It means being made partakers of his godliness, his character, his likeness, his virtues.
2 Peter 1:3-4, “According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue. Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.”
To understand the full context of the scripture we need to go to other scriptures.
Romans 8:29, “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.”
We are made partakers of his divine nature by being conformed to the image of Jesus Christ, who is the image of the invisible God. That is the character of God was in Christ and the same character is in every true believer.
1 John 2:5,6, “But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him. He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.”
That is to say that the sign or evidence that the redemptive work has taken effect in us is his life, virtues and works projected through us. In other words Christianity is a projection of the life of Jesus Christ in his redeemed. This scripture is telling us being patakers of his likeness is projected in our walking like him. We will refer to some other scriptures:
1 John 4:17, “Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world.”
The above scripture of 1 John 4:17 is telling us being partakers of his divine nature is also being partaker of his likeness. When one is made a partaker of God’s divine nature, Christ lives and walks in you.
Galatians 2:20, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
A person that is a partaker of God’s divine nature is God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus:
Ephesians 2:10,22, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. […] In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.”
2 Corinthians 6:16, “And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”
Being made partakers of his divine nature means also being partakers of the works of the Spirit:
John 3:6,8, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. […] The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.”
John 14:10,12, “Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works. […] Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.”
A Christian without the gifts of the Holy Spirit is like a man that has a job to do but doesn’t have the tools. The spiritual tools of God are the gifts of the Spirit which He wants exercised in full by all of His children. He repeatedly demonstrated His will through the prophets, through Jesus Christ, and through early believers. He has repeatedly promised such power to every believer.
In Luke 24:49, Before Jesus ascended into Heaven, he told his disciples:
“And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.”
In the scriptures below, Paul the Apostle, is asking believers, if they have received the Holy Spirit, since they believed:
Acts 19:1-6, “…Paul having passed through the upper coasts came to Ephesus: and finding certain disciples, He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost. And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John ‘s baptism. Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus. When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spoke with tongues, and prophesied.”
and their reply was “We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost” and then Paul laid hands on them, so they would receive the Baptism of the Holy Ghost and the spiritual tools (the gifts of the Holy Spirit), to do God’s work.
There are 9 Gifts of the Holy Spirit:
1 Corinthians 12:7-11, “But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.”
The partakers of his divine nature are a part of the good tree that bears good fruit:
Matthew 7:15-18,20,21, “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. […] Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.”
The moment anything is born it has certain powers of its parents. The offspring of a fish can swim and live in water; the bird can fly; and the dog can bark. It would be a miracle for the dog to live in water or the fish to live and fly in the sky. This would be contrary to nature. It is likewise contrary to nature that men can be born of God spiritually and partake of His nature and live and act contrary to the nature of God. The children of God should manifest a supernatural nature in life through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and through faith in the name of Jesus Christ and His atonement. God has provided the baptism in the Holy Spirit and the gifts of the Spirit for such manifestation of divine life in His children.
In † Christian Love, Susan Osten
Sources: Bible Hermeneutics