Receive & Believe
But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. John 1:12-13
For the last couple of years, Christmas season has been a time when I have pondered my earthly adoption. I’m not sure why, except that as I process my faith in light of my heavenly adoption, Christmas seems like the appropriate time to ponder both.
Understanding--and accepting--my earthly adoption has been a process. While I have always been grateful for the security of the home I was raised in compared to what it could have been like, I did not always understand the sacrifice--as well as the love and commitment--that came from my Forever Dad saying yes to me. You see, all adoption stories start off with trauma on the child’s end, no matter how joyously they are received. I saw my adoption through that lens of pain for over 30 years.
Our adoption as children of God starts off in the same way--pain and heartbreak. Sin--falling short of God and thus being separated from Him--is the initial tragedy that starts the story of adoption.
Where our verses last week focused on Jesus as unknown and unreceived, this week’s verses talk about something quite the opposite. Something quite amazing! This week our verses talk about the reception, belief and subsequent re-birth as children of God.
Building off of the end of verse 11, John uses the same term--receive--to begin verse 12, thus comparing Jesus’ own people who did not receive him with those who did.
“Receive him implies not merely intellectual agreement with some facts about Jesus but also welcoming and submitting to him in a personal relationship,” says the ESV Study Bible notes on John 1:12-13.
Where Jesus’ own people did not agree with, welcome, or submit to Him, John tells us there ARE those who do. And this is truly good news.
Furthering his point, John adds another verb to the mix--believed. In this one verse, we read that those who receive also believe in the name of Jesus.
“Believed in implies personal trust,” states the ESV notes.
The combination of the two words--receive and believe--precedes becoming members of God’s family via adoption.
Just like I had no part in making my earthly adoption happen, humans aren’t made believers by their own will either.
The second part of verse 12 specifically states, “he gave the right to become children of God.” He gave the right. Verse 13 goes on to say that our re-birth has nothing to do with the blood, will of the flesh, or the will of man. Instead, becoming children of God is “but of God.”
“[Verse 13] makes clear that neither physical birth nor ethnic descent nor human effort can make people children of God, but only God’s supernatural work,” says the ESV notes.
Jesus is the only way to be reborn as a child of God. We must receive Jesus and believe in who He is--all of Him--to be reborn. Nothing of human will can produce adoption as God’s child. And, as someone who struggles with affirmation and fear of rejection (a couple ramifications of my own trauma), knowing that I cannot earn my own re-birth as a child of God is beautiful news!
May those who have received and believed know with clarity that we are the children of God--not by a failing human power--but by an unfailing, never-weakening strength of God.
More in this series:
the WORD Eternal
the LIFE & LIGHT
the Un-Neutral Heart
Unknown & Unreceived
- English Standard Version (ESV) Study Bible
- Guzik, David. Study Guide for John 1. (Blue Letter Bible)
- The New Bible Commentary: Revised. Edited by Guthrie, Motyer, Stibbs, Wiseman.
- Wiersbe, Warren. Commentary on John.