“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,” [John 1:12]
Has anyone ever quoted this verse to you in an effort to prove once-and-for-all that, in order for God to give anyone eternal life, they must first receive Him out of their own free will? I certainly have heard this verse used almost as much as John 3:16. Like most other verses, they can convincingly be made to mean almost anything when they are secluded from the rest of the text. Let’s go through the first 13 verses of John chapter 1, and see if John 1:12 really means what it is said to mean by so many professing Christians.
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
2 He was in the beginning with God.
3 All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.
4 In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men.
5 The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.
The first 5 verses speak of Jesus Christ. He is the Word (“Logos”, or logic, knowledge, doctrine), and the eternally existent God (verse 1). He created everything that exists (verse 3). Life can be found in Christ through His propitiatory work on the cross for the sins of sinful men. Those who are in darkness (unsaved) don’t comprehend those who are in the Light (saved).
6 There came a man sent from God, whose name was John.
7 He came as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe through him.
8 He was not the Light, but he came to testify about the Light.
This is speaking of John the Baptist, the forerunner of Jesus Christ. He was the one out in the wilderness, foretold by the prophets, that would proclaim the Lord’s coming. He wasn’t the Light (Jesus Christ), but testified about the Light.
9 There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man.
Christ is the true Light that came into the world that has enlightened every man. Obviously, Christ hasn’t enlightened every single individual since it can be plainly observed that men are dying in their sin, hating God. Instead, this means to say every type of man – both Jew and Gentile.
10 He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him.
11 He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him.
Although He created everything, humanity didn’t know Him. This is to say that, in their natural sinfulness, they are hostile to God. They are children of wrath (Ephesians 2:3), unless the Lord should save them. He came to His own, the Jews, and they rejected Him. This was obviously no surprise to Christ, as this was the plan (Acts 4:27-28).
12 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,
All of those who received Christ had been adopted into the family of God. This doesn’t mention any teaching about the free will of men. It is just an obvious statement – Those who received Christ are 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.
Verse 13 fills it all in for us. Ironically, not too many people finish off verse 12 the way the Bible does. When we read verse 13, the reason they leave it out becomes very clear. Those who received Christ are born again. How have they been born again? Not by blood. Not by the WILL of the flesh. Not by the WILL of man. But, by the WILL of God. In other words, they had nothing to do with their birth, just like they and everyone else had nothing to do with their physical births.
If anyone throws John 1:12 in your face, just ask them to finish the sentence – and read verse 13.