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What does this mean?
“Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” (2 Peter 1:4)
What does God the Holy Spirit intend for us to understand when he tells us that in the new birth he has made us “partakers of the divine nature?” Obviously, he does not mean that we have become God. He does not mean that we have become partakers of the divine essence. And he does not mean that we now possess the attributes of divinity. So, what do these words mean? Let the Scriptures answer.
The Word Used
The word that is here translated “partakers” is the word from which we get the word “fellowship.” It basically means “fellowshippers,” or “partners,” or “companions.” In fact, that is the way this word, in its many different forms, is most commonly used; but it must not be limited to that meaning. Here are just a few passages in which this same word is used in a much broader way: 2 Corinthians 1:5-7, Philippians 1:7, and Hebrews 2:14-15. As we are partakers (possessors) of the consolation of the gospel, so we are “partakers of the divine nature.” As we are partakers (possessors) together of the grace of God, so we are “partakers of the divine nature.” As our Lord Jesus Christ was made a partaker (possessor) of flesh and blood, so we are “partakers of the divine nature.”
This divine nature is the nature of Christ, the holiness of God. It is to have Christ himself imparted to us and formed in us by God the Holy Spirit in the new birth (Colossians 1:27). It is Christ in us, this divine nature of which we have been made partakers (possessors), that makes us fit for heaven (Colossians 1:14).
We are members of the body of Christ, “members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.” The same life that quickens the Head, quickens his body. “Ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.” We are married into Christ. He has betrothed us unto himself in righteousness and in faithfulness; and as the bride must be a partaker of the same nature as the husband, so Jesus Christ first became partaker of flesh and blood that he and his people might be one flesh. Then he makes his church partakers of the same spirit, that we may be one spirit; for “he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit.”
Oh, wondrous mystery! We look into it; but who can understand it? One with Jesus Christ our Lord, by eternal union one, married to him and married into him, so truly one with him that the branch is not more truly one with the vine than we are one with the Lord, our Savior, our Redeemer, and our God! Rejoice in this, children of God, you are “partakers of the divine nature!” That is precisely the teaching of 2 Peter 1:4, and the teaching of the entire volume of Holy Scripture (John 14:22-23; Galatians 2:20; Ephesians 3:14-19; 4:21-24; Colossians 1:27; 1 John 4:4; Revelation 3:20). How sweet, how blessed, how glorious is that almighty violence of grace (Mark 3:27) that has put Christ in us!