Born of God: The Miracle of Spiritual Birth in John 1:12-13

In this profound exposition of John 1:12-13, we uncover the sovereign, transformative work of God in granting us the right to become His children - a truth that humbles us, exalts His grace, and secures our eternal destiny.


Justin Hoke

4/26/20242 min read

a path leading to a path leading through a grassy field
a path leading to a path leading through a grassy field

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, 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 1:12-13, NKJV)

These verses come in the context of John's prologue, where he is introducing the eternal Word, who is the light and life of men. In verse 11, we see that Christ came to His own (the Jews), but they did not receive Him. However, the story doesn't end there. In verses 12-13, John turns his attention to those who did receive Christ.

The phrase "as many as received Him" is a universal statement, open to all, Jews and Gentiles alike. The word "received" (ἔλαβον - elabon) implies a deliberate and personal acceptance. It's not merely intellectual assent, but a welcoming of Christ into one's life.

To these individuals, Christ gives the "right" (ἐξουσίαν - exousian) to become children of God. This word can also be translated as "power" or "authority." It's a legal term, indicating a legitimate claim. It's not that they merely have the potential to become children of God, but they have the right to do so because it has been granted by Christ Himself.

This right is given to those who "believe in His name." The word "believe" (πιστεύουσιν - pisteuousin) is in the present tense, indicating continuous action. It's not a one-time event, but an ongoing trust in Christ. The phrase "in His name" indicates the object of this faith - it's not a general belief, but a specific trust in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

Verse 13 then clarifies how this new birth as children of God takes place. It is not by blood (οὐκ ἐξ αἱμάτων - ouk ex haimaton), meaning it's not by physical descent or lineage. It's not by the will of the flesh (οὐδὲ ἐκ θελήματος σαρκὸς - oude ek thelematos sarkos), meaning it's not by human effort or decision. And it's not by the will of man (οὐδὲ ἐκ θελήματος ἀνδρὸς - oude ek thelematos andros), meaning it's not by the choice or determination of another person.

Instead, this new birth is "of God" (ἀλλ' ἐκ θεοῦ - all' ek theou). It is a sovereign, supernatural work of God. Just as our physical birth is not something we choose or accomplish, so our spiritual birth is entirely the work of God.

This is a profound truth that humbles us and exalts God's grace. We are not children of God by our own merit, effort, or choice. It is God who grants us the right to be His children when we receive and believe in Christ. As the apostle Paul writes in Ephesians 2:8-9, "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast."

This truth should fill us with gratitude and assurance. Our salvation, from start to finish, is the work of God. He has chosen us, called us, and given us the right to be His children. And if it is God's work, then it is a work that cannot fail or be undone. As Paul writes in Philippians 1:6, "Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.

For Further Study
The Gospel according to John by D.A. Carson
John: An Expositional Commentary by R.C. Sproul
Expository Thoughts on the Gospel of John by J.C. Ryle