Lesson Twelve – Participating in the Divine Nature

Participating in the Divine Nature

Lesson Text:  II Pet. 1:3-11.

I.  Introduction

Our first interest is in the context for reading the text.  We have referred to the historical information in II Pet. 1:12 – 3:6 several times in previous lessons.  A detail analysis is necessary for reading Peter’s second and perhaps his last letter while living “in the tent of this body.”  II Pet. 1:13.  We want to make sure we read in the proper historical and literary context because God assured us; “For if you do these things you will never fall.”  II Pet. 1:10.  We want to hear what Peter said to the recipients, “so that, you may not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from your secure position.”  II Pet. 3:17.  Since the Lord’s people throughout the world today are faced with false teachers motivated by greed and scoffers with evil desires, we want to make sure we arrive at the divine meaning about our personal participation in “divine glory.”   This text is dynamically specific for the “self” of each Christian; therefore, we will want to make sure what we believe the text means is what God wants us to believe and focus our faith.

The safest way to make sure we arrive at the true meaning is to let our exegesis control our hermeneutical work.  Please see “Reading James,” Part I, item A, “Biblical principles for reading and interpreting a letter.”  The following is the structure of Peter’s train of thought for reading this historical and literary information:

II Peter 1:12-15.  Peter’s letters were his last literary effort to influence “God’s elect” for good after his physical death.  The church members he addressed knew and were well grounded in the theologies, ethics and practices Peter addressed.  This is why he could reach deep into spiritual revelation as he often did, particularly in the text for this lesson.

1:16-18:  Peter heard God, the Father, say to Jesus of Nazareth, “This is My Son, whom I love, with Him I am well pleased.”  The Christ had become incarnate to do the will of God (Phil. 2:6-11).  At the time God made this statement Jesus Christ had lived in an “Adam type body” for more than thirty years (Rom. 5:14; I Cor. 15:45-49).  He had learned obedience by the things He suffered in order to be Christians’ High Priest (Heb. 5:7-10).

1:19-21.  This text was Peter’s last point before his prophesy about the devil’s assault on the recipients.  He wrote both letters to stir up their minds about “the words spoken by the holy prophets and the command given by our Lord and Savior through your apostles.”  II Pet. 3:2.  Peter was one of the apostles and he was about to join the holy prophets.  He would foretell the coming of false teachers and scoffers.  He would provide details about the demise of planet earth and speak of “a new heaven and earth, the home of righteousness.”  II Pet. 3:13.

The key point for Christians’ faith is: “Prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” The words of the prophets told of victories “in Christ” for God’s people.  Peter was one of His apostles; therefore, what he wrote is “a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.”  This speaks of a Christian’s faith.  “To him who overcomes and does My will until the end … . I will also give him the morning star.”  Rev. 2:26-28.  Christians who have a genuine faith “made complete” by testing will inherit that which we now have faith in from our study of God’s word (I Pet. 1:3-7; Jas. 2:22).

2:1-3.  James warned that Christian Bible teachers “will be judged more strictly.”  Jas. 3:1.  We must rightly divide the word of God in order “to do it (teach) as one speaking the very words of God.”  I Pet. 4:11.  Since teachers are at the same time, disciples of Jesus, we suffer from ignorance and spiritual immaturity.  We are still learning to distinguish good from evil (Heb. 5:11-14).

Peter speaks of false teachers who belong in a different category.  They will secretly introduce destructive heresies to exploit their followers.  One of their tools is to convince their followers they have a special insight into God’s word.  Most of the quote “Christian world” has been caught up with the “holy man guru” concept of “reverend” and “the preacher” myth.  They can easily be recognized because of their dress and their “chief seat” mentality.  They are in the religious business to peddle the word of God for money (II Cor. 2:17).  They don’t want to work with their hands for a living (I Cor. 9:6).  They call themselves preachers and reverend but in doing so they deny the sovereign Lord.  Their favorite tool is speech making (I Cor. 2:4, 5).

We might think Peter was disgruntled about these people who had already infiltrated the recipients of Jude’s letter.  All we need to do is listen to Jesus, Paul and Peter without the myth of the “religious holy man” paradigm.  We can understand how Satan used this tool to deny the sovereign Lord.  Judas Iscariot was the first to deny the Lord for money (Acts 1:18, 19).  Simon was caught by Peter trying to improve his sorcery business (Acts 8:18-23).  Satan was more subtle in his approach to the churches in Achaia.  He started his attack through the false apostles (II Cor. 11:11-15).  The devil’s opportunity to discredit Jesus’ Apostle Paul started when some church members of the church in Corinth started rallying around significant teachers and preachers (I Cor. 1:10-12).  This resulted in some attaining the “holy man” status over some members of the church (II Cor. 11:18-21).  Satan is still controlling most of what is happening under the banner of Christianity by using the same methods and tools today.

2:4-10.  Perhaps someone was already teaching “once in grace always in grace” in the first century.  God has never offered this type arrangement.  Peter presented the history of cases that were just the opposite.  He told of the angels who are now in the gloomy dungeons of Tartarus; the ungodly people who did not respond to Noah’s preaching and the burning of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.  All of these peoples’ spirits came from God.   He loved them but they followed their “corrupt desires of the sinful nature and despised authorities.”  Christians live side by side with these people but “the Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials and to hold the unrighteous for the Day of Judgment.”  Peter’s message was the same as the Hebrew writer’s:  “Therefore, since we receive a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.” Heb. 12:28, 29.

2:10-16.  The wicked people described in this text desired fellowship with Christians.  In fact, they desired to acquire leadership positions.  However, they made provisions for their “lustful desires of sinful human nature.”  II Pet. 2:18.   They do not have faith in the law of life to satisfy their innate needs.  Their idea of pleasure is a party.  They are the members of the quote “Christian brotherhood.”  Therefore, the churches they make up are more like a social club with a religious bent, rather than the church Jesus is building for God.

2:17-22.  “They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity – for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him.”  These kinds of individuals had already been accepted in the fellowship of the church Jude addressed (Jude 12).  Jude’s “dear friends” needed to grow up in order to recognize these individuals so they could help them repent.  If those who were sinning would not change, the church should free themselves from their influence (Jude 20-23).

It appears that some people Peter spoke of had been members of the church but had turned back to sin; however, they may still have desired to maintain fellowship with the faithful members.  He did not say they could not repent, but he did suggest it would be more difficult the second time around.  The first time was in the processes of their new birth.  Some may have passed the point of no return (Heb. 6:4-6).  God is not willing for them to perish but like Esau, they had to come to repentance or perish (Luke 13:5).  Esau could not repent (Heb. 12:17).

II Peter 3:1, 2.  “I have written both of them as reminders to stimulate you to wholesome thinking.”

3:3-6.  “First of all, you must understand in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires.”  Again, these scoffers are not people who have not yet decided where, or in what, they will place their faith to attain the satisfaction of their innate needs.  All people at a very young age pursue what they believe will offer satisfaction for their God-given urges for friendship, achievement, glory, physical and mental security.  Later they seek satisfaction for their sexual urges.  Everyone has faith in something; however, when they continually suppress the truth about God who created the needs in them, things begin to go horribly wrong in their “selves.”  Please read Romans 1:18-32.  When people do not accept Jesus as “the way and the truth and the life,” they choose other ways (John 14:6).  This will be the wisdom of men about how God created us.  The billions of people in the world are proving it will not work but they keep trying and trying.  Finally, according to Paul’s list, they become “full of envy, murder, deceit and malice.  They are gossips, slanders.”  Some even become God-haters.

These are the people about which Peter prophesied.  Some of them, not only hate God, they hate His children for loving Him.  The foregoing is what Peter was warning the church to prepare to encounter.  The text for this lesson is about how to keep from stumbling as Christians meet the challenge of their onslaught.

3:7-10.  Peter made this prophetical statement about how God will close the curtain on His program to add children to His eternal kingdom from this universe.  “The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare.”  Some manuscripts read, be burned up.

3:11-13.  “But in keeping with His promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.”  We “ought to live holy and godly lives,” if we expect to enjoy the home of righteousness.  Holy people have righteous behavior (Rom. 6:22).

3:14-16.  Summary.

3:17, 18.  Close.

II.  Word Definitions with comments.  From Strong’s Greek and W. E. Vine’s Expository Dictionary.

II Peter 1:1-4: 

God’s (theios, divine power) power and our knowledge (epignosis, recognition; therefore, full discernment, acknowledgement) of Him has called Christians to Him by His own goodness (virtue, arête – intrinsic eminence; moral goodness.  This has been translated praises (of God) in I Pet. 2:9) and glory (doxa, from dokeo – to seem; primarily signifies an opinion, estimate, and hence, the honor resulting from a good opinion).

Our faith in Divinity provides Christians with life (zoe, life as a principle, life in the absolute sense, life as God has it.  See John 10:10, 11 for a practical application.  Jesus laid down his life, psuche (individual life in the body) that we might have zoe) and an environment enriched by godliness (eusebeia, eu, means well, – sebeia, means to be devout; therefore, godliness denotes that piety which, characterized by a God-ward attitude, does that which is pleasing to Him).

In this way God has promised Christians participation (Koinonos, sharer, companion, partner) in divine (theios, God’s nature) nature (phusis is from phuo, to bring forth, produce, signifies the nature; that is, the natural power or constitution of a person or thing.  See sinful nature in Eph. 2:3.  In II Pet. 1:4 the reference is to a divine kind of person).  Our spirits came from God; consequently, we were created to be His kind of being.

In the growth process we escape the corruption (phthora, signifies a bringing or being brought into an inferior or worse condition, a destruction) presently in the world caused by evil desires (epithumia, a strong desire of any kind.  It is used in a good sense in Phil. 1:23 where it is translated “desire.”  Most of the time epithumia is used in a bad sense as in II Pet. 1:4).

II Pet. 1:5-7The divine processes by which we can make every effort (spooday, speed, i. e. dispatch, eagerness, and earnestness) to participate in divine nature and escape the corruption in the world:

Add to your faith (pistos, a firm persuasion, a conviction based on hearing.  See Rom. 10:17; Heb. 11:1).

Goodness (NIV).  Virtue (KJV) (arêtay.  See above).

Knowledge (gnosis, the act of knowing, to realize, to understand).

Self-control (NIV).  Temperance (KJV).   (enkrateia, is from kratos – strength.  Self-controlled is the preferable rendering as temperance is now limited to one form of self control.  In Acts 24:25 the word follows righteousness, which represents God’s claims, self control being man’s response thereto; in II Pet. 1:6, it follows “knowledge,” suggesting that what is learnt requires to be put in practice).

Perseverance (NIV), Patience (KJV).  (hupomone, an abiding under (hupo, under –  meno to abide) is almost always translated patience.  Patience which only grows in trial, Jas. 1:3, may be passive, i. e. = endurance ).

Godliness (eusebia, see above meaning).

Brotherly love (philedelphia is made up of two words, phileo, to love – adelphotes, primarily a brotherly relation and so, the community possessed by this relation, a brotherhood – brotherly love).

Love (NIV).  Charity (KJV).  (agape, love can only be known by the action it prompts.  See an illustration in Rom. 5:9-11; I Cor. 13:1-13.  Love comes from God.  God is love.  See I John 4:7, 16).

III.  Lesson 

The foregoing divine process has hierarchal significance.  Abounding in these processes will keep Christians from being ineffective (argos, lazy, useless, idle, slow) and unproductive (akarpos, unfruitful, barren) in the knowledge (epignosis, see above) we received by our study of Jesus’ teachings.  A disciple of Jesus will be efficient with the use of our time and effective in our relationship in the body of Christ.  Christians who do not make the choice to join their minds, hearts, consciences and bodies in these processes will not enjoy the life of godliness.  Their opportunity to develop their spirits into the divine nature they were designed to be will be missed.  This may lead them into the ugly condition Peter set forth in II Pet. 2:20-22.

The goal God has promised and established for Christians who choose to enter and abound in His call by His own goodness and glory through Jesus Christ is to develop divine nature.  They will receive a rich welcome into to His eternal kingdom.  Our final welcome will come at the time when Jesus Christ is revealed (apokalupsis, to uncover the spiritual kingdom of God and Christians’ inheritance).  See I Pet. 1:7, 13.

The dynamic challenge Peter presented in the text of this lesson was intended to help the original recipients keep from falling from their secure position (II Pet. 3:17).  It stands as a challenge to every Christian today.  Our spirits all came from God.  After we finish our journey through time and exit from our tents of Adam type bodies, we will return to God as our present “self.”  These Christians who have developed the divine nature will receive a rich welcome into our eternal home with God, the Father of our spirits (Heb. 12:9).  However, should we appear in the resurrection, but Jesus does not recognize us we will be in trouble.  He will not “know us” if our nature is not divine; consequently, we will not be allowed to stay where we rightfully belong, in God’s kingdom as His children (Matt. 7:21-23; Luke 16:11, 12).  What a prize to miss!

The text for this lesson is a very straight forward summary of why God created the world and mankind.  We need to read it in its original context and also make sure we understand the meaning of the words.  This work has been done for this study.  Following this we need to be very practical about all the significant points Peter made.  All are extremely significant for our soul’s salvation.  We must “grow up in our salvation.”  I Pet. 2:2.  The growth process starts with our faith in God’s call to us to be His Children.  God calls mankind through the gospel of the kingdom Jesus taught and was repeatedly preached by the apostles (Luke 4:43; Acts 19:8; 20:25).  We add to our faith the glories and virtues of God.  We accepted the glories and virtues of God as our goal in our repentance in the processes of being born again. The word of God continually supplements our faith as we grow in knowledge by principled Bible study.  Our spirits came from God and has now become known as our “selves.”  Christians are in the continual process of putting off our old selves and putting on our new selves (Eph. 4:22-24).  However, this requires control of the self.

Peter gave us a long discourse on submissiveness in I Peter 2:13-3:9.  He began with “submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake.”  How do we know we are in control of our own self?  James suggested we use a spiritual mirror (Jas. 1:22-25).  Our faith must produce deeds (Jas 2:20). These deeds must be in line with God’s righteous behavior (Rom. 1:16, 17).  The righteousness of God is Christians measuring stick to know that the will of our self is dedicated to doing the will of God (Matt. 6:10).  Our faith is in what we know from God’s word about God’s nature.  Divine nature will develop in us based on genuine faith.  Our divine nature will produce the righteousness of God in our deeds.  In all of this we must be patient.  The mirror of the condition of our “selves” is our normal habits.  James used the mirror analogy to measure the level of Christians’ faith.  Christians are obedient to our faith (Rom. 1:5).  Our behavior produced by our obedience is Christians’ spiritual mirror.

Patience is not something we decide to have and it happens.  Like all growth processes it requires an exercise.  The patience of the divine nature can only become a part of a Christian’s nature by our individual successful faith testing (Jas. 1:2-4).  Peter’s growth program in our text has hierarchal significance.  It is as Peter said; “For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure.”  II Pet. 1:8.  It starts with faith and ends in love (agape).  Christians work through these character processes again and again until we leave our “in Adam” bodies – our spirits depart our bodies.  Patience’s first work is godliness.  After God called us “by His own glory and goodness;” He “raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ.”  Eph. 2:6.  Christians live with the awareness of being in God’s presence; therefore, we do what is pleasing to Him.

We understand we have been born again by an imperishable seed into an interpersonal relationship with other “called out” brothers and sisters.  The foregoing attributes on Peter’s list are personal attributes with which we relate to all situations in heaven and earth.  Brotherly love is specific for a special social order that functions as the body of Christ (I Pet. 4:7-11).  This is an eternal fellowship; therefore, Christians practice brotherly love and develop brotherly love as an attribute of our “selves.”  Please read I Peter 3:8, 9.

We are the church Jesus is building for God (Matt. 16:18).  Since all races, classes, spiritual growth levels and genders have equal status “in Christ,” Christians may be called upon at times to possess a stronger type love than brotherly love.  This love does not require a response from the ones we love.  Jesus died for His friends and enemies.  He showed His love.  This quality of love surpasses the normal level of love human beings display in the world.  We witness it between parents and their children.  It is always found in divine nature; therefore, it is not an option for Christians.  We must be love.  To be love we must first do love.  Why?  God is love (I John 2:5).  We will study much more about this quality of divine nature in Part III of this book.  It is a study of the Apostle John’s letters.

Spiritual growth into divine nature has hierarchal significance.  As Peter said: “For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  II Pet. 1:8.  This will surely be the subject of discussion on our Judgment Day (II Cor. 5:10; I Pet. 4:17).  We must not overlook the fact that what we do is the mirror of the nature of our “selves.”  Divine nature in Christians will always be effective and productive.

John, the Baptist, prepared the way for the coming of the Messiah; therefore, it is the last opportunity for people on earth to be sons of God.  He preached; “produce fruit in keeping with repentance” and then; “The axe is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce fruit will be cut down and thrown in the fire.”  Luke 3:8, 9.  Bible study, fellowship and participating in a worship service is beneficial for preparing Christians to join Jesus’ mission in seeking and saving the lost, but neither of these three are doing the work of evangelism (I Cor. 15:58; I Pet. 3:13-15).  We need to take a good look at what Jesus said in Matt. 28:18-20 and understand we are included.  Note, “and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”  We all need to be on Jesus’ team in some role.  We must be functioning in a church “producing the fruit of the kingdom.” Matt. 21:43.  Evangelism is an exercise of love (agape) that will develop love in the Christian who participates.

The next and final lesson in Part II will include a study of Christians with divine nature who will receive a “rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”  II Pet. 1:11.

Questions for Discussion

  1. Peter opened the body of his first letter by presenting the broadest points of reference revealed in the Bible about a Christian’s life. He opened with the “new birth into a living hope” and moved the recipient’s thoughts to the reward of their inheritance after Judgment Day.  How did Peter set up a similar scene in II Pet. 1:3-11?
  2. What is the big difference in the two introductory scenes other than terminology? In what sense is the spiritual growth program hierarchal?  Most of the terminology in II Pet. 1:5-7 signifying spiritual levels of growth is common terms used by people.  List the one, or ones, that are somewhat uncommon.  What word would be strange in most circles of communication in the world realm?  Does the word you chose move Christians’ “self” into the category of having “divine nature?”  If not, which spiritual growth program, or programs, on Peter’s list definitely produces Christians with the nature of Deity?
  3. What are some achievements that Christians accomplish by cycling themselves through this hierarchal growth program in II Pet. 1:5-7? In what sense does this growth cycle provide a safety net for Christians?  How does it finally provide social acceptance by Deity?
  4. How do the theologies, ethics and practices Peter introduced in II Pet. 1:3-11 function to support his purpose for writing the letters? How does this text relate to God’s purpose for creating mankind?
  5. How does brotherly love contribute to an emotional fellowship in a congregation of God’s people? How does love (agape) serve to hold this church together in all kinds of tribulations?
  6. A church that is not participating in Jesus Christ’s evangelism mission needs to examine themselves individually and as the body of Christ.  List the attribute(s) in II Pet. 1:5-7 they would need to practice in an evangelism program in order to develop the missing attribute(s).

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