To As Many As Received Him
Have you ever read John 1:12 carefully? I wish you would read it again with me.
John 1:12, But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: (John 1:12, KJV).
As I was growing up, I was taught that in order to become a child of God, I must accept Jesus as my personal savior, and John 1:12 was one of the most commonly used passages used to prove the point. Because I loved the old man who was the preacher, I never questioned his assertions. If Reverend Lee said it, it had to be right. One Sunday, when I was about twelve years old, I determined that I was going to become a Child of God and responded to the invitation. Reverend Lee put his arm around me, gave me a fatherly hug, and with tears in his eyes, asked me if I accepted Jesus as my personal savior. Tearing up with him I responded, "Yes, I do." Reverend Lee then told me, "Ney, because you have received Jesus into your heart, you are now a "Son of God." He then told me that in about three weeks we were going to have a "baptizing" and asked me if I wanted to be baptized at that time, to which I responded that I did. I never questioned the teaching I had been given, until I began some serious Bible study some twelve years later. Let's examine John 1:12 carefully and see what it really teaches.
First, what does it mean to "receive him?" While many might give us a long theological explanation, the verse itself says simply, "even to them that believe on his name." We can't argue with that. To "believe on the name of Jesus" is to "receive him." That is not too complicated, and we do not need someone with Doctorate of Theology to explain it.
Second, what happens when someone "receives Jesus?" Again, read the text carefully. I was told that when I believed in Jesus I became a son of God. Is that what the verse says? Again, it is not too hard to understand. It says that when a person receives Jesus, they were given the "power to become" the sons of God. Please, in your mind emphasize the phrase "power to become." There is a significant difference between having the power to do something and actually doing that thing.
Let me give you an illustration. In North Carolina, when a person turns sixteen, the state grants them the "power to become" licensed automobile drivers. Now just because they are sixteen, and have that power, does not automatically confer the privilege of driving upon them. There are certain conditions that must be met to realize that power.
They must take a "driver's education" course in high school.
They must pass the course.
They must pass the state written exam.
They must pass the state driving exam.
They must pay the state some cold hard cash for the privilege of driving.
After all of this, it might seem ridiculous to observe that they must also have a car to drive.
Then there is a probationary period during which they must have a fully licensed driver in the front seat while they are driving.
But when they turned sixteen, they had the "power to become" licensed drivers.
When a person believes in Jesus, they have "the power to become" a son of God,
but like the sixteen year old who wishes to become a licensed driver, there are
some conditions that the one who has received Jesus must meet. He must exercise
that power according to God's instructions in order to realize the potential of
Matthew 10:32-33, 32 Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. 33 But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven. (KJV).
Romans 10:9-10, 9 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. 10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. (KJV).
2 Peter 3:9, 9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. (KJV).
Hebrews 5:8-9, 8 Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; 9 And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him; (KJV).
Galatians 3:26-27, 26 For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. 27 For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. (KJV).
By Ney Rieber
From Expository Files 5.2; February 1998