The Word–John 1:12-13 [7]

The Word–John 1:12-13 [7]

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” (NKJV)

Last week ended on a rather gloomy note where the Word was rejected by those that should have received him. Though many shut the door on Christ, some warmly embraced him and became children of God.

John’s prologue follows a chiasm [1] [2] where verses 12 and 13 form the fulcrum of the passage. This is what John has been driving at; it is his main point. The Word has stepped out of eternity, into time and has come so close to men, that they might accept him. Having received him they will know God as their Father. This is why the Lord said to Mary “I ascend unto my Father, and your Father” (Jn. 20:17). Paul sang in praise “Blessed (eulogised) be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph. 1:3). As children of God we enjoy a relationship with him that the Son has enjoyed eternally. Because of our union with Christ we are united to the Father. We could not be nearer for we are as near as Christ. This is life in its ultimate; life as it was meant to be.

New birth is all of grace, for it has been given to us by God. He has freely conferred the right and privilege of entering his family to anyone that will believe in his Son. “This (is not a) mere external position of honour, into which sovereignty might choose, so as to maintain by adoption family name and grandeur. It is a real communication of life and nature, a living birth-tie [3].” Whereas we were children of wrath and disobedience (Eph. 2:2-3), we are now children of God with divine life having been imparted to us.

This was all of grace and through “believing (faith) in his name” (YLT). There is a shade of difference between believing on his name and believing into his name. The first expresses reliance upon, the latter; union with. “The sense must be that the believer throws himself upon his Lord in loving, self-abandoning faith and trust [4]”. To believe in his name is to trust all that his name represents. It is to be linked with the divine, eternal, live-giving, soul-illuminating creator who has been revealed in the preceding verses; he alone can save.

Just as physical birth is not the choice of a new born, neither is spiritual birth (v 13). We see here that new birth is according to the sovereign choice of God.  

The Jews relied upon their links with Abraham, for salvation (Mt. 3:9) but John asserts that spiritual birth is not based upon physical descent. The Jews knew that the life of a being was in the blood (Lev. 17:11). However new birth is not based upon human ancestry and does not run in the veins; it is through a vital union with Christ and receiving divine life.

New birth is also excluded by the will of the flesh. Mankind cannot achieve it in his own strength. The natural man is bereft of the ability to get to God. The arm of flesh is weak and impotent to effect eternal life. The will of the flesh could never reach heaven; “no man hath ascended up to heaven” (Jn. 3:13). Instead we read “the Word was made flesh” in order that he might take us to God.

John has reminded us that new birth is not due to human descent, human ability, and now says it is not to due to human desire. Man, in himself does not have the willpower to get to God. Volitionally he is bankrupt. Paul spells out his hopeless condition saying “we all did walk once in the desires of our flesh, doing the wishes of the flesh and of the thoughts, and were by nature children of wrath” (Eph. 2:3, YLT). Our intellect, affections and will were all contrary to God, and enslaved to sin. We did not seek after God (Rom. 3:11). And in astounding mercy we have been born of God. Though we had no thoughts of him, he had eternal thoughts of us; “how precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them!” (Psa. 139:17). He has loved his own children with an everlasting love, and has chosen them in Christ before the foundation of the world (Eph.1:4).

 As we remember him this morning let us rise above our blessings, to the Blesser himself.

‘Abba Father. We adore Thee,
Humbly now our homage pay;
‘Tis Thy children’s bliss to know Thee,
Welcomed through the living way.’



[3] William Kelly, An Exposition of the Gospel of John, available at:

[4] Leon Morris quoting W. Turner in ‘The New International Commentary On The New Testament -The Gospel According To John’ (p.99)

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