How many Catholics really grasp the fact that Christians are partakers of divine nature? How many of us actually participate daily in God’s divine nature? In the Catechism of the Catholic Church, we learn that the Word became flesh to make us “partakers of the divine nature” (CCC 460). The CCC quotes from the second letter of St. Peter, which indicates that God has bestowed on us precious and very great promises through which we may come to share in the divine nature (cf. 2 Peter 1:4). It, therefore, suggests that our being partakers of the divine nature is the very purpose of God. It is God’s plan for mankind.
The Divine Nature Was Given To Man at Creation
In order to understand how we could become partakers of the divine nature, we must first go back to creation (cf. Genesis 1:26-27), wherein we find that man was created in the image and likeness of God. Meaning that, at the time of man’s creation, God gave to man not only a share in His Nature but also a share in His attributes. God willed to make known His image and His likeness in man when He formed him from the fine dust of the earth. This was to enable man to be God’s representative on the earth, so that man should have dominion over all created things by imitating God.
It is interesting to note that God finished forming man from the fine dust, and began to shape him inwardly. He did this by blowing the breath of life into the nostrils of man. This breathing life into man was the most unique thing that God did differently from the rest of His creation; for the breath of life resulted in man becoming not only a beautiful self-portrait of God, but this also made man a living being (cf. Genesis 2:7). Man thus possessed an inward likeness with the Breath of life, in as much as he had an outer likeness with his Creator. God had called the earth to bring forth every living creature according to its kind (cf. Genesis 1:24-MT); but the living soul of man was brought forth after the kind of God. This means that Adam became a being with full desires and emotions in the likeness of God. God willed for man to have God’s way of life. And God, therefore, placed the way of life within man’s nature, so that man did not have to discover it for himself. The divine nature was given to man at the time of creation, as a gift.
Adam Shared In and Tasted the Divine Nature
God then placed all of His creation before Adam, leaving him to name it as he pleased and being confident that Adam would take care of it. Adam was to keep all that was in the garden, but He was also to voluntarily keep the commandments of God. He had the divine ability to be obedient and to overcome any opposition that might arise. After all, he had the divine nature; he had a love for the ways of God, and he had the Word of God within Him. Adam was free to choose to disobey the word of God; but if he did that, it would place him under the dominion of death. If this were to happen, death would dramatically alter and change the nature of God that was dwelling not only in Adam but also in the world that God had given Adam to rule.
Man Gets Himself a Helper
God brought all the tame animals, the birds of the air, and all the wild animals to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called each living creature became its name. Adam embarked on the monumental task of investigating every living thing and assessing each for its perfection by its individual order; but there was none he could have as a counterpart for himself. Then God cast a deep sleep upon Adam, opened up his flesh and removed a rib from his body and closed up the flesh in its place. God took this rib having the blood, flesh and bone of Adam and built it into a woman. He brought the woman to Adam, and this woman, Adam acknowledged as bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh. This means that the woman was more than just a mate for Adam; she was part of his very being, rather like a missing part of himself. This reflects in Adam’s reaction when God presented the woman before him.
Thus, Adam and his wife were created in a perfect state of holiness and innocence; but their remaining in this state would depend upon their obedience to the Word of God. This dependent nature was meant to be advantageous to them since they did not have the knowledge of good and evil. God had determined that it would not be good for man to have the influence of this knowledge, and so He instructed them not to partake of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, lest they perish. God knew that man was spiritually poor and would need to have fellowship with God to be spiritually enriched before he could be able to partake of all the trees that God put in the garden, particularly the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
Man Loses the Divine Nature
The fact that the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was put in the center of the garden together with the tree of life, suggests that it was there to accomplish God’s purposes. In His Purity and Holiness, God possesses the knowledge of good and evil. Having created man after His likeness, it must have been in God’s Plan that in time, man would grow in his being to the status of getting potency of the knowledge of good and evil. Adam and Eve cut short this coming into possession of the potency of the knowledge of good and evil. By choosing the way of disobedience and death, the relationship with God was broken. The innocent nature and the divine nature that they initially had were lost. There was no more holy communion with God. The oneness of the relationship that was established with the Father, in the beginning, was destroyed. Man who had dominion over all creation was taken over by the powers of darkness, and the reign of death came into being. The way of God became instantly foreign to man, and Adam was estranged from the presence of God. Man now had the knowledge of good and evil, but man had lost access to the tree of life (cf. Genesis 3:22).
God Plans the Redemption of Man
Despite the disobedience of man, God so loved man, that He wanted man back to Himself. Thus God put into action the plan of man’s redemption. St. Paul says it was according to God’s purpose which He set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, that in all wisdom and insight, the mystery of His was made known to us. We were therefore not left in the dark concerning God’s purposes for our life (i.e. to partake of the divine nature). By God’s grace, all wisdom and understanding were lavished on us so that we could have insight into His eternal purpose for us in Christ (cf. Ephesians 1:7-9). The Lord Jesus was called to be the Redeemer of His people from all eternity. This was to happen in the fullness of time when the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. We have our redemption in Christ Jesus, which was obtained by His obedience, sufferings, and death. This redemption was achieved by the price of His Blood, through the eternal spirit, which brought the forgiveness of our sins (cf. Colossians 1:14). This redemption is eternal so that we can serve the living God (cf. Hebrews 9:12 -14). We live in this redeemed nature, which is a divine nature because Christ who redeems us is Himself, Divine.
The New Creation Partakes of the Divine Nature
In Christ, we are a new creation because the old things have passed away and the new things have come (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:17). When we are baptized into Christ, we are clothed with Christ and we take upon the nature of Christ (cf. Galatians 3:27). By giving us His nature, God makes us His sons and daughters and conforms us to the image of His Son (cf. Romans 8:29 & 2 Corinthians 6:18). We come to possess the divine nature of Christ with regards to our own redemption because this Divine nature of Christ is all that matters to us, and is in each one of us who is so redeemed (cf. Colossians 3:11). A divine Christ now lives in us, and the life we live in the flesh is by the faith of the Son of God, who loved us and gave Himself for us (cf. Galatians 2:20). This makes us heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ in this redemption because the Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God (cf. Romans 8:16). The Lord Jesus spoke about the gift of the Holy Spirit which we receive from the Father (cf. John 14:16-21), and which is poured into our hearts so that we are called the children of God (cf. Romans 5:5 & 1 John 3:1a). We receive a spirit of adoption and rightfully (by the free gift of the Holy Spirit) become real members of the Family of God (cf. Romans 8:14-15). This is a free and undeserved gift that we receive, not by nature of being man but through the grace of God. We are born of God, and we have the nature of God. We must then behave like God; feeling the same love that God feels for all mankind, possessing the same Spirit of God, and becoming the visible face of God who is mostly invisible to humanity.
Renewed to Partake of the Divine Nature
We must take up the challenge that St. Paul puts to us in Ephesians 4:21-24. If indeed we have heard Christ and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in the Lord Jesus, then with regard to our former manner of life, we must lay aside the old self (which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit), and be renewed in the spirit of our minds. How? By putting on the new self, which in the likeness of God, has been created in righteousness and holiness of this Truth (i.e. the Lord Jesus).
In the divine nature, we are more than conquerors because of the power of the Holy Spirit within our hearts (cf. Romans 8:37). The Holy Spirit is our Comforter when things are going wrong. He is our other Advocate in difficult situations. He is our Counsellor when we do not know what to do. He is forever with us wherever we go and in whatever circumstances we find ourselves (cf. John 14:16). He is the continued presence on earth of the Lord Jesus, who has returned to the Father. In Holy Spirit, we undergo a radical spiritual transformation. In Holy Spirit, we have our life hidden in Christ (cf. Colossians 3:3). In Holy Spirit, we are in Christ (cf. Romans 8:1). In Christ, we live the divine nature.