John 12-13: But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
Some try to put the very things which verse 13 absolutely denies in the forefront here, with the argument of eloquently stating “See? You have to RECEIVE Him first!”
One might call this slightly superficial, but I’ll call it entirely superficial – it neither considers that which went before nor that which follows – it does not consider immediate context, or the complete context of redemptive History, and denies the sovereignty and freedom of God Almighty in such a shallow declaration.
So far, we have seen that the entire context is pointing to the fact that life is in the Son, who is the divine expression of the Father, and now, we will see that it is God who gives that new nature to those who receive Him, for it is spelled out plainly in verses 12-13, and this is another reason why context is an important consideration when dealing with the text.
It is true that those who receive Him – the true light, also identified as the Logos – are given the right, the privilege, the power, to become children of God – the word become signifies a change in state, a birthing process; however, to state that their receiving him is the condition upon which they become changed ignores both context and grammar.
The main verb is “he gave to them the right, or authority, or privilege,” so reception of that right is based on his freely giving that right to them, not on the fact that they receive it. Receiving it is thus seen to be a RESULT of it being given to them, and speaks of a completed action that has present results, done by the one giving the right. This type of examination of the text is usually not even gone into by most of today’s professing churches, or those who teach in those churches, and what they teach is generally accepted by those sitting and listening to them without examination.
Received is a completed action – that this is the meaning of the word in the immediate context, there can be no doubt, and since it is not the main verb, but he gave is, this reception is completely dependent upon that giving – the next verse leaves no doubt whatsoever that this is speaking of the free giving of God regarding that birthing process that is spiritual, for the language leaves no doubt, and no escape, from this fact.
In fact, I like to see John 1:12-13 as a summary of what the work of the Spirit is in John 3:3-8, for it is the exact same process that is being spoken of – the new birth of the dead in sin spirit.
The state they are in is received because he gave it to them, and now we learn it is a state they entered into as a babe enters the world – they are born into it. The state was not theirs, but it was given to them, and it was a birth, but a spiritual birth – a transformation of that spiritual aspect of man which is born dead, and so cannot have union, or fellowship, with God.
This birth cannot be the result of reception of anything from the natural birth, for that process is negated completely in verse 13 – not of blood; it also cannot have anything to do with the will of the flesh, or the will of man – whether or not one wants to see these last two phrases as being the same thing (which is a good way to look at them), or as referring to two different things (the will of the dead in sin nature, the will of man at any stage, by any man – which is not as good a way to look at them, but does not change the meaning), there is an inescapable conclusion: those who receive the right to be made into, or created, or become, sons of God, are not the world, and are not the Jewish nation, per se, but are those among these people groups to whom God specifically, and freely, gives that birth to, without any assistance on their own part.
The strongest expression of the negative is seen before each of the three phrases in the Greek: not, not even, not even – and to deny the meaning of these is not only terrible reading of the text, it is false reading of the text – when God uses such, we do well to pay attention.
As a result, in these two verses, we have the absolute declaration of God that there certainly are those who receive Jesus Christ as Lord, God and Savior, but it is not of their fallen volition, for they absolutely reject the expression and light of God in Jesus Christ – they must have a fundamental change wrought in them, and they are not only incapable, but completely unwilling, to do anything to bring about this basic and necessary change of themselves – it must be of God, and so verse 13 tells us, as does verse 12, it is of God.