By Eric Johnson
As with everything else, Bible verses taken out of their context. We must understand several things:
1) When a person becomes a Christian through faith in Christ, he/she becomes a child of God (John 1:12; Romans 8:9-21). This is called justification, which happens only through belief.
2) When a person is a believer, good works are important as conformity to Christ takes place! (James 2:20, 26). We do what Jesus asks us to if we consider ourselves to be His “friend” (John 15:14). This is called sanctification. He has provided for His people everything needed to live a godly life, which he refers to specifically in verses 5-11. The emphasis in 2 Peter 1:3-10 mainly involves sanctification, an important part of salvation that is not often stressed enough in Christian churches today. We are saved (justified) by grace and sanctified by our works.
3) When a person is justified, good fruits will follow (sanctification), and God promises what is called glorification. This includes receiving a bodily resurrection unto life or, for unbelievers, damnation (John 5:29, 1 Cor. 15). Peter explains in verse 11 about this future promise of glorification, as it says, “and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
The Bible teaches that a person who is justified will be sanctified and, as a done deal, will be glorified. Romans 8:30 says, “And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.”
In verse 3, Peter refers to the sanctification process. He wrote, “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him…” When believers understand what it cost for their salvation (Jesus died for their sins), the desire to want to bear fruit is internal. Good works are not accomplished to somehow earn God’s favor, but regenerated people do good works because of God’s favor. Thus, right after Paul says in Ephesians 2:8-9 that Christians have been saved by grace through faith and not of themselves or anything good they have done, he writes the following in verse 10:
“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
The next part of verse 3 reads, “…who called us by his own glory and goodness.” We did not call ourselves to justification but God called His people to Himself.
Verse 4 then says,
“Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.”
Participating in the divine nature is not melting one into God (pantheism) nor is this the idea that people can become gods (leading one away from monotheism but rather into polytheism). Instead, it is talking about glorification. One excellent commentary explains the verse this way:
“In this first-century literature, to ‘participate in the divine nature’ does not mean merging into God or union with deity (which is the sense equivalent language has in true New Age thought). In other words, neither the Greeks (for the most part) nor the Jews, even the most Greek of them, were pantheists. They all expected a continuing personal existence beyond death, not a uniting with the Eternal or a becoming part of the One.” (Hard Sayings of the Bible, p. 723)
It adds that Peter
“clearly calls Christians to use the provision of Christ and fix their eyes on the promises of God so that they will in fact escape the corruption in the world and in the end receive the promised divine nature. It is this drawing on Christ’s power and focus on the future, which includes allowing that future to determine present lifestyle, which is all the Christian need do to receive the glorious hope of participating in the nature of God.” (Ibid. p. 724)
Second Peter 1:4 is not a good support for the idea that people can become gods of their own worlds, as Mormonism as historically taught. For more information to show how Mormon leaders have historically taught that people have the potential to becoming gods with the ability to reside on their own worlds, see:
Also, check out this podcast with theologian Rob Bowman.
See more difficult Bible passages by clicking here.