Partaking of the Divine Nature
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In previous chapters we examined scriptures that discuss the biblical description of the very nature of God. However, no knowledge has any permanent value unless we put it to use. Knowing and believing that God exists is of little value if we continue to behave as if He didn't. As His Word tells us, "Even the demons believe—and tremble!" (James 2:19).
Let's now focus on one other crucial aspect of the story—how God relates to His human creation and what He wants us to achieve spiritually with His help.
Remember that Jesus is the mediator between God the Father and man, as well as the captain of our salvation (Hebrews 2:10). He is the One whom the Father appointed to help us bridge the character gap between our human fallibility and the awesome perfection resident in Them. We are told to become perfect just as our Heavenly Father is perfect (Matthew 5:48). We are challenged to attain His image of spiritual maturity.
We must in the fullest sense become "partakers of the divine nature" (2 Peter 1:4) so that our personal conduct reflects the character of God Himself. This impacts on the very purpose for our existence.
The image of God in the New Testament
Genesis 9:6 substantiates the truth that men, women, boys and girls continued in the image of God even after sin had entered man's world. Several millennia later Christ's apostles confirmed this basic biblical teaching. New Testament scriptures reaffirm that human beings are still in the image and likeness of God (James 3:9; 1 Corinthians 11:7). But even more important for our salvation, Jesus Himself is "the image of the invisible God" (Colossians 1:15; compare 2 Corinthians 4:4). Since sin has deeply marred God's image in us, the creation of the spiritual likeness—the character—of God must be attained through Jesus Christ.
It is the righteous and sinless Christ who justifies men and women who have sinned and brought the death penalty on themselves (Romans 6:23). Paul tells us that we, who once "were alienated and enemies in [our] mind by wicked works," are now "reconciled [by Christ] in the body of His flesh through death, [that He might] present [us] holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight—if indeed [we] continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast" (Colossians 1:21-23).
Step by step
Though we have fallen far short of our great potential, Christ—who is much more "the image of God" than we are—provides a way for us to be reconciled to the Father. This is the only way we may achieve the enormous goal of reflecting the character of God in our lives.
Salvation is a process. We progress spiritually one step at a time. The first step is heartfelt, genuine repentance—remorse over our sins and committing to turn our lives around, fully accepting the blood of Christ as payment for our transgressions against God's spiritual law.
The next big step is baptism, followed by the receiving of the Holy Spirit through the laying on of hands of God's ministry. This constitutes a formal beginning for the Christian life of overcoming sin with the help of our great High Priest, Jesus Christ. From then on, provided we follow Christ's example and overcome our human nature, we are destined to attain our goal of ultimate salvation in the Kingdom of God.
If we take these steps, then continue to grow in grace and knowledge, enduring in faith to the end, God will perform the final step through our resurrection to everlasting life. Paul explains: "For since by man [Adam] came death, by Man [Christ] also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive" (1 Corinthians 15:21-22).
Human beings in the flesh are incomplete, an unfinished species. However, everlasting life is ours if we become converted and continually go before the throne of grace to seek the spiritual help we desperately need. Our Advocate and High Priest is always there to help us when we stumble or fall on the way (1 John 1:7-9; 1 John 2:1-2). No human being can attain salvation without the continued application of God's grace through Christ's atoning sacrifice.
Although He created us as physical, flesh-and-blood beings, God made us with the potential of ultimately becoming spirit as He is spirit. The Bible says so. Paul continues: "And so it is written, 'The first man Adam became a living being.' The last Adam [Christ] became a life-giving spirit... The first man was of the earth, made of dust; the second Man [Christ] is the Lord from heaven...And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man" (1 Corinthians 15:45-49).
Moreover, Christ, as we've seen, bears the image of the Father. Thus we will be the same kind of beings as both the Father and Christ, not just created spirit beings like angels, but spirit-born divine beings who are part of Elohim, the universe-ruling family of God!
When we properly understand the Scriptures, we see this wonderful truth again and again in the pages of the Bible. God promises that true Christians shall attain His very image in the ultimate sense. This promise is variously restated in many places in the New Testament. One such instance is the encouraging wording of Romans 8:29: "For whom He [God the Father] foreknew, He also pre-destined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren."
Jesus is the captain of our salvation. He went before. He knows the way. He guarantees that many will join Him in divine glory. But we ourselves must make every effort to ensure that we make our own personal calling and election sure.
Reaching our fantastic destiny
It is the "new man" of the inner heart and mind that lives spiritually in the image of God now (Ephesians 4:22-24; Colossians 3:10). It is this inner transformation that will eventually lead to our ultimate and complete change to the full image of God. However, no one can accomplish this character transformation alone. "Without Me you can do nothing," said Jesus (John 15:5). The spiritual image of God can be renewed in us only through the living presence of Christ in our lives.
In a tremendously inspiring passage, Paul wrote, "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me" (Galatians 2:20, KJV).
Everlasting, abundant life in the Kingdom as part of the God family is our ultimate destiny. That is what Christ makes possible (John 10:10). That is why God created us in His image. That is why it is so important to understand the truth about the nature of our Creator.
John wrote: "Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called the children of God!...Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He [Christ] is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is" (1 John 3:1-2).
Finally, Paul also makes it clear that believers are "children of God" and "heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ" (Romans 8:16-17). He explains that "the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us" (Romans 8:18).
In other words, says Paul, in the resurrection believers will be on the same plane of existence as God and Christ—having been transformed into the same kind of beings They are. Amazingly, this is the astounding potential destiny of all humanity, and, though we will number in the millions, even billions, we will be perfectly joined together as one. For at that momentous time we will all partake of the divine nature in the ultimate sense—being divine members of the very family of God for all eternity!