“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

But . . . . 

No matter that when He Who was the true Light came unto His own, that is, His own things,—His own inheritance, His own temple, His own altars, His own service, His own sacrifices, His own feasts, His own covenant, yea, His own world,—no matter that His own people, Israel, received Him not. No matter that they rejected Him, from the beginning were minded to kill Him, and finally nailed Him to the accursed tree! His own received Him not. But . . . 

There were those who received Him! There was a remnant from among Israel. And there was a remnant from among all nations of men. They received Him,—Him, the Light, the Life, the eternal Word! And in them the wonder of grace was revealed. For to them He gave power to become children of God! 

Wonderful power! Unspeakably blessed privilege! Glorious position! 

Sons of God! 

Nay, His rejection by His own did not mean, could not mean, that the cause of Christ went down to defeat. He is the Word. He is the way, the truth, and the life! God’s Word cannot be made ineffective! Nor is the fact that He is rejected by some and received by a few to be explained as though He is dependent upon men, as though He is a poor beggar, who humbly and kindly seeks a listening ear, and awaits the inclination of men to receive Him. For if it were left to mere men, natural men, to receive Him, He would never be received by any. The darkness cannot comprehend the light! 

But as there is sovereign election and sovereign reprobation, so there is a humbling and a hardening process, and thus there are those who receive Him and those who reject Him, and so there is eternal weal and eternal woe!

Children of God . . . . 

Sometimes the Scriptures employ a term which lays the stress on the legal aspect of our sonship and our adoption. But frequently they also use a term, as here, which emphasizes the spiritual, ethical side of our sonship, which points to the fact of our being begotten, or born, of God. In general, the idea of this child-father relationship is that of likeness: the son is like his father, bears the image of his father. And this is also the idea of Scripture here and in many other places. To be God’s children is to be like Him! Thus we read in John’s first epistle: “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God . . . Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when it shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.” 

Children of God! 

What bliss beyond compare! 

No, the expression does not refer to an essential likeness. There is but one God; and there is none beside Him. To be like Him does not mean that we shall ever be sovereign and independent and eternal and unchangeable as He is. It does not even mean that we shall possess the ethical attributes of righteousness and holiness as He possesses them, in Himself and independently and infinitely. In that sense we shall never be or become like God. It was in that sense that the tempter deceived our first parents in the garden. But in the sense of essential likeness there is but one Son, the only begotten, who is God Himself, in whom dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. And for us to be called sons of God can only mean that we are called after the name of that only begotten Son, and that we become conformed to the image of His Son, the Word that was made flesh, and in whom is revealed the glory of the Father. But then the essential difference will ever remain. He is the creator; and we shall be forever the creatures of His hand. He is God; we are men. He is the fountain; and from that fountain we can only drink the blessings of salvation. He is the life; and from Him we ever receive and enjoy life. He is the light; and it is only in His light that we see light. He is the giver; we the receivers. He abides eternally the only adorable God before whom we can only bow in worshipful reverence! 

But all this does not detract in the least from the wonder that God has children, children who are like Him. Ever do the Scriptures teach us that ours is a most excellent position, a glorious calling! It implies that in a creaturely measure we reflect His image, partake of the divine nature, live His life, show forth the virtues of the most high. It means that we reflect His holiness, His righteousness, His goodness, His purity, that we know Him, that we walk with Him and talk with Him, that we dwell in His house, that we are the objects of His Fatherly love, that we taste all His blessings, that we enjoy His most intimate communion! Children we are, who belong in Father’s house, and who shall dwell forever in His tabernacle!

Yes, and it means too that we are children, not after the similitude of Adam, but conformed to the image of His Son! Children, not on the level of the earthy, but on the level of the heavenly! Children, not who can be corrupted and fall, but children incorruptible! Children, not who can lose their life, but children immortal! Children, not who can fall from their excellent position, but children who shall abide in Father’s heavenly house and know the blessedness of His fellowship and love forevermore! 

O, to be and to become such children of God more and more . . . . 

What incomparable blessedness!

Power . . . . 

Power to become children of God! 

In eternity we become the sons of God, by sovereign and unchangeable election. For He “predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will.” And, “whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.” And surely, this is the fountain and cause, of every saving good, of all the blessings of being children of God! That eternal adoption the Lord God also realizes in time, legally, through the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is on the basis of the perfect righteousness of Christ, established in the cross, and sealed in the resurrection, that God legally adopts us for His children and heirs. Our adoption papers, as it were, are made out in the blood of Christ. There, in Golgotha’s cross, we are purchased out of the power of sin and death to be God’s children. And there we obtain all the rights of sons. And the Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God, and therefore heirs,—heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ. 

But our Father in heaven not only legally adopts us. He does what no earthly and human father can ever do when he adopts a child. He makes us like unto Himself. He be Wets us, causes us to be born again, born from above, born with new and heavenly and everlasting life! And thus His divine purpose, that we should be conformed to the image of his Son, we, who are by nature and according to our birth children of the devil, is realized! Children of God! 

Yet the text speaks of becoming sons of God, and of the power, or right, to become sons of God. Not only so, but it speaks of those becoming the sons of God who are already His children: they were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God! And to be sure, only those who are the children of God can ever receive Christ and believe on His Name! Nevertheless, there was a sense in which they still were in need of power to become sons of God and in which they could, even though they were already sons, still receive power to become sons. And the same is true of us today. 

Historically speaking, these words refer to those who, lived at the time of the sojourn of Christ upon earth, first of all. It was the time when, sojourning among men, in the years 1 to 33 A.D., He came unto His own things, and when His own people rejected Him, while the remnant received Him. Those who received Him were surely already the children of God. But they were children of God in the old dispensation. And there was a difference. Christ had not come, and had not as yet fulfilled the law. The Spirit was not yet poured out,—the Spirit of Sonship. Their right to be sons was not yet established. They had everything by promise. Yes, they were sons, but as minor children. And they were treated as servants: they were under the law. But as soon as Christ came, and they received Him, the Son of God in the flesh, they became sons in the full sense of the word principally. They were no more under tutors and governors, no more treated as servants. But as free sons, who have reached the age of majority, they received actually all the rights and privileges of children of God. Through the blood of the cross their right to become God’s children was established once and for all. And that right they received. For the Spirit of His Son was poured out in their hearts. And that Spirit witnessed with their Spirit that they were the children of God, and caused them to know and to express their sonship in the cry, Abba, Father! 

Also of us, however, it is true that while we are sons, we still can become sons of God! 

That is true, first of all, in the sense that that small beginning of sonship becomes ever more consciously ours: we grow, and must grow, in sonship and in the consciousness of sonship. We become more the children of God, and less the children of the devil, according as the small beginning of the life of Christ, our elder Brother, more and more dominates our entire life. And secondly, there still awaits us the perfect realization of our sonship through the wonder of the resurrection from the dead, when finally, as the apostle John writes, we shall be like Him, shall see Him as He is, face to face. We are the children of God . . . . but it doth not yet appear what we shall be. Still we are bound to the earth, to the dust. Still we are like Him only in principle, while there is much imperfection. We see Him! but only in a glass, darkly. We know Him, but only from a letter, the Holy Scriptures. And we long to be fully His children, to be completely like Him, to be delivered from all that still causes us not to be like Him, and from all that still separates us from His Father-heart! 

But for that blessing we need the power, the right

We need it not only once, but constantly! 

For God our Father is righteous! 

He loves and blesses the righteous, and He hates and curses the wicked! 

And therefore, not everyone is, or can be, a child of God! There is no peace, saith my God, for the wicked! 

And we who are elect, but wicked by nature, and still wicked according to our old man of sin: need the right to become His children. That right is possible only on the basis of perfect righteousness, according to the standard of His own holy law, and according to the judgment of His own mouth. He Himself must declare us worthy of becoming His children! And we must hear His own Word before we can ever be assured of our sonship! 

That right is established in the cross of His Son. And subjectively, to be sure, it becomes ours principally once and for all when by His Spirit and Word He calls us out of darkness into His light, and witnesses with our Spirit that we are His Sons. Then we receive the title, the deed, to the eternal inheritance. 

But as we hope to become sons perfectly in His day, and as we seek grace daily to become conformed to the image of His Son, we need constantly to receive that right! We sin, and we need the forgiveness of sins. We need to hear from God Himself, constantly, day in and day out: “My son, my daughter, thy sins are forgiven thee!” 

The blessed right to become the children of God!

That gift of the right to become sons of God,—and a free gift it is, and always remains,—is only in Christ, God’s Son in the flesh! 

It is in Him, because He is the Son by eternal divine right! It is in Him because, having assumed the flesh and blood of the children, He atoned and fully satisfied for all our sins! It is in Him too, because He alone can and does bestow that right, according to the standard of election, upon all those for whom He died, by His Spirit and Word! He, the Christ of God, is our righteousness! 

To receive Christ, therefore, is to receive the right to sonship! 

And to receive Him means that you believe into His Name, that by faith,—the faith which is God’s own gift to you, efficaciously wrought,—you strike your roots ever more deeply into Him, and live out of Him, and constantly find in Him the sure right to become perfect sons! 

Then we have hope,—the hope of our heavenly home with Father!