#11 - Partakers of the Divine Nature
"Through the Spirit the believer becomes a partaker of the divine nature." (RH May 19, 1904; par. 3).
Both the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy make it very clear that the Holy Spirit is in fact Christ's Spirit and not some abstruse, obscure, non-descript third person of the Godhead. However, proving that the Holy Spirit is Jesus' Spirit is meaningless if we don't understand the significance of Christ's sacrifice in the giving of His Spirit. Why would Christ sacrifice His Spirit? For what purpose did He make this sacrifice? "Without the Spirit of God a knowledge of His word is of no avail. The theory of truth, unaccompanied by the Holy Spirit, cannot quicken the soul or sanctify the heart. One may be familiar with the commands and promises of the Bible; but unless the Spirit of God sets the truth home, the character will not be transformed. Without the enlightenment of the Spirit, men will not be able to distinguish truth from error, and they will fall under the masterful temptations of Satan" (Christ Object Lessons, p. 408, par. 3).
Most Christians have at least some understanding of the necessity of Christ's death on the Cross. They realize that Christ came to pay the penalty for Sin on our behalf and that His death has made it possible for us to be reconciled to God and restored to a right standing with Him. Most Christians believe that Christ's death has granted us eternal life. But this is not the truth. Christ's death has made it possible for us to gain eternal life, but His death has not insured our attaining it. Christ "died" for all men (1 Jn. 2:2; 2 Cor. 5:14; 1 Pet. 3:18) - yet "all men" are not going to be saved! There are going to be many people who believe that they are "Christians" who shall never enter into His Kingdom (See Mat. 7:21-23). Many of these people will have believed (even accepted) that Christ died for their sins but will remain unchanged by that fact - they will refuse to be transformed into His likeness and He will declare to them: "I never knew you, depart from Me" (Ibid). Sadly, there will be many Seventh-day Adventists in this group (see Rev. 3:14-17).
The truth is that "Justification" is simply not enough. It would be enough if you were to die immediately after your acceptance of Christ's substitutionary death on your behalf (like the thief on the cross) but this is never going to be enough for those who continue living or who will be alive at His Second coming. There has to be something more in the life of the believer than justification. Christ said that we must be "born again." He taught that there must be a new life created within us transforming us into His image: "There must be a power working from within, a new life from above, before man can be changed from sin to holiness. That power is Christ. His grace alone can quicken the lifeless faculties of the soul, and attract it to God, to holiness" (ST: May 28, 1902; par. 3). We must "grow in the grace …. until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man ['Perfect man' KJV], to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ" (2 Pet. 3:18; Eph. 4:13) . This process of growth - having Christ formed within us - is called Sanctification, and is an absolute necessity for our receiving Eternal Life. Both justification (the forgiveness of sins) and sanctification (the removal of Sin) are essential in the life of the believer. Justification was accomplished at the Cross, when Christ took on our sins and paid the penalty for our transgression. This work of Christ is "laid to our account" through the simple act of accepting Christ's sacrifice on our behalf - without any work of our own being involved.
Sanctification, however, is not the work of a moment-it is the work of a lifetime. It is still Christ's work, but it is accomplished in the life of the believer throughout their lifetime. It is the ongoing process of Christ's work in our minds and in our hearts that transforms us into His image and enables us to live a life of obedience and victory. This work of Christ (sanctification) is imparted to us (not just laid to our account)-that is, it is implanted in us in a way that is both very real and very powerful. The words of inspiration have summarized this truth beautifully: "The righteousness by which we are justified is imputed. The righteousness by which we are sanctified is imparted. The first is our title to heaven; the second is our fitness for heaven" (RH: June 4, 1895; par. 7) . Both are the Lord's doing: "both our title to heaven [Justification] and our fitness for it [Sanctification] are found in the righteousness of Christ" (DA: p. 300, par. 1) .
HOW the Lord accomplishes both of these things is explained through the mystery of the incarnation-through our Lord's sacrifice in literally giving His Life for us. In taking our humanity and dying in our place, He has accomplished the first (Justification). In sacrificing His Spirit for us, He accomplishes the second (Sanctification).
Christ came in order that we might have "eternal life," (Jn. 3:16,36) but "eternal life can be granted only to those who become partakers of the divine nature" (9T p. 188) . This was Christ's ultimate purpose in sacrificing both body and soul (Spirit) for us ("This Comforter is the Holy Spirit,--the soul of his life, the efficacy of his church, the light and life of the world. With his Spirit Christ sends a reconciling influence and a power that takes away sin. In the gift of the Spirit, Jesus gave to man the highest good that heaven could bestow." (RH May 19, 1904; par. 1.)). "Christ expects that men will become partakers of His divine nature while in this world" (5T p. 731, par. 1) . We know that it is "Through the Spirit [that] the believer becomes a partaker of the divine nature" (RH May 19, 1904; par. 3) and so, if Christ expects us to partake of His divine nature and partaking of His divine nature is accomplished through the "Spirit", we can be reasonably sure that the "Spirit" that implants Christ's divine nature in us is, in fact, Christ's Spirit -- it IS His Divine Nature. "Christ gives them the breath of His own Spirit, the life of His own Life" (DA p. 827, par. 3). "The Holy Spirit is the breath of life in the soul. The impartation of the Spirit is the impartation of the life of Christ. It imbues the receiver with the attributes of Christ" (DA p. 805, par. 3) .
Now maybe it is just me, but doesn't it seem just a little bit ludicrous to think that some other member of the Godhead (someone other than Christ) would be responsible for imparting the "attributes of Christ" in us? Christ is not dead! Both His humanity and His divinity are very much alive. Why would anyone other than Christ be needed to impart Christ's nature, Christ's attributes, Christ's character, Christ's victory, Christ's power, or Christ's life in us? Why would someone, anyone, other than Christ be needed to make His sacrifice efficacious? Christpromised that He would "come" to us - that He would not leave us "comfortless" - that He would be here "in our midst" - that He would be "with" us "always, even unto the end of the world" (Jn. 14:18; Mat. 18:20 cf. Joel 2:27; Mat. 28:20 [KJV]). How could anyone but Christ make His presence a reality for us?
If our eternal destiny hinges on our being partakers of the divine nature, then we need to understand clearly what it means to be "partakers of His divine nature"! (5T p. 731, par. 1). Does being a partaker of His divine nature mean that we will simply become "good" people? Does it mean that we are only to become "nice," honest, loving, trustworthy people? No! It means much more than that! Certainly we will be all of these things because God is all of these things. But God is much more than just a nice, loving person - and we are to become like Christ in ways that go far beyond being honest, or trustworthy, or even loving and nice.
When Christ was here on this earth, He was very nearly stoned to death for claiming to be God. You can read about this in John 10:24-38. The Jews were very angry with Jesus because He claimed to be "One" with the Father (vs. 30) and "The Jews picked up stones again to stone Him" (vs. 31) . Christ asked them for which good work they were stoning Him (vs. 32), and they replied: "For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God" (vs. 33) . Jesus response to them is not only interesting; it is also full of meaning and truth (a truth that we have been reticent to believe). Jesus said: "Has it not been written in your Law, 'I SAID, YOU ARE GODS'" (vs. 34) .
Christ's mission to redeem man involves much more than simply "forgiving" us our sins. Christ's purpose in sacrificing Himself goes far beyond that. Christ sacrificed Himself not only to restore man to his original image, but to "recreate" man in His image. Christ intends to elevate man to a state above that of even the most glorious Angels in heaven! "…Christ gave up His life for the human race. This sacrifice was offered for the purpose of restoring man to his original perfection; yea, more. It was offered to give him an entire transformation of character, making him more than a conqueror. Those who in the strength of Christ overcome the great enemy of God and man, will occupy a position in the heavenly courts above angels who have never fallen" (General Conference Bulletins: April 1, 1899; par. 2). "That Christ should take human nature, and by a life of humiliation elevate man in the scale of moral worth with God; that He should carry His adopted nature to the throne of God, and there present His children to the Father, to have conferred upon them an honour exceeding that conferred upon the angels,--this is the marvel of the heavenly universe, the mystery into which angels desire to look. This is love that melts the sinner's heart" (Australasian Union Conference Record, June 6, 1900; par.15) . So what stately position and honor could be conferred upon man that would make them above angels who have never sinned? Christ intends that we shall literally become "sons of God" (not merely one of His creations -- Rom. 8:14, 19; 9:26; Gal. 3:26, 4:6; Mat. 5:9; Lk. 20:36). He designs that we shall "be a counterpart of God" (Healthful Living, p. 10, par. 2) . The Father intends that we shall be "joint-heirs with Christ" (Rom. 8:17) -- reigning with Christ (2 Tim. 2:12; Rev. 20:6) and sitting with Him upon His Throne! (Rev. 3:21).
Christ intends to so fully recreate Himself in His people that they will be elevated to a status equal to His own-the incarnated Christ. This is not my idea-it is the position set forth in the Scriptures. Paul said: "If ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise" (Gal. 3:29 KJV) . Remember, however, that Paul also made it clear that "the promises" were made to Abraham's "seed" - not "as in many, but in one" - Christ Jesus (See Gal. 3: 16). By becoming a "partaker of the divine nature" - by allowing Christ to recreate and reproduce Himself in us - we become part of that "seed" (which is Christ Jesus) to whom the promises were given, and thus we become "heirs according to the promise." According to the Word of God, by partaking of the divine nature, we are to attain "the measure of the stature of fullness of Christ" - and through Christ, "a perfect man" (Eph. 4:13 KJV) . This will be the experience of the remnant people of God.
I know that there are those who will read into this statement more than is intended and so, I will qualify it with this explanation: We shall ever be indebted to Christ for making a way possible for us to be forgiven and for the power to be like Him. There will never come a time when this will not be so and in this way Christ shall forever be supreme. Still, the fact remains that Christ will have a "remnant" who will so totally be partakers of His nature that they will literally be like Him. They will be included in the councils of God and will be responsible with Christ (joint heirs) for carrying out the Father's Will and for executing His commands. This group will be, in the eyes of the Angels, the redeemed, and the unfallen worlds -- rulers with Christ throughout the universe. We shall not be "God" - we will never be independently divine - but we will so fully partake of Christ's divine nature that we shall be like Him - a perfect blending of the human and the divine. "In Christ" we shall participate in all the privileges that our His - including being able to "see God" face to face! (Rev. 21:22-24) [Note: It is very doubtful that all of the redeemed will "see" God the Father face to face. There is a special group of people that will have this honor and these are described as the 144,000. These chosen ones will so fully partake of the nature of Christ that they will be allowed into the very presence of the Father. In 1T p. 69, speaking of heaven after the second coming of Christ, we see the Temple-God's dwelling place-and Jesus declares that "Only the 144,000 enter this place." In fact, the names of the 144,000 are described as engraved in tables of stone in letters of gold within this Temple. These people, I believe, are the ones who will actually be "reigning" with Christ.]
The prophet says that: "God has adopted human nature in the person of His Son, and has carried the same into the highest heaven" (DA: p. 25, par. 3) . She does not say that God has adopted the human race-like we might "adopt" a child into our family. She says, "God has adopted human nature in the person of His Son." That means that "GOD" (The Father) has taken the form of human nature in the person of Jesus Christ. God became "man" in Jesus Christ, and as a result, through the impartation of Christ's divine nature, man may become a member of the Godhead.
In Matthew 22:2-14 we find a marriage ceremony described that is about to take place. Commenting on this marriage in the book Christ Object Lessons, Ellen White states: "By the marriage is represented the union of humanity with divinity" (COL: p. 307, par. 1) . This describes Christs' union of His humanity with divinity, which He has now made it possible for us to experience through our marriage to Him-through our partaking of His divine nature. "Divinity and humanity were united in Christ, that he might reveal to us God's purpose, and bring man into close communion with himself. This union will enable us to overcome the enemy; for through faith in Christ we shall have divine power" (RH: December 6, 1892; par. 2) .
The marriage analogy is really a very good one for describing what our place and function will be when we are married to Christ through partaking of His divine nature. We can look back to the Garden of Eden for a deeper understanding of how this marriage is supposed to work. When Christ married Adam and Eve, it was His intent that Eve (Adam's wife) would be in every way Adam's equal. Adam was her husband, and as such commanded final responsibility and authority over the family, but Eve was his equal in fulfilling the purposes and the "Will" of God for the human family. So it is with us when we are married to Christ. He is our husband and holds final responsibility and authority over us, and yet -- we are His bride, His wife, His equal -- a partner with Him in the administration of all of His creations. We are responsible to our husband, but we have also been given responsibility for His family, and share in the duty and honor of that privilege. What honor is this! If that doesn't thrill your heart then something is desperately wrong!
But with that honor comes great responsibility - "From everyone who has been given much, much will be required" (Luke 12:48) . The husband, and the family, can never be dishonored. Our love and allegiance must always be to our husband - Christ Jesus. Any infidelity, and whoring after our own selfish desires, will never be tolerated. Our loving submission and obedience to Him, "with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow," (James 1:17) will ever be the evidence that we have been partakers of His divine nature and that we honor Him as our husband, Lord, and Father of all. Christ intends that we shall be so fully partakers of His divine nature that we shall be in every way what He has become - we shall be "Gods" (John 10:34). He has made it possible for us to be grafted into the Godhead!
Many of you may be "gasping" at this point-thinking that I have completely overstepped my bounds-that I am being "presumptuous"-that this is unthinkable! We don't like to talk of such things-but why? This is a marvelous truth! Hard to comprehend, to be sure, but it is truth nonetheless. I am acutely aware that: "Truth lies close to the track of presumption" (Letter 8, 1895 [SDA BC vol. 5; p. 1128]) , but does that mean that we should not approach the truth? Remember that it is "the TRUTH" that lies close to the track of presumption, and we must dare to know the truth even though there is some danger involved-for "the truth will make you free" (John 8:32). We do not need to fear the truth - we need to fear presumption and error - but let's not get so fearful of presumption that we fear to approach the truth! Could we become so afraid of error that we will not embrace the truth when it is staring us in the face? And if we do not embrace the truth, does our enemy not overcome us? We must embrace the truth and leave off the error. We must let the truth empower us, and leave the error for the son's of perdition - for those who would rather be damned than come to the light. We are to be grafted into the Godhead and we are to partake fully of the divine nature - with all that that entails.
Let me illustrate another way, and leave you with a balanced and "inspired" view of this truth. We are told "Error draws its life from the truth of God" (RH: October 22, 1895; par. 3) . When the Devil told Eve that she would be like God-there was truth in that statement. The devil was saying the same thing that Jesus is saying. The problem is that the Devil blended this truth with error and deception. While he was telling the truth when he said "you will be like God" (Gen. 3:5) , he was suggesting that the way Eve was to become like God was through disobedience - through separation from God! What a Lie! What a preposterous idea! "You will become like God by separating from Him, by not trusting Him; ignore what He says and trust in yourself." Hogwash! This was never the way God intended to accomplish this (even though every Religion in the World - including Atheism - has sought to "be God through their own works)!
Our minds, our thoughts, and our actions are to be brought into subjection to the mind of Christ. When this becomes a reality for us, Christ will subject all things to us-in Him. Paul made it clear that the one to whom all things are "subjected" is beholding (or in subjection themselves) to the One who has put all things in subjection to him (see 1 Cor. 15:27). This was true for Christ, and it is true for us. Therefore, there will never come a time when we will not be beholding to, and in subjection to Christ! The "equality" that we are to have with Christ is derived from Christ, and this will always be the case, so there can be no talk of our being Christ (or God) inherent in and of ourselves. The fact that God has made provision for us to be partakers of His divine nature does not mean that we are God. It means that God intends to share His "being" with us - a reality that leaves us forever beholding to Him. We can only "partake" of that which already exists and of that which is offered to us. So while we are to be partakers of His divine nature and thereby raised to the status of Christ, and therefore "Gods" - we shall never be Christ and we shall never be God. Rather, it will be "Christ in us" that will be our only boast to honor.
The Devil knew that God intended man to become a partaker of His divine nature in such a way as to elevate man above all God's other created beings. This is why Satan hates man so much, and why he has sought to prevent this from happening. When the Devil came to Eve in the garden, he did not try to deny the truth that man was to become "like God," but he did try to prevent man from realizing this honor by introducing a false way for them to achieve this. He deceived man, caused his fall, and brought upon him the curse of death (everlasting destruction).
When Satan realized that Christ was to offer Himself in man's place and would continue to make man a partaker of the divine nature, he was furious and he set out to prevent Christ from accomplishing His mission. He has continually sought to get man to depend upon himself and upon his own works to gain his acceptance with God and whatever favors that acceptance might bring. And he has continued to propagate the rule of his own government - "self-exaltation". The same lie he used for Eve, he has used for God's remnant people, only in a different form. And, sadly, he has been very successful with it. He has caused many of us to reject the idea that we are literally to be "partakers of Christ's nature" by getting us to view His Word and His promises through the eyes of our own wisdom. He has told us that we shall be a partaker of the divine nature -we shall be like Christ (which is true), but he has suggested that the way we are to do this is through our own efforts, through our own strength, through our own obedience - that is, through our own works!
Tragically, many of us have swallowed this lie hook-line-and sinker. The truth is that we can only receive the righteousness of Christ and be partakers of His Holy Spirit by coming into close communion with Him, day by day, hour by hour, moment by moment. Our relationship with Him is what qualifies us to be a partaker of His divine nature-not our attempts at behavior modification. Our very motives must be changed and brought into alignment with those of Christ. As we come to have an intimate relationship with Him, He abides in us through His Spirit and sin is driven out."In all who submit to His power the Spirit of God will consume sin" (DA p. 107, par. 4). "So long as we are united to Him by faith, sin has no more dominion over us" (DA p. 123) . Behaviors, then, become the fruit of our relationship with Him - not the other way around.
We can only be prepared and qualified to receive power and glory through a complete surrender to the Will of God in which "self" is lost and our focus is solely upon person of Christ. Our mind, our thoughts and our will, must be brought into the subjection of Christ. There can be no thread of self will or self-interest left in us. And the only thing that can enable us to "lose self" and qualify us to partake of the glory and the power of God is the "righteousness of Christ." His righteousness alone will enable us to wield the glory and the power that God wishes to grant us. Only Christ's righteousness can insure that we will forever and always use the gift of God's power for the sole benefit of others. Only Christ's righteousness can keep "self" in check and enable us to use the power of God to His glory. So, exactly how are we to appropriate the gift of Christ's righteousness? Must we work hard at achieving it? Are we to try to reproduce it through our own efforts? Have we only to imitate it? BEWARE THE DEVIL!
So what does all this mean? Does it mean that we have nothing to do but sit around and wait for Christ to give us the victory, impart His grace and righteousness to us, and pour out His Spirit upon us? No! We have a work to do; we have a battle to fight. Sitting around hoping and waiting for Christ to pour out His Spirit upon us and make us partakers of His divine nature is an insult to Christ and to His sacrifice on our behalf. We have the hardest work we could ever be called upon to perform "For our struggle is not against a human opponent, but against rulers, against authorities, against cosmic powers in the darkness around us, against evil spiritual forces in the heavenly realm" (Eph. 6:12 International Standard Version) . Our battle is not a physical battle but a spiritual one, and this is the hardest of all battles to fight. Sometimes I wish it were a physical battle, I think that that would be easier for me. But our battle is against a Spiritual foe--a foe of great cunning, deception and power-and we require divine help if we are ever going to hope to come out victorious. Our battle lies in connecting to, and staying connected to, the source of our help!
Now call me naïve, or weak, or anything else you want, but I find it extremely difficult to surrender fully to Christ. I have found it very difficult to maintain a meaningful spiritual relationship with a God that I cannot "see." I have found it a real struggle to listen to Christ-to discern His voice--and, by faith, to do the things He has told me to do. I have found it hard to discipline myself to spend the kind of time with Him that allows me to know for sure that He is walking with me through my life's struggles. I have found it difficult to consistently remain in an attitude where, in every situation, I am asking my Lord: "what wilt thou have me to do?" (Acts 9:6 KJV) . How about you?
How much time do you spend with Jesus each day? How often do you talk with Him, and how hard do you try to really listen to what He is saying to you? Can you say that you are completely surrendered to Christ? Or do you find yourself trying to wage the war on your own? How much of you does the Lord really have? What do you find occupying most of your thoughts? Where do you find yourself spending most of your time? What is your highest priority? What gives you your greatest joy? Is it Christ? Or is it something else?
This is no game we are playing here. This is Life or Death-Eternal Life or Eternal Death! If we are ever going to hope to be partakers of Christ's divine nature, we had better get serious about the battle! We had better get to the point where we "Know Christ" and not just about Christ. We had better get to the point where we are "so sensitive to Holy influences, that the slightest whisper of Jesus will move our souls, till He is in us, and we in Him, living by the faith of God" (ST: March 23, 1888. [3SM p.355]) . If we are ever going to get out of this mess of a world that we are in, we had better get serious about our relationship with the only person who can get us out of here alive-our Lord, our Savior, our God-Jesus Christ. We don't have to be Bible scholars, but we had better know what Christ has told us in the past-and what He is telling us today. We need His righteousness. We need His Holy Spirit. We need to become partakers of His divine nature!
"In Christ, God has provided means for subduing every evil trait and resisting every temptation, however strong. But many feel that they lack faith, and therefore they remain away from Christ. Let these souls, in their helpless unworthiness, cast themselves upon the mercy of their compassionate Saviour. Look not to self, but to Christ. He who healed the sick and cast out demons when He walked among men is still the same mighty Redeemer. Then grasp His promises as leaves from the tree of Life: 'Him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out.' John 6:37. As you come to Him, believe that He accepts you, because He has promised. You can never perish while you do this-never" (MH p. 65,66).
"Jesus is waiting to breath upon all His disciples, and give them the inspiration of His sanctifying Spirit, and transfuse the vital influence from Himself to His people…Their will must be submitted to His will, they must act with His Spirit that it may be no more they that live, but Christ that liveth in them. Jesus is seeking to impress upon them the thought that in giving His Holy Spirit He is giving to them the glory which the Father hath given Him" (Letter 11b, 1892 [MR vol. 4, p.334]).
Will you accept this honor and this privilege? Will you accept this challenge?
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