In looking at the relevance of the one divine nature to believers, let us continue where we left off previously , looking at the beginning of 2 Peter to examine what it is that is expected out of the lives of mature Christians who are living according to the Holy Spirit that is within them. In our goal to better understand and better fulfill the expectations that have been made for us, it is worthwhile to understand that our nature is to become as close to possible what Christ’s nature was while He was on this earth. While it is impossible for us to achieve virtue on our own merits, something that will be discussed in considerably more detail later on, especially when we look at the gendered nature of believers within the God family, it is expected that the presence of the Holy Spirit within us–Christ within us–is meant to transform our nature from our fallen and corrupt human nature to a divine nature that demonstrates through our behavior that we are a part of God’s family.
With that in mind, let us look at 2 Peter 1:1-11: “Simon Peter, a bondservant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have obtained like precious faith with us by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ: Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins. Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
There are a great many different ways that this particular passage can be taken. For one, it is well worth noting that these qualities that are viewed as being part and parcel with the divine nature can be seen as progressive, in that we must add each one to the one that came before, so that we must first build upon a foundation of faith, and then virtue, and then knowledge, and then self-control, and then perseverance, and then godliness, and then brotherly kindness, and then love, so that we cannot be counted by God or others as “loving” Christians unless we have mastered all of the qualities previous to it. This is obviously a concept that is very foreign to our corrupt age, that wants to consider people as loving who are not self-controlled, not virtuous, and have nothing of godliness in their conduct. We want to view ourselves as loving simply because we have warm feelings and view ourselves as righteous in our own eyes, but love in the Bible is clearly connected to virtue and to righteous conduct and behavior, objective standards by which we may be judged as walking according to God’s ways or not. And Peter (like Paul, in a familiar passage we will nevertheless discuss shortly), similarly views partaking of God’s nature as being in contrast to the corrupt ways of the flesh and also resulting in the bearing of much fruit. As is the case with James, faith and works are viewed as inseparable, for if one has genuine faith, that faith will be reflected in one’s actions. By consequence, anyone whose lives are lacking in fruits and in godly conduct can thus be inferred to be lacking in genuine saving faith.
It is also worth noting, at least in brief, that what Peter says is true of those who profess belief and who have been called but who lack these qualities is blindness. And, perhaps not coincidentally, it is blindness that is one of the most noted aspect of the Church of Laodicea, as written in Revelation 3:14-22: “And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write, ‘These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God: “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked— I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” ’”
Both 2 Peter and Revelation (and many other scriptures, it should be noted), are a reminder to us that if we examine ourselves and find ourselves lacking in the qualities of godliness that the Bible expects of believers, our attitude should be one of heartfelt repentance, and asking God to enter into our lives and to cloth ourselves with the righteousness and godliness of Christ Jesus. And when that happens, we can then find ourselves showing the fruits of God’s presence in our own lives instead of having the vain profession of faith that is not accompanied by the fruits that provide the evidence of the faith that we possess. We are used to condemning the Laocideans and noting (perhaps unkindly) that they are the only church among the seven churches in Revelation 2 and 3 about whom the Messiah has nothing positive whatsoever to say. Yet if we find ourselves to be Laodiceans or among Laodiceans, the unpleasant nature of this reality is irrelevant because it may discuss us and our present evil age. In that case, rather than use the name of this church as a byword and as a label with which to club and condemn others, let us note that even in such dire and unpleasant times and among such luckwarm and lax and complacent believers, the graciousness of Christ in offering the clean and white garments and eye salve and gold that are necessary to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven are still present even in the worst of churches and the least godly of generations like our own. In the face of (often warranted) rebuke and chastening, let us find such encouragement as we can.
More to the point, let us find encouragement in this. No matter in what age we find ourselves and no matter the limited fruit that we may be bearing at present in our lives, God has not left us without remedy. There remains the opportunity to open the door that we have shut against godliness and virtue, so that we may dine with our Lord and Savoir and invite Him into our lives to live in us and to guide our footsteps according to His righteous conduct and His godly ways. Not only does Christ extend an invitation to wayward and lax and complacent believers whose lives are not demonstrating the fruits He requires of us, but He does not leave us without an understanding of what is required of us. We are not required to guess at the spiritual state of our lives and to either be filled with either too positive or too negative a view of the state of our lives based on the wavering state of our emotions, but rather we are given a set of qualities by which we can measure ourselves and our behavior against. Do we walk in faith or fear? Is our life filled with virtue or corrupt behavior? Do we have knowledge of God’s ways or are we ignorant? Are our lives filled with self-control and discipline or do we suffer from unrestrained appetites? Do we demonstrate perseverance or do we give up too easily? Is our conduct full of godliness or does it demonstrate a marked tendency for sin? Do we live in brotherly kindness towards our fellow believers or are we quick to get in fights and quarrels? Finally, do we show love in our lives, genuine self-sacrificial love, or not? If we do not know how to fairly judge ourselves, there are likely others around us who observe our conduct closely who can tell us–and may not wait for us to invite them to tell us–where we excel and where we fall short, and we likewise will be able to make the same sort of observations about those around us if we so choose.