Does the Believer Have the Divine Nature?
The material on this page was written in the 1970s to respond to the criticisms of Walter Martin, founder of the Christian Research Institute (CRI) and the original “Bible Answer Man.” CRI has since withdrawn those criticisms and reversed its earlier conclusions (see “A Brief History of the Relationship between the Local Churches and the Christian Research Institute”). The text of this article is published here for the historical record, for the important points of truth it addresses, and because CRI’s criticisms, although withdrawn, are still repeated by others.
From: Answers to the Bible Answer Man – Appendix
The Believer Does Not Have the Divine Nature—What a False Teaching!
Some Christian teachers are propagating the false teaching that the believer in Christ does not have the divine nature. According to these teachers, it is impossible for God to impart His nature into human beings. If God joined His nature to ours, they claim, we would be destroyed, disintegrating immediately. What blindness! What ignorance of God’s Word!
Two Reasons for This False Teaching
Those who are disseminating this false teaching seem to do so for two main reasons. First, they are grossly ignorant of the subjective truths of the Bible, those revealed truths that relate to our experience of Christ, especially to the experience of Christ as life (Col. 3:4). Emphasizing the objective truths and denying or ignoring the subjective, they teach, for example, that Christ, with a resurrected body of flesh and bones, is seated in heaven at the right hand of God, but they explain away those verses which plainly state that Christ is also in us (2 Cor. 13:5; Col. 1:27). Unable with their limited mentality to reconcile the objective and subjective truths, they stress the former and dilute the latter. They point out the fact that God is glorious, majestic, and dwells in light unapproachable (1 Tim. 6:15-16), but they do not tell the other side—that the glorious, mysterious Triune God is able to come into us and make His abode with us (John 14:23) through the full redemptive work of Christ and its present application to us by the Holy Spirit. They do not guide you into the marvelous experience of 1 John 4:15—the experience of God’s dwelling in us and of our dwelling in Him. Surely it is time that the Christian public knew the whole truth!
Second, those who deny that we, the blood-washed, Spirit-regenerated believers in Christ, have the divine nature do so because they misunderstand what it means to say that a believer partakes of the divine nature. According to them, to say that believers have the divine nature is to say that they are becoming God. When we testify that, through the new birth, we partake of the divine nature, they maliciously accuse us of teaching evolution into God, charging us with teaching that believers are in the process of gradually becoming God Himself. What blasphemy! To have the divine nature is one thing, but to be God Himself is another. My children have my life and nature; however, they are not, nor will ever become, my very person. They have the nature of their father, but they are not the person of their father. Likewise, although we never participate in the Godhead of God, we do have the privilege of participating in His nature. To say that a believer is becoming God Himself is to teach heresy. In like manner, to deny that the believer has the divine nature is also to teach heresy. This latter heresy can be refuted by considering without prejudice the revelation of the pure word of God.
Partakers of the Divine Nature
Second Peter 1:4 reveals that the believers are “partakers of the divine nature.” The Greek word rendered “partakers” means joint participants, sharers of a common portion. It is the portion of all true believers to partake of the divine nature. We all have this in common. As Watchman Nee says, “We who are born of the Spirit are made thereby ‘partakers of the divine nature.’ ” This is possible through dependence upon God and by virtue of our being in Christ. The words “divine nature” mean exactly what they say—the divine nature, that is, the nature of God. It is certainly true to say that believers have the life of God; it is also true to say that they have the nature of God, for the life and the nature are inseparable. There is no need to dilute these words merely to mean certain attributes or virtues that we share with God. Any attributes or virtues that we share with God are the issue of the divine life and nature within us. The qualities mentioned in verses 5 through 7 are the product of the divine nature as well as its expression. Let all true believers abandon their preconceived ideas and allow 2 Peter 1:4 to speak for itself. This verse plainly says that we, the believers in Christ, share the divine nature.
The Divine Nature Received Through Regeneration
Even without such a clear word as 2 Peter 1:4, we can infer that we have the divine nature from the fact that we are the children of God through regeneration. It is a glorious fact that the believer in Christ has been born of God and is a child of God. We are not only the people of God objectively; we are also the children of God subjectively. Through our rebirth, we actually have the life of God and the nature of God. John 1:12 and 13 say, “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name; which were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” We who have received Jesus Christ have been born of God, and we have the right to become the children of God. At this very moment we are the children of God (1 John 3:2). Every child has the life and nature of his father. This is simply a fact of life. Likewise, through regeneration God is our Father, and we are His children with the divine life and the divine nature.
The Divine Nature in the Divine Seed
The divine nature is in the divine seed that entered into us when we were born again. First Peter 1:23 says, “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the living and abiding word of God” (Gk.). We have been born again through an incorruptible seed. From the time of our regeneration, God’s seed has been in us. First John 3:9 says, “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.” In this seed is the nature of God, which cannot sin. Sin is contrary to the divine nature. If we abide in the Lord by staying in our spirit where the divine seed is and where the new birth actually takes place (John 3:6), we shall not sin, for we shall be living according to the life and nature of God. In 1 John 3 we see the issue of two contrary natures: sin, the issue of the satanic nature, and righteousness, the issue of the divine nature in the divine seed. All who have been born of God have this wonderful divine seed in them.
Not Ashamed to Call Us Brothers
Hebrews 2:11 says, “For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren.” This verse reveals why the Lord is not ashamed to call us brothers. It is because He and we are all of (Greek ek, “out of”) one, that is, He and we are out of the same source. God’s intention is that Christ have many brothers. God’s eternal purpose is that Christ, His only begotten Son, become the firstborn of many brothers who are conformed to His image (Rom. 8:29). In relation to Christ, we are the many brothers, but in relation to the Father, we are many sons. The many brothers and the firstborn Son are the same in life and nature. If this were not so, how could we be the many brothers of Christ? According to Hebrews 2:11, we are all of one source. “He that sanctifieth” is Christ as the firstborn Son of God, and “they who are sanctified” are the believers of Christ as the many sons of God. Both the firstborn Son and the many sons are born of the same Father God in resurrection (Acts 13:33; 1 Pet. 1:3). Both the firstborn Son and the many sons are the same in divine life and nature. Hence, He is not ashamed to call them brothers. Prior to His resurrection, the most intimate term He used for His disciples was “friends” (John 15:14-15). But after His resurrection, He began to call them “brothers” (John 20:17), for through His resurrection His disciples had been regenerated (1 Pet. 1:3). Therefore, the fact that the Lord is not ashamed to call us brothers indicates that we are one with Him in life and share His divine nature.
It is not a false teaching to say that the believer has the divine nature, but it definitely is a false teaching to deny it. The Bible plainly says that we are partakers of the divine nature. As those born of God, we are the children of God, possessing the life and nature of God. The divine seed is in us, and we are the brothers of Christ, God’s firstborn Son. These truths reveal that we, the believers in Christ the Lord, have the divine nature. We do not share in the Godhead of God, but we do participate in God’s nature. We are not evolving into God, but God’s nature is being wrought into us for the fulfillment of His eternal purpose. How we thank the Lord for these precious subjective truths revealed in His holy Word! May the Lord vindicate His truth and lead His seekers into the experience of partaking of the divine nature.
This is the last of two articles in Response to False Teachings