Christianity Today: Keeping the End in View
...As evangelicals, we know how to answer the question, "Are you saved?": If we have believed in Jesus Christ, we are saved—right there, right then.
Sometimes, though, the way we talk about salvation makes it sound like little more than a get-out-of-hell-free card. With our emphasis on what sinners like ourselves are saved from, do we know what we are saved for? Is salvation solely about us and our need to be forgiven and born again, or is there a deeper, God-ward purpose?
The leaders of the ancient church thought so, speaking regularly of salvation in a way that may sound strange to many evangelicals, but which Wesley alluded to in some of his hymns. In particular, they envisioned salvation as theosis, an ongoing process by which God's people become increasingly "partakers of the divine nature" (2 Pet. 1:4), formed more and more in God's likeness. As the 2nd-century theologian Irenaeus urged in Against Heresies, "Through his transcendent love, our Lord Jesus Christ became what we are, that he might make us to be what he is." The great 4th-century defender of Jesus' divinity, Athanasius, put it even more forcefully: "[God] became man, that man might become god."
Though unfamiliar to most of us, this way of thinking strongly influenced John Wesley's own view of sanctification and was embraced by C. S. Lewis, who in Mere Christianity wrote, "God said that we were 'gods' and he is going to make good his words." This continues to be the basic understanding of salvation within Eastern Christianity. Also called "divinization" or "deification," it plays off of Jesus' words in John 10:34 ("Is it not written in your Law, 'I have said you are gods'?" as quoted by Lewis above) and several other key biblical passages. ...