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Salvation as Partaking of the Divine Nature

No one ever probed the depths of what it means to be saved as intently and insightfully as Jonathan Edwards. He especially drew from this statement by the apostle Peter:

“[God] has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire” (2 Peter 1:4).

Edwards was careful to deny that the Christian partakes of the divine essence. Such would make a person God. Still, though, we are by grace made partakers of the divine nature. Edwards explains:

“But the soul of a saint receives light from the Sun of Righteousness, in such a manner, that its nature is changed, and it becomes properly a luminous thing: not only does the sun shine in the saints, but they also become little suns, partaking of the nature of the fountain of their light” (WJE, 2:343).

This participation in the divine nature continues into eternity:

“the soul which only had a little spark of divine love in it in this world shall be, as it were, wholly turned into love; and be like the sun, not having a spot in it, but being wholly a bright, ardent flame” (WJE, 8:374-75).

Kyle Strobel, one of the editors of Jonathan Edwards: Spiritual Writings, in The Classics of Western Spirituality (Paulist Press, 2019), explains:

“Salvation, therefore, names a relational participation in God’s life through a participation in the divine knowing and willing such that one shares by grace what is Christ’s by nature” (14).

Thus, “the focus of the spiritual life is real participation of the divine persons as they overflow from the eternal life of God to his people” (14).

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