Sometimes I feel like a broken record. Making the same point over and over. Case in point, my recent post. Actually most of my posts I guess. Well, so be it…
So, here we go again…
We share the divinity of Christ Jesus by grace because He shared in our humanity. Salvation is the reconciliation – reunioning or re-at-one-ment-ing – of God and man. Our former state of being and life are forgiven. Well, actually the old is more than just forgiven. It dies. We die to death and sin, we don’t just have it forgiven. We die to life without the divine nature (living death, alienation), thereby receiving our authentic humanity (new life) which, by definition means being “God breathed” again. We do not become God, we become fully human. But not only are we reunited with God. We are also reunited with one another and the whole created universe in and through Christ Jesus. The dividing wall of hostility and alienation in all categories or aspects is removed.
This is the great gift of Christmas and of Easter. St. Peter testifies, “…His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.” 2 Peter 1.3-4 (NASB)
St. Peter goes on to talk about maturing in this salvation, the purification and illumination that is essential to it. Notice that I said essential to it. Not extra. Salvation and sanctification are not distinct. Maturing in new life and the growth in holiness is an essential aspect of our salvation.
This is THE Good News. The Church Fathers referred to it as “theosis” and “deification.” The true doctrine of salvation is this and grows out of this root. All depends on it and must be understood in light of it. Indeed, this doctrine is not a doctrine. It is a person – theanthropos – the God-man – Christ Jesus.
Ironically, this is not what I hear from the Protestant/Evangelical/Charismatic pulpit on Sunday mornings. Sad. This is so basic to any right appreciation of the self-offering of Christ Jesus on the cross. The reason for His death and resurrection. It is Christianity 101. Here is a modern translation of Hippolytus’s (170–235) articulation of deification. (If you want to read the excerpt in a more literal translation that retains the word “logos” instead of “word,” it can be found here.)
Our faith is not founded upon empty words; nor are we carried away by mere caprice or beguiled by specious arguments. On the contrary, we put our faith in words spoken by the power of God, spoken by the Word himself at God’s command. God wished to win men back from disobedience, not by using force to reduce him to slavery but by addressing to his free will a call to liberty.
The Word spoke first of all through the prophets, but because the message was couched in such obscure language that it could be only dimly apprehended, in the last days the Father sent the Word in person, commanding him to show himself openly so that the world could see him and be saved.
We know that by taking a body from the Virgin he re-fashioned our fallen nature. We know that his manhood was of the same clay as our own; if this were not so, he would hardly have been a teacher who could expect to be imitated. If he were of a different substance from me, he would surely not have ordered me to do as he did, when by my very nature I am so weak. Such a demand could not be reconciled with his goodness and justice.
No. He wanted us to consider him as no different from ourselves, and so he worked, he was hungry and thirsty, he slept. Without protest he endured his passion, he submitted to death and revealed his resurrection. In all these ways he offered his own manhood as the first fruits of our race to keep us from losing heart when suffering comes our way, and to make us look forward to receiving the same reward as he did, since we know that we possess the same humanity.
When we have come to know the true God, both our bodies and our souls will be immortal and incorruptible. We shall enter the kingdom of heaven, because while we lived on earth we acknowledged heaven’s King. Friends of God and co-heirs with Christ, we shall be subject to no evil desires or inclinations, or to any affliction of body or soul, for we shall have become divine.
Whatever evil you may have suffered, being man, it is God that sent it to you, precisely because you are man; but equally, when you have been deified, God has promised you a share in every one of his own attributes. The saying Know yourselfmeans therefore that we should recognise and acknowledge in ourselves the God who made us in his own image, for if we do this, we in turn will be recognised and acknowledged by our Maker. The treatise of St, Hippolytus On the Refutation of All Heresies, Book 10, Chapters 32-33