“By which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.”
Divine Nature [Part 1]
of the divine nature
“Nature” means disposition. A “nature” is a disposition or inborn quality that generates and produces power in us. This “nature” is not that quality that determines whether someone is a human being. In other words, our “nature” is not equivalent to our person. The sinful nature is a change in capacity or disposition and not a metaphysical change in us (the transfer of God’s attributes to us). A “nature” is an inherent disposition that ultimately affects our conduct and character.
Before Adam’s fall, he had a human nature but not a sinful nature. He possessed attributes unique to man. When Adam fell, he acquired a sinful nature (Ro 5:12). Then, he had two natures, a human nature, and a sinful nature. In this context, a better term for “nature” might be “capacity.” Adam, in the fall, acquired a capacity for sin. When a person becomes a Christian, he receives a new capacity toward God.
The addition of Adam’s sinful nature produced a drastic spiritual change but not a metaphysical change in him. He still was the same person he was before the fall. Therefore, his sinful nature is a disposition rather than a transformation of attributes unique to human nature.
Hypothetically, if the sin nature did change the attributes of human nature, then man would have been different from the human being God created when He created Adam. The non-Christian possesses a human nature in the sense of the attributes unique to man plus a sin nature. He does not have a new nature in the sense of a new disposition toward God. All he has is a sin capacity toward God. That is why his disposition is dark before God (Jn 3:19).
When a person becomes a Christian, a radical change in his disposition takes place. He receives a divine nature. He is not a new human being but has a new orientation toward God. The Christian still possesses characteristics unique to man, but God introduces something new into him, a divine disposition. God reintroduces into the born-again person the same orientation toward God that Adam had before the fall. Now that the Christian is favorably disposed toward God, God can do things to make him more like Christ.
The Christian is legally just before God in his new nature or capacity. Therefore, he has certain rights before God.
In conflict with the sin capacity, the Christian can claim his legal right to reject the sin nature’s mastery because of his identity with Christ’s death.
The sin nature or capacity is our inherent disposition toward sin. We received at our physical birth a tendency toward rebellion toward God. We call that disposition the “sin nature” or “sin capacity” (Jer 17:9; Ro 6:16-20). The sinful nature holds legal authority and experiential power over the lives of non-Christians. The sinful nature only has experiential control over the Christian if the Christian does not apply his legal authority in Christ to its power.
The non-Christian only has a sin nature but not a divine nature or capacity. The sin nature is totally depraved. This single nature means that the non-Christian is depraved in reference to God. This depravity does not mean that he cannot do right morality according to human standards, but it does mean that his morality is worthless to the absolute righteousness of an unconditional God (Ro 8:7).
The non-Christian has inherent hostility toward God’s will (Ro 8:7). This hostility does not mean that the old nature will always act as badly as it is capable. The non-Christian does many moral and humanitarian things, but he does them apart from God. He operates essentially apart from God, and his life revolves around himself. His orientation is man-centered rather than God-centered. His chief end is himself rather than God (Eph 2:3). This is why man must be born again because, in his fallen nature, he cannot orient to God (Jn 3:19).
The Christian, then, has two warring capabilities within his bosom. The believer receives a divine nature (capacity) at the point of salvation but still retains the sin capacity after salvation. However, in the Christian, Jesus forever legally defeated the sinful nature by dying on the cross (Ro 6).
The Christian has legal rights over the sin nature, but he cannot defeat sin simply by possessing a divine disposition. The simple possession of a divine nature or capacity does not provide the power necessary to overcome the sin nature. The Christian needs more than the divine nature for that. Christians can defeat sin by claiming their legal rights over the sin capacity in God’s eyes to their experience. The Christian lives by the promises of God in Christ.
If we rely on our strength as the source of power to overcome our sinful nature, the sinful disposition will defeat us every time. Neither keeping the commands of God nor self-will is enough to overcome the struggle with the sin capacity.
No Christian should allow the sinful nature to defeat him because he has the indwelling Holy Spirit who can fill him with power. At the point of our salvation, the Holy Spirit set us free from the controlling power of the sin nature in principle and made available His power to us. If we give Him control over our lives, we will have victory over the sin capacity. The Holy Spirit can produce what we cannot deliver in ourselves.
The divine disposition plays a decisive role in transforming the regenerated man (“new man”) more and more into the image of Christ (Ro 8:29). This, again, is a process (2 Co 3:18). In eternity, God will make us morally perfect in our experience.