PASTOR'S PEN: It’s God’s work, not ours.

By Pastor Robert Sponable

Lake Community Bible Church

In our morning services we have been looking at the “comings” of Jesus Christ. His first coming is historical. This is when He came as king of the Jews and the lamb of God which we celebrate at Christmas. His next two comings are in the future: the rapture of the church (when He comes to meet His bride, the church, in the air, and take her home) and lastly, His coming to earth with His saints at the end of the tribulation (when God’s wrath is poured out on the earth) to set up His kingdom.

In all of our study about these events, the Bible clearly makes a distinction between those who are God’s Children and those are not. In the first chapter of John we read: "He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even 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," (John 1:11-13).

As we approach Easter, a time when we are reminded of our savior’s death, burial and resurrection, may we never forget it is through faith alone, by God’s grace alone, in the risen Christ alone, that we have forgiveness of our sin, receive God’s gift of eternal life and are made children of God.

In some ways John 1:11 is one of the saddest verses in the Bible. The eternal word (logos) went to His own home, but He had no welcome. Jesus went to His own people, the nation Israel, but they as a whole rejected Him. In rejecting Him, they refused to accept Him as God’s promised deliverer for mankind (Gen. 3:15). Isaiah spoke long before of this Jewish national unbelief: “Who has believed our message?” (Isa. 53:1)

That unbelief, however, was not universal. Verse 12 reveals how some received Jesus’ universal invitation, and to all who accepted Jesus as the revealer of the Father’s will and as the sacrifice for sin, He gave the right to become children of God. The word “right” (exousian) is a better rendering than the word “power,” because the Greek word used expresses “right’ or “authority”, rather than “power” or “ability”. Those who receive Jesus, the word, receive full authority to claim the exalted title of "God's children”. People are not naturally children of God but can become so by receiving the gift of the new birth (Eph. 2:8-10).

“As many as received Him … to those who believe in His name.” The second phrase describes the first. To receive Him who is the word of God means to acknowledge His claims, place one's faith in Him, and thereby yield allegiance to Him.

It is the privilege of all who, by faith, have put their trust in the lord Jesus Christ, to be able to say on the authority of God’s Word, that they are children of God.

But also, may we not miss the clear teaching of verse 13 that reminds us of three ways it is impossible to become God’s children.

  1. The new birth does not come by natural descent (lit., “of bloods”). I’ve spoken with some people that are convinced they are God’s child through the faith of their parents or some other godly blood relative. In love, I remind them that God has only children, not grandchildren.
  2. Nor is it the result of a human decision (lit., “the will of the flesh,” i.e., the natural human desire). You can’t make yourself a child of God by doing certain “Christian” things. God declares “He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit,” (Tit 3:5).
  3. Nor is it the result of someone’s will. The birth of a child of God is not a natural birth, and no one else can make someone a child of God. It is a supernatural work of God in regeneration. A person welcomes Jesus and responds in faith and obedience to Him, but the mysterious work of the Holy Spirit is “the cause” of regeneration (John 3:5-8).

Jesus came, lived a perfect sinless life, voluntarily went to the cross (Jn 10:17-18), died, was buried and rose again. That is the good news (gospel), that is the power of God unto salvation (Rom 1:16). All those who receive the risen savior as their personal savior are God’s children!