2 Peter 1:4
Whereby are given to us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these you might be partakers of the divine nature…
Readers of classic literature are aware that, the cultivated pagans of antiquity broke down the distinction between the human and the Divine, by representing their emperors and other great men as taken after death into the rank of the gods. But this apotheosis was rather an exaltation in rank than an assimilation to, an incorporation in, a higher moral nature. The religion of Christ, on the other hand, evinces its immeasurable superiority to these human religions by representing the participation in the Divine as moral, and by holding out the prospect, not merely to a limited class, but to all who receive the gospel.
I. THE RESPECTS IN WHICH MAN MAY SHARE THE NATURE OF GOD.
1. This partaking is not in the natural attributes of Deity, such as omnipotence, omnipresence, and omniscience, which are incommunicable.
2. But in the moral attributes. Of these may be especially mentioned holiness, or the disposition and habit of loving and doing all things that are just and pure; and love, or the disposition and habit of seeking the true and highest well-being of all whom it is possible to benefit. It is a proof of the elevated conception of God which Christianity has introduced into the world, that these Divine attributes should occur to the mind as those most worthy of our admiration and imitation. And Christians must feel at once that, if these are wanting to the character, it is out of the question to pretend to trace assimilation to the nature of our holy and loving God.
II. THE CONSTITUTION IN VIRTUE OF WHICH MAN MAY SHARE THE NATURE OF GOD,
1. The human constitution is in complete contrast with that of the inferior animals, which may in their life carry out the purposes of God, but can only do this blindly and unintelligently. It is, says Kant, the prerogative of an intelligent being to act, not merely according to law, but according to the representation of law; i.e., to conceive, adopt, and voluntarily obey, the law.
2. Thus it is that man is endowed with a nature capable, through God's mercy, of acquiring the moral nature of his Divine Maker and Lord. Constituted as he is, fashioned in the likeness of God (however that likeness has been marred by sin), man can, under heavenly influences, perceive the excellence of the moral attributes of his God, can admire and can aspire to them, can resolve and endeavour to participate in and acquire them.
III. THE PROVISION MADE WHEREBY THIS POSSIBILITY MAY BECOME ACTUAL. It is not to be supposed that, merely by aspiring, a man can share the nature of God, any more than by merely desiring to fly he can raise himself into the air and cleave it as with wings. An interposition of a supernatural character is necessary.
1. A condition and means by which this end may be secured is deliverance by the redemption of Christ from the corruption of the world. There is no harmony between the lusts of the world and the flesh, and the life of God. The Redeemer came in order to set men free from the power which debases and degrades - in order, as St. Peter says in the context, to enable men to escape from the corruption that is in the world by lust. And experience has shown that the mediatorial grace of Christ is able to effect what do human power can bring to pass.
2. The renewal and purification which are the work of the Holy Spirit of God are the moral power by which the participation in question is actually accomplished. He brings the life of the Eternal into our human nature, and pours that life through the whole being of the believing and grateful disciple of Christ, so that he becomes a new creature in Christ Jesus.
IV. THE GLORIOUS RESULTS OF PARTICIPATION IN THE DIVINE NATURE.
1. A Divine nature involves a Divine life. This is not a merely sentimental, or even a merely mystical and transcendental, change; on the contrary, it is a change actual, discernible, and progressive; a change by which its Divine Author is glorified.
2. A Divine nature involves an immortal life of blessedness. To live in God is to live in the fullness of joy, and to live thus for ever. - J.R.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.
WEB: by which he has granted to us his precious and exceedingly great promises; that through these you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world by lust.