Chapter 51: “Partakers of the Divine Nature”

The Life and Teachings of Jesus and His Apostles, (1979), 420–26

Map Chp. 51

The Second Letter of Peter

Apparently Written from Rome Prior to A.D. 68 (2 Peter)

2 Peter

“Make Your Calling and Election Sure”


Prophecy Comes by the Holy Ghost

1:20, 21

False Teachers Are Damned


The Fallen State of Lustful Saints


Latter-day Scoffers Shall Deny the Second Coming


Holy and Saintly Lives Are Prepared for the Lord


Interpretive Commentary

(51-1) What Is the Theme of Second Peter?

The dominant Theme in this letter is how one comes to a knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. As shown by the outline, it may be divided into three main sections. The first tells how one comes to a knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ by becoming “a partaker of his divine nature” and having his “calling and election made sure.” In the second section this true knowledge of Christ is contrasted to false knowledge—heresies perpetrated by apostates. The third section calls attention to the hope that the true knowledge of the Lord brings: the promise of his glorious return to the earth.

(51-2) Place and Date of Writing

We cannot say with certainty the place from which Peter wrote the letter, though some suppose it was Rome. Because the threat of persecution seems past (there is no mention in this letter of persecution or suffering), it is assumed that the letter falls between the Nero persecutions and the alleged date of Peter’s death, perhaps about A.D. 68.

(51-3) Authorship

Though some scholars have challenged the genuineness of this letter, the weight of evidence favors Peter as the author. Joseph Smith noted in a discussion on First Peter, “Peter penned the most sublime language of any of the apostles.” (Teachings, p. 301.) The Prophet Joseph frequently quoted Peter.

(51-4) Background Information

Peter, president of the church in his day, addressed this letter to the saints who had “obtained like precious faith with us.” (1:1.) New problems seem to have arisen in the church. Where before the threat to the church was persecution from without, the danger now seems to be apostasy from within. “There shall be false teachers among you,” wrote the chief apostle, “who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord. …” (2:1). The great danger to the church was that many in the future would follow after these teachers out of ignorance and uncertainty. The letter twice reminds the saints of the things they had been taught (1:12–15; 3:1, 2): first, that if they go on to make their calling and election sure, they will not fall (1:10, 11); and second, that the second coming of the Lord was certain and sure, even though scoffers, as prophesied, would deny the fact because of what seemed to them an unreasonable delay. Peter wrote the letter, therefore, to warn of an impending apostasy within the church and to exhort the saints to continue to grow in knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. This counsel if followed would lead them to make their callings and elections sure.

(51-5) 2 Peter 1:1–19. What Are the Three Grand Keys to Obtaining the True Knowledge of God?

“There are three grand secrets lying in this chapter, … which no man can dig out, unless by the light of revelation, and which unlocks the whole chapter. …

“1st key: Knowledge is the power of salvation. 2nd key: Make your calling and election sure. 3rd key: It is one thing to be on the mount and hear the excellent voice, etc., and another to hear the voice declare to you, You have a part and lot in that kingdom.” (Smith, Teachings, pp. 304, 306.)

Concerning the three grand keys to the knowledge of God, we learn three concepts:

  1. 1.

    The knowledge of Christ which brings salvation is obtained a little at a time.

    “It is not wisdom that we should have all knowledge at once presented before us; but that we should have a little at a time; then we can comprehend it. …

    “… The principle of knowledge is the principle of salvation. This principle can be comprehended by the faithful and diligent; and every one that does not obtain knowledge sufficient to be saved will be condemned. The principle of salvation is given us through the knowledge of Jesus Christ.” (Smith, Teachings, p. 297. Italics added.)

  2. 2.

    As one acquires knowledge of Christ’s divine attributes and incorporates them into his own life, he makes his calling and election sure.

    “None can comprehend the knowledge of God, of Christ, and of the gospel unless he himself possesses the attributes of godliness, for the knowledge of spiritual things comes only by revelation, and until a person gains godly attributes he cannot receive the Spirit from whom revelation comes.” (McConkie, DNTC, 3:354.) (The process of having one’s calling and election made sure is discussed in the Interpretive Commentary for 2 Peter 1:10.)

  3. 3.

    The more sure word of prophecy—the Lord’s promise that a person will be exalted and come to know God fully (John 17:3)—comes as a result of making one’s calling and election sure.

    “Now for the secret and grand key. Though they might hear the voice of God and know that Jesus was the Son of God, this would be no evidence that their election and calling was made sure, that they had part with Christ, and were joint-heirs with him. They then would want that more sure word of prophecy, that they were sealed in the heavens and had the promise of eternal life in the kingdom of God. Then, having this promise sealed unto them, it was an anchor to the soul, sure and steadfast. Though the thunders might roll and lightnings flash, and earthquakes bellow, and war gather thick around, yet this hope and knowledge would support the soul in every hour of trial, trouble and tribulation. Then knowledge through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is the grand key that unlocks the glories and mysteries of the kingdom of heaven.” (Smith, Teachings, p. 298.)

(51-6) 2 Peter 1:4–8. What Does It Mean to Be “Partakers of the Divine Nature”?

Peter himself said it is escaping “the corruption that is in the world through lust.” (vs. 4.)

President David O. McKay, commenting on verse 4, said it means “to rise above the temporal, the sensual, and partake of the divine Spirit of God.” (CR, Oct. 1961, p. 90.)

(51-7) 2 Peter 1:10. What Is Meant by Having One’s Calling and Election Made Sure?

“To have one’s calling and election made sure is to be sealed up unto eternal life; it is to have the unconditional guarantee of exaltation in the highest heaven of the celestial world; it is to receive the assurance of godhood; it is, in effect, to have the day of judgment advanced, so that an inheritance of all the glory and honor of the Father’s kingdom is assured prior to the day when the faithful actually enter into the divine presence to sit with Christ in his throne, even as he is ‘set down’ with his ‘Father in his throne.’ (Rev. 3:21.)” (McConkie, DNTC, 3:330–31.)

(51-8) 2 Peter 1:10. Must an Individual Be Married for Eternity to Have His Calling and Election Made Sure?

“… making one’s calling and election sure comes after and grows out of celestial marriage. Eternal life does not and cannot exist for a man or a woman alone, because in its very nature it consists of the continuation of the family unit in eternity.” (McConkie, DNTC, 3:343.)

(51-9) 2 Peter 1:21. How Does One Correctly Interpret Scripture?

“If prophets speak by the power of the Holy Ghost, then the Holy Ghost is required to interpret correctly the teachings of holy men. Therefore, those who do not possess the Spirit of God cannot comprehend the things of God.” (Delbert L. Stapley in CR, Oct. 1966, p. 113.)

(51-10) 2 Peter 2:1. Are There Heresies in the True Church of Christ?

“Heresies abound in the sectarian world. False doctrines are manifest on every hand. …

“But what of the true Church? Are there heresies within even that divine institution? Paul says such was the case among the Corinthians, and it is apparent that the same thing prevails in the modern kingdom of God on earth. Speaking of our day, Nephi said that ‘because of pride, and wickedness, and abominations, and whoredoms,’ all men have ‘gone astray save it be a few, who are the humble followers of Christ.’ Then pointing to these true saints, he added: ‘Nevertheless, they are led, that in many instances they do err because they are taught by the precepts of men.’ (2 Ne. 28:14.) That is, heresies are found in the Church today, even as in the meridian of time.” (McConkie, DNTC, 2:362–63.)

(51-11) 2 Peter 2:13. What Was the Meaning of the Word Riot?

Actually there is no word in English that carries the exact meaning of the Greek word truphay. The actual meaning is “to live delicately, live luxuriously, be given to a soft and luxurious life.” (See Thayer, Lexicon of the New Testament, p. 631.) The picture is not one of wild rebellion and disorder, but of soft, self-indulgent pampering of the desires of the flesh.

(51-12) 2 Peter 2:20–22. Can Immorality and Rebellion Lead to the Unpardonable Sin?

“It is important for all men that they do not even approach the tragic point of the unpardonable sin. Numerous people have lost the Spirit through immorality and through rebellion brought about by the sophistry and philosophy of men, and sometimes through fancied offenses. Bitterness has a way of poisoning the mind and killing the spirit. One should take no chances of permitting such situations to become sore and gangrenous, for who can tell when one might slip across the line? To do so rather than enduring to the end is perhaps to be in the category Peter described.” (Kimball, Miracle of Forgiveness, pp. 121–22.)

(51-13) 2 Peter 3:3. “There Shall Come in the Last Days Scoffers”

“In ‘this second epistle,’ the Chief Apostle both assumes and announces the literal nature of the Second Coming of the Son of Man, with this added proclamation: In the last days, in so-called Christendom (for the doctrine is not so much as an issue in other circles) the fact of our Lord’s literal return shall be challenged; false ministers shall mock at such an antiquated view; and the scientists shall scoff at the idea of the burning of the earth as a prelude to a Millennial era when none but the righteous shall dwell on the new earth thus cleansed from its wicked inhabitants. All history, all experience, and all reason, they shall say, negate these old-fashioned doctrines about the Lord living again among men. Surely the scriptures must mean that he shall come as a power or influence to dwell in the hearts of men whenever they gain oneness with him, shall be their cry. “But Peter, whose views came not from reason but by revelation, replies: Which is easier, to believe in a creation (which fact is self-evident) or a Second Coming? To believe in the destruction of the world by water in Noah’s day (of which fact there is ample evidence) or the burning of the vineyard in that day when ‘as it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man’? (Luke 17:26.)” (McConkie, DNTC, 3:364–65.)

(51-14) 2 Peter 3:10–13. What Is Meant by the Expression “Look for New Heavens and a New Earth”?

“Let us not misunderstand this expression. The new heaven and new earth will be the same heaven and the same earth on which we now sojourn, for this earth is to receive the resurrection after this day of mortality and be the abode of the righteous in eternity. Without the revelations of the Lord given to men, this truth would not be made known. Neither would we have knowledge of the final glory to which this earth will be assigned. Even now, where men are without the divine guidance and revelation, this truth would not be known.” (Smith, Seek Ye Earnestly … , p. 262.)

Points to Ponder

In Every Age There Have Been Those Who Have Sought to Lead People Astray

A few years ago, one of our Latter-day Saint chaplains was interviewing a young serviceman imprisoned in a military stockade. In response to the question why he had gone A.W.O.L., the serviceman expressed his dislike for the military and his desire to be free. The chaplain was empathetic, for there was much about the military that he too disliked. He also shared the imprisoned soldier’s desire for personal freedom. After having identified those common feelings, the chaplain asked the soldier which of the two of them enjoyed the greater freedom. The answer, of course, was obvious. When their interview ended, the chaplain could get up and walk out of the stockade, but the soldier would be returned to confinement. The chaplain observed that he had found considerable personal freedom by his compliance to military regulations, suggesting that the better he did his job the less supervision he received and the greater freedom he found.

We live at a time when the pursuit of personal freedom is a prevailing concern. Great movements are sweeping the world to “liberate” us from the mores of the past and bring about what their adherents choose to call “equality.” One is left to wonder how many of these movements, like the actions of that A.W.O.L. soldier, are, in fact, leading to greater bondage; and one cannot help but be impressed with the striking similarities between those who Peter warned the saints against anciently and many movements that are sweeping the world today. Consider his description of the false teachers who, if they had not already done so, Peter knew would soon come among the saints:

2 Peter, chapter 2:

verse 1They will deny Christ. 
verse 2They will make truth appear as evil. 
verse 3They will exploit people with cunning arguments. 
verse 10They will be “self-willed,” that is, obstinate in doing whatever they want, without regard for others. 
verse 12They will have little knowledge of the things of righteousness which they defy. 
verse 13They will sin openly, publicly, willfully. 
verse 14They will be motivated by lust and greed. 
verse 14They will prey upon those who are unstable and unseasoned. 
verse 18They will present their cause with polished rhetoric and oratory. 
verse 19They will promise to liberate those who sympathize with and follow after them. 

As you read Peter’s epistle and mentally translate it to a modern setting, you are left wondering whether Peter was writing to the people of his own day or to those of ours. There are many today who, like the A.W.O.L. soldier, in their flight to find freedom find themselves in a bondage far worse than that which they sought to escape. Well might they ponder the observation of Elder James E. Talmage when he said, “Obedience to law is the habit of the free man; the transgressor fears the law, for he brings upon himself deprivation and restraint, not because of the law, which would have protected him in his freedom, but because of his antagonism to the law.” (Articles of Faith, p. 53.)

It is of interest how consistently false prophets come posing as the champions of the common people to “liberate” them from the influence of righteousness. (See Numbers 16:3 and Alma 30:14, 23 for examples.)

(51-15) There Are False Teachings Today as in Peter’s Day

“Apparently there were in the early church those who taught for doctrines the sophistries of men. There are those today who seem to take pride in disagreeing with the orthodox teachings of the Church and who present their own opinions which are at variance with the revealed truth. Some may be partially innocent in the matter; others are feeding their own egotism; and some seem to be deliberate. Men may think as they please, but they have no right to impose upon others their unorthodox views. Such persons should realize that their own souls are in jeopardy.” (Spencer W. Kimball in CR, Apr. 1948, p. 109.)

(51-16) Our Test Today Is the Philosophies of the World versus the Living Prophets

“During the early days of the Church we passed through a period of slander and misrepresentation, and we came through. It drove us together because of enemies from the outside. And we survived it. We passed through a period of mobbing and driving, when lives were taken and blood was shed, and somehow the place of the martyr gave us strength. We passed through poverty, and we gained strength from the test of it. Then we passed through an age of what we might call apostasy, or betrayal from the inside—one of the severest tests through which we have passed. We are now going through another test—a period of what we might call sophistication. This is a time when there are many clever people who are not willing to listen to the humble prophets of the Lord. And we have suffered from that. It is rather a severe test.” (Harold B. Lee, Instructor, June 1965, p. 217.)

How, you may ask, can I fortify myself against the philosophies of false teachings?

Read 2 Peter 2:1, 20–22. What does Peter mean by the “knowledge of the Lord”? Once one learns about the Lord, is that sufficient? Read Matthew 7:22, 23.

Can you see from this that as you come to have a personal relationship with the Lord through study, prayer, and obedience, you will have power to overcome the false philosophies of the adversary?

(51-17) We Ought to Live So That We May Know the Will of the Father Respecting All Our Circumstances

“The one thing now that I desire to impress upon the minds of my brethren bearing the Holy Priesthood is that we should live so near to the Lord, be so humble in our spirits, so tractable and pliable, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, that we will be able to know the mind and will of the Father concerning us as individuals and as officers in the Church of Christ under all circumstances.” (Smith, Gospel Doctrine, pp. 58–59.)

(51-18) Righteousness Comes by Revelation

“Ever remember, dear brethren, that if you would be righteous like your heavenly Father, His righteousness comes by REVELATION, through your faith. Be content with nothing short of the revealed will of your heavenly Father; for being built upon this foundation, the floods of error and temptation that must come upon all them that dwell upon the earth, will not be able to overthrow you.” (Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball and Willard Richards, as cited in James R. Clark, comp., Messages of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2:124.)

(51-19) We Should So Live That the Revelations of Jesus Can Be with Us Constantly

“Latter-day Saints should so live that they will know the voice of the True Shepherd, and not be deceived by pretenders. … The Latter-day Saint who does not live so as to have the revelations of Jesus constantly with him, stands in great danger of being deceived and falling away.” (Harold B. Lee in CR, Oct. 1967, p. 103.)

To Partake of the Divine Nature of God Is to Partake of the Power of God through the Holy Spirit

What is the divine nature? It is the nature of God. It is the nature, perfection, personality, glory, power, and holiness not only of the Father but also of the Son, Jesus Christ, for he has partaken of the “fulness” and has become like the Father in every respect. We are promised that, since Christ has obtained this fulness, we, through obedience to him, may ultimately do so also. (See D&C 93:16, 17, 19, 20.)

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are expected to become like the Lord Jesus Christ; they are expected to gain the divine nature possessed by the Father and the Son. Of course, we are only called to achieve this great destiny. The calling—the election, the promise, the opportunity—has been extended to us by the Lord, but no one is going to force us to fulfil it and make certain; it is very much a matter of free agency. But already we have done something to suggest our seriousness in accepting the calling and election which has been offered to us. For instance, you have elected to join the Saints and meet with them, to pray, to read the scriptures, to study this lesson. Your calling to be a partaker of the divine nature—to become like God—has not come about in a vacuum; the election is not only God’s, but yours as well. Indeed, in earlier lessons (for example, lesson 3) it has been suggested that we sought this opportunity even before we entered mortality. (See 2 Peter 1:3; 2 Thessalonians 2:13, 14; and 3 Nephi 27:27.)

Peter specifies faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, and charity (2 Peter 1:5–7). These are not demonstrated in perfection by fallen mankind here below, but by the Father and Son who are above. Yet, we are to obtain these qualities too, somehow, and become perfect therein (Matthew 5:48).

Can you see from this chapter that as you learn about God and then strive to become like him, you can actually draw down the powers of heaven to help you act more like Jesus Christ here and now? Carefully study the following quote by President Brigham Young:

“When through the Gospel, the Spirit in man has so subdued the flesh that he can live without wilful transgression, the Spirit of God unites with his spirit, they become congenial companions, and the mind and will of the Creator is thus transmitted to the creature.” (JD, 9:288.)

Isn’t that what is meant by the term “partaking of the divine nature?”

Now, what can you do to more fully partake of the divine nature of Jesus Christ?

Peter suggests some qualities that will help you in this effort (2 Peter 1:5–7). Consider your efforts to acquire the “divine nature” in the following areas:

1. Faith

I am actively putting into practice the teachings of the prophets of the Church, such as home teaching, family home evening, etc.

2. Virtue

I am striving continually to control any undesirable thoughts that would have produced unrighteous action.

3. Knowledge

During this past week, I have read out of the standard works.

4. Temperance

I am moderate in the intake of food, and in all I do.

5. Patience

When provoked in a family situation, I am able to forebear against retaliating by words or actions.

6. Godliness

I am sincerely striving to become like God in my speech and actions.

7. Brotherly kindness

I treat my roommates and my family members as I desire to be treated.

8. Charity

Love of Jesus Christ prevails in the way I speak and treat others.

I am not doing so now.

I am trying.

I am doing fine.

Use one of these three ratings to indicate your present progress.

Now, how is it that we can ever hope to obtain the divine nature? Certainly, the experience of all mortals would suggest that our own independent self-discipline and ingenuity would not be sufficient for the task.

Peter says that, if we are willing to give “all diligence” (2 Peter 1:5) to the task of acquiring or developing these qualities, things that pertain to “life and godliness” will come to us by “divine power.” (2 Peter 1:3.) If we were expected to acquire the divine nature without nourishment and power from a divine source, Peter would not have asked us to be “partakers.” It is reasonable that we should partake of divine power in order to reach divine heights.

We have the calling before us, with specific characteristics of the divine nature laid out. It is a lifelong matter of faith and diligence. But it is also a matter of divine assistance, involving that personal relationship with Christ which we explored earlier in this lesson. Paul said, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” (Philippians 4:13.) Remember that these promises that Peter called “exceeding great and precious promises” are yours also, and that the divine nature of the Father and the Son are well within your reach. The process is just as real and operable as you are willing for it to be in your life.

Such was the testimony of President David O. McKay when he said this:

“[Peter] wrote on one occasion: ‘… that we might be partakers of the divine nature.’ … He realized what it means to be in touch with the spiritual, to rise above the temporal, the sensual, and partake of the divine Spirit of God.

“… that is the purpose of making us more capable of responding to the Spirit and subduing the sensual. …

“That is why we like to have every young man and every young woman utilize his or her time intelligently, usefully, to bring the soul in harmony with the spirit, that we all might be partakers of God’s Spirit, partakers of his divine nature. … (CR, Oct. 1961, p. 90.)

“Happy is the man who has experienced that relationship to his Maker, wherein we are ‘partakers of the divine nature.’ That is a reality, and I so testify to you here in this sacred hour.” (David O. McKay in CR, Apr. 1957, p. 130. Emphasis added.)