Two Greek Words Translated "Partakers;" Life and Eternal Life; Real Communication of Life; the Meaning of the Term Nature; Our Partaking of the Divine Nature; Pantheism

Genesis 2:7; John 3:6; 1 Corinthians 11:18‑21; 2 Peter 1:3‑4  •  8 min. read  •  grade level: 8
Dr. -'s remarks on μετέχω and κοινωνός——where there is a shade of difference in two words -are merely showing he does not seize it, which is no very great matter. Either may be used in many cases, but they are not the same. 'Common,' and `partake,' represent them, I may say, perfectly. 'It is common to us both,' I partake of what you have,' are not the same, though often they may be used indifferently. But with excessive vagueness and obscurity he seems to deny the real communication of divine life. "Christ is my life": "That which is born of the Spirit is spirit." Even as to the first man he is all wrong. God "breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul." It is the very ground of our relationship and responsibility, and everlasting misery if not saved. The body was formed of dust, and man became a living soul by God's breathing into his nostrils, not by a mere fiat of creation as in the case of the beasts. Was man 'a mule' by it? This is too bad.
1. What is the force of κοινωνός—is it more than ' partaking' in the sense of μετέχω?
2. If so, how are we made κοινωνοίof the divine nature':
3. Is it that we 'partake of the divine nature in a different manner from God,' and so enjoy the benefit of all the excellency of the divine nature without becoming uncreated or unchangeable,' or sharing any of the attributes which God claims as essential to Himself?
4. Is there nothing between that position and the thought which has been advanced, that because the divine nature is sui generis, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, and therefore essentially different from the nature of all created beings, it must in some way be modified by a union with humanity, as the nature of a horse is modified in the mule, by union with that of the ass? '
7. Does 2 Peter 1:44Whereby 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. (2 Peter 1:4) mean that we are made partakers of the divine nature its such? Or does nature ' here mean rather the moral characteristics which, when made His children, we share in common with God? ")
But any denial of divine life communicated in Christ is for christian people equally mischievous. "That which is born of the Spirit is spirit," as "that which is born of the flesh is flesh." There is no combining of natures or lives, though they are in the same person, as soul and body are. A mule is a mixture of natures, whereas the intelligent Christian holds his flesh as always antagonist to the Spirit, "contrary the one to the other." One comes from sinful Adam, lawless naturally, law-breaker when under it, hater of God present in love, resister of the Spirit when He dwells in us, puffing up if possible if a man goes to the third heaven-which death only cures, or rather ends, first for faith, thee in fact. The Second Adam is a quickening Spirit, but the flesh is not quickened morally at all, but only in being changed or resurrection.
Of course, we partake of the divine nature in a different manner from God. And this is the import of the difference of κοινωνοί and μετοχοι. One is what we have together as a right, or fact, common to both; the other we get a part in-though we may become κοινωνοί by it-or, in virtue of being κοινωνοί, μετέχειν in anything, share in it. If I am a partaker with you it is common to us, both the position and μετέχω in the profits: if I having been a stranger come to have a share, μετέχιεν, I become κοινωνός. And this is sometimes important, as when the apostle declares that if people were μετοχοι they become κοινωνός -identified with the altar or an idol. (1 Cor. 10:18-2118Behold Israel after the flesh: are not they which eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar? 19What say I then? that the idol is any thing, or that which is offered in sacrifice to idols is any thing? 20But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils. 21Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord's table, and of the table of devils. (1 Corinthians 10:18‑21).)
The important point is to see that divine life is really communicated, that I receive what I had not before. I should not exactly quote 2 Peter for it, because he is speaking of promises by which we get it, and nature is, as you say, more character thus used than life; but it involves the other, and the two cannot be separated. We are "born of water and of the Spirit." We are cleansed by the word, but that is inseparably connected with being born of the Spirit. You could not say, 'That which is born of water is water.' There is a washing of water by the word. But "that which is born of the Spirit is spirit."...
How any one could think of partaking of the divine nature in the same manner as God is beyond my ken. Nobody ever heard of such a thing. Pantheism is Atheism as to any true personal God-at any rate, the moment I have anything else but Himself alone, as in Brahminism....
No doubt God was not changed when the Word became flesh, but there was real union and He ἐκένωσε σεαυτόν; and Christ could speak of being abandoned of God, and could pray to God. God was manifest withal in the flesh. This is different from us of course, but to deny that divine life is communicated is a most fatal error. 2 Peter 1:44Whereby 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. (2 Peter 1:4) is more morally; but as God breathed into man's nostrils, so "the Spirit is life because of righteousness," and "the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free." Christ is my life: we are begotten of God, born of God. It is not a mere change produced, though there be such change, but the communication of life, and because He lives we shall live also. He is eternal life, and "God has given to us 'eternal life, and that life is in his Son": "He that hath the Son hath life, and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life."
Nature is used more as characteristic of a being: the nature of a horse, of a man, and so even of God, as we say. It is his nature, meaning inbred character, only it is inherent in the being as such, not acquired; hence the proverb, "use is second nature." No nature as such is changeable-hence the lines:
" Was never man in this wild chase, That changed his nature with his place, And left himself behind."
I only refer to these as showing the force of the words. God is in a far higher sense unchangeable. But I may practically have a new nature, because I can, through grace, receive a new life, and so have the nature of that life.
You could not say in 2 Peter 1:44Whereby 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. (2 Peter 1:4) μέτοχοι. It would be becoming partakers in sense, whereas they have been placed in the position of κοινωνοί, and μέτοχοι would really give ground for what—charges us with, that we were to share the divine nature as such. We are κοινωνοί, have in common with God what morally belongs to His nature, as holiness, love, etc., we are light in the Lord.
It is as μέτοχοι that we are de facto κοινωνοί.
Κοινωνοί has the force that we have it in common, and so refers here to the moral character of it. It is a holy character, a loving one, righteous, and so on. If I said μέτοος, it would be that the divine nature as such being there I came to have a share in it (ἔχω μετά) But when I say common to me with God, it naturally refers to what it is. Through these promises we have it in common, but that is moral: if I said become μέτοχος I get a share of the divine nature itself.
As to John 17* I think it is what characterizes and belongs to true knowledge of these names Almighty, Jehovah, Father (sending the Son), Most High, are the names God takes in relationship with us. The first involves care and power; the second, faithfulness to promises, going on with what He had said—patriarchs and Jews—but neither eternal life: the Father sending the Son does. He is eternal life manifested to us, and received, is it. Hence the true knowledge of the Father as sending the Son is really the possession of eternal life. Hence He says, "Jesus Christ whom thou halt sent," because as so sent, He is "that eternal life which was with the Father," and the grace that brings it, is in His being sent. So at least I understand it.
(* " In John 17:33And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. (John 17:3), is it right to say, on the ground of the use of ἵνα, ' this is eternal life in order that they might know thee,' etc.
Is ἵνα used in order to lay stress upon the purpose, instead of using ὄτι to point merely to the fact?
Is Alford's note on the use of ἵνα in John 4:3434Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work. (John 4:34) right? "[Ινα is not equal to ὅτι. The latter would imply what was true (but not here expressed), that the absolute doing, etc., was His food: as it now stands it implies that it was His food to carry onward to completion that work.]
London,
May, 1872.