3His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 4by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. 2 Peter 1:3-4 ESV

The divine nature of Jesus is alluded to in verse 1 ("our God and Savior Jesus Christ") and probably again at the beginning of verse 3 quoted above ("His divine power"), and it seems to follow that it is this nature that Peter goes on to refer to in verse 4 highlighted above. But what does Peter mean by "partakers"? Is the suggestion that the readers ("those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours...") will at some point become like Jesus in having a divine nature (eg via hypostatic union), or does Peter mean something less, along the lines of "...you may become those who have come into contact with the divine nature of Jesus..."?


12 Answers 12


A 'hypostatic union' is a specific term used in Christian theology to describe the trinity. It is meant simply to state that a being can have different persons under a same essence. In the incarnation, it is less frequently used but then means a being, a Unity, the Christ, exists as a single person 'under' which two distinct natures exist, human and divine. In both cases it is fairly complicated due to historical debates in Greek and Latin and more explanation from my own summary can be found here: hypostatic union

As we turn to a different subject, the unity of believers in Christ, whereby they are said to participate in God's presence and nature, innately and in a growing experience, we are speaking something like a hypostatic union (only in that it is nearly as incomprehensible) but very different from that used under trinitarian discussion in that 'equality of persons' in the union of participation is not suggested. Believers participate in something 'much greater' then themselves. The believer united 'in Christ' is a servant under a Lordship and the entire church is a body under a head, and branch deriving life from a vine. Believers derive all their spiritual wealth undeservedly from their Lord and King with inequality of they and Him as the basis.

So what does it mean then if not a hypostatic union? The scripture is full of references to the 'in Christ' union but I will only highlight one of them. Possibly the primary meaning of participating in Christ is an idea that is contrasted to our participating in Adam. Being 'in' Christ means were participate in His nature and all the benefits of salvation that this implies. (Romans 5:12, 1 Cor 15:22)) In Adam we participate in the fallen nature, the threat of God's law and eternal death under its wrath. In Christ, we participate in a new federal head of humanity. By being mystically joined into him, the external provision of Salvation for sinners is made to be our internal possession and real experience. In other words, the justification and sanctification of a believer is made to occur individually and effectually when and only when the Spirit removes our life from Adam and unites it into Christ. By this means the entire meaning of the gospel as explained in the Greek scriptures becomes a reality for an individual. It implies a kind of re-birth making it an innate experience regardless of personal growth in Christ as well as ensures and enables continued growth in Christ as a result of the gracious union.

The Bible refers to this participation in many ways. One good simple summary of 'sample words' all pointing towards the brief explanation I have provided can be found here:

A tract entitled “The Seven Togethers” sums up the Scripture testimony with regard to the Consequences of the believer’s Union with Christ:

  1. Crucified together with Christ—Gal. 2:20—συνεσταύρωμαι.
  2. Died together with Christ—Col. 2:20—ἀπεθάνετε.
  3. Buried together with Christ—Rom. 6:4—συνετάφημεν
  4. Quickened together with Christ—Eph. 2:5—συνεζωοποίησεν
  5. Raised together with Christ—Col. 3:1—συνηγέρθητε
  6. Sufferers together with Christ—Rom. 8:17—συμπάσχομεν.
  7. Glorified together with Christ—Rom. 8:17—συνδοξασθῶμεν.

Union with Christ results in common sonship, relation to God, character, influence, and destiny. (SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY A Compendium and Commonplace Book, AUGUSTUS HOPKINS STRONG, P802 )

Note: I have not chosen to comment much about the original Greek word translated as 'participate' as there is not a lot to debate about concerning it. The word translated as 'participate' means what most would understand by its English equivalent. It stems from the concept of a 'part' and is extended under the idea of sharing parts or having fellowship with partners. I have rather cut to the point by focusing on the concept of a union which is very common throughout the Greek scriptures. What would be worthwhile and which I decided against is to show the immediate context and its many supports of the idea I have summarized but this should be quite easy to perceive. The surrounding letter and verses show that it is within a view of a gracious evidence of God's power, being manifest by inward salvation through the ancient promise of a Messiah and outpouring of the Spirit, that we have participated in God. That is quite clear and consistent with the idea of 'in Christ' doctrine of which Peter refers to with the word 'participate'.

  • Well done, Mike. I could not have said it better myself. My only addition would be in your citation: it should be AUGUSTUS HOPKINS STRONG, P802.
    – DrFry
    Mar 25, 2014 at 14:02
  • 1
    Mike, well-done (very exceptional) and I agree +1,000% with EVERYTHING you say, but I bristle when I see references to Systematic Theology and terms like Hypostatic Union (which I embrace 1000%). Is there a way to connect the concepts with verses? In other words, it is not what you're saying, but how you are presenting what you are saying, which appears as Systematic Theology. Again, I bow and sit at your feet in humbleness and Christian submission to your interpretations, but we are more on the hermeneutical side here. Very Very Very Respectfully Submitted, Joseph
    – Joseph
    Mar 25, 2014 at 15:15

This concept is fascinating, and a short survey of some New Testament will shed light on the questions at hand.

First, the word "nature" in the New Testament is the Greek noun, ***φύσις***, which occurs with the following connotations as follows:

(1) The "nature" of heterosexuality (Rom 1:26-27)
(2) The "nature" of dictates of the conscience (Rom 2:14)
(3) The "nature" of uncircumcision occurring/appearing at birth (Rom 2:27)
(4) The "nature" of olive branches relating to their own olive roots (Rom 11:21)
(5) The "nature" of wild olive branches to be contrary to normal olive roots (Rom 11:24 x 3)
(6) The "nature" of short hair being distinctive to men (1 Cor 11:14)
(7) The "nature" of heart circumcision defining the authentic Jew (Gal 2:15)
(8) The "nature" of idols to be non-god entities (Gal 4:8)
(9) The "nature" of sinners as being children of wrath (Eph 2:3)

The principal idea concerns what is normative. For example, heterosexuality is "normal," and therefore homosexuality is contrary to nature. The fact that olive branches attach to olive roots is "normal," and therefore grafting wild olive branches into natural olive roots is contrary to nature. The distinction that men wear shorter hair than women is "normal," and therefore men wearing long hair is contrary to nature. The idea is the normative state unique to that entity (whether we are talking about people, olive branches, or idols). Finally, there is one more New Testament verse that goes one step farther and sheds more light on the idea of "nature."

James 3:7 (NASB)
7 For every species (φύσις) of beasts and birds, of reptiles and creatures of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by the human race (φύσις).

The grammatical case of the term "by the human race" is in the dative case, which means that the taming of the (nature of) animals adjusts to (the nature of) human beings, and therefore conforms to the domestic nature of man. On the other hand, what we see in 2 Pet 1:4 is the genitive case, which suggests that believers partake of the heavenly nature. So, unlike animals who conform to (dative case) human nature, believers partake of (genitive) the divine nature.

2 Pet 1:4 (NASB)
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 (φύσις), having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.

In other words, piety is not conformance to the divine nature, but partaking of the divine nature. This divine nature is contrary to the nature of man. That is, the divine nature is not innate or "normal" to man.

Romans 8:3-11 (NASB)
3 For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, 4 so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5 For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. 6 For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, 7 because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, 8 and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. 9 However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. 10 If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. 11 But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.

The Spirit of Christ who indwells the believer provides the "divine nature," and his control and influence precipitate the "fruits of the Spirit" described in Gal 5:22-23. As briefly mentioned earlier in this discussion, the "nature" of the circumcision of the heart is what defines the "authentic" Jew. (Please click here for further discussion of the circumcision of the heart.) These believers partake of the nature of the Sprit of Christ. The following verses illustrate how people can conform to the divine nature, and yet not partake of the divine nature.

Matthew 7:22-24 (NASB)
22 Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’

Thus partakers of the divine nature are believers in Jesus Christ with circumcised hearts (whose erstwhile old "nature" to practice lawlessness is cut away). These verses illustrate the difference between conforming to the divine nature, and partaking of the divine nature. In the example of these verses, the individuals exhibited behaviors to conform to the divine nature, but they were never partakers of the divine nature. They never possessed the Spirit of Christ as discussed in Romans 8:3-11 (cited, above).

In summary, the old nature is the flesh ("normal" for all mankind born "uncircumcised" at birth), which is hostile to the Lord, but which is circumcised or cut away by faith (definition of the authentic Jew). The new nature, in turn, comes from the Spirit of Christ. The relationship of the believer to his Lord is therefore not one of superficial behavioral conformance (like the taming of an animal to adjust to human norms and behaviors), but the actual partaking of the divine nature, which results in authentic piety and true Christian experience.


What does it mean being made partakers of His divine nature? It means being made partakers of his godliness, his character, his likeness, his virtues. In verse 3 it says:

2 Peter 1:3
According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue.

To understand the full contest of the scripture we need to go to other scriptures:

Romans 8:29
For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.

We are made partakers of his divine nature by being conformed to the image of Jesus Christ, who is the image of the invisible God. That is the character of God was in Christ and the same character is in every true believer.

1 John 2:5,6
But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him. He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.

That is to say that the sign or evidence that the redemptive work has taken effect in us is his life, virtues and works projected through us. In other words Christianity is a projection of the life of Jesus Christ in his redeemed. This scripture is telling us being patakers of his likeness is projected in our walking like him. We will refer to some other scriptures:

1 John 4:17
Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world.

The above scripture of 1 John 4:17 is telling us being partakers of his divine nature is also being partaker of his likeness. When one is made a partaker of God’s divine nature, Christ lives and walks in you.

Galatians 2:20
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.

A person that is a partaker of God’s divine nature is God’s workmanship created in christ Jesus:

Ephesians 2:10,22
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. […] In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.

2 Corinthians 6:16
And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

Being made partakers of his divine nature means also being partakers of the works of the Spirit:

John 3:6,8
That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. […] The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.

John 14:10,12 Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works. […] Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.

The partakers of his divine nature are a part of the good tree that bears good fruit:

Matthew 7:15-18,20,21
Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. […] Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.

  • Sorry. I am using my phone with with few editing tools
    – Samuel
    Dec 9, 2017 at 17:26
  • @Samuel The Stack Exchange mobile app has a formatting button for blockquotes just like the desktop website. You can also do it yourself by adding > at the start of the cited paragraph. While you are at it please remove one set of verse numbers of the other, having the same verses numbered two ways is distracting.
    – Caleb
    Dec 9, 2017 at 17:47
  • Ah, so much more readable, thanks. Also, good answer. +1
    – Ruminator
    Dec 9, 2017 at 19:40

The phrase refers to theosis - a process referred to variously as sanctification, divinization, deification. A related verse is 1 John 3:2:

Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.

Maximos the Confessor (ca 580-662) explains the text:

God made us so that we might become partakers of the divine nature and sharers in His eternity, and so that we might come to be like Him through deification by grace. It is through deification that all things are reconstituted and achieve their permanence; and it is for its sake that what is not is brought into being and given existence.*

* First Century on Various Texts, No. 42, tr. from the Greek in The Philokalia, Vol. 2 (Faber and Faber, 1981), p.173

  • Do you not see any indication that he is referring to a change in the present, only in the future?
    – Ruminator
    Dec 9, 2017 at 17:23

Divine Nature

The Greek word physis refers to the natural characteristic of a thing. The divine nature is therefore the inherent qualities that exist in God. In Romans 1:20, we see that God's nature is evident in his creation. This verse clearly tells us that the divine nature is visible in various forms and shapes.

Romans 1:20 (ESV)

For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

Generic Participation

Generically, each person is participating in the divine nature. The reason why is because collectively as humans we are God's offspring and thus, share in his nature.

Acts 17:28 (ESV)

for “‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, “‘For we are indeed his offspring.’

The biological metaphor serves to explain our relationship with God in our natural state. In Genesis, we read that God created man in his own image and likeness. It is written that God made the body alive by giving it a spirit. The living soul is therefore what the image of God refers to. This simply means that human existence is a visible picture of the invisible God. When man speaks, reasons and creates, he shows what God is like.

Special Participation

On the other hand, the saints participates in it in a special way.It is because they are not only children of God by creation but also by regeneration. Their spirits are being renewed every day by the Holy Spirit.

2 Corinthians 4:16 (ESV)

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.

This biological metaphor helps us understand that we need to reflect the behavior of God because we are his offspring. We are to imitate God like a son imitating his father.This fellowship evinces a bond of love, closeness that is inseparable.

Ephesians 5:1 (ESV)

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.


Upon further research, i have come to a conclusion that the saints participating in the divine nature in 2 Peter 1:4 refers to them being engaged in a character and behavior that pleases God. The text in question basically shows ''like father, like son'' as its core message.


It means we can partake of the divine nature. Here is a quote related to this.

God became man to make man God in life and nature but not in the Godhead.

(The original quote is by Athanasius: For the Son of God became man so that we might become God. It is also in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. This quote was modified by Witness Lee.)

We can become God in His communicable attributes - love, peace, humility, etc. (He also has incommunicable attributes - omnipotence, omniscience, etc.)

Monkeys have monkey nature. They cannot have human nature. Humans have human nature because they are born of human beings. Similarly, believers are also born of God, so they have divine nature.

As Christ makes His home in our heart, He becomes our kindness, our genuineness, etc.

Here is a book on deification.

  • Welcome to Biblical Hermeneutics! Thanks for you answer. Some suggestions for the future. This site is an academic site interested in providing rationale for all answers. Therefore, this site is looking for grammatical and contextual evidence to support your answer. You can quote biblical and non biblical sources. For instance, i see you used a quote in your answer; in the future please provide the source. If you citing biblical principal, please provide the biblical text so readers can see how you applied your reference. Thanks.
    – alb
    May 22, 2018 at 12:51

The meaning of partakers of the divine nature means those who have received spiritual food and drink, have been nourished from the Rock, eaten bread from heaven, witnessed supernatural works and words:

1 Corinthians 10:1For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea; 2and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea; 3and all ate the same spiritual food; 4and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ.

Hebrews 6:4For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, 5and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame.


Believers become partakers of the divine/godly nature by virtue of obedience to the will of God. They become his children. Cf. 1John 3:9; 1John 4:7; 1John 5:1; John 1:13; John 3:3-5

1 John 2:29 ASV If ye know that he is righteous, ye know that every one also that doeth righteousness is begotten of him.

Compare the usage of μέτοχος - partaker,

  • Heb 6:4 tasted the heavenly gifts and become partakers in the Holy Spirit.
  • Heb 3:1 holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession.
  • Hebrews 3:14 For we have been partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our foundation firm to the end (SLT).

[1Pet 1:3-4] ...According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you,

ΕSV 1Peter 5:1 So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed. (δόξης κοινωνός)

Abbot-Smith Lexicon, on inheritance κληρονομία,:

an inherited property, an inheritance: Mat 21:38, Mar 12:7, Luk 12:13; Luk 20:14; in general, a possession, inheritance: Act 7:5, Heb 11:8; of the Messianic Kingdom and its blessings, Act 20:32, Gal 3:18, Col 3:24, Eph 1:14; Eph 1:18; Eph 5:5, Heb 9:15, 1Pe 1:4.†

The word physis From φῠ́ω (phúō, “grow”) +‎ -σῐς (-sis). It doesn't mean nature in general but inherited function, birth-nature. I doubt that God himself can be said to have this kind of ancestral, and physical nature, which only applies to created contingent creatures. The verse is only talking about sharing in the godly natural-order that is the divine gifts and inheritance. It cannot possibly mean the hypostatic union.

Hypostatis is the word which means substance, essential-nature, foundational substance, essence, which God cannot transfer to anyone else. The believers only share divine inheritance and indwelling of the Holy Spirit as adopted children of God, they will be fully united in heaven with God, they won't be absorbed in God. Christ is the character or imprint of the substance ὑποστάσεως of God, Hebrews 1:3.

The NET Bible notes on the verse:

Although the author has borrowed the expression partakers of the divine nature from paganism, his meaning is clearly Christian. He does not mean apotheosis (man becoming a god) in the pagan sense, but rather that believers have an organic connection with God. Because of such a connection, God can truly be called our Father. Conceptually, this bears the same meaning as Paul’s “in Christ” formula. The author’s statement, though startling at first, is hardly different from Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians that they “may be filled up to all the fullness of God” (Eph 3:19).


I will give an answer that is compatible with the Roman Catholic doctrine on the subject, but goes beyond the de fide definitions and even the common teachings (sententia communis).

  1. "Nature" in this verse is used in an ontic, not moral sense. Thus, it is in the same sense as in the christological definitions of the Chalcedon and subsequent Ecumenical Councils.

  2. "You may become partakers of the divine nature" does not refer to some time in the future but to the present. That we become partakers of the divine nature through "the precious and magnificent promises" which God "has given to us" does not mean that we will become partakers at a future time when those promises will be fulfilled. Rather, it means that through some gifts which God had promised in the OT and "has given to us" in the present, we become partakers of the divine nature in the present.

  3. The divine nature does not exist "prior to", "above" or "apart from" the divine Persons. Adopting from St. Basil of Caesarea the notion of divine "modes of Being" ("tropoi hyparxeos") and from St. Bonaventure of Bagnoregio the understanding of the Father's innascibility as "fontal plenitude", the Father is the divine nature in fontal plenitude and paternity mode, the Son is the divine nature in filiation mode, and the Holy Spirit is the divine nature in passive spiration mode.

  4. Per absolute divine simplicity, and since the divine nature cannot exist abstracted from the personal properties or modes of Being, to be partaker of the divine nature means to be partaker of one or more divine Persons. Thus, the case of partaking of the divine nature is unlike the case of partaking of a created nature, in which e.g. partaking of the human nature does not mean partaking of a particular human person.

  5. To become partaker of a divine Person means that the essence of the soul or the will is either conformed (in a minimal view) or conformed and united (in a medial view) to a divine Person by being infused with a supernatural essential quality or a supernatural virtue, respectively.

  6. "The precious and magnificent promises" which God "has given to us" are sanctifying grace and charity (agape), which are a supernatural quality and a supernatural virtue through which we become partakers of the Son and of the Holy Spirit respectively.

  7. The relationship of sanctifying grace and charity to the Son and the Holy Spirit respectively is not described by any of the Aristotelian causalities but by "exemplar causality" if "partaking of" is understood as "likeness with" (minimal view), or by "quasi-formal causality" if "partaking of" is understood as "likeness and a certain ontic union with" (medial view).

In the minimal view, the Son is the exemplar cause of sanctifying grace and the Holy Spirit is the exemplar cause of charity. In the medial view, the Son is the quasi-formal cause of sanctifying grace and the Holy Spirit is the quasi-formal cause of charity.

To note, the maximal view would be to posit that the Son is the formal cause of sanctifying grace and that the Holy Spirit is the formal cause of charity, which means, given that sanctifying grace and charity are forms, that the Son is sanctifying grace and the Holy Spirit is charity, which means that the essence of the soul has the Son as accidental form, which means that the human person becomes God by accident, which is clearly excessive, notwithstanding the well-known audacious statements of St. Athanasius and St. Maximus the Confessor on the subject:

"For the Son of God became man so that we might become God."

"All that God is, except for an identity in ousia, one becomes when one is deified by grace."


The underlying concept of "hypostatic union" was codified as dogma at Nicaea:

...And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten of the Father [the only-begotten; that is, of the essence of the Father, God of God,] Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father;...

The concept however did not originate from the scriptures but rather from gnosticism:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homoousion ...The term ὁμοούσιος had been used before its adoption by the First Council of Nicaea. The Gnostics were the first to use the word ὁμοούσιος, while before the Gnostics there is no trace at all of its existence.[1][2][3][4][5][6][7][8][9][10] The early church theologians were probably made aware of this concept, and thus of the doctrine of emanation, taught by the Gnostics.[11] In Gnostic texts the word ὁμοούσιος is used with the following meanings: Identity of substance between generator and generated. Identity of substance between things generated of the same substance. Identity of substance between the partners of a syzygy. For example, Basilides, the first known Gnostic thinker to use ὁμοούσιος in the first half of the 2nd century AD, speaks of a threefold sonship consubstantial with the god who is not.[12][13] The Valentinian Gnostic Ptolemy claims in his letter to Flora that it is the nature of the good God to beget and bring forth only beings similar to, and consubstantial with, himself.[14] The term ὁμοούσιος was already in current use by the 2nd-century Gnostics, and through their works it became known to the orthodox heresiologists, though this Gnostic use of the term had no reference to the specific relationship between Father and Son, as is the case in the Nicene Creed...

The scriptures explicitly deny that Jesus and his father (God) shared the same substance by describing him as "a reflection of his glory, and a picture of his substance":

NET Bible Hebrews 1:3 The Son is the radiance [reflection] of his [God's] glory [shining] and the representation of his [God's] essence [ousia], and he sustains all things by his [God's] powerful word, and so when he had accomplished cleansing for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.

Jesus' oneness with the father is the same kind of "oneness" that the believers have; IE: in unity of purpose and identification together:

NIV John 17: 11I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one.

It is of this kind of "oneness" that Peter is speaking. Like Jesus he is not speaking of the new creation (the Pauline church) but of the elect Jews. And since the elect Jews are the bride of Christ, they enter into marital oneness with Christ:

NIV Isaiah 62: 1For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, for Jerusalem’s sake I will not remain quiet, till her vindication shines out like the dawn, her salvation like a blazing torch. 2The nations will see your vindication, and all kings your glory; you will be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will bestow. 3You will be a crown of splendor in the Lord’s hand, a royal diadem in the hand of your God. 4No longer will they call you Deserted, or name your land Desolate. But you will be called Hephzibah,a and your land Beulahb ; for the Lord will take delight in you, and your land will be married. 5As a young man marries a young woman, so will your Builder marry you; as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you. 6I have posted watchmen on your walls, Jerusalem; they will never be silent day or night. You who call on the Lord, give yourselves no rest, 7and give him no rest till he establishes Jerusalem and makes her the praise of the earth.

NIV Revelation 21: 2I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.

The word translated "partake" refers to a "sharer" in something:

κοινωνός, κοινωνη, κοινωνόν (κοινός) (as adjective Euripides, Iph. Taur. 1173; commonly as a substantive); a. a partner, associate, comrade, companion: 2 Corinthians 8:23; ἔχειν τινα κοινωνόν, Philemon 1:17; εἰμί κοινωνός τίνι, to be one's partner, Luke 5:10; τίνος (the genitive of person), to be the partner of one doing something, Hebrews 10:33; τίνος ἐν τῷ αἵματι, to be one's partner in shedding the blood etc. Matthew 23:30.

b. a partaker, sharer, in any thing; with the genitive of the thing: τῶν παθημάτων, 2 Corinthians 1:7; τῆς δόξης, 1 Peter 5:1; θείας φύσεως, 2 Peter 1:4; τοῦ θυσιαστηρίου, of the altar (at Jerusalem) on which sacrifices are offered, i. e. sharing in the worship of the Jews, 1 Corinthians 10:18; τῶν δαιμονίων, partakers of (or with) demons, i. e. brought into fellowship with them, because they are the authors of the heathen worship, ibid. 20; (ἐν τῷ ἀφθάρτῳ κοινωνοί ... ἐν τοῖς φθαρτοῖς, joint partakers in that which is imperishable ... in the blessings which perish, Epistle of Barnabas 19, 8 [ET]; see κοινωνέω, at the end). http://biblehub.com/thayers/2844.htm

So just as Christ partakes of God's divine nature so Peter's hearers and Jesus' bride partake of the same via the promises of God:

NIV Ezekiel 11: 17“Therefore say: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I will gather you from the nations and bring you back from the countries where you have been scattered, and I will give you back the land of Israel again.’ 18“They will return to it and remove all its vile images and detestable idols. 19 I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. 20Then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. They will be my people, and I will be their God.

So rather than the perverse "hypostatic union" the promises relate to a change of heart. This is why he says "add to your faith virtue and to virtue..." rather than "become God".


Those who are partakers of the divine nature are those who receive companionship of the Holy Ghost (Heb 6:4) and have "the mind of Christ" (1 Cor. 2:16).

This is in contrast to the natural man, who "receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." (1 Cor. 2:14)

Having the Mind of Christ fits the broad definition of a hypostatic/mystical union or "essence", as it implies being perfectly aligned with His will. It's what enabled prophets like Isaiah to speak messianically (see chapter Isaiah 50).

  • So is that a kind of "hypostatic union"? Please show all your logic... Mar 11, 2014 at 13:39
  • You're right. I didn't explain 'mind of Christ', so I made an addendum. Mar 12, 2014 at 9:26
  • 1
    Thanks jason, but I still don't follow all your logic, can you connect more of the dots for us? (that meta post I linked explains what I mean eg if you are going to use other writings by other authors can you explain how/why they link together into one big picture? Mar 12, 2014 at 10:07

Your question is a good one. Moreover, in light of the abstractness of the first few verses of chapter 1, your question is quite natural and understandable, since the verses give us little by way of concreteness but plenty by way of nebulousness!

Nevertheless, by first, defining the key terms in verses 3 and 4, and then second, by interpreting those two verses in the context of verses 1-12 as a whole, we might be able to determine what the "divine nature" meant to Peter and, by extension, what it means to us.

Key Terms

  • God's power: the source and resource of the wherewithal for living a godly Christian life


  • Knowledge: progressive, intimate, and relational, friend-to-friend knowledge


  • God's glory and excellence (or virtue): the outshining of His sui generis character and infinite integrity through the instrumentality of His creation, particularly His vessels of clay (i.e., us; see Romans 9:23 and 2 Corinthians 4:7).


  • Partakers: those who appropriate existentially and progressively God's communicable, shareable attributes


  • God's nature: God's communicable, not incommunicable, attributes, with the latter being, for example, omnipotence, omnipresence, and omniscience, and the former, those attributes laid out by Peter in vv.5-7.

The Context

In the larger context, then, Peter develops a contrast between our old, sinful nature (à la Paul in Romans 7, 8, and 13) and our new-birth nature. Both natures are characterized by an evolution or progression. The latter nature actually de-volves in a downward spiral of corruption and death, both spiritual and physical (see, for example, Romans 5:14,17,21; 6:16,21,23; and 8:6).

The latter nature, however, evolves in a progressive, sanctified direction; first, because of God's induement of the wherewithal to live godly lives, and second, because of our ongoing decisions to live according to the principles laid down for us in the faith, once and for all delivered to the saints (v. 1; cf. Jude 1:3).

Our new life in Christ is acted out in stages, as God, with our permission, "adds" more and more Christlikeness to our characters (e.g., the building blocks of virtue, knowledge, self-control, endurance, godliness, brotherly/sisterly affection, and love).

As God's children, we have retained His image (Genesis 1:26), as does all of humankind. Though that image is spoiled by sin, it is redeemable. The image of God and the nature of God, however, are two different, albeit related, things. First, God's nature has never been, is not, nor ever will be spoiled or sullied, as was God's image in us. Second, whether believer or unbeliever, we still relate to God through our minds, emotions, and wills. To the believer, however, through God's powerful endowment in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit (Romans 8:4), we are enabled to live godly lives. Consequently, God's image in us is, in fits and starts, inexorably restored and re-created in us incrementally, step by step, as we fulfill our duties as God's bondslaves (v.1).

In other words, as we partake of, or appropriate, more and more of God's infinite, inexhaustible nature, we are continually sanctified, or set apart, for love and good works (vv.5-8,10; cf. Hebrews 10:24). Our spiritual maturity is a consequence of willingly, through God's enablement,

"applying all diligence"(v.5)


"practicing these [qualities],"

so that God imparts His character traits to our lives. In other words, we are to

"work out [our] own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure" (Philippians 2:13,14; cf. Peter's concepts of usefulness and fruitfulness in v.8).

God's character traits, or attributes, are the building blocks I listed above (viz., virtue, knowledge, self-control, endurance, godliness, brotherly/sisterly affection, and the capstone, love), which are laid on the foundational cornerstone of "the faith" (v.1). We can think of God's work as a masterpiece which God desires to make of us through His granting of the necessary enduement (v.3), and His granting of precious and magnificent promises (v.4), all for our benefit and His good pleasure.

In summary, then, how do we become partakers of God's nature? In short, by simply appropriating, or making our own, all that God through His power and promises is willing and able to mediate to us through Jesus Christ. God may invest His power and promises in mere clay vessels, but those vessels can become, through His molding and shaping,

"pottery for noble purposes" (Romans 9:21).

This transforming process requires everyone who confesses the name of the Lord to

  • turn away from wickedness (2 Timothy 2:19b)


  • clean himself of wickedness (ibid., v.21a).

For in doing so, each Christian will become

"an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work" (ibid., v.21b).

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