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.

 

To be Like Jesus

There are multiple questions that must be discussed in answering the question, “Can we be the moral equivalent of Jesus?”  These include who is Jesus, what indeed is He like, what is the natural state of man, and what can one expect after conversion and union with Christ, but first one must understand what it means to be “the moral equivalent” of someone.  Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary can be used to define both moral and equivalent arriving at, “having the same value or meaning in regards to what is right and wrong with human behavior.” (Merriam-Webster.com/dictionary, July 16,2016)

Who is Jesus?  John, in the gospel bearing his name, begins the introduction of Jesus like this, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. (The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), Jhn 1:1–2.)  This bespeaks his existence, not only before his incarnation, but before all time, His co-existence with the Father, His agency in making the world. (Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1994), 1916.)  Jesus, as the pre-incarnate Son, was with the Father from the beginning, He took part in creation, and is identified as the ontological equivalent of the Father.  Jesus Himself states that He and the Father are one (John 10:30) and uses the statement “before Abraham was I AM” (John 8:58) to reveal to His Audience His divine nature.  God the Father, and therefore Jesus, is perfect in His divine being.

It is not only in His divinity that Christ was and is the epitome of moral perfection, but also in His humanity. Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 5:21 that, “in Him was no sin” and Jesus tells His hearers that He did not come to abolish the Law and prophets, but to fulfill them. (Mt. 5:17).  In perfectly fulfilling the Law of God, Jesus was morally and ceremonially perfect in all His ways.

Humanity, created in the image and likeness of God, fell from their first estate, and plunged all their posterity under the curse of sin.  Paul informs the Roman Christians that by one-man sin entered the world (Romans 5:12) and that one trespass lead to condemnation for all men. (Romans 5:18) David wrote in Psalm 51 that he was born in sin and conceived in iniquity, God said that the heart of man was continually wicked (Genesis 6:5), and Paul said in Ephesians 2:3 that all are by nature children of wrath.  In light of this one should surmise that apart from Christ there is no hope for humanity to reach moral perfection.

However, what about the believer?  Is there hope for those who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ?  Yes, there is.  For those justified by faith (Romans 5:1), saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9), and united to Jesus and the Father (John 14:20) there is hope to be the moral equivalent of Christ, but not in this life.

This is best explained by looking at sanctification as both positional and practical realities.  Positionally those who trust in Christ are now the children of God (1 John 3:2), are now in Christ, and they have been baptized into His death and raised in the likeness of His resurrection (Romans 6).  1 Corinthians 1:2 states that the believers are now sanctified (perfect tense) in Christ and positionally holy before God.

Practically, however, there are the remnants of sin that indwells the believer.  Paul speaks of this in Romans 7.  This should be viewed as his post conversion experience as he switches to the present tense in the latter part of the chapter, says he delights in the law of God, and recognizes that thanks should be made to Jesus.  He also acknowledges that when he wants to do good that sin is present with him revealing a law that exists between the flesh and the spirit.  John also reminds us that there is a mediator between God and man and that if we sin He is faithful and just to forgive our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Therefore, in this life, the believer can expect to see sin rear its ugly head.

There is hope in Christ, however.  Though we are children of God now, one day, when He (Jesus) appears, we shall see Him as He is for we shall be like Him (1 John 3:2).  Paul also gives the believer hope, “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 incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality (1 Corinthians 15:52-53).

So yes, we can and will one day be the moral equivalent of Jesus, just not in this present world.

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

Scriptural support for the Trinity

While the doctrine of the Trinity has been most widely accepted by orthodox Christians since the early days of the church there are still some holdouts to this blessed, biblical, and orthodox doctrine of God.

Below is a question and answer with scriptural support from the Westminster Larger Catechism dealing with the Trinity.

Q. 11. How doth it appear that the Son and the Holy Ghost are God equal with the Father?A. The scriptures manifest that the Son and the Holy Ghost are God equal with the Father, ascribing unto them such names (Isa 6:3, 5, 8; with John 12:41; with Acts 28:25Jer 23:61 John 5:20Ps 45:6Acts 5:3-4), attributes (John 1:1Isa 9:6John 2:24-251 Cor 2:10-11Heb 9:14), works (Col 1:16Gen 1:2Job 26:13John 1:3), and worship (Matt 28:192 Cor 13:14), as are proper to God only.