Church Fathers recognized this reality and spoke of it in ways that are quite breathtaking. Here are a few examples:

  • Justin Martyr, an early Christian apologist martyred at Rome:
Let the interpretation of the Psalm [81:1-7] be held just as you wish, yet thereby it is demonstrated that all men are deemed worthy of becoming “gods,” and of having power to become sons of the Highest. (ANF Vol. 1, Dialogue with Trypho, Chapter 124)
  • Irenaeus (120-202), a disciple of Polycarp, who in turn was a disciple of the apostle John:
Our Lord Jesus Christ, who did, through His transcendent love, become what we are, that He might bring us to be even what He is Himself. (Against Heresies, Book 5, Preface)
  • Clement of Alexandria (c. 150-215), early Christian theologian and head of the catechetical school in Alexandria:
And now the Word Himself clearly speaks to thee, shaming thy unbelief; yea, I say, the Word of God became man, that thou mayest learn from man how man may become God. Is it not then monstrous, my friends, that while God is ceaselessly exhorting us to virtue, we should spurn His kindness and reject salvation? (ANF Vol. 2, Exhortation to the Heathen, Chapter 1)
But that man with whom the Word dwells does not alter himself, does not get himself up: he has the form which is of the Word; he is made like to God; he is beautiful; he does not ornament himself: his is beauty, the true beauty, for it is God; and that man becomes God, since God so wills. (ANF Vol. 2, The Instructor, Book 3, Chapter 1)
  • Athanasius (296-373), bishop of Alexandria, called a “Doctor of the Church” and “Father of Orthodoxy”:
For He was made man that we might be made God. (On the Incarnation, chapter 54)

Therefore He was not man, and then became God, but He was God, and then became man, and that to deify us. (Against the Arians, Discourse 1, Chapter 11)

For He has become Man, that He might deify us in Himself, and He has been born of a woman, and begotten of a Virgin, in order to transfer to Himself our erring generation, and that we may become henceforth a holy race, and “partakers of the Divine Nature,” as blessed Peter wrote. (NPNF Vol. 2, Personal Letter 60:4)
We were created in the image and likeness of God to enjoy divine union with Him.We enter into this union through faith in Jesus Christ, God who became man. 

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Joyful Expectation

Bring joy to Your servant’s life,
Since I set my hope on you, Lord.
(Psalm 86:4 HCSB)
Here is the secret of joy: Set your hope on the Lord. In the Bible, hope is not tentative but sure. There is no “maybe” about it. Rather, it is an anticipation, an expectation of what will be. David has set his hope on the Lord.

The KJV and other versions has, “I lift up my soul.” It is like an empty cup we lift up before the Lord with the expectation that He will fill it. As long as we keep it before Him, we will not be disappointed. It is a matter of believing the goodness and the promise of God. In another psalm, David declare, “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want” (Psalm 23:1).

Because his trust is in the Lord, he has a positive anticipation for good. This creates another expectation: There will be joy in his life.

Biblical hope is positive expectation, joyful anticipation. Set your hope on the Lord, trust in His goodness, and get ready for His joy to fill you up.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Spiritual Formation – A Bibliography

Here is a selected and annotated bibliography I recently completed for a course I am taking on Spiritual Formation. Thought it might be a helpful resource for your own spiritual development.


Chan, Simon. Spiritual Theology: A Systematic Study of the Christian Life. Downers Grove: Intervarsity, 1998.
Explores systematic Christian theology in relation to spiritual growth and formation. With emphasis on the theology and life of prayer, this book focuses on spiritual practices for engaging God, the self, the Scriptures and the world. It also gives special attention to developing a “rule of life,” the discernment of spirits and the role of spiritual direction. This work is historically and theologically informed by a broad spectrum of Christian traditions.
Ford, Marcia. Traditions of the Ancients: Vintage Faith Practices for the 21st Century. Nashville: Broadman and Holman, 2006.
This book gathers an assortment of Christian disciplines and practices from the wide-ranging traditions of the Church and adapts them for use today. It explores the value of many spiritual practices less known to Evangelicals, such as sacred reading, manual labor, pilgrimage, night watches, fixed-hour prayer, the prayer of examen and the Jesus prayer.
Foster, Richard. “A Life Formed in the Spirit.” Interview by Mark Galli. Christianity Today, September 17, 2008.
Richard Foster is one of the early proponents of the recent revival of the practice of “spiritual disciplines.” Beginning with his conversion to Christ, he discusses how his life has been formed spiritually. He also talks about how, as a young Quaker pastor, his own spiritual formation shaped his ministry. In particular, he notes how he began to take much more seriously the “soul growth” of his parishioners through the means of the spiritual disciplines he later wrote about in Celebration of Discipline.
Foster, Richard J. Streams of Living Water: Celebrating the Great Traditions of the Christian Faith. San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1998.
Foster discusses six different aspects to spiritual formation he finds embodied in Church tradition: contemplative, holiness, charismatic, social justice, evangelical and sacramental spiritualities. These are the different ways Christians have followed Christ. Historically informed, this book includes a helpful appendix of key figures and movements representative of these various streams.
Howard, Evan. “Three Temptations of Spiritual Formation.” Christianity Today, December 9, 2002.
Addresses the Mainline, Evangelical and Pentecostal churches on the necessary components of Christian spiritual formation: It must be Christian, i.e., Christ-centered and not just religious. It must be spiritual, i.e., dependent on the Holy Spirit and not just on the Scriptures. It must be formation, i.e., the manifestation of Christ-like character and not just experiences.
Keener, Craig S. Gift and Giver: The Holy Spirit for Today. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2001.
A study of how the Holy Spirit ministers to believers. It includes a discussion of the Spirit’s role in salvation, what the baptism of the Spirit is and when it occurs, how to recognize the voice of the Spirit and how the Spirit empowers us for evangelism. It also describes the spiritual gifts, their purpose and how they function. The final chapter (apart from the conclusion) emphasizes the importance of exercising spiritual discernment.
Smith, James K. A. “Teaching a Calvinist to Dance.” Christianity Today, May 16, 2008.
Article about how Reformed and Pentecostal aspects of spirituality have blended together in the author’s life. The paradigm is about taking the sovereignty of God so seriously that the Spirit of God can show up in ways that may be surprising. Recognizes that the goodness of God embodies in us and that we are not just “brains-on-a-stick.”
Tickle, Phyllis. “Blowing Holes in Spiritual Formation.” Interview by Leadership Journal (n.d.).
Tickle discusses the incorporation of ancient spiritual disciplines into the life of modern churches. She finds this movement to be popular with the under-40 generation, as sees it as being post-Reformational as well as well as post-Enlightenment and post-denominational. She believes it is part of a new Reformation currently in progress.
Webber, Robert E. The Divine Embrace: Recovering the Passionate Spiritual Life. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2006.
A book on relational spirituality, the “divine embrace” between God and man. The first part discusses how Christian spirituality needs to be rescued from Platonic dualism, medieval mysticism, intellectualism, experientialism, legalism, romanticism, New Age philosophy and Eastern religions. The second part focuses on God’s story, how He reached out in love, how man comes into His saving embrace, how His life in us produces love for others and how our life in Him results in obedience.
Willard, Dallas. “Spiritual Formation in Christ: A Perspective on What it is and How it Might be Done.” Journal of Psychology and Theology 28, no. 4 (January 1, 2000): 254.
Discusses the nature, purpose and means of spiritual formation, which requires psychological as well as a theological understanding of the spiritual life. Recognizes that spiritual disciplines are effective for Christian formation in the human spirit, but only because one is formed by the Holy Spirit. Emphasizes that “the tree is known by its fruit,” and the fruit of Christian formation is obedience to Christ.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Blessing-Based Living

The blessing of the LORD makes one rich,
And He adds no sorrow with it.
(Proverbs 10:22)
Listening to Kenneth Copeland preach this morning on the Believer's Voice of Victory, I was struck by the difference between blessing-based decisions and toil-based decisions. This gives me an important new way to evaluate my thoughts, choices and actions: Is this based on the blessing of the LORD, or on the toil of the world?

See, the world operates by toil, scratching and scraping just to get by. But God intends for His people to operate by His blessing. It makes life rich and brings no regrets.

Psalm 127, attributed to Solomon, puts it this way:
It is vain for you to rise up early,
To sit up late,
To eat the bread of sorrows;
For so He gives His beloved sleep.
(Psalms 127:2)
Solomon was talking about operating in the blessing instead of by toil. He did not ask God for wealth, but for wisdom — and ended up with riches as well.

The world has it backwards. They think that if you add riches to yourself, you will then be blessed. But God says it is His blessing that makes one rich. Not toil, but blessing.

Toil is different from work. When God created Adam, He gave him an assignment — to be fruitful, fill the earth, subdue it and have dominion (Genesis 1:26-2). Adam was given a work to do, but it was not toil. It was a blessed work. It would be effective, an efficient and productive use of all his efforts. Toil did not enter the picture until Adam rebelled against God as disconnected from Him. God said,
Cursed is the ground for your sake [i.e., because of you];
In toil you shall eat of it
All the days of your life
Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you,
And you shall eat the herb of the field.
In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread.
(Genesis 3:17-19)
Operating under a curse, full of thorns and thistles, eating by the sweat of your face — that’s toil! It was never what God planned for us. Jesus came to deliver us from the curse, so that we might enjoy the blessing (Galatians 3:13-14).

Right now the world is all in a twitter, full of fear about the economy. Many Christians are, too. They are operating in a toil-based mentality, thinking that it all comes down to them and what they can do. But we have the promise of God, and it is the promise of blessing. It is not based on toil, or even on work, but on faith in what He has said. When we take God at His Word, receive His wisdom and believe His promise, our work will be effective and productive, not toil. Riches will then be added to us, with no regrets.

Let your thinking be changed by the promise of God. Examine your choices and actions to see whether you are making toil-based decisions, or decisions based on God’s blessing.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Therefore We Will Not Fear

In the LORD I put my trust;
How can you say to my soul,
“Flee as a bird to your mountain?
For look! The wicked bend their bow,
They make ready their arrow on the string,
That they may shoot secretly at the upright in heart.
If the foundations are destroyed,
What can the righteous do?”
The LORD is in His holy temple,
The LORD’s throne is in heaven.
(Psalm 11:14)

God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear,
Even though the earth be removed,
And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;
Though its waters roar and be troubled,
Though the mountains shake with its swelling. Selah.
(Psalm 46:1-3)
Do not let the economy throw you into fear. God has not gone anywhere. He is still enthroned in heaven. He still rules over the earth. Indeed, as David said,
His eyes behold,
His eyelids test the sons of men.
The LORD tests the righteous.
(Psalm 11:4-5)
God sees everything that is going on. He is testing us, proving us. Not to see where our hearts are and in whom is our trust—but to reveal it.

The enemy of our souls is trying to get us worked up and overwrought. “Ah, no, look at what is happening,” he says. “The foundations are destroyed — what can the righteous do?”

The righteous can keep their cool and remain seated. See, God is on His throne in heaven. Jesus is seated at His right hand, “far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every named that is named” (Ephesians 1:20-21).

Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Lehman Brothers, the Dow and every other name you can think of — Jesus is seated far above them all, and so are we! God has already raised us up together with Jesus and seated us with Him in the heavenlies, at the right hand of the Father (Ephesians 2:5-6).

Jesus is not rattled, and we have no reason to be, either. Why? David said it very well:
For the LORD is righteous,
He loves righteousness;
His countenance beholds the upright.
(Psalm 11:7)
We have His promises and He has already made every provision for us. He not only beholds us, He upholds us.

In Psalm 46, David sings of God, who is our refuge and strength. He is a “very present” help in the time of trouble—literally, abundantly available help.

Therefore, we will not fear.
  • Though the earth shakes, rattles and rolls, we will not fear. Our foundation, both for this life and next, is secure in God.
  • Though the mountains be carried out to sea, we will not fear. Jesus taught us to “have faith in God” and speak to the mountain (Mark 11:22-23).
  • Though the waters rush and roar, we will not fear. Jesus is in the boat and He will speak His calm to the wind and the waves, if we will trust Him and say, “Peace, be still.”

No matter what is going on in the world right now, make the choice and determine that you will not fear. Put your trust in God and let His love be perfected in you and cast out all fear. (1 John 4:18).

Friday, October 3, 2008

Partaking of the Divine Nature (Part 1)

Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as 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 through lust. (2 Peter 1:2-4)
Peter encourages and exhorts believers with the prospect of sharing in the divine nature. James R. Payton Jr. probes the matter in a recent article in Christianity Today. He asks the question, “Is salvation solely about us and our need to be forgiven and born again, or is there a deeper, God-ward purpose?” From a study of early Church Fathers, he answers,
The leaders of the ancient church thought so, speaking regularly of salvation in a way that may sound strange to many evangelicals, but which Wesley alluded to in some of his hymns. In particular, they envisioned salvation as theosis, an ongoing process by which God’s people become increasingly “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4), formed more and more in God’s likeness. As the 2nd-century theologian Irenaeus urged in Against Heresies, “Through his transcendent love, our Lord Jesus Christ became what we are, that he might make us to be what he is.” The great 4th-century defender of Jesus’ divinity, Athanasius, put it even more forcefully: “[God] became man, that man might become god.” [James R. Payton Jr. “Keeping the End in View: How the Strange yet Familiar Doctrine of Theosis can Invigorate the Christian Life.” Christianity Today, October 2008, 67.]
Clearly, there is a moral component to Peter’s words, having to do with God’s “virtue” or goodness and believers escaping “the corruption that is in the world through lust.” Believers are enjoined, accordingly, to add virtue, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness and love to their faith (2 Peter 1:5-7). However, that does not exhaust our participation in the divine nature, for Peter also speaks, in verse 3, of divine power, and what has been given to us by it, as well as the divine glory by which we have been called.

Peter was no stranger to this divine power and glory, and it was more than a theoretical construct to him. He experienced it firsthand. Along with James and John, Peter saw the Lord Jesus transfigured before his eyes. “His [Jesus’] face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light” (Matthew 17:2). Certainly, Jesus partook of the divine nature by reason of being the Second Person of the Trinity, but here He was in his humanity, His body revealing the glory of God in a tangible way. There is no inherent contradiction in the human body partaking of the divine glory, as indeed the Incarnation as well as the Transfiguration demonstrate.

Peter also witnessed the power of God at work through the human body of Jesus and the many miracles He performed. Indeed, Peter preached to Cornelius that “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him” (Acts 10:38). Though Jesus was and is the Son of God, in His earthly ministry He was anointed by God with the Spirit and power, and it was because “God was with Him” that He went about doing good and healing. Here again, we see Jesus in His humanity partaking of the divine nature and power.

Before He ascended to heaven, Jesus promised the disciples, of whom Peter was one, “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you” (Acts 1:8). The same Holy Spirit and power that was on Jesus to go about doing good and healing would also be upon them. Their witness came not only by word but also by power, as the balance of the book of Acts demonstrates. Again, there is no inherent contradiction in a human being partaking of and manifesting divine power. Peter experienced this divine power, for example, when he and John healed the lame man (Acts 3:1-10), and when he raised Dorcas from the dead (Acts 9:36-42). There is also the unusual example of when people brought their sick out into the streets where Peter’s shadow might pass over them, and they were healed (Acts 5:14-16). This was not Peter’s doing, but the power and glory of God at work in Him, accomplishing it through him.

In his first letter, Peter recognized other aspects of the divine nature at work in God’s people. He blessed God, “who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you”(1 Peter 1:3-4). Believers share in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, to partake of divine immortality. As Paul said, “This corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality” (1 Corinthians 15:53).

First Peter 1:23 reminds us that we have been “born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever.” This is a heavenly birth, brought about by God’s own word, and as Jesus taught Nicodemus, by the Spirit of God (John 3:3-8). Believers partake of a divine conception and birth.

[Part 2]

Partaking of the Divine Nature (Part 2)

[Part 1]

Believers also partake of divine ability. Peter’s discussion of charismata (grace gifts) is found in 1 Peter 4:10-11 and is very succinct:
As each one has received a gift [charisma], minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.
Where Paul gives a more extensive list in his discussion of the gifts in Romans 12:6-8 and 1 Corinthians 12:14, including gifts of utterance (e.g., prophecy, exhortation, tongues and interpretation of tongues) and gifts of action (e.g., showing mercy, helps, administrations, gifts of healings, working of miracles), Peter has two categories: speaking and ministering. These are not to be done in our own natural wisdom, ability and strength, but in that which God supplies.

Edwin A. Blum sees a connection between spiritual gifts and the immediate context of 1 Peter 1:4. Commenting on verse 3, he says,
God has called believers “by his own glory [doxa] and goodness [aretē]” — that is, God in salvation reveals his splendor (doxa) and his moral excellence (aretē), and these are means he uses to effect conversions. In bringing people to the knowledge of himself, God’s divine power supplies them with everything they need for life and godliness. Probably what is in view is the work of the Spirit of God in believers, providing them with gifts and enabling them to use these gifts. [The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, 12 vols. 12:267-68.]
What does it mean to partake of the divine nature? James Starr asks,
Does 2 Peter mean deification? The answer to that is it depends on what is meant by deification. If the term means equality with God or elevation to divine status or absorption into God’s essence, the answer is no. If it means the participation in and enjoyment of specific divine attributes and qualities, in part now and fully at Christ’s return, then the answer is — most certainly — yes. [James Starr, “Does 2 Peter 1:4 Speak of Deification?” In Partakers of the Divine Nature: The History and Development of Deification in the Christian Traditions, ed. Michael J. Christensen and Jeffrey A. Wittung (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2007), 90.]
Robert M. Bowman draws these conclusions:
The point is that the phrase “partakers of the divine nature” need not, on the assumption that “divine nature” refers to God’s essence, mean that Christians are to possess God’s essence in themselves ... Rather, God’s essence will dwell in them (through the Holy Spirit) and in so doing will transform their lives. [Robert M. Bowman, The Word-Faith Controversy (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2001), 192.]

Lastly, some comment on the meaning of “nature” (physeōs) is needed. The word is used quite rarely in the New Testament (eighteen times, counting adjectival and adverbial forms) and always with the simple meaning of what is intrinsic or essential or “natural” ... Peter, then, is speaking of God’s essence and is saying that Christians are to experience the benefits of having the essence of God dwelling in them. This is a reality that has already begun, but its full realization will come when we have fully “escaped the corruption in the world by lust,” that is, when we are made incorruptible and immortal. It is a marvelous truth that the actual essence of God dwells in the believer. [Ibid.]
Contrasting how the early Eastern Church differed from the Hellenistic viewpoint on divinization, James Payton notes this important distinction,
The leaders of the ancient church in the East seized on this familiar concept but filled it with new content. Whereas the usual notion entailed being absorbed into God like a drop in an ocean — losing consciousness and individuality forever — Eastern church leaders insisted that in deification we are made like God yet remain distinct from him. The way they put it is that we experience his “energies” but do not share his “essence.” This distinction is crucial, because it clarifies that for the Orthodox, becoming like god is not the same as becoming identical with God. We can never become the same as our Creator (the Uncreated), though we can take on crucial aspects of his character and being. [James R. Payton Jr. “Keeping the End in View: How the Strange yet Familiar Doctrine of Theosis Can Invigorate the Christian Life.” Christianity Today, October 2008, 68.]
Partaking of the divine nature is more than a matter of moral likeness to God. Believers in Jesus Christ are born of a divine word, with the anticipation of sharing in the divine immortality of the Lord Jesus Christ. We have the capacity to experience and manifest divine power and glory. We partake of the divine Spirit who has gifted us with divine abilities. Just as Paul taught both the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) and the gifts of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12-14), Peter likewise demonstrates an awareness of both. We should not think that our participation in the divine nature is limited to one or the other.

It is also important to recognize that partaking of the divine nature does not mean that we lose our identity and distinctiveness. We become like God, just as Adam was created in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26-27), but we do not become identical with God. That is, we do not become God Himself. The Creator/creature distinction always applies.

God is infinite; we are finite. Though we may partake of divine knowledge, wisdom and power through the gifts of the Spirit (e.g., word of knowledge, word of wisdom and working of miracles in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10), that does not make us all-knowing, all-wise and all-powerful.

If the divine nature is God in His essence, we may partake of it only in the sense that He indwells us, but not in the sense that we actually become Him. The distinction between the “energies” and the “essence” of God is helpful. We may actively share in His energies, the communicable attributes of God (e.g., the fruits and gifts of the Spirit), but we can never fully comprehend who He is in Himself. We are vessels and reflectors of His glory, but the essence of it is His alone.