Partakers of His Divine Nature
Today we will be finishing our study on the matter of mortifying our sin. Mortification being the lifelong battle of the believer whereby they contend with indwelling sin, weakening the lust, and not allowing it to master them and keep them from conforming to the image of the One who brought about a new creation in them. We will be discussing the how of mortification, but the first thing we will do is consider the beginning of Peter’s second letter to the church which contains God’s desire for His people, as well as an encouragement for them to press on.
Understand that in the beginning of his letter, Peter will eventually call his audience to self-examination. He will plead for them to apply all diligence in making certain of Christ’s calling and choosing them. Before he does this, however, he makes a staggering remark about what God has done for the person that He has called to Himself through faith in Christ. He says in 2 Peter 1:2-4:
“2 Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; 3 seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. 4 For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.”
What does God desire for His people? He desires that they “become partakers of the divine nature”. This is not Little God’s Theology, which is the teaching that you either are a god or you can become one. This is not you partaking of the incommunicable attributes of God. The attributes of God, which God, and only God, possess such as His: Aseity (Self-existence), Immutability (Unchangeableness), Infinitude and Eternality (Transcends all limitations of time and space), Omnipresence (Present with every point of space and time), Omniscience (All-knowingness), Omnipotence (All-powerfulness). The Christian is incapable of partaking of these things. What then is the divine nature believers partake of? His holiness. His being set apart from sin:
“4 For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.”
This should not surprise us when we consider the astounding truth that Christ became what we are so that we might become what He is! He who knew no sin became sin on our behalf so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. 2 Corinthians 5:15 says that:
“He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.”
Ephesians 1:4 says that:
“He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him.”
As Peter says in his first epistle to the church:
“15 Like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; 16 because it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”
How can we be holy? What Peter says prior to this, by not confirming “to your former lusts which were yours in your ignorance.” God commands us to be like Him in this regard. He desires “that we may share His holiness.”
Holiness of life does not generate eternal life with God, rather it is the product of a life regenerated by the work of the Holy Spirit in the heart of a person. No one expounds upon this truth better then J.C. Ryle:
“Can holiness save us? Can holiness put away sin – cover iniquities – make satisfaction for transgressions – pay our debt to God? No: not a whit. God forbid that I should ever say so. Holiness can do none of these things. The brightest saints are all ‘unprofitable servants’. Our purest works are no better than filthy rags, when tried by the light of God’s holy law. The white robe which Jesus offers, and faith puts on, must be our only righteousness – the name of Christ our only confidence – the Lamb’s book of life our only title in heaven. With all our holiness we are no better than sinners. Our best things are stained and tainted with imperfection. They are all more or less incomplete, wrong in motive or defective in the performance. By the deeds of the law shall no child of Adam ever be justified. ‘By grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of ourselves, it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.’”
Considering all that has been said thus far, our partaking of the divine nature is a critical matter for several reasons. First, God does not just desire it, He commands it and perfects it in the life of the believer. Second, it is the very purpose for which Christ came into the world. He bought us with a price so that we might glorify Him with our bodies, which He has taken residency in. Titus 2:14 declares that Christ:
“Gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.”
1 Peter 2:24 says that Christ:
“Bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness…”
Third, since this is the purpose for which Christ came, our partaking of the divine nature is the only sound surety one has that they have a genuine saving faith in Christ. It is the assurance that they are indeed abiding in Him. John 15:1-6:
“1 I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.3 You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.4 Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.5 I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned.”
Fourthly, not only is it the assurance of salvation, but it is the proof of love for Christ. We should recall that this is John’s message in 1 John 3:2-3:
“2 Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. 3 And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.”
Finally, in connection to the previous point, it is therefore, the only way to live consistently with the message we profess to believe. We profess to believe that Christ has saved us from sins penalty and power and that He has made us new creatures which He is conforming to Himself. For a person to not pursue holiness of life, but live comfortably as the old man or woman, is a failure to conform to Christ and a betrayal of their profession that Christ has called them to Himself and made them new. Their life inevitably undermines the gospels power and message. It was Ryle that said:
“Our lives will always be doing good or harm to those who see them. They are a silent sermon which all can read…You may talk to persons about the doctrines of the gospels, and few will listen, and still fewer understand. But your life is an argument that none can escape…I believe there is more harm done by unholy and inconsistent Christians than we are aware of. Such men are among Satan’s best allies. They pull down by their lives what ministers build with their lips. They cause the chariot wheels of the gospel to drive heavily. They supply the children of this world with a never-ending excuse for remaining as they are…I grieve to be obliged to write such things, but I fear that Christ’s name is too often blasphemed because of the lives of Christians. Let us take heed lest the blood of souls should be required at our hands. From murder of souls by inconsistency and loose walking, good Lord, deliver us! Oh, for the sake of others, if for no other reason, let us strive to be holy.”
In light of all that has been said here, we should see that our partaking of the divine nature truly is a matter of critical importance. Remember, Peter is eventually going to be telling his listeners to make certain of Christ’s calling and choosing them. They will, therefore, need a standard by which to measure whether they have become a partaker of the divine nature. Peter gives it. 2 Peter 1:5-9:
“5 Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, 6 and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, 7 and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins.”
How do you know if you have become a partaker of the divine nature? You possess a degree of these qualities and are gradually increasing in them. As Voddie Baucham says:
“Maturity in Christians is marked not by gray hair, but by the fruit believers bear in keeping with their sanctification.”
Whoever examines themselves and discovers they lack such qualities; however, are one of two options, they are either blind or short sighted. In other words, they are either not saved, or they are saved but have lost sight of the work of Christ for their sin. Peter says:
“10 Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; 11 for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.”
God desires that we partake of the divine nature and share in His holiness. God not only desires it of His people but demands it of them. This is a daunting life long struggle for the believer, but the good news for us is that God has granted to His people everything necessary to bring about His desire for them. He has abundantly supplied us with all that is essential to become partakers of the divine nature. Our mortifying our sin is a work by which He accomplishes this in us. One cannot progress in moral excellence without killing their sin. One cannot make headway in self-control without mastering their sin. One cannot press on as a partaker of the divine nature without mortifying their sin. God has given us everything pertaining to life and godliness. What has He given us? A new nature fixed on Christ and His residing Spirit within.
The New Nature and the Spirit
Our new nature is best described in Ezekiel 36:26-27:
“26 Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.”
The Christian is one who has been given new affections for God. Yes, they will still possess a body of death that always aims to carry out its own sinful desires, but they will have a new nature being renewed to the image of the One who created them. The new creature has newfound desires for Christ. They have a growing and deepening love for their Savior, and consequently a hatred for their sin which killed Him. Paul appeals to those who possess a new nature when he says to the Colossians:
“Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. 3 For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.5 Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry.”
If we want to mortify sin, what about Christ must we set our minds upon? His propitiatory purpose upon the cross for our sin, and His everlasting role as our Great High Priest seated at the right hand of God.
What was His purpose in going to the cross? 1 John 3:8 says:
“The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil.”
This entails not only sins penalty over people, but its power as well. If you want to kill sin, charge your mind with the truth that Christ has not only saved you from sins penalty, but sins dominion over you. He destroyed the works of the devil and called you into fellowship with Himself. Consider the role of the mind in Romans 6:1-11 says:
“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? 2 May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection,6 knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; 7 for he who has died is freed from sin.
8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, 9 knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. 10 For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. 11 Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.”
1 Peter 4:1-3 says:
“Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose (Mental Preparation), because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, 2 so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. 3 For the time already past is sufficient for you to have carried out the desire of the Gentiles, having pursued a course of sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousing, drinking parties and abominable idolatries.”
Peter makes a similar statement in the beginning of his letter. He says in 1 Peter 1:13-16:
“Prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, 15 but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; 16 because it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.’”
Remember, sin is a reality because lust lives and flourishes in the mind. If you want to begin to hack away at sin, your mind must be renewed, and the only truth capable of producing a fervency to carry this out is by constantly setting it upon the vicarious death of Christ who loved us when we did not love Him, and gave Himself up for us so that He might sanctify us. Find hope in the fact that if this is Christ’s purpose for us, He who began a good work will perfect it. Will we not then overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us?
This draws us to the next thing we need to fix our gaze upon, which is that Christ not only interceded for us as our sacrificial lamb, but He continues to intercede for us as our High Priest. 1 John 2:1-2 says:
“We have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins.”
The Christian can say as Job did:
“Even now, behold, my witness is in heaven, and my advocate is on high.”
As we battle sin we should charge are minds with the fact that Christ will come to the aid of those suffering temptation. Hebrews 2:14-15, 17-18:
14 Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives… 17 Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. 18 For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted.
1 Corinthians 10:13 reveals to us that Christ always gives us a way to endure such trials:
“13 No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.”
We should recognize that our High Priest, as a Man, sympathizes with our weaknesses and desires us to lean upon Him in prayer so that He might prove Himself strong in our lives. Hebrews 4:15-16 says:
“15 For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. 16 Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
If you want to strive to kill your sin, fix your eyes on the Author and Finisher of faith. He is both merciful and faithful! As John Owen said:
“If you do not get help from Him, you will not find help from any one!”
The question that remains now is this, how then does the Spirit work mortification in us? If we recall the sobering words of Owen:
“Our strength in the performance of this duty comes through the Spirit. All other ways of mortification are in vain. Men may attempt this work based upon other principles, but they will come short. It is a work of the Spirit, and it is by Him alone that we are to experience victory. Mortification from a self-strength, carried on by ways of self-invention, to the end of a self-righteousness, is the soul and substance of all false religion in the world.”
What then is the Spirit’s role?
- He convicts of sin. One of the greatest functions of The Helper is that He produces within us a guilt of sin so that it might be known and dealt with. It was John Owen that said of the Spirits first works in bringing about the killing of our sin is that:
“He convinces the soul of all its evil. He cuts off all of lust’s pleadings, uncovers all of its deceits, stops all of its evasions, and answers its self-justifications. He makes the soul to confess the abomination of its sin, and to be cast down under the guilt of it. Unless this is done, all that follows is in vain.”
- He brings to bear upon our hearts and minds the reality of Christ’s suffering for our sin, as well as His intercession as our High Priest. He does what He came to do, and teaches our hearts the beautiful truths of Christ. As Jesus said in John 16:14:
“He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you.”
- He is the only source able to provide sin killing strength and power. This is seen in Paul’s prayer for the church in Ephesus. Paul said to them in Ephesians 3:16-17:
“Be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.”
We cannot kill our sin without Him! Yes, our sanctification demands our work, but it does not require our strength. How then do we acquire the strength to mortify? Prayer! What is prayer? It is us communing with the Father in the Son by the power of the Spirit.
- He intercedes for us in prayer and helps us in our trouble. As Romans 8:26 says:
“The Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.”
He truly is, as Zechariah 12:10 reveals, The Spirit of Supplication for all who look on Christ whom they have pierced.
As Paul says in Romans 8:13:
“If by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”
He says in Galatians 5:16-17:
“16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. 17 For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.”
Work out your salvation with fear and trembling for it is God at work in us, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.
All Things Through Christ
We who have died with Christ and have been buried with Him and have been raised with Him and have been seated with Him, must seek Him and set our minds upon Him for the killing of our sin, and we must depend upon the strength of the Spirit in carrying it out. Jesus said:
“5 I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.”
As we take up this lifelong battle with our sin, striving to weaken the lust within so that we might master it, may our chant therefore be that of Paul’s:
“I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”
May our plea be that of the Psalmist’s:
“37 Turn away my eyes from looking at vanity,
And revive me in Your ways.
38 Establish Your word to Your servant,
As that which produces reverence for You.
39 Turn away my reproach which I dread,
For Your ordinances are good.
40 Behold, I long for Your precepts;
Revive me through Your righteousness…
105 Your word is a lamp to my feet
And a light to my path…
130 The unfolding of Your words gives light; It gives understanding to the simple.
131 I opened my mouth wide and panted,
For I longed for Your commandments.
132 Turn to me and be gracious to me,
After Your manner with those who love Your name.
133 Establish my footsteps in Your word,
And do not let any iniquity have dominion over me.”
 Romans 7:14-25; Ephesians 4:17-24; Colossians 3:1-11
 2 Peter 1:10
 2 Peter 1:1
 2 Corinthians 5:21
 1 Peter 1:14
 Hebrews 12:10
 Holiness, J.C. Ryle; Page 55
 1 Corinthians 6:19-20
 Holiness, J.C. Ryle; Page 59
 Family Shepherds:, Voddie Baucham; Page 30
 Ephesians 5:25-26; 1 John 4:10
 Philippians 1:6
 Romans 8:37
 Job 16:19
 The Mortification of Sin, John Owen; Page 121
 The Mortification of Sin: Abridged, John Own; Page 2-3
 John 16:8
 The Mortification of Sin, John Owen; Page 129
 Philippians 2:12-13
 John 15:1-5
 Philippians 4:13
 Psalm 119:37-40,105,130-133