Partakers of the Divine Nature
Robert Wurtz II
His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, 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. (2 Peter 1:3, 4)
The late G.W. North once stated that, “It’s not preparation of the message- it’s preparation of the messenger.” When God got ready to begin this great building project known as the Church, He had to prepare His ministers. This preparation began with around three years of intensive training that we find recorded in the Gospels. Here the disciples learned what God is like by living with Him day and night. Jesus Christ is the image of the invisible God. His teachings, His behavior, His disposition and attitude were all demonstrations of the personality of God. As the writer to the Hebrews tells us, God spoke in various ways to the saints of old by the prophets, but now He is speaking directly by His Son (Hebrews 1:1-2). This means that Jesus Christ is the ultimate standard of what it means to be righteous, holy, godly, humble, meek, compassionate, merciful, benevolent and all other important qualities. He demonstrated, as His walk of life, how His disciples are to love righteousness and hate lawlessness. He is the living expression of what it means to walk in the Spirit. As the tree of life clothed in flesh and blood, He yielded the fruit of the Spirit in every circumstance. He taught the disciples by example to live by every word that is proceeding from the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4).
The Divine Nature
They heard Him, they watched Him and they received from Him; but they were not yet ready for the great task at hand. Before Jesus ascended into heaven in the book of Acts, the disciples were instructed to wait on the promise of the Father. This promise was the baptism in the Holy Spirit that John the Baptist foretold and Paul the Apostle explained. Paul said in Ephesians that there is “one baptism,” and that baptism is when we are baptized by the Holy Spirit into the body of Christ. John the Baptist was clear that Jesus would baptize not in water, but in the Holy Spirit and with fire. This great baptism in the Holy Spirit was initiated on the day of Pentecost after several week of preparation before the Lord. It was in an “upper room” that the Church was born- the Temple of God made without hands. It consisted of the Chief Cornerstone, Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:20) and the one hundred and twenty “living stones” that were present (1 Peter 2:5). Upon receiving this experience the one hundred and twenty were finally qualified to be witnesses unto Christ (Acts 1:8).
A tale of five firsts
Every first occurrence in the Bible is worthy of our attention. Acts 2 marks five great “firsts” I wish to look at briefly: the first baptism in the Holy Spirit, the first evangelistic message, the first response to that message, the first counsel given to anxious sinners, and the first addition to the Church.
The first baptism in the Holy Spirit not only equipped the one hundred and twenty to be the first evangelists, but it radically changed their spiritual condition. They that were in Adam were now in Christ and all the benefits of the cross was made effectual to them. Peter had failed miserably at his first real attempt to be a witness, even swearing with a loud oath. The Peter after Pentecost was nothing like the Peter before Pentecost. He was suddenly enabled, by the Spirit, to be Christ-like. On top of this radical change was a boldness that allowed him to do our second “first,” preach the Gospel.
Peter prepares for the first major evangelistic message that would set more stones in this Temple project. He begins by explaining to the people some of the things that were going on with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. They assumed the people were drunk, but Peter took that misunderstanding as an occasion to expound upon the prophesies related to the events of the last fifty days. He boldly preached Jesus Christ to the people (Acts 2:22f) and then he fearlessly set forth their sins for having crucified the Savior. His message then opened a door of hope showing the people that it was all predestined of God. Christ’s death was for the redemption of fallen humanity.
The people then showed forth the first response to a post-Pentecost evangelistic message: Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37 NKJV) The Holy Spirit was at work convincing them of the truth that Peter proclaimed. They knew that they were guilty before God. They understood that they needed to do something, so they asked. Notice that Peter did not manipulate the people or put words of repentance in their mouths. It was very simple. He preached, the Holy Spirit convicted, and the people enquired as to what they needed to do.
Peter is the first person post-Pentecost to counsel anxious sinners. They responded wanting to know what they should do and he responded saying; Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38). Peter begins his counseling session with the imperative, repent. The word of repentance is the first word of the Gospel. Although some would suggest repentance is not necessary for salvation, even using Paul’s epistles to explain such a need away, we have Paul’s own words to testify to the contrary; I declared first to those in Damascus and in Jerusalem, and throughout all the region of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance (Acts 26:20). It is a historical fact that Paul preached repentance everywhere he went; and not just repentance in a modern day sense, but repentance in the John the Baptist sense. Secondly, Peter instructed the enquirers to be baptized in water. This is an act of obedience that none need to understand in order to do it. Peter did not explain baptism because the people already understood baptism. Thirdly, Peter told them that they will receive the Holy Spirit. If you will repent and be baptized in water, you will receive the Holy Spirit. We will not explore the details and implications of this, but the basic pattern will be followed throughout the book of Acts. The scripture summarizes the rest of his counseling session saying; And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation.” (Acts 2:40 NKJV)
Lastly, we have the second response of the people: Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them (Acts 2:41 NKJV). A staggering three thousand souls (living stones) were added to the Temple. This is God’s estimate. It all began when Peter learned of Christ for three years and later prepared himself to receive the Holy Spirit. The minister was ready, the message was powerful, the people were cut to the heart, they enquired what to do, the minister gave counsel to the anxious, the ones that gladly received the word were baptized (suggesting others did not gladly receive it), and by inference three thousand received the Holy Spirit becoming living stones in the Temple.
The fruit of this type of evangelism was that they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers (Acts 2:42 NKJV). These folks were truly born again of the Spirit. They had an appetite for the things of God and a desire to fellowship with believers. They continued also in prayers, evidence that they were living now under His Divine guidance.