13. A Holy Life: Christian Deification

Go East Young Man

The Orthodox Study Bible that is published by Nelson has a wonderful notation in the Letter to the Ephesians under chapter one on this subject. “Everything comes from God and everything should be drawn back to Him. God’s original intent for the Incarnation was not redemption from the fall (original sin) but adoption as children of God, that is, deification. For when the God contemplated creating the world, He planned on bringing it into union with Himself through the Incarnation of His Son, that is, through the Son’s union with human nature.” [1]

Now that we have introduced the subject let is explore what deification is. The words of the Orthodox Study Bible are correct, the intent for the Incarnation was not redemption from the Fall of Adam but deification. The theology of Christian deification is an ancient principle that is still a living concept of the fabric of the Byzantine Christians. Among some Protestants deification is known as “Sanctification.” In Christian deification one becomes like God, but not God. From the book of Genesis, we receive the foundation for the theology of deification, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness.” [2] In other words, if God was a star, we would not become the star, but the glowing brightness of the star. Therefore, Christian deification is not the end of a processes, it is the process itself; a journey toward the presence of the Living God (the further we go the more we glow). In the Book, “My Utmost For His Highest,” Reverend Oswald Chambers describes sanctification (deification) in this way, “Sanctification means to be intensely focused on God’s point of view. It means to secure and to keep all the strength of our body, soul, and spirit for God’s purpose alone.” Robert Gromacki said this about sanctification, “Progressive sanctification is the process by which he can be set apart from a sinful walk to a holy practice.”

Augustine: Great Man – Wrong Ideas

Ever since Saint Augustine developed the Christian Doctrine of Original Sin (a.k.a. The Doctrine of the Depravity of Human Nature) western Christianity has had to deal with what he wrote. However, from the Ascension of Christ to the writings of Augustine the Councils of the Church never formally accepted or even seriously entertained the thought of such a doctrine. Today, the Byzantine Christians still have not accepted Doctrine of Original Sin by Augustine and think of it as liberal western theology.

Nonetheless, the early Church fully and completely understood the meaning of depravity; that is – corrupt acts and practices. These transgressions are centered in human beings misusing their God given gift of Free Will and choosing to separate themselves from the Holy by making wrong choices and therefore rebelling against God. While Free Will can be at the center of human rebellion, it does not change the fact that we are born with original purity and created in the image of the Holy and thus we are filled with the inward and spiritual grace of God.

A Personal Relationship with the Holy

Our own personal deification continues to develop and grow as we draw nearer to God and this relationship deepens our spiritual life as well as our relationship with God and all that God has created. At the heart of our relationship with God is the love that God has for humanity and for all that God has created. Moreover, this Holy Love is the first and greatest Sacred Mystery that humankind can experience daily. Love is the center point of God, and from this point came our pure creation in the image of God. The Almighty God is the lover of our souls and desires us to move into a deeper relationship with us. God does not desire to be separated from us and always wants us to return to the warm and embracing hold that only the Holy One can offer humankind.

Here, O Israel: LORD is our God, LORD is One! You shall love LORD your God with all your heart, and with your soul, and with all your strength [3] and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” [4] It is through our relationship with our God that our relationships with our neighbors can begin. It is in our relationship with God that we grow and develop our humanity. It is our relationship with God that we become more knowledgeable of whom we are as individuals. And it is through our relationship with God that we receive and share the seen and unseen Sacred graces and blessings from God. With a focus on committing our whole being to loving God, our neighbor, and living a moral life, we gain more and more insight to what purpose that God has in mind for us, in addition, as the purpose becomes clearer, we will know both our mission and the ministry that will serve as the vehicle for the purpose. This insight will come through our prayerful meditations and our devotion to our relationship with God.

A key objective of |Judaism| is the sanctification of life. Every moment ought to be suffused with the awareness of God and with moral fervor.  Basic Judaism by Rabbi Milton Steinberg.

Scriptural Reflections on the Christian Deification

Genesis 1:26: “Let us make humankind in our image, after our likeness.

Matthew 5:48: Therefore, you should be prefect, just as your Father who is in heaven is perfect.

John 1:132: As many as received him, to them he gave authority to become the children of God.

James 1:4: Let patience have her perfect work, that you may be perfect and whole, wanting nothing.

According as his divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that has called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given to us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these you might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the moral corruption that is in the world through lust.

And besides this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue add knowledge; And to knowledge add temperance; and to temperance add patience; and to patience add godliness; And to godliness add family kindness; and to kindness add charity.

2 Peter 1:3-7: For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that you shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

1 John 2:5: Whosoever keeps God’s word, in them truly is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that are in God.

Written by Dave Pflueger March 1999 © copyrighted by Pflueger

FOOTNOTE: [1] The Orthodox Study Bible – Commentary on chapter one of Ephesians. [2] Genesis 1:26. [3] Deuteronomy 6:4. [4] Leviticus 19:18


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