• Denny Skochko

The Patristic Theology of Theosis Reflected in the Teaching of the Apostle Paul

By Denny Skochko


Introduction to Theosis

In Peter’s first epistle, we find a peculiar text that raises some questions. Peter writes, “He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust” (2 Peter 1:4). These words of Peter are both full of glory and mystery. He speaks of the promises that are granted to the believers, yet states that through these promises believers are made partakers of the divine nature. What does it mean to be a partaker of the divine nature? In addition to this quandary, the writings of Paul speak of how Christ is in us and we are in Christ. What does it mean for the God-man to be in us and us in Him? As one theologian answered, Christ became man, so that man can become god.[1] These words of Athanasius are either famous or infamous, depending how one chooses to interpret the statement For one group, this rings of pantheism or may possibly sound similar to Mormonism.[2] Yet for another group of believers, the words of Athanasius describe not pantheism but an essential element of the Gospel and the Christian religion.


Eastern theologians have placed great emphasis on this partaking of the divine nature and union with Christ, also known as theosis or deification. For the Eastern theologians, theosis is one of the vital reasons why Christ had to be the God-man. While theosis may seem like a strange idea, one of the founders of the Reformed tradition supported it! In his commentary on the Peter passage, Calvin speaks of deification as one of the blessings of the Christian salvation.[3] In the words of Carl Moser, theosis does not belong to a secluded group but it is a truly ecumenical doctrine. The doctrine of theosis is not only found in the classic text of Peter, but also found in various fashion in the writings of Paul. This paper will strive to provide a brief history of theosis in the church, examine the texts of Paul that highlight this doctrine, and finally provide some brief concluding thoughts on the doctrine.


Survey of Theosis in the Early Patristics

Before going further, it is important to provide a small historical look into this doctrine and working definitions that will help frame the discussion. There are different understandings and models of theosis, which can make the discussion rather difficult. However, based on various readings, there is a common theme. Theosis is how human beings are brought to be more like God by participating in a union with Christ, who lives in both a glorified human and divine life. A historical survey can give a view how this has been understood and explained by early Christian writers.


When examining the Pre-Nicene writers, what is found is that while the exact vocabulary of theosis is not always used, the substance of it is present. Ignatius of Antioch speaks of how Christians are predestined for an unchangeable glory and this is through imitation of and participation with Christ.[4] He often connects this through suffering for Christ and life in the Church. While he emphasizes imitating Christ, Ignatius also speaks of how one receives new life by the blood of God and imitating or obeying God is made a natural part of their lives. There is a real and ontological change made in the Christian. They are sharers in God and bear God’s presence in their life.[5] None of this is done abstractly; rather it is always centered on Christ. It is because the Son became man, lived, died, and now lives for the Christian that he now enjoys and participates in the gifts of eternal life. In other words, Christ is for us and in us.[6]


Some of the early apologist teach the same idea as Ignatius. Justin Martyr writes of how God made man like Himself, without suffering and death, and it is by sin that man has lost these godlike attributes. It is through faith in Christ Jesus that the Christian then receives the gift of incorruption and immortality. What man loses in sin, Christ restores in His ministry. Redemption restores what man did have and could have, if sin were not to occur. Justin Martyr looks at Psalm 81:6 to speak of how the Christian can become gods by receiving the gifts of immortality and adoption as the son of the Highest.[7] Again, while the term theosis is not used, Justin is pointing to the idea of partaking of God through Christ Jesus. Other men, such as Tatian, repeat this theme of the restoration of the intended end for humanity through union with God. Man’s true essence is to participate in the divine attributes, not in death and privation through sin.[8]


Irenaeus, often regarded as one of the first if not the first theologians of the church, also writes of the idea of theosis. Irenaeus writes, “If the Word is made man, it is that men might become gods.”[9] The theology of Irenaeus can be summarized by the term recapitulation and a contrast between Adam and Christ.[10] What Adam lost, Christ retrieves, redeems, and confers to His people. Jordan Cooper comments how for Irenaeus, one of the worst aspects of the fall is the reality that all face death. Whereas God made man to live, and not just to live alone but in communion and sharing life with God, Adam lost that life and brought death. Christ came to restore and confer both physical and spiritual life to those who believe.[11] The incarnation of Christ was necessary to lift fallen humanity out of death and corruption and toward eternal life and incorruption. The incarnation also reveals God himself and not just a vision or abstract natures. Salvation is not just an elevation of abstract natures but a personal encounter with the personal God revealed in Jesus.[12] Irenaeus repeats the theme of adoption of earlier writers in these discussions. Along with these incarnational themes, Irenaeus does note the need of the cross and Christ taking on the debt of sin that fallen humanity owe toward God. Flowing from his recapitulation emphasis, Christ had to die in our place so that He may pay a ransom not to Satan but to God. In order for there to be any union with God, the forgiveness of sin is necessary.[13] Along with the incarnation and the cross, Christ also had to be resurrected for our sake. The resurrection is not just a demonstration that the work of the cross is completed, but it elevates the human estate. All those who are united to Christ will receive an elevated state in their resurrection, sharing and participating in the resurrected life that Christ now enjoys. This last quote gives a helpful summary of Irenaeus’ view of what later writers refer to theosis,

“the Lord… has redeemed us through His own blood, giving His soul for our souls, and His flesh for our flesh, and has also poured out the Spirit of the Father for the union and communion of God and man, imparting indeed God to men by means of the Spirit, and, on the other hand, attaching man to God by His own incarnation, and bestowing upon us at His coming immortality durably and truly, by means of communion with God.”[14]

In light of early writers, it should not be surprising when Athanasius writes his famous dictum. His view of soteriology is in many ways an expansion and reiteration of what Irenaeus taught. As J.N.D. Kelly points out, the theme in Athanasius is that Christ came to restore the divine image in man but also to free him from sin’s curse by sacrificing Himself.[15] No one could restore corrupted beings toward incorruption, except He who is incorruptible and made all things in the beginning. Kelly notes how Athanasius connects theosis with adoption by the Spirit, incorruption, and life eternal. This can only be applied and experienced by the special union with Christ by the Spirit.[16] Along with this theosis theme and like Irenaeus, Athanasius does take note of the fittingness and necessity of Christ sacrificing Himself to free sinners from sin, their transgressions, and death.[17]


Without going into all the many other Eastern and Western theologians who use the language of theosis and themes involved with it, the above survey suffices to show that this is not a despicable pantheism but rather an emphasis on an important aspect of Christ’s work. Christ must be both God and man to save fallen humanity, by lifting fallen humanity up by grace toward glory and immortality through partaking of the divine life. As Nick Needham observes in his volumes on church history, the language of theosis, deification, deifying man, becoming god or gods, or whatever other similar language in the early Patristics did not involve the idea that mankind are gods by nature or actually and truly partake of God’s essence. Rather, it was understood to mean that through the Christian’s union with Christ, they become partakers of the glory and immortality of God. In Needham’s view, this early formulation of theosis is in many ways equivalent to the Western notion of sanctification and glorification.[18] Carl Mosser adds another detail that also clears some of the fog in the terms used by the early Patristics. When the terms connected to theos/theoi are used, they can have a broad semantic range. The words can be used as an attributive term.[19] In an English parallel, one could look at the landscape of a sunset or a beautiful work of art and describe it as divine. One is not literally proclaiming either a god but that it has such a beautiful and majestic characteristic to it analogically. When the early Patristics speak of Christians being deified, they were not confusing the creator-creature distinction. Rather, they were emphasizing that the attributes that God has by nature, Christians obtain in Christ. In the words of Mosser, “A fully redeemed human being is truly theos, but derivatively, not in the absolute sense that the one God and Creator of all things is.”[20]


This brief survey should suffice for a general historical understanding of theosis as it was used in the early church. Later Easter writers will not be examined at this time, as there is a shift in the emphasis of theosis that occurs. While it is debated whether it is a true development in the doctrine or simply further explications of what was implicit before, it cannot be denied that such a shift did occur. Mosser gives a brief summary of the shift. First, the focus of theosis turns toward the individual believer and their need to attain such a union (hence, more synergistic). Secondly, there is a greater usage of Neoplatonic terms and ideas with theosis. Thirdly, there is an emphasis given to the cosmic result of deification. Finally, theosis becomes ever more associated with mysticism.[21]


Theosis Is Rooted in Paul’s Doctrine of Mystical Union

Salvation should not be regarded as solely a forensic declaration, an external ethical, or about the community. False dichotomies are often made and the above should not be opposed against each other, but rather they complement each other. This is the case with forensic declaration of righteousness and a biblical form of theosis. As seen in the various aspects found in the formulation of theosis found in the brief historical overview, salvation is focused toward a real change in man and not just a change of an ethical system. There are many passages of Paul that point to this real change in man. It should be noted that in Paul, this real change (moving from a state of sin, death, corruption, etc. toward holiness, life, incorruption, etc.) is not happening in a vacuum or merely in an ethical manner but entirely in connection with Christ. This is seen the example of Paul’s argument in Galatians 2. In the midst of his reasoning that righteousness comes through faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, Paul adds this mystery[22] to the topic,

For through the Law I died to the Law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. (Galatians 2:19–20)

Paul brings out a mysterious and mystical element to this discussion. What does Paul mean when he speaks of himself being crucified with Christ? How is Paul no longer living, but Christ lives in him? Moreover, what is the connection of the current life he now lives in the flesh to Christ?


Without veering off too far into this subject, what is revealed here is the federal and mystical union between the Christian and Christ. This mystical union is of grace alone and by the Spirit. It is the special presence and indwelling of the Triune God with the believer and it is in the reality of this union that the person is regenerated, believes and is justified, sanctified, and ultimately glorified. This union does not happen in the abstract but all in the reality and person of Christ. It is because Christ is the God-man, and he completes his work of incarnation, obedience, death, resurrection and glory that the elect of God are blessed.[23] In the text of Paul above, he is not speaking of a symbolic union or a union of identity[24] (though certainly there is a symbolic element). Rather, Paul here speaks of the real union with Christ and this real union is spiritually enacted by grace. When using the word real, what is meant is that it is not imaginary or cognitively made. Rather, a true and actual reality that occurs for all believers. The qualification of that this real union is spiritual is important, for it is not a carnal or physical union with Christ (lest we be subsumed in Christ in a bizarre way) nor is it a natural union (which again would imply some form of pantheism) but rather it is spiritual and of grace. It is not something that we can earn or achieve, like how one may study to gain intelligence or do physical activities to gain strength. Rather, it is solely spiritual and solely by the grace of God.


William Perkins is helpful in showing this doctrine of the mystical union. When Paul speaks of how he has been crucified with Christ, there are two parts to this.[25] The first is that Christ stood as the head of the Covenant of Grace and thus did not simply live for himself but was the federal head of his people. Yet this is not all. Secondly, there is a donation or giving of Christ and his benefits to the converted sinner. They not only receive him as their federal head, but also truly and indeed do receive Christ himself. The believer has the spiritual union with the Lord and thus receive the fruits of his life. In relation to the cross, believers federally and spiritually receive from Christ the twin benefits of justification from all sins and mortification of all sins.[26] Francis Turretin, in his discussion of the perseverance of the saints, bases perseverance in the reality of merit and efficacy of Christ. Romans 8:32 speaks of how God did not spare his Son but delivered him up for us and in light of this he will give us all things. It is noted that the greatest gifts is that the believer is united to Christ and that Galatians 2:20 teaches we live because Christ lives in us![27] The last two verses of Romans 8 further confirms the truth that nothing can dissolve this union of love between Christ and his people and 1 Corinthians 6:17 testifies to this union when it states, “But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him.”[28]


On one side, there is a sense that believers have died to the law federally through Christ. He has taken the debt of sin and nailed to the cross (Col. 2:13-14). On the other side, there is a sense in which the believers have their old nature mortified and a newness of life given through Christ (Col. 2:13). This explains why Paul can speak of himself being crucified with Christ and no longer living but Christ living in Him. Christ is the root (federally and mystically) and we are the vines that are united to him. This union produces new life, new disposition, new desires, and new fruits. It should be noted that Paul states that he is still in the flesh but does not live by the flesh. Believers still live in the flesh but now have a new inner principle who vivifies and directs the souls of the believers, which in turn dictate and direct the flesh.[29] William Perkins confirms this understanding of how Christ lives in us in three main points. Firstly, Christ with the Father and the Holy Ghost is the author of life. He must also be the root of life, as He has life in Himself that He may convey it to all that believe in Him. Secondly, we must be united to Christ if we are to receive life from Him and Him living in us. Thirdly, He must further communicate Himself unto us before we can live in Him and Him in us. He gives His flesh and blood and thus his benefits. Christ does this by sending forth His Spirit. The Holy Spirit unites and imparts Christ to the believer in three manners. Firstly, the Holy Spirit imputes Christ’s perfect righteousness to the believer and the right of eternal life. Secondly, in virtue of Christ’s resurrection, the Holy Spirit imparts the power of vivification to the believer that they may produce the fruits of eternal life and live in Christ (in other words, this can be called a spiritual resurrection). Lastly, as Romans 8:11 testifies, the Holy Spirit who raised and lives in Christ will resurrect our bodies unto eternal glory and life.[30] The Triune Lord dwells and lives with His people and they commune and enjoy His life. This, in summary, is the doctrine of the mystical union.


Restoration & Elevation of Image-Bearers as Theosis in Paul

This understanding of our union with Christ by the grace of the Spirit is vitally important. It is in light of this mystical union that various aspects of theosis (becoming like or being conformed to God) is established in Paul’s theology. The effects and blessings of theosis can be summarized as the restoration and elevation of elect sinful image-bearers to their promised telos through Christ. This restoration and elevation involves the analogical participation of the divine nature through Christ Jesus. It can be seen in the Adam-Christ parallels, Paul’s language and theme of renovation, our adoption as God’s sons, being moved from one glory to another, and the beatific vision.[31]


One of Paul’s overarching doctrines is the parallel between the headship of Adam and Jesus Christ.[32] Scripture teaches that Adam was the head of the covenant that God placed upon him in Garden of Eden. At its core, the Adamic covenant promised eternal life for Adam’s obedience to the Lord.[33] Having failed to do so, the Lord enacted a curse upon Adam and his prosperity. Paul describes the curse saying, “Just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned” (Rom. 5:12). Whereas God gave Adam life (1 Cor. 15:45), Adam brought death through his sin. Paul earlier writes that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23). All have fallen short of the glory of God and this is most especially seen and done by the actions of Adam’s disobedience. Adam is the first man who fell short. However, what is this glory of God? One way to understand it is the eschatological glory that God has promised to Adam.[34] If this is the case, then one of the blessings of Christ’s covenantal obedience is that He has obtained that glory and we now wait for the day when we can experience the full consummation of it (Rom. 5:1-2).[35] The rest of Romans 5 further shows the connection between the forensic act and reward promised. Romans 5:10 tells of how we have been reconciled by Christ’s death and now shall be saved by His life. If the act of sin did not obtain the glory of God but rather brought death, then the act of righteousness in Christ obtains the glory and brings forth life (Rom. 5:17 & 21).


In light of this Adam-Christ parallel. Those who are in Christ are not left in the state of sin and death but have been reconciled and are being renovated. Romans 6-8 speaks to this in many ways. Romans 6:1-4 tell us that we have participated in the death of Christ and now are being brought to walk in the newness of life through Christ, who was raised by the glory of the Father. In Paul’s letter to the Colossian church, he tells them of their union and life with Christ and how they are to be renewed or renovated according to who God is. Believers are to put away anger, malice, immorality, evil desires and exchange them for hearts of compassion, humility, gentleness, patience, and much more (Col. 3:1-17; Eph. 2:10;15). It is because we have been united to Christ that we no longer walk in dead works but good fruits of the Spirit. Coming back to chapter 8 of Romans, Paul connects the union with the work of the Spirit. Romans 8:9-11 tells us that the Spirit indwells the believer and if the Spirit of God had raised Christ, so He will give life to the believer. In the famous text of the golden chain of redemption, Paul notes something peculiar. He notes that those who are predestined are not done so in a vacuum, but rather in conformity to the image of Christ.


What is Christ’s image? It is his humanity being perfectly conformed to the prototype of that image, which is the divine life of the Three Persons. The Triune Lord lives in glory, in divine holiness, divine incorruptible life, divine power, divine righteousness, etc. So now Christ lives and rules in glory. There is a connection between the believers being conformed to the image of Christ and participating in the glory of God. This is why Paul focuses on the need to bear fruits of the Spirit. Believers are not simply justified but are also becoming like their heavenly Father. They are adopted children of God (Rom. 8:14-17, Gal. 4:5-7, Heb. 2:10-18). All three of the passages related to adoption reveal that believers are children of God, not by nature like Christ, but rather by adoption through Him by the Spirit. This adoption again repeats the theme of renovation, as children are like their parents. So the believers, being adopted children, are being brought to be like their Father. Not only that but they are heirs of glory, whom Christ is the firstborn and first fruit of this glory that He now enjoys. What the Son has by nature, we participate by grace.


Other passages speak to this exchange, renovation, and elevation of the believers. Paul writes that believers are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory (2 Cor. 3:18). This transformation is seen in image-bearers being conformed to God (most especially in holiness and love). This participation in the glory of God is also finally seen in the eschatological consummation of the believers, as shown in 1 Corinthians 15. There is too much to unpack in this passage but here are some of the summary points to grab. In verses 34-44, Paul defends the resurrection and reveals several mysteries of it. All things have a glory that is fitting and proper to them, the stars have their glory, the sun has its own, the moon as well, and so on. The body we have now has its own glory yet will be transformed to another sort of glory. In the language of Paul, he speaks of the natural body and the spiritual body. He then writes that, “So also it is written, “The first MAN, Adam, BECAME A LIVING SOUL.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit” (1 Cor. 15:45). It is through Christ’s resurrection, ascension, and current glorified life that the believers will be transformed from one glory to another. Paul further states the wonderful blessings enjoyed at this great and awesome eschatological event. Believers will become incorruptible and immortality and enjoy victory with Christ over death (1 Cor. 15:50-57)! In addition to this, Paul writes that while we see the glory of God like in a dimly mirror, there will come the day when we will know Him face to face, experiencing the beatific vision where we will know Him as He knows us (1 Cor. 13:12-13)!


Thus, if there is a doctrine of theosis in Paul, it is shown in the combined doctrines of the mystical union believers enjoy with Christ. It is in this union that they receive Christ spiritually and enjoy His presence, life, and benefits that He imparts. Not only that, but believers also enjoy the presence of the divine and holy Trinity and thus participating with the divine life as the Father pours out His love through His Son by the Spirit to the believers.


Conclusion

As the doctrine has been explored in the early patristics and most especially in the text of Paul, it becomes clear that theosis is not a foreign doctrine but is embedded into the soteriological and eschatological teaching of Paul. If Paul’s doctrine of theosis is to be summarized, it be can be found in the Protestant language of sanctification and glorification.[36] The benefit of the language of theosis or deification is that it puts the God-centeredness of in the forefront. It is all in relation to becoming like God. It is no wonder why John Calvin dares to use the language of deification; it is the telos or goal for the Christian. As seen in Paul’s theology, Christ came to undo the act of Adam and to bring mankind to their eschatological goal, to be like God! The Christian’s desire is to be with God, to be like God, and to live for God!


It is at this point that an important remark should be made. While the brief survey of the Patristics showed their usage and meaning of the idea of theosis, there is several dangers involving the term. First, there has been development of the term in modern Eastern Orthodox theology that orthodox Protestants would not be comfortable affirming. Second, it should be obvious that the translation of theosis as deification does entail much baggage in the West. Even though some Western theologians have used the term, many have avoided it and have preferred terms such as Christification.[37] Ryan McGraw notes that Petrus van Mastricht described the term deification as dangerous and even possibly blasphemous.[38] How should modern orthodox Protestants approach this? In light of the baggage and warnings of older theologians, it is probably best either to avoid a translation such as deification and stick to the term theosis or the already recognized terms of sanctification and glorification. If one were to do the latter, it should always be taught in connection to Christ and God working through Him. Believers should understand that sanctification and glorification is not experienced in a vacuum but every moment in direct relation to Christ! Rather than being a doctrine that heavy and unwieldy, the preacher ought to show the great glory the Christian has the privilege to experience! Believers are becoming like their Lord and He is living with them! This was the desire of Paul, that every Christian be presented ready before the Lord.


To qualify the term participation, what is meant is that believers participate in the divine life and nature analogically. In other words, just as God is divinely holy, incorruptible, immortal, blessed, powerful, righteous, etc., so the believers are and will become holy, incorruptible, blessed, immortal, etc. in a creaturely manner. What God is by nature, we will be by grace. As Turretin explains it, we will participate in God in the sense that our qualities (wisdom, holiness, etc.) will be brought to their creaturely perfection and elevation. Thus, this participation is not a merging of the Creator and creature but the eschatological creaturely potentiality being brought to their fullest actuality.[39] Along with this, there will be the union of God and His people. This union is not a intermixing or confusion of natures, but God will be present with His people in such a mystical and mysterious way that they will enjoy God in the most wonderful and blessed way. There is the natural telos of man (to know God from the “outside”) and the supernatural telos (to know God from the “inside”). God does and will dwell with His people in such a deep manner, so that the love that He has will be enjoyed by His people in the New Heavens and New Earth. There is an area of mystery that will never be understood until the reality come to fulfill the promise.


What are some of the practical benefits of this study? There are several that can be listed. One is to show the connection between all the various doctrines of salvation, eschatology, Christ, & theology proper in Paul. While Paul is often seen as the Apostle of Justification, one cannot limit Paul to that alone but must see this important doctrine in the context of God’s work of redeeming and renovating a people for Himself, so that they may be like Him. Another benefit is to see how these various teachings in Paul (and the other apostles) shaped and form the thinking of the early Patristics. While they may occasionally state things that may be unclear or unhelpful, it is clear that they understood what the Apostle was teaching. They saw the great connection between the incarnation, salvation, and eschatology. This is why they fought and defended the doctrine that Christ is the God-man. Lastly, recognizing that the Christian’s eschatological telos is to be like God in all His perfections and living with Him, it should be the desire of all believers to daily meditate on the wonderful attributes of the Lord and pray that the Lord will renovate them to be like Him. One excellent example of this is found in volume 2 of Petrus van Mastricht’s Theoretical-Practical Theology. After dealing with the exegetical, dogmatic, and elenctic parts of theology, van Mastricht gives a practical part. The God’s divine simplicity, immutability, omnipresence, eternality, immortality, intellect, knowledge, wisdom, truthfulness, will, goodness, love, grace, mercy, holiness, power, and glory all have a practical application. In the example of God’s eternity, van Mastricht shows how it should rouse us to celebrate God’s eternity, show us the vanity of all things, give solace in the trials of all sorts of evils, to draw us away from sin, and to give us zeal for the promised eternal blessedness.[40] The doctrine of theosis, as seen in Paul’s teaching, brings the believer to seek to analogically participate in the Lord’s divine nature and life because “from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen” (Romans 11:36).




[1] Robert V. Rakestraw, “Becoming like God: An Evangelical Doctrine of Theosis.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 40:2 (1997), 257.


[2] Nick Needham, The Age of the Early Church Fathers, vol. 1 of 2000 Years of Christ’s Power (Scotland: Christian Focus Publications Ltd, 2016), 226-228 & 409.

[3] John Calvin, Commentaries on the Catholic Epistles. Translated by John Owen. 1855. Accessed November 20, 2019. https://ccel.org/ccel/calvin/calcom45/calcom45.vii.ii.i.html. Calvin also alludes to it in his discussion of the resurrection in The Institutes of the Christian Religion. Edited by John T. NcNeill and translated by Ford Lewis Battles, (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2006), III.xxv.10.


[4] Jordan Cooper. Christification: A Lutheran Approach to Theosis, Wipf & Stock: 2014. Kindle, 73.


[5] Ibid, 75.


[6] Ibid, 77.


[7] Ibid, 80.


[8] Ibid, 82.


[9] Daniel B Clendenin, “Partakers of Divinity: The Orthodox Doctrine of Theosis.” Journal of Evangelical Theological Society 37:3 (1994), 371.


[10] J.N.D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines. 5th ed. (New York: HarperOne, 1978), 170-174.


[11] Cooper, Christification, 87.


[12] Ibid, 87-89.


[13] Ibid, 93-97.


[14] Irenaeus. Against Heresies 6.1.1 (ANF 1.527). as quoted in Robert V. Rakestraw, “Becoming like God: An Evangelical Doctrine of Theosis.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 40:2 (1997), 259.


[15] Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines, 377.


[16] Ibid, 378-79.


[17] Ibid, 380.

[18] Needham, The Age of the Early Church Fathers, 409.

[19] Carl Mosser, “Deification: A Truly Ecumenical Concept.” Perspectives: A Journal of Reformed Thought 30:4 (2015), 9.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Ibid, 11.

[22] Mystery not in the sense of an unknowable thing but rather in the sense of a truth revealed that we partially know and experience but do not fully comprehend.

[23] Richard Muller, Dictionary of Latin and Greek Theological Terms: Drawn Principally from Protestant Scholastic Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House Company, 2017), 376.

[24] As in, a merging of our personhood into Christ.

[25] William Perkins, Commentary on Galatians, vol. 2 of The Works of William Perkins. (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2015), 132.

[26] Ibid, 133.

[27] Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, trans. George Musgrave Giger, ed. James T Dennison Jr. (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing Company, 1994), II: 599-600.

[28] Ibid, II: 600-601.

[29] Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on Galatians. Translated by Fr. Fabian R. Larcher and edited by The Aquinas Institute. 1991. accessed May 30, 2020. https://aquinas.cc/la/en/~Gal.C2.L6

[30] Perkins, Commentary on Galatians, 135-136.

[31] The following examination will not try to completely isolate these elements from each other, as they are interrelated to each other and all flow together to produce forth the doctrine of theosis.

[32] This paper will not go into all the various debates regarding the covenant of works. For such discussions and presentation of the covenant of works, check Richard Barcellos’ Getting the Garden Right, Sam Renihan’s The Mystery of Christ: His Covenant & His Kingdom, and other similar titles from a reformed perspective.

[33] 1689 XI:1 & Sam Renihan, The Mystery of Christ, His Covenant, and His Kingdom. (Cape Coral, Florida: Founders Press, 2019), 65-68

[34] Leon Morris, The Epistle to the Romans. (Grand Rapids, Mich.; Leicester, England: W.B. Eerdmans; Inter-Varsity Press, 1988. Logos).

[35] Richard C. Barcellos, Getting the Garden Right: Adam’s Work and God’s Rest in Light of Christ. (Cape Coral, Florida: Founders Press, 2017), 70-74.

[36] Muller helpfully describes the two in the following manner. Sanctification involves the actual change in the person that is the renewal and renovation of the person in the image of God. This renovation is both negative and positive. Negatively, it involves the problem of the Old Adam and sin. Positively, it is the renewal of the person by being made actually holy and by the grace of the Holy Spirit, they cooperate in the renewal of life and good works (pg. 318-319) Glorification is described as the final stage of salvation in which the believer is eschatologically brought from the conditions of this life to the eternal blessedness, happiness, and glory (pg. 140). This participation of eternal life involves the beatific vision, removal of all sin, its consequences, and imperfection of our current earthly mode of being, and positively involves the complete renewal and perfecting of our inner and outer being, which involves incorruption, beauty, no lack of strength, and fellowship with God forever along with the heavenly beings (pg. 395).

[37] Cooper, Christification, 14-18.

[38] Ryan M. McGraw, John Owen: Trajectories in Reformed Orthodox Theology. (USA: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017), 16-17.

[39] Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, III: 617-621.


[40] Petrus Van Mastricht, Faith in the Triune God, vol. 2 of Theoretical-Practical Theology (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2019), 225-228.



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