The right to become children of God

Incipit Page of the Gospel of John.
The incipit page from the Gospel of John (Image by peterjr1961 via Flickr)

“Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.”

John 1:12-13
This is a beautiful passage from the beginning of John’s gospel, that says that all who believe in Jesus, all who accept him and trust in him, have the right to become a child of God, and accept all the inheritance that comes with that, to receive God’s care and protection.

This NIV translation has some interesting changes in verse 13. The NRSV translation of verse 13 reads “who were born, not of blood, or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.” They both use the plural, “who were” or “children” as opposed to the singular “who was” which some old translations have. The singular implies that it is only Jesus that this passage is talking about, where as the plural implies that it is talking about everyone that accepts and believes in Jesus. But the next part, skipping the “not of blood” with the NIV translating that as being “not of natural descent” is a nicer translation, if not entirely correct, but it does reduce the chance of confusion. E.C. Hoskyns in his book The Fourth Gospel writes “The Evangelist cannot write that the Christians were not born of blood (singular), because their birth does in fact depend upon a death which later he describes as involving the outpouring of blood.” This depends on whether you believe that salvation comes through the death of Christ, or as this verse seems to imply only through belief in his name. Note that one does not discredit the other, it is all in which way your beliefs take you.

There are many who would say that belief that doesn’t include salvation through the cross makes you not a “real” Christian. To them, I would give this verse, “to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” Personally, I believe that Christ died to forgive our sins as an amazing act of grace. He did this for all the children of God, all those who believe in his name.


  1. I would posit that the phrase “believe in His name” refers to having faith in Christ, and that “faith in Christ” mean trusting in Him for our salvation through his atoning work on he cross, as expressed by the doctrine “by grace, through faith”. So to all that believe that Jesus is our hope for salvation, they are given the right to be called children of God. So I suppose I wouldn’t consider an either/or proposition, but an expression of the same thing. Thoughts?

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