Question: "In what ways are believers partakers of the divine nature?"
Answer: Second Peter 1:3–4 says, “His 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, by 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” (ESV). The verse plainly says that believers are made “partakers of the divine nature” through God’s promises, but what does that mean, exactly? To what extent can we partake of God’s nature?
The key to understanding this concept is to recognize what the Bible means when it refers to our “nature.” Every human being is born with a sin nature, a natural bent toward pleasing self (Romans 5:12; 7:14). Our natural selves cannot please God (Romans 8:8). No matter how hard we may try to do good, our motivations and underlying desires are to please and promote self. That sin nature keeps us from fellowship with God, keeps us in bondage to sin, and leads eventually to spiritual death (Romans 6:16, 23; 7:14; 2 Peter 2:19). We cannot free ourselves from sin because we cannot change our own natures, just as a tiger cannot change its own stripes.
That’s why we need a Savior. Jesus said there is only one way we can get a new, divine nature. He said, “You must be born again” (John 3:3). Only a complete new birth can bring about the radical change of nature required to fellowship with a holy God. Mental agreement with God’s Word is not enough to change our sin nature. We must be “saved” from that nature (Ephesians 2:8–9; Titus 3:5). Salvation implies that we were helpless and we have been rescued from the evil bent of our human nature.
When we come to Christ in faith, accepting His death and resurrection as our substitute, we declare Him to be the Lord of our lives (Romans 10:8–9). At that moment, the Holy Spirit “births” us into the family of God. Our old nature is defeated, and we receive a new, divine nature that desires the things of God (2 Corinthians 5:17). When Christ died for us, He became our sin, so that when we come to Him in faith, we gain His righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21). It is a divine exchange: our sin for His perfection. To be born again means that we are recreated as new people with a new nature.
Believers have a divine nature and no longer have to be enslaved to the passions and sins of the flesh (Romans 6:6, 14). First John 3:9 says, “No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God.” When we share in His divine nature, we begin to desire the things God desires. We love what He loves and hate what He hates (Galatians 5:22; 1 John 4:4). We have the power to conquer every temptation that comes against us (1 Corinthians 10:13). God declares that we are “more than conquerors” because of the power of the Holy Spirit who dwells within our hearts (Romans 8:37). Sin no longer controls the one who has become a partaker of the divine nature. By giving us His nature, God makes us His sons and daughters and conforms us to the image of His Son (Romans 8:29; 2 Corinthians 6:18).