The deity of the Church is supported by a number of passages from Paul and that very succinct passage in John 17. One of the most impressive single expressions of that early church teaching is found in 2 Peter 1:4, where we are told that God’s very great and precious promises enable us to become partners in the divine nature.
The key word in this passage is κοινωνοι (koinonoi), which is derived from the word κοινωνός (koinonos). Both of these words are kin to the word κοινωνία (koinonia), or fellowship. Let me give you a few examples of how koinonoi and koinonos are used.
- As for Titus, he is my partner and fellow worker among you; as for our brethren, they are messengers of the churches, a glory to Christ. (2 Corinthians 8:23, NASB)
- If then you regard me a partner, accept him as you would me. (Philemon 1:17, NASB)
- His partners, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, were also amazed. (Luke 5:10, NLT)
- . . . sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. (Hebrews 10:33, ESV)
My search has not been exhaustive, but the word κοινωνός is usually rendered “partner” as you see above. Yet in 2 Peter 1:4, translators seem unwilling to render it in the typical fashion. In contrast, look at these typical translation of the word κοινωνός.
These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires. (NLT)
through [these great and precious promises] you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. (NIV)
through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. (ESV)
by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. (NASB)
The typical translations for koinonos are a sharer, partner, or companion. Again, “properly, a participant who mutually belongs and shares fellowship; a ‘joint-participant.'” (Strongs 2844). Renderings like “sharers”, “partakers,” “participants in”–these all seem a bit opaque to me. The word “sharers” is not a common English usage at all. When I hear the word “partakers” I think of “partaking” of the elements, or “partaking” at the Lord’s table. And participate or participants? I think of participating in team sports or something similar.
The rendering “partakers” is acceptable, especially if you consider Jesus to be the hidden manna that comes down from heaven (Revelation 2:17). But this is a highly specialized usage. Normally I think of partaking of someone’s hospitality, or partaking of the fruit of the vine. I don’t usually think of eating God, or the divine nature. I suppose if I thought grape juice and crackers were divine, “partaking” would work for me better.
If, however, the more typical word were used, the rendering would certainly be leading us in the right direction. Sharers, partakers, and participants are all good renderings, but partners suggests the equality of the principals in a way the others do not.
“You may be joint-participants in the divine nature.” Or, better yet, “You may be a joint-partners in the divine nature.” Remember that the common rendering of koinonos in 2 Corinthians 8:23; Philemon 1:17; Luke 5:10; Hebrews 10:33 above is partner.
The Church is a Co-Equal Partner in the Divine Nature
The Church is a co-equal partner, a co-equal participant, in the divine nature. Together, we share the “very nature of God.” (Weymouth NT) At the very least, this means that when we look into the face of others, we are looking into the face of God. This statement is also found in Matthew 24:40: “And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my sisters and brothers, you did it to me.’”
If You Want to See Jesus, Just Look Around
In John 14:9 Jesus said, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9) The same holds true for us. Whoever has seen us has seen the Son. We have a number of worship songs to which this applies.
Consider Bob Cull’s Open Our Eyes.
Open our eyes, Lord
We want to see Jesus
To reach out and touch Him
And say that we love Him
Open our ears, Lord
And help us to listen
Open our eyes, Lord
We want to see Jesus
If we want to see Jesus, we only have to look around us. The same holds true for the Sonicflood lyrics, I Want to Know You, by Andrew Park.
I want to touch You
I want to see Your face
I want to know You more
I have only been able to hold this in my mind for brief seasons. I need to keep reminding myself that when I look into anyone’s face, I am looking into the face of Jesus. This makes me feel humble and repentant. I am nowhere near this.
To Read More in this Series, click on The Bride of Christ is God.