Participating in the Divine Nature – 2 Peter 1:3-4

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

2 Peter 1:3-4 NIV

This passage has long confused me. What does Peter mean by participating in the divine nature? On the surface it seems to carry with it the idea of being a part of God, or at least being God-like. That fear of taking this too far has long kept me away from this passage. But I believe that has been to my own detriment. All Scripture is inspired by God and given to us to equip us in his service. So this passage is one that I need to make a part of my life.

Some Vocabulary

Participate

We are to participate in the divine nature. The word used here for participate is the Greek word ‘koinōnos’ from which we get the word koinonia. According to the NIV Word Study Dictionary, this word means to “partner, participant, one who joins in with another in some enterprise or activity, in business or ministry.”

This is the word used in Luke 5:10 where James and John are described as Simon’s partners. It is used in 1 Corinthians 10:20 where Paul warns them about being participates with demons. Another way this word is used is found in 2 Corinthians 1:7. Here, Paul commends the church for sharing in his suffering.

This word is used several other times in the New Testament. But that gives you a flavor for the way the New Testament authors used it. It is used of human partnership. Of being actively involved with demons. And in participating in an activity together, like suffering.

The Divine Nature

Divine translates the Greek word theios and nature translates the Greek word physis. Together they are referring to the nature, or being, of God. This divine nature, that we can participate in, is the very life of God.

What Does it Mean to Participate in the Divine Nature?

In the examples given above in regards to participate, the ones participating together did not become one. James and John partnered with Simon, but they maintained their own being and personality. Participating with demons or sharing in suffering does not make someone a demon nor does it make them ‘suffering’. But it does indicate a tight connection between the two in some way.

Peter has earlier in this passage expressed that God has given us what we need for living godly lives. I believe that this is synonymous with participating in the divine nature. When we are living godly lives, we are partnering with God, with the divine nature, in the way we live. So participation in the divine nature is not some mystical experience for only a few. But it is the standard we all should strive for.

Another passage that I believe is synonymous with this comes from 1 Peter 1:16. Here Peter tells us to be holy, because God is holy. Holy carries many connotations today. It carries with the idea of living righteously and of being set apart. But it also is referring to the nature of God. We are called to be holy, because he is holy. We are called to be like him. To participate in the divine nature.

A final thought on what this means is to consider a common expression of Paul. To be ‘in Christ‘. This speaks to a close identification with Christ. Not alongside him. But in him. Where he is, we are also. And not just some believers, but all who have truly committed their lives to him. To be in Christ is to participate in the divine nature.

How Do We Participate in God’s Nature?

The obvious first step is to believe in the Lord Jesus, to be saved. When a person comes to Christ, they are included in him. And they are now able to participate in that divine life.

But participation is more that just our position in Christ. Participation is an active word, it is something that I do. I believe that Philippians 2:12-13 reflects this well when as Paul says “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” God is the one who is at working shaping and conforming me to the image of Christ. But I am called to participate in that shaping, working out my salvation.

His Divine Power

This idea of God being the master craftsman in our salvation life is emphasized in the passage being studied here. In 2 Peter 1:3 Peter tells us that God’s “divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life.” God’s power is at the heart of our ability to be anything useful. In addition, in Ephesians 1:19 we find Paul praying that the church there would know God’s “incomparably great power for us who believe.” On Paul’s first missionary journey he recounted to a Jewish audience how God had worked in their midst. In Acts 13:17 he expressed how “with mighty power he led them out of that country.” God’s power was clearly displayed as Egypt was destroyed by the ten plagues and Israel was delivered.

And it is that power that is at work to enable us to participate in the divine nature. We do not do it on our own. But there is a channel for that power to work through. And that is “through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” As we come to know God more intimately, his power will flow more effectively through us. This emphasizes again the importance of our participation in the process. I need to be involved in getting to know God better.

His Great and Precious Promises

Through God’s glory and goodness he has given us great and precious promises. And it is through these promises that we are able to participate in the divine nature. Peter does not tell us here what these promises are. But I can image them to include the promised Holy Spirit who enables us to come to God in the first place, and then walk with him as believers. In Jesus final night with his disciples he several times promised to send the paraclete, or helper, to them (John 14:15-18 and 16:12-15).

In that same evening Jesus told his disciples that he would return for them and take them to be where he was (John 14:2-3) And he also told them that whatever they asked in the Father’s name would be given to them (John 14:13-14). These are aptly described as very great and precious promises. The indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. The promise of answered prayer. And a hope to look forward to when faced with life’s challenges.

These promises do indeed help us to participate in the divine nature. To live our lives in communion with God. Participating in the work he is doing in his creation.

The views expressed here are solely mine and do not necessarily reflect those of any other person, group, or organization. While I believe they reflect the teachings of the Bible, I am a fallible human and subject to misunderstanding. Please feel free to leave any comments or questions about this post in the comments section below. I am always interested in your feedback.

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