“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.”
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.
He who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces, but he on whom it falls will be crushed.
Matthew 21:44 (NIV)
I’d never heard this verse before, but it really stood out today for me. Just before this, Jesus has quoted Psalm 118:22-23 and told the parable of the tenants. It’s obvious in the parable that the land owner is God, and the son is Jesus. Likewise the stone that the builders rejected is Jesus. He has become the cornerstone that is marvellous in our eyes.
The contrast in verse 44 stood out to me. “He who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces” When you fall at the foot of the cross, when you come to Jesus, he will break you into pieces. He will break down the wall that we have constructed, and he will start to work in our lives through the broken pieces.
“But he on whom it falls will be crushed.” Jesus is warning the chief priests and the Pharisees that the only way to God is through him. Whoever doesn’t come to God through Jesus will be crushed by the cornerstone when Judgement comes.
So what do we do by knowing this? We go to the cross, allow ourselves to be broken and allow Jesus to build our lives into one that will produce fruit for the kingdom of heaven.
God is patient, God is kind. God does not envy, God does not boast, God is not proud. God does not dishonour others, God is not self-seeking, God is not easily angered, God keeps no record of wrongs. God does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. God always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. God never fails.
1 Corinthians 13:4-8a (NIV, Paraphrased by me)
I love this passage, especially with this paraphrasing. I preached on this passage last year at a youth service. The basic premise of it was that God is Love, and when we look at the passage above in that light, we see what God’s love for us is like. God is patient – he will wait our entire lives if necessary to share in the joy of us accepting him as our Lord. God always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. But the most hope-filled verse comes right at the end: God never fails.
When you trust in God, and fully rely on God, how can you not be full of hope, because you believe, just like I do, that God never fails. He can do the impossible, and the improbable, and the unexpected. How can anyone be filled with anything other than hope when they know that?
I acknowledge that I live and work on land for which the Whadjuk Noongar people are the traditional owners and custodians. I pay my respects to elders past, present and emerging. I also respect any Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples from other lands.