Theosis – Definition
Theosis means “the condition or the state of deity” and “the deification of man.” The Bible teaches that only God is divine. However, theosis is also the state of being divinized in character through a transformative process whose goal is likeness to God or oneness with Him.
The concept of theosis was stressed by the Eastern Orthodox Christian theology as the main purpose of man. Byzantine Christians consider that “no one who does not follow the path of union with God can be a theologian” in the true sense. Consequently, theology in Byzantine Christianity is not based mainly on academic training. Instead, it is built on applied truth in life. Therefore, they conclude that the main evidence of a genuine theologian is seen in his holy life rather than his intellectual training, which is more stressed in the Latin Catholic theology.
You Shall Be Perfect
In the sermon on the Mount, Christ said to His followers, “Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). With this call to be divinized, Christ concluded His six illustrations of the higher, spiritual application of the law of the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:21–47). And He taught that it is the heart motives that decide perfection of character, and not the external works alone. For a person may look on the external appearance but God looks on the heart (1 Samuel 16:7).
The word “perfect” (Gr. Teleios) means one who has reached the goal. Perfection (Teleioi) is also used in the New Testament to denote physically and intellectually “mature” men (1 Corinthians 14:20). Paul speaks of “them that are perfect” (1 Corinthians 2:6) and of “as many as be perfect” (Philippians 3:15). At the same time, he teaches that there are new goals to gain and that he himself has not reached the ultimate perfection. Therefore, we can conclude that Christ does not here deal with absolute sinlessness in this life because sanctification is a progressive work.
The Jews at Christ’s time, were working hard to become righteous by their own deeds. But in their legalism, they gave much attention to the small details of the letter of the law and they lost sight fully of its spirit (Matthew 23:23). In the Sermon on the Mount, Christ tried to turn their focus away from the husks to the wheat. For they had made the law an end in itself, and had lost sight of its purpose which is ultimate love for God and man (Matthew 22:34–40; Exodus 20:3-17).
Partakers of the Divine Nature
Following the example of Christ, Peter stressed the same message of being divinized or resemble God in character (Theosis). He wrote, “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” (2 Peter 1:4).
The word “divine” (Gr. theios), in 2 Peter 1:4, refers to God’s nature. The Lord created Adam in His image (Genesis 1:27). But when sin entered, the divine image was ruined. Christ came to restore that which was ruined, and the believer may therefore with God’s grace strive to restore God’s image in his life (2 Corinthians 3:18; Hebrews 3:14).
This goal should stir the believer to claim perfect Christ-likeness. He will reach this goal to the degree that he accepts and uses the powers that are made available to Him through God’s spiritual gifts. This change of character begins at the new birth and continues until the second coming of Christ through the process of sanctification (1 John 3:2).
Thus, the Christian is not saved in sin but from sin. He is given power to forsake and overcome sin, to flee from its bondage and its defiling effect (Matthew 1:21). Christ came that He might loose the bonds, open the prison doors, and deliver the captives from the sentence of death (Isaiah 61:1; Romans 7:24, 25). He came, not only to save man from sins he actually committed, but from his tendencies to sin (Romans 7:23–5; 1 John 1:7, 9). He came to redeem man from “all iniquity” (Titus 2:14).
In His service,