“That by These …”

“Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature.” —II Peter 1:4

THE promises of God are very potent factors in the Christian life, so powerful that in our text the apostle indicates that by our yielding to their blessed implications we are made partakers of the divine nature—that is, we are prepared, or made ready for exaltation to the divine nature. In Hebrews 4:1, the Apostle Paul urges us to be on the alert lest we come short of any of the promises which the Lord has made on our behalf. Practically all of God’s promises have conditions attached to them, and failure to comply with these conditions is what the apostle describes as coming short. It is our faithful compliance with the conditions attached to the promises which qualifies us to be partakers of the divine nature and to have an abundant entrance into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

God’s promises are of value to us only in proportion to our faithfulness in obeying his precepts. He is pleased when his people actually believe what he has promised. Of Abraham we read that he “staggered not at the promise of God.” Instead, he was “strong in faith,” and being persuaded that God was able to perform that which he had promised, Abraham’s faith was “imputed to him for righteousness.”—Rom. 4:20-22

We, too, are justified by our faith in the promises of God; particularly those promises which give assurance that the blood of Christ cleanses us from all unrighteousness. “Being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Rom. 5:1) But this must be a living, working faith, a faith that staggers not at the promises of God, but impels us to take a course in life consistent with our professions of faith.

Many and varied are the promises which assure us of our acceptance with God, through Christ, and an abiding faith in these promises is essential if we are to be made partakers of the divine nature. We know that by nature we are sinners, children of wrath even as others. Every day we are in close contact with our imperfections; and besides, those around us know about them and do not hesitate to keep us reminded of them. Our great adversary, the devil, also knows our weaknesses, and uses them to discourage us, hoping that we will give up running for the prize of the high calling. But if our confidence in the promises remains firm, we will not fear, for our God has said, “No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is of me, saith the Lord.”—Isa. 54:17

Their righteousness is of me—what a blessed assurance! If we can grasp the full meaning of this promise, we will realize that despite our imperfections we stand justified before God, that there is no condemnation from him. True, a proper recognition of this fact should keep us humble, ever remembering that our own righteousness is as filthy rags, and that the pure, white robe of righteousness which God sees as we stand before him is not our own, but Christ’s, the robe of his righteousness. This is confirmed by Paul in his letter to Titus, where he writes: “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Spirit; which he hath shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior.”—Titus 3:5,6

This does not mean that we can be careless about our imperfections. We must see to it that the cleansing power of the Holy Spirit through the Word is allowed to accomplish the needed work of regeneration. There must be a sincere desire for righteousness on our part, despite our inability to measure up fully to the standard of perfection held before us by the many conditions attached to the promises. But if we are sincere in our efforts we need not be discouraged, for the promise is: “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile.”—Ps. 32:1,2

But even the grace of God which grants us forgiveness and provides our standing of righteousness before him is not unconditional. We must believe, and this is not merely a mental assent to the historical fact of the coming, death, and resurrection of Jesus, but a wholehearted acceptance of him as our Savior, which manifests itself in a full surrender to do his will. And then we must actually walk in his footsteps, guided by the instructions of the Word. John wrote: “If we walk in tine light, as he is in the light, … the blood of Jesus Christ … cleanseth us from all sin.”—I John 1:7

“He Is Faithful”

It has been said that the distress of a crumbling civilization today is caused by broken promises. Human promises are not always intentionally broken, but circumstances arise which make it impossible to fulfill them. Man is not the master of his own destiny. He cannot foresee the future, nor can he judge even his present ability accurately. Hence he often finds it impossible to do what he has promised. But this is not true with God.

Paul writes concerning God that he “is faithful that promised.” (Heb. 10:23) We can depend upon the integrity of God. He does not change his mind, for with him there “is no variableness, neither shadow of turning”—he is the same yesterday, today, and forever. (James 1:17; Heb. 13:8) Nor is there any need for God to change his mind. He can foresee every eventuality which may arise, and is fully able to meet it. Yes, God is faithful to his promises, and abundantly able to fulfill them in keeping with the richness of his grace.

Have you been disappointed in your friends, your neighbors, your business associates, your fellow-workers in the factory or office? Many of the Lord’s people have experiences along this line. At times we may even become disappointed in some of our own brethren in Christ. These experiences are discouraging, but God permits them for a purpose. He wants us to lean more fully upon him rather than trusting to the arm of flesh. And it is when our trusted friends fail us that we should turn to him, and do so with the full assurance that he is faithful that promised.

“Through Faith and Patience”

Paul speaks of those “who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” (Heb. 6:12) Yes, in order to claim the promises for our very own we must manifest an active faith in them, and patiently endure whatever trials the Lord may see we need in order that our worthiness of the promises might be manifested. The fulfillment of many of God’s promises belongs in the present life, while others apply to our future inheritance beyond the veil. So when the apostle speaks of inheriting the promises he might well have in mind both our present and our future inheritance.

Have the promises themselves really become ours? Or do we merely read them in an impersonal manner as though they do not actually apply to us? This is important, because it is not until we are able to see in the promises of God a personal assurance of his blessing, that they become truly effective in molding our lives into his likeness, and thus prepare us to become partakers of the divine nature.

“Let Us Cleanse Ourselves”

In II Corinthians 7:1, Paul writes that if we have “these promises … let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” This is a similar thought to that expressed by the Apostle John when he wrote that those who “have this hope”—the hope based upon the promises of God—purify themselves. (I John 3:3) We might reverse this thought and say that the evidence of the possession of the promises, of having truly inherited them, will be a purification of character. The conditions attached to the promises guarantee that this will be the case.

“He That Followeth”

One of the fundamental needs of every Christian is to be guided in the right way. We all have anxious thoughts from time to time as to what the will of the Lord is for us under certain circumstances. To choose the right way is often difficult. We want to believe, to do, and to be exactly what the Lord would wish. However, while we should be sincere in searching out the right way, we need not be overly anxious, for the Lord has promised to shed light upon our pathway, that we need not walk in darkness. Jesus said, “He that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.”—John 8:12

Note the condition attached to this promise—“He that followeth me.” Are we prepared to follow Jesus? This is the test. The pathway he trod was a difficult one. It was a way of sacrifice and suffering, which ended in a cruel death on the cross. He has invited us to take up our cross and follow him. A consecration which is pleasing to God involves the acceptance of this invitation, and to carry it out is a lifetime task. However, there is no other condition upon which we may expect to be given light to guide our steps in ways pleasing to the Lord.

There are few circumstances in the Christian life in which the example of Jesus will not indicate the course we should take. But to follow in his steps will not always be the easy way. Our fleshly mind will reason that we should choose a way that is more pleasant, more conducive to our well-being along earthly lines. There may be times when such a choice would be pleasing to the Lord, but if he indicates his will to be otherwise, there should be no hesitancy in choosing the hard way; for thus we will be following in the Master’s footsteps, and will be assured that we are walking in the light. Then we can claim that precious promise: “I will instruct thee, and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye.”—Ps. 32:8

The Father Loves

The pathway in which the Lord guides us will at times seem hazardous. We may find it flanked with enemies seeking to injure us. But we need not fear, regardless of how weak we may appear to be in the face of our foes. Peter wrote, “Who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good?” (I Pet. 3:13) The good which we endeavor to follow is the will of God, and it is the will of God that we walk in the footsteps of Jesus.

Jesus did nothing else but good, and no harm came to him. True, he was persecuted, his name was cast out as evil; he was falsely accused, given a mock trial, sentenced to death, and crucified; but no harm came to him as a new creature. These experiences were all permitted by his Father for his good, to test his worthiness and to train him for the high office he was to occupy in the Father’s arrangement for the blessing of all the families of the earth.

And the same will be true with us if we, like him, follow that which is good. Our pathway will not always be strewn with roses. Enemies will try to oppose our progress. As we toil on we will experience weariness and pain; but as new creatures we will not be harmed. On this we can depend, for the Lord has promised it, and as the Apostle Paul wrote, “The Lord is faithful, who shall stablish you, and keep you from evil.”—II Thess. 3:3

To realize that those experiences in life which perplex and hurt are not evidences that the Lord has deserted us, but is permitting them for our good, helps us to bear up under trial. But even so, we feel our weakness. Courage will falter at times, and we need to be on guard lest we become weary in well-doing. As a matter of fact, were we left to fight our battles alone we would be certain to fail. But the Father’s love will not permit this, for he has promised, “Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the Lord.”—Ps. 31:24

How much, indeed, do we need the courage which the promises of God give to us. At times the deep waters of affliction threaten to engulf us, and the rivers of woe to overflow us. Peter writes that we should not think it strange when fiery trials are upon us. (I Pet. 4:12) It is at such times that we need to recall the reassuring promises of God: “When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.”—Isa. 43:2

Is It Worthwhile?

No one enjoys trouble. The thought of a carefree life without problems, perplexities, and trials is alluring. True, even in the world none fully attain to such a life; but we know that being a Christian, and sacrificing time and strength and means, as we lay down life itself in the service of the Lord, results in additional trials. So, at times, when the burden seems particularly heavy, we might be inclined to wonder whether or not it is worthwhile. And then the Lord reminds us of the glorious inheritance which will be ours if we continue faithful, that we will be made partakers of Christ if we “hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end.” (Heb. 3:14) What does it mean to be a partaker of Christ? It means to live and reign with him; to share his glory, and with him to be a partaker of the divine nature. Jesus said: “Whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the Gospel’s, the same shall save it.” (Mark 8:35) “Because I live, ye shall live also.”—John 14:19

Paul wrote, “Being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3:7) “It is a faithful saying: For if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him.” (II Tim. 2:11) “When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.”—Col. 3:4

Our Future Work

Being co-workers with the Lord now is a great honor, and those who are faithful experience a peace and joy of mind and heart which the world can neither give nor take away. But there is a still greater field awaiting those who continue faithful in the present service—faithful even unto death. That future work will also be in association with Christ, reigning with him as kings and priests to bless all the families of the earth. If now we are among the favored few who have heard the call of God to follow in the Master’s footsteps, and have received the assurance that if we present our bodies a living sacrifice, the Lord will accept us, and give us grace for our every time of need, then he is also saying to us:

“In an acceptable time have I heard thee, and in a day of salvation have I helped thee: and I will preserve thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, to establish the earth, to cause to inherit the desolate heritages; that thou mayest say to the prisoners, Go forth; to them that are in darkness, Show yourselves. They shall feed in the ways, and their pastures shall be in all high places.”—Isa. 49:8,9

“I will preserve thee,” saith the Lord. Let us never have any doubts about the keeping power of God, for he has promised never to leave us, nor to forsake us! (Heb. 13:5) His is an abiding love and care for us even as it was for Jesus, who said, “The Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God.” (John 16:27) One reason the Father loves us is that he purposes to use us together with Jesus in his kingdom. And for this glorious future reign, the Father is preserving us; preserving us, that is, if we continue faithful to him. Both to Jesus and the church the promise was made by God: “I will divide him a portion with the great [Jehovah], and he shall divide the spoil with the strong [those who are strong in the Lord and in the power of his might.]”—Isa. 53:12

It is in keeping with this that Jesus promised, “He that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations.” (Rev. 2:26) “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.”—Rev. 3:21

“That by These”

Yes, it is by these many promises of God that we are made partakers of the divine nature—by their encouragement, by their authority, by our own faithfulness to all the conditions attached to them, and by their inspirational power in our lives. As we press on toward the prize of the high calling we continually need the strength of which these promises assure us. There is no possible circumstance in our Christian experience in which God has not promised to be with us, and to supply our need.

Always, of course, it is essential to remember the conditions, to keep in mind the ‘ifs’. This is true even when we seek the throne of grace to claim the promises, for it is only ‘if’ we abide in Christ, and his words abide in us, that we have the privilege of asking for what we need as new creatures in order that we may be directed and nourished as we journey on in the narrow way of sacrifice. (John 14:13; 15:7) But having complied with the conditions, how blessed are these words:

“Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; and having an High Priest over the house of God; let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised.)”—Heb. 10:19-23

Add to Your Faith

Our faith rests upon the promises of God, and if our faith is to be strong and increase, we will need always to be on the alert to meet the conditions of the promises. This will result in what Peter describes as adding to our faith other Christian qualities such as virtue, knowledge, self-control, cheerful endurance, piety, brotherly kindness, and love. For Peter explains (vs. 8), “If these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”—II Pet. 1:4-8,11

But if, by virtue of the promises of God, we are to attain the divine nature, it will be necessary to give all diligence. It will not do to be halfhearted or part-time runners for the prize. We will not be able to divide our interests between the things of God and the things of the world, nor between the interests of the new creature and the interests of the flesh. Paul wrote, “This one thing I do.” (Phil. 3:13) This is the only approach to the Christian life which will result in victory, the only attitude of heart in which to be, if the Lord is to make good his promises to us. We cannot afford to be too much concerned even about our temporal needs. The Lord knows about these, and promised: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”—Matt. 6:33

What a blessed lot is ours! Truly the Lord has given us “good doctrine” (Prov. 4:2), so let us yield ourselves to its transforming influence, and thus be made ready for that abundant entrance into the kingdom, where “we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is!”—I John 3:2

Dawn Bible Students Association
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