“He came unto his own, and they that were his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he the right to become children of God, even to them that believe on his name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:11-13).
When John wrote these words, the qualifying phrase “but as many as received him” tells that while the vast majority of Jesus’ nation rejected Him, there were a few who were “his own” who did receive Him. The rulers and Pharisees had a “strangle hold” on those of their class. When officers were sent by them to take Jesus into custody, the multitudes of the common people were gathered around Him, preventing the officers from immediately seizing Him. This compelled them to listen to His “words of grace,” and by listening, a transformation came to the officers. They returned to the authorities who sent them without Jesus in their custody. The authorities asked, “Why did ye not bring him?” and the officers replied, “Never man so spake” (Jn. 7:32, 45). The Pharisees said, “Are ye also led astray? Hath any of the rulers believed on him, or the Pharisees? But this multitudes that knoweth not the law is accursed” (Jn. 7:47-48). Nicodemus was the exception, but what was one, two, or three against so many?
To those who received Him, Jesus gave “the right to become children of God.” Faith is the access by which one becomes a child of God. Paul wrote, “For ye are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:26). In his Roman letter the apostle said of Christ “through whom we have had our access by faith, into this grace wherein we stand” (Rom. 5:2).
Yet for those who did receive Him (those who believed on His name), more was involved than belief for “nevertheless, even of the rulers, many believed on him, but because of the Pharisees they would not confess it, lest they should be put out of the synagogue for they loved the glory that is of men more than the glory that is of God” (Jn. 12:42-43). These rulers believed on Jesus but they did not receive Him. Faith is the foundation for, but not the only element involved, in ”receiving Jesus.”
Those who did receive Jesus were “born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man” (Jn. 1:13). There were many who trusted their relationship to God because they were physically descended from Abraham. John the Baptist warned his nation that such confidence was vain and such thinking was flawed. He said, “Think not to say within yourselves, we have Abraham to your father, for I say unto you that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham” (Matt. 3:9). Ishmael was Abraham’s first son and those who were descendants of Ishmael could say, just as the Jews said, “We have Abraham to our father.” Certainly those who had Esau as their ancestor could make the same claim as the Jew, yet which Jew was willing to acknowledge that their claim made them equal heirs of Abraham as they who were born of Jacob’s seed? True children of Abraham are those who belong to Christ: “And if ye are Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, heirs according to promise” (Gal. 3:29).
Those who “received Christ” and to whom Christ gave right to become a son of God “were not born of the will of the flesh.” Men may alter the course of their lives and they may amend their ways, but it is not within any man to become a son of God, nor does he become such by the will of other men. Man, for all his cunning and craftiness, has no ability to make another a son of God.
Those who were (are) given the right to become sons of God are “born of God” (Jn. 1:13). They are “born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, through the word of God which liveth and abideth forever” (1 Pet. 1:23). James wrote, “Of his own will he begat us by the word of truth” (Jam. 1:18). It is the word through which we are begotten again. There is the quickening of a new creature by the word, just as there is quickening of life in seed, when or whether sown in a field, forest, or living creature. In the parable of the sower Jesus explained, “Now the parable is this, the seed is the word of God” (Lk. 8:11). David said, “This is my comfort in my affliction. Thy word hath quickened me” (Psa. 119:150).
Without faith man cannot please God (Heb. 11:6). Faith is the foundation that validates all acts of obedience in becoming God’s child, for there can be no true repentance when there is no faith, just as there can be no true confession of faith in Christ. When there is no faith in Christ, baptism is meaningless. After Paul had written, “Ye are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus,” he added “for as many of you as were baptized into Christ did put on Christ” (Gal. 3:27). Faith validates our baptism as well. Added to these things is the fact that faith validates our growth in Christ. Peter urged “and besides all this, adding to your faith, virtue …” (2 Pet. 1:5).
Truly “and to as many as received him, to them gave he the right to become sons of God, even them that believe on his name.”