Monday, September 22, 2008

II Peter 1:4b The Amazing Gift of God’s Word part 2

I went to a funeral for a dear lady from our church yesterday. She was fairly quiet and not in very good health for the 3 years that I knew her. However, if you knew her at all you could tell how much she loved the Lord. She didn’t talk about her faith, she lived it. My wife had been going to that church for about 3 months and the church offered to throw us a baby shower. Not only did Mrs. Martha give us a gift at that shower but several times both before and after the baby was born she gave us little things. As I read this section of scripture in preparation to write this bit of commentary, I couldn’t help but think of Mrs. Martha. She was living proof of the life changing power of God’s word. As we study this scripture today, we should be convicted of that same power and encouraged to disseminate that truth at every opportunity.

Peter says, in the first part of verse 4, that God has given us “precious and magnificent promises”. Of course, we find these promises in the word of God. It is important to note further that Peter begins here to tell us an important reason why God chose to reveal Himself in a book to us. The power of scripture is supernatural and can totally change our lives. As we are confronted with the supernatural truth in scripture our sin is revealed and God’s holiness is proclaimed. Peter says in the latter part of verse “so that by them [the scriptures] you may become partakers of the divine nature”. The bible, then, is an agent of spiritual transformation in the life of the believer. I struggle with my temper, my pride, and unforgiveness. So when I read in Matthew 5 about having pride, being gentle, and forgiving people I am not only convicted but I am challenged to live in a manner that is consistent with my profession of faith. I don’t see the word of God as some legalistic code but rather as a model of what God is conforming me into—a picture of what Jesus looked like. This is a daily source of encouragement to me.

Peter doesn’t just say that the bible is a tool God uses to transform us but also he tells us what that transformation involves. In other words, what is happening in our lives as we are being transformed? Peter says that “you [and I] may become partakers of the divine nature”. First of all, Peter tells us that this transformation is a process. We are not going to be conformed to the likeness of Christ completely until He comes to take us home as He did my friend Mrs. Martha this past week. However, as Christians, we will grow spiritually while living in this world. Peter uses a Greek word “ginomai” (1096) which is translated “may become”. The word, as it is used in the New Testament often has the idea of growth or process. You and I are always going to be works in progress while living in this world. The song our children sing “He’s still working on me” is applicable to us whether we’re 7 or 73. I think of my dear friend Mrs. Martha again as I meditate on this truth. She was 70 years old before she got saved. When she started going to our church she told her daughter “I’m not a sinner so I couldn’t need a savior, right?” She had a lived a good life by human standards—probably better than some Christians. However, when the Lord opened her eyes and began to draw her to Himself as she listened to the preaching of His word, she came to recognize her sin and to repent and truth Christ as her Savior. From that point, as she studied the word of God, she grew spiritually. She did not fully become everything God had saved her to be until the day He took her home to glory. However, she did mature as a Christian. In that sense, it could very well be said of her that she was in the process of becoming and that process was due in part to the precious word of God.

Peter further tells us what we’re going to look like when this transformation is finished. He writes that we will be “partakers of the divine nature”. This phrase was used in the pagan religions of that day and expressed the idea of man becoming divine. In other words, man could become not just like a god but could in fact himself become a god. Peter takes this Hellenistic concept and uses it to describe the spiritual growth of a Christian. Peter here does not teach that men can become god’s in their own right. There are attributes of God that are not communicable—we cannot posses them. He is the source or cause for His own existence and has life in Himself. As John Gill notes in his commentary on the bible:

“the nature, perfections, and glory of God, are incommunicable to creatures; nor, hypostatically and personally, so as the human nature of Christ, in union with the Son of God, is a partaker of the divine nature in him; but by way of resemblance and likeness, the new man or principle of grace, being formed in the heart in regeneration, after the image of God, and bearing a likeness to the image of his Son”

The word Peter uses for divine further evidences that there is a difference between God and man even though man is now a new creature in Christ if he is a Christian. Peter refers to the “divine nature”. The word “divine” translates a Greek word “theios” (2304) which does not refer to God’s essence in totality but rather an attribute of God such as, in this context, His holiness. No where does scripture teach that you and I are going to be gods ourselves but rather that you and I now have the Spirit of God living within us and we can become like God. Spiritually, we are transformed to be more like God as we submit to the truths found in His word. Because of the life changing truth of God’s word, we should give Him thanks and praise.

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