By Keith Sharp
Sometimes, to excuse a fault or transgression, we rationalize, “Well, that’s just human nature.” Actually, different people have variant natures. Some people, vile sinners, have the nature of the devil (Jn. 8:44). Others are so crudely rebellious in their actions that they have the nature of “brute beasts” (2 Pet. 2:12). But, if we are to receive God’s blessings in His Son, we must “be partakers of the divine nature” (2 Pet. 1:4, 10-11). How can we become “partakers of the divine nature?” The apostle Peter answers this query in 2 Peter 1:2-11. He prefaces his reply by reminding us of the wonderful blessings that are ours if we do assimilate this divine nature.
Why, then, should we desire to be partakers of the divine nature? First, we should seek to have this ideal character because of the blessings we receive now as the result-such blessings as “grace,” “peace,” and “all things that pertain unto life and godliness” (2 Pet. 1:2-3). In short, we receive “all spiritual blessings in heavenly places” as our present reward (Eph. 1:3). Not only this, a wondrous award awaits us in the future if we imbibe this nature. We have been called “to glory” (2 Pet. 1:3). We have been given “exceeding great and precious promises” (2 Pet. 1:4), none greater than that of “eternal life” for which we hope (Tit. 1:2).. Certainly, then, we should desire to be “partakers of the divine nature.”
But, what is the “divine nature?” This simply refers to “God-likeness.” In one sense all men, even the worst of sinners, are like God. “God created man in his own image” (Gen. 1:27). We bear His image in that He is the Father of our spirits (Heb. 12:9) which, like Him, are immortal, rational and moral (i.e., able to discern between right and wrong). In this sense the “divine nature” is unconditionally possessed by all of Adam’s descendants. But – the “divine nature” of our study is conditional. We become God’s children, i.e., partake of His nature, through faith and baptism (Gal. 3:26-27). The “divine nature” consists of “the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” (Eph. 4:24). We acquire “righteousness” (i.e., the state of being right in point of law, innocent, not guilty) as the consequence of merciful forgiveness of our sins by the Father dependent upon our faith in and obedience to the gospel. “True holiness” (i.e., separation from sin and consecration to God’s service) comes as we purge sin from our daily lives through righteous living and prayer and as we offer ourselves as living sacrifices unto God. The result is God-likeness, “the divine nature.” We walk in the steps of Jesus our Master. Our character becomes like the very character of God, that we might be fit to dwell with Him through eternity.
How do we obtain this God-like character? Peter mentions two great processes which correspond to the two elements of the divine nature mentioned by Paul in Eph. 4:24. First, we must escape “the corruption that is in the world through lust” (2 Pet. 1:4). The result of this is “righteousness.” What is “the corruption that is in the world through lust?” “Corruption,” i.e., “decay,” is the consequence of “the world.” The term “world” is used in several ways in the New Testament-the material creation, the people of the earth, etc. However, here it refers to “sin and its allurements” (cf. 1 Jn. 2:15-17). We are led into this corruption through “lust” (i.e., “desire” of any kind, but here, by context, “desires fulfilled in an evil way”). Thus, we are to escape the consequence of sin, which is eternal decay or ruin.
How do we make our escape? Two terms are used in 2 Pet. 1:2-3 to indicate the means of our deliverance. They are “knowledge” (used twice) and “power.” The two words are here interchangeable. Without a basic knowledge of God’s will, one cannot be saved (Jn. 6:4445), for the gospel “is the power of God unto salvation” (Rom. 1:16). Thus, the process by which we escape “the corruption that is in the world through lust” is through faith in and obedience to the gospel (Gal. 3:26-27). This one great process includes five simple steps into Christ: hearing the gospel, believing the gospel, repenting of one’s sins, confessing one’s faith that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and being baptized for the remission of sins. The result is “righteousness” as the result of the forgiveness of sins.
Obtaining God-like character does not end with becoming righteous. We must still acquire “true holiness” by giving all diligence,” i.e., doing the best of which we are capable, to add the seven qualities of character enumerated in 2 Pet. 1:5-7. Thus, the second process in acquiring “the divine nature,” the one whereby we assimilate “true holiness,” is composed of seven steps. Actually eight qualities are mentioned in 2 Pet. 1:5-7, but one, “faith”, is assumed on the part of the Christian as already being a part of his life, for “. . . without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Heb. 11:6). But to this faith must be added “virtue,” i.e., “moral excellence.” This trait of character was eminently exhibited by the young man Joseph who forfeited a position of honor to gain a prison cell rather than to lie with his master’s wife and so “sin against God” (Gen. 39). How desperately young people in our day need this commendable quality, in order that they might dot succumb to the immoral enticements of our society.
Alongside this virtue we must place “knowledge.” This assimilation of facts, knowing what the Bible says, comes only through hard, diligent study. Being pablum fed with sermonettes on Sunday morning only has already led to one apostasy through ignorance in our life time. Christians should desire Bible study as “newborn babes” desire milk (1 Pet. 2:2). Christian, use every opportunity at your disposal to gain a deeper knowledge of God’s Word!
To knowledge we must add “temperance,” i.e., “self-control.” This is the quality Paul demanded in 1 Cor. 9:24-27. As the athlete in training strictly disciplines himself to receive the proper diet, exercise and rest and to have the proper attitude, the Christian must carefully discipline his thoughts, desires, words and actions to keep them pleasing unto God. One who fails to so control himself soon will become “a castaway.”
Furthermore, we must add “patience.” A patient person is not the spineless character who allows everyone to abuse him. Rather, he is one who is steadfast in adversity. He does not give up, no matter how difficult the circumstances. He is tenacious. Job is held aloft as an example of this quality (Jam. 5:11) because he maintained his integrity even though Satan buffeted him with horrible calamities (Job 1-2). The life in Christ is more like the marathon than the one hundred-yard dash. One must endure all adversity and temptation, even to the end, not just offer a short-lived burst of clean living.
We must also possess “godliness.” This is the attitude which seeks to please God, not ourselves. It was the attitude exhibited by the lad Samuel when, by Eli’s instruction and as God called him, he replied, “Speak; for thy servant heareth” (1 Sam. 3:10). This should always be our attitude toward God and His Word. If all children of God would thus allow the Scriptures to settle every problem and disagreement, all our troubles and divisions in congregations would vanish. To the one who possesses godliness, it matters not what he thinks or desires, or what any man says. All he inquires is, “What does the Bible say?”
To “godliness” the Christian must add “brotherly kindness.” “Brotherly kindness” is “the love that Christians cherish for each other as brothers.” The practical fruit will be kindness and tenderness toward one another, and a willingness to forgive our brother’s trespasses against us (Eph. 4:32). How far such a trait of character goes to promote the blessing of peace among brethren!
Finally, “charity,” i.e., “love,” “active good will,” must be a quality of the Christian’s life. We manifest love toward God by sincere and complete obedience to His every command (1 Jn. 5:3). We demonstrate love toward other people by seeking their highest good in all that we do (1 Jn. 4:17-18).
The one who has “escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” and has given all “diligence” to add these noble traits to his own character is a partaker of the divine nature. He is a fruit-bearing disciple, pleasing to his Master (2 Pet. 1:8). But, the child of God who fails to add these noble qualities to his life is short-sighted, not looking to the eternal goal, and has forgotten the purpose of his calling (2 Pet. 1:9). “Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things ye shall never fall: for so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 1:10-11).
Truth Magazine XIX: 43, pp. 678-679
September 11, 1975