Peter is convinced that God has provided us with everything we need to live a life that is fully pleasing to Him. Various translations of 2 Peter 1:3 use such adjectives as “godly” (NIV) or “truly religious” (TEV). In verse 4 Peter points out two major results of using the gifts he has given us. One is that we are able to escape the corruption of this world and the other is that we become partakers of the divine nature. This verse could lead to a rather profound theological discussion but let’s keep it on the practical level of how it applies to life.
It is clear from the Greek text that escaping corruption is prior to the sharing of a divine nature. It is important to note that it is not the world itself that is corrupt (God created it and declared it good: see the Genesis story) but it has been corrupted by man’s evil desires. We, by nature, corrupted the world; it is not the other way around. Sin entered the world by the choice of man, it is not endemic to the world itself. Salvation is our escape from the corruption we created. Christ came to save us from the mess we made and we are the beneficiaries of his saving grace.
The other result of using the gifts that God has given us through fellowship with him is that we “participate in the divine nature.” This expression was common in Hellenistic religious literature as well as in pagan mystery religions. I do not believe that Peter is saying that believers become partially divine but that in Christ we share in God’s divinity. Scripture speaks of Christ being “in us” and that reflects the reality of our surrender to, and our continuing fellowship with, him.
How does all this affect our daily life? One thing is that having escaped the devastating results of corruption by accepting Christ we will have a strong distaste for all that falls short of the purity displayed in his life. To hate sin in all its forms is a natural result of having experienced the righteousness of God. The other point is that by sharing God’s nature we become more and more like his true child. In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s wonderful story, The Great Stone Face, Ernest, a sensitive hero who throughout life longingly contemplates the image of a great stone face on the mountainside gradually begins to resemble the image. In the same way, we become like the one we look at. What Peter is emphasizing is that God has already provided all that we need to escape corruption and become like him.