2 Peter 1:3-4 Power and Promises

Divine power

Power, Promises, and Partakers

The believer does indeed partake of the divine nature, but in this sharing of that nature the creature does not lose its humanity.  Rather than becoming less human, those who are in Christ become all that humanity was intended to be, that is in perfect fellowship with their Creator.  The Christian does not become a little god but an eternal reflection of the faithfulness and glory of God.

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2 Peter 1:3-4

Divine Nature

divine transformation

Partaking of the Divine Nature

Partakers of the Divine Nature

 

What does it mean to be partakers of the divine nature?  In what way is fallen and fallible man able to be said to share the perfect and infallible?  Does the Christian merge with the divine being becoming ontologically equivalent with God or is the Christian changed from the inside out while retaining their creaturehood? These are the cruxes of the issue when discussing the matter of theosis as it relates to 2 Peter 1:4.

According to Douglas Harink, “we must seek a definition governed by Biblical teaching and orthodox doctrine regarding the Triune God, the uncompromised ontological distinction of creator and creature, humankind as created in the image and likeness of God, union with Christ, and the life-giving presence and power of the Holy Spirit.” (Harink, 246)

What are some of the things the Bible says of the Triune God and the ontological distinction of creator and creature?  The Godhead, consisting of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, are uncreated, eternal, infinite in being and perfection, immutable, and each person of the Godhead has life in themselves not contingent upon any outside phenomenon (John 5:26, Job 11:7, James 1:17, 1 John 5:7, 2 Cor. 13:14).  Man, on the other hand, is created (Genesis 1-2), mutable (Genesis 3), and contingent (Ps. 54:4).  Therefore, there is an obvious distinction between God and man per the Scriptures that must be resolved in order to understand how a believer partakes of the divine nature.

Conversion and Divine Nature

What of the conversion of the fallen and dead sinner into a new a living creation in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17)?  The key word there is “creation” as man is now and will forever be a creature in God’s creation.  However, the Christian is indeed new, being conformed to the very image of Christ (Romans 8:29).  The very concept of being conformed stands in contradistinction to the doctrine of the immutability of God.  The mystery of theosis is found in human nature’s perfection in Christ, not its alteration or destruction (Harink, 247).

Since Christians do not now and never will become little God-humans, what exactly does partaking of the divine nature consist of? Partakers is often translated as “fellowship” or “sharers” and believers are in fellowship with the very life that belongs to God (MacArthur, 30-31).  This is seen in such well known passages as John 1:11-13, Ephesians 2:4-6, and Titus 3:5 that speak directly to the new birth and regeneration/quickening.  The Christian receives life in Christ (John 5:21) and through this life we have fellowship with both Christ and the Father (1 John 1:3).  The life in Christ is also through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit as seen in passages such as Romans 8:9-10, 1 Corinthians 15:45, and Galatians 6:8.

Contextually, the reader must look at verse three for some clues in how to decipher the concept of being partakers in the divine nature that Peter wrote about in verse four.  This passage includes the statement that God has given the believer all things that pertain to life and godliness and it should be noted that life is only obtained in and through the workings of the Godhead.  Peter also speaks to God’s glory, which is His alone, and that the believer is called to it, not sharers of that glory.

The believer is called to Christ and united with Him without the creature being subsumed into the creator.  Those who are alive in Christ reflect His glory into creation (Isaiah 60:1-3) without becoming part of it.  To become part of God, part of glory, and receiving attributes that only belong to God would lend itself to a pantheistic worldview that is contrary to the orthodox teachings of the Christian Church.

It is also worth noting that being partakers of the divine nature is in direct accord with the promises made by God.  The redeemed become participants of the God-man, members of the totus Christus (Harink, 247) and receive all the promises made in and to Christ.  This includes the inheritance (Ephesians 1:11, Hebrews 9:15) as fellow heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17), the resurrection (1 Cor. 15:22-23), and eternal life (1 Peter 1:4), and likeness to Christ (1 John 3:2).

Food for Thought

It is also interesting to consider the hypostatic union when considering this passage of Scripture.  Christ, being the God-man, had both the divine nature and the human nature while neither nature was mingled or confused.  The eternal Son of God, in the Incarnation, joined the divine to the human in one person while neither confounding or diminishing either.  In being united to Christ, the believer’s human nature being conformed and renewed in Christ, can be joined to Him without becoming divine in and of itself.  The joining of the two does not necessitate the mixing, the subsuming of the one of the other, or the confusion of what either ontologically are.

In conclusion, the believer does indeed partake of the divine nature, but in this sharing of that nature the creature does not lose its humanity.  Rather than becoming less human, those who are in Christ become all that humanity was intended to be, that is in perfect fellowship with their Creator.  The Christian does not become a little god but an eternal reflection of the faithfulness and glory of God.

 

The Greatness of the Scriptures

The necessity of the scriptures

Do you agree with C.H. Spurgeon?  How do you handle situations where the supremacy of the Scriptures are doubted within the Church?

This indifference to Scripture is the great curse of the church at this hour. We can be tolerant of divergent opinions, so long as we perceive an honest intent to follow the Statute-book. But if it comes to this, that the Book itself is of small authority to you, then we have no need of further parley: we are in different camps, and the sooner we recognize this, the better for all parties concerned. If we are to have a church of God at all in the land, Scripture must be regarded as holy, and to be had in reverence.
Spurgeon

Eight things that need to be flushed

Things need flushed

Our doctrine and Worldview

My wife and I was discussing some culture and Christianity with a new attendee of our church when the conversation turned to ” secular ” entertainment. What was considered good and what should be off limits? Is there really any harm ingesting worldly images and attitudes on a daily basis at the expense of Biblical discipleship and a Christian Worldview? There is varying degrees of disagreement among genuine Christians on this topic and I don’t intend to settle the dispute here.

I did, however, end up chasing the rabbit a ways and came to this question: What is more harmful, entertainment or bad doctrine? Is that a false dichotomy? I am of the opinion that our doctrine and our worldview should and will influence our choices in everyday life and is much more important to our temporal and eternal existence.

Eight things we need to flush

What about the glut of doctrinal garbage that masquerades as Christianity in the world in general and America in particular? What should we think about the Prosperity Gospel, the Family and the Sanctity of Marriage, the deity and exclusivity of Christ, Moralism, the prospect of Hell, and the sufficiency of Scripture? Are they important enough to stand, fight, and even die for if called upon to do so? Without certain doctrines Christianity is no longer Christian and the Church is no longer the Bride of Christ but a cheap and tawdry imitation.

Here is a short list of things to be on the lookout for:

  1. The Prosperity Gospel is no Gospel at all. Any time we place something before the unsurpassing glory of the Gospel of Christ it is a false gospel and we should expose it as such.
  2. The Family is the basic unit of organization that God formed humanity to work in. Any system, creed, or philosophy that undermines the import of familial relations is false and ungodly.
  3. All Roads do not lead to Heaven. The Exclusivity of Christ is one of the distinguishing tenets of the Christian faith. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life and salvation is found in Him alone.
  4. We cannot now nor have we ever been able to save ourselves. Our Moralism is unable to commend us to a Holy God. HE demands perfection and that is only found in Christ.
  5. Hell is real and the unsaved will spend Eternity there. The Emergent Church and many of their feel good adherents have ripped the doctrine of Hell from the pages of Scripture or twisted it to scratch their itching ears. Jesus Christ said Hell was real and that it was a place of weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth. He said it and I believe Him. See #3.
  6. The role of the Church is not ultimately Social Reform. The state of our society should concern us as believers but that is not our main mission. We are the Body of Christ, the Church, and we are called to proclaim the Gospel, disciple believers, edify and equip the saints, and reflect the True Light into a dark World.
  7. The Bible is full of errors and should be abandoned or minimized as a man authored book. This is against the traditional view of Sola Scriptura, which states that the Scriptures are our final authority for faith and practice. The Scriptures are the inspired ( God-breathed ) word and reveal to us what HE would have us know of Himself, ourselves, sin, salvation, and Eternity.
  8. Any doctrine that elevates man and detracts from the Majesty of God. God is God and we are not. We are His creatures, made in His image, but never His equal. He alone is worthy of the Honor due Him and we should seek to glorify Him and enjoy Him forever.

Please remember that this is not a comprehensive list but rather a short compilation of doctrines that must be consigned to the trash bin of our lives.

How do you feel about this list?  What would you add? Take away?

Post Tenebras Lux

The Peace of Rome(ans)

Peace of Rome

Traveling the Romans Road

 

The closest I have even been to Italy is visiting Olive Garden or munching on my wife’s delicious homemade lasagna, but from what I can gather both of those pale in comparison to the real thing. Ya know, the history, the food, Italian sports cars, and the warm Mediterranean breeze blowing across my shaved head. Sounds delightful, doesn’t it?  There is, however, another Rome that we all should visit but the majority of the first part of that road is rather bumpy. The book of Romans, an epistle written by the Apostle Paul to the church found in the city it was named after, is an amazing piece of inspiration that should resonate with us today.

The not so peaceful path

 

Romans starts of with Paul’s greeting to the church and includes the heart warming message that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes, both Jew and Gentile.  Good news? You betchya, but from there he quickly paints a bleak picture of the dire straits humanity has found itself mired in that makes salvation necessary. Here are some excerpts:

 

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. – Romans 1:18

For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. – Romans 1:21

Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, – Romans 1:24

28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.
29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips,
30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents,
31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. – Romans 1:28-31

For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. – Romans 2:12

9 What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin,
10 as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one;
11 no one understands; no one seeks for God. – Romans 3:9-11

For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. – Romans 3:20

Not a pretty picture is it?  It doesn’t have the makings of a heart-warming Hallmark card does it?  Not much room for hope and it registers like a negative bazillion on the encouragement scale.  We suppress the truth of God in unrighteousness, we turn His truth into a lie, we are all unrighteous and we don’t even seek after God.  We cannot even work to please Him.  What miserable wretches we are through and through….what hope do we have?

 

Road Signs Ahead

Here is one thing I am thankful for, the epistle does not stop there. We are not left without hope in our misery.

22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction:
23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, – Romans 3:22-24

Jesus Christ, through faith in Him and the redemption that He has purchased with His perfect sacrifice, has revealed the righteous of God to us. Not our righteousness, not something we have worked for, or deserve.  It is not something that comes from within us because we are good enough, smart enough, or because we know the right people.

27 Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith.
28 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. – Romans 3:27-28

The signs point to Christ; the only hope for both Jew and gentile.

The Father of the Faithful

” Father Abraham, had many sons.  Many sons had father Abraham. I am one of them and so are you, so let’s just praise the Lord.  ”

There is much truth in that little verse children often sing.  Now, as far as I know I have zero Jewish ancestry, but I am by faith his son.  Abraham, was justified by faith before he was circumcised, so that he could be the father of both the circumcised and uncircumcised.

10 How then was it counted to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised.
11 He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well,
12 and to make him the father of the circumcised who are not merely circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised. – Romans 4:10-12

That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring-not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, – Romans 4:16

By grace through faith we are saved.  By grace through faith we are sons of Abraham.  By grace through faith we receive the promises of God.  By grace through faith we are justified and reckoned righteous.  Four little words that change everything.  By grace through faith.

We who were at enmity with God, who suppressed His truth, who ran from Him, and were quite literally guilty as sin, after being justified by faith have peace with God through Jesus Christ

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. – Romans 5:1

The peace of Romans rests on the finished work of Christ, the work that takes sinful wretches and turns them into the offspring of Abraham and inheritors of God’s promises.

Have you found peace with God?  Let us know about your experience.

Total Depravity are you Fallen

total depravity

Total Depravity and our Falleness

I have to admit, when I first encountered the doctrine of total depravity I was kinda taken aback.  I mean really, after all, I had been a Christian for a few years, I didn’t go around pulling the wings off of butterflies, and I only occasionally kicked kittens, so how could anyone claim that I was or at one time had  been totally depraved.  Honestly, before I was saved I was pretty bad but I was nowhere near the worst among my cadre of friends and acquaintances so I had a hard time wrapping my mind around this concept of my complete sinfulness and inability to please God on my own.  Having come from a Holiness tradition my efforts meant a lot both to me and others.  I prayed nearly everyday, I read the Scriptures, I went to Church and even wore my Sunday go to meeting clothes every third Sunday.  How could God actually think that I was totally depraved….and then I started to read the Scriptures for what they actually said.

 

I was in a State of Total Sinfulness

 

Here’s where my preconceived notions came tumbling down like a four year old’s gingerbread house.  I was totally depraved, I was dead in my sins, I was wholly without any merit or righteousness of my own.  When I finally read Ephesians 2 where it says:

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses

I noticed that there was a word in there that must not mean what it actually says.  I was dead in my sins and trespasses.  DEAD.  TOTAL DEPRAVITY.  Not only was I dead but I was walking in this death that Paul said afflicted me.  How was I alive and walking when God said that I was actually dead?  I realized, and not without much study, that I was spiritually dead, separated from the Giver of Life, and everything I did was contaminated with the stench of death, but where did this Death come from?  It came from my father Adam.  Now my immediate father’s name is Luther but my federal head, my representative in the Garden, the one who Fell and plunged us all into this death-his name is Adam.

When Adam partook of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, when the initial desire to disobey God’s holy command took root in his heart, he died that very day even though he lived for several hundred years tilling the ground and sweating like a mule under the curse.  By the trespass of one man we were all made sinners ( Romans 5:18-19 ) and the wages of sin is death.  As the body without the Spirit is dead ( James 2:26 ) a dead spirit separated from God will lead to a dead body.

Dead.  I still couldn’t believe it, but I could not entirely blame Adam as I liked doing what I did.  I chose everyday to flaunt the laws of God and carry out the depraved desires of my mind.  I was dead, a child of wrath, following the course of this world and living in the passions of the flesh.  But wait a minute…I didn’t do EVERY evil thought (Genesis 6:5 ) that crept into my putrid mind did I?  I hadn’t broken every law ( James 2:10 ) of God had I? It didn’t matter for everywhere I turned I was guilty.  Jesus Himself said:

Matthew 5:28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

and

Matthew 15:19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.

Total depravity and Seeking God

Ok, I was in a real quandary now as my heart had condemned me, my actions had condemned me, and my thoughts had condemned me.  But didn’t I seek after God and find Him?  Well, actually no, I didn’t.  Ya see, the Scriptures do speaks to this as well in Romans 3:

both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, 10 as it is written:

“None is righteous, no, not one;
11     no one understands;
    no one seeks for God.
12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
    no one does good,
    not even one.”

What a blow!!  I didn’t even seek after God to procure my salvation so what defense did I have left?  None, absolutely none.  Not only had I been totally depraved, so had all of humanity.  We were all in the same boat…well more like a spiritual morgue but you know what I mean.  What was worse was the fact that I kept finding these passages in the Bible that affirmed that I was wholly corrupted by sin and unable to come to Him.  For example:

1 Corinthians 2:14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned

Romans 8:7-8 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

Titus 3:5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,

What I had failed to understand about Total Depravity

But I did good things.  I really did.  I helped people, I donated time to friends in need, I sometimes picked up my own dirty clothes so I couldn’t be as bad as I could be, could I?  No I wasn’t, but that is not what is meant by ” total depravity. ”  What we are intended to believe about total depravity is this: we are corrupt in both body and soul and completely unable to perform any righteousness in regards to God and His standards.  See, Jesus even said that we did good things while being evil:

Matthew 7:11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

We can do good things in the eyes of the world and in the opinions of others but just not anything worthy to save us.  We cannot justify ourselves by earning our way into the good graces of God.  We do not act as badly as we possibly can, by His restraining Providence, but everything we do is tainted by sin and our best actions, our utmost righteousness, is as filthy rags before our Holy God.

My Worldview was shattered

I couldn’t help but think, ” what does this mean for me now? ”  I could no longer believe in the innate goodness of man and his ability to make a free will choice in favor of God as everyone’s will was corrupt and all are spiritually dead.  NO ONE, not the best of us ever sought after God on their own initiative and neither could we even understand the things of God in our natural state.

I realized with mind enlightening clarity ( thanks to the Holy Spirit ) that salvation is of the Lord, by grace, and through faith.  It wasn’t me who deserved His favor, it was Him who bestowed His marvelous grace upon me, for while I was yet a sinner Christ died for me ( Romans 5:8 ).  I realized that my puny efforts could never unlock the doors of that mansion that He is preparing for me in glory.  I realized that He knew me and loved me while I was wholly unlovable and that I love Him because He first loved me.  I would now never forget that I, who was dead in sins, was made alive in Christ because He gave life to this wretched man.

Sola Deo Gloria