Comments on John 1:12,13
From John: The book about Life, by Matthew R. Freije
Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, © Copyright The Lockman Foundation 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995. Used by permission.
But as many as received Him. The word receive implies more than merely accepting the value of Jesus' teaching. It indicates action, like extending your hand to take an object that someone is holding before you. The object, in this case, is Jesus. The Bible describes eternal life through Jesus as a gift:
Most religions--but not Christianity--are based on human performance. If one's performance is good enough, one will go to heaven or another desirable place after the earthly life, and will have a good life on earth. If performance is substandard, the person will be rejected by the higher being and go to hell or some other unpleasant place. Christianity, by contrast, teaches that no person is good enough to be accepted into God’s kingdom, and, therefore, we can be accepted by God only by God’s grace and mercy, which is possible through Jesus Christ.
Picture a court case. The prosecuting attorney contends that you are guilty of wrongdoing, making you unworthy of God's kingdom. You can plead guilty or innocent. Those who follow a performance-based religion are pleading innocent, indicating to the judge that they have lived a good enough life—based on the rules of their religion—to be worthy of entrance into heaven. Those who choose to trust Christ are pleading guilty, admitting that they are not worthy of God's kingdom based on their own "goodness." Thus Christians, pleading guilty, are asking for mercy; but religious persons, pleading innocent, are asking for judgment. The Judge judges those who plead innocent based on their deeds. Every one of them are pronounced guilty--because "all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God" (Rom 3:23)--and given the death penalty. For the Christians, however, who have pleaded guilty and asked for mercy through Jesus Christ, the Judge acknowledges that they committed deeds worthy of death, but sets them free. The Christians are guilty of wrongdoing and deserve the penalty, just as the others. But the Judge sets them free because someone else--the Judge's own Son--sat in the electric chair on their behalf. The Judge's Son took the death penalty for them. Although they are guilty, they receive mercy and are forgiven. In fact, the charges are completely erased from their record, having been nailed to the cross of Jesus Christ:
When a person receives Christ, he is admitting that he needs Christ for forgiveness and new life. He is pleading guilty, asking for mercy. He is accepting God's gift of eternal life.
Believing and receiving go hand in hand. One will not genuinely receive Jesus unless he truly believes that Jesus can be trusted with his life on earth and his eternal destiny. The Greek root of believe in 1:12 is pisteuo. Pisteuo belief amounts to more than intellectual acknowledgement of a fact. It is belief that involves a willingness to commit to, trust in, or follow someone. Parents may say that they believe what is said about a babysitter's qualifications, but will not leave their children with her unless they really believe (pisteuo) in her. An engineer may believe that a board straddled between two tall beams is strong enough to hold her weight, but walking across the board will demonstrate pisteuo belief in the board's strength. To believe (pisteuo) Jesus is to walk across the board. Jesus asked the disciples to follow Him. He did not tell them where He was going. He did not try to convince them that their lives would be easy or glamorous. He just said, "follow Me." You have to really trust (pisteuo) someone to put everything aside and follow him.
Everybody trusts in something or someone for answers to the big questions in life: Where did I come from? Why am I here? How I can I have a meaningful and content life filled with joy and happiness? What will happen to me after I die--can I do anything about it? People put their trust either in someone else, God, themselves, the government, or things. The important faith factor is not the amount of faith that one has, but the validity of the object of the faith. The engineer who walked on the board straddled between two tall beams will either be secure on the board or fall to her death. The outcome will depend, not on the amount of faith that the engineer has in the board, but on the object of her faith--the board. If the board is strong enough, she will live. If it isn't, she will die.
The word believe (or believes) is found 69 times in the book of John. John wants the readers of his book to entrust their lives to Christ! For this reason he provided much evidence that Jesus Christ is one and equal with God, and the only way to new and eternal life. John clearly states the purpose of his book:
As you continue reading through the book of John, ask God to reveal truth to you. Tell Him that you do not want to be deceived into trusting in the wrong person or thing. Ask Him to clarify whether or not you should entrust your life to Jesus Christ.
Some people find it difficult to believe just how simple it is to become a Christian. There is nothing we can do to earn forgiveness and new life through Christ. One can only receive the gift from God and thank Him for it. Do not be deceived into thinking that, before you entrust yourself to Christ, you need to clean up your life, give up certain habits, give money, give time, come to a better understanding of the Bible, or perform acts of service. None of these things will help you be a Christian. Christ, and only Christ, makes a person a Christian.
To entrust yourself to Christ, simply tell God, in prayer, that you choose to place your faith in Jesus Christ to receive forgiveness and life. Tell God that you want Him to be in charge of your life from this point forward. Here's a sample prayer:
To them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name. Those who receive Jesus and believe in His name (power, rank, authority, majesty) are born into God's family. Think of it as adoption. A young boy could not walk into the office of a powerful king or president--he would be stopped by guards. But if the king were to adopt the boy as his own son, he would have full access to the king at any time. The boy would have access to the king, not because of anything the boy did, but because of what the king did. He has access to the king because of who he is--the king's child--not because of his performance. What's more, the king's guards would become the boy's guards. The king's servants would become the boy's servants. The boy enters in to the king's power and glory because he is a son.
Similarly, one who receives Christ has full access to God because of Christ. We become empowered with the Life of Christ. We are now children of the King-- the King's heirs. We have inherited the Spirit of the life of Christ Jesus:
This is a supernatural spiritual birth. No person can earn it. No person deserves it. It is not of blood, as with physical birth—it is a spiritual birth. It is not by the will of the flesh—it cannot be obtained through self discipline or a diligent effort to adhere to a set of religious rules. Nor is it by the will of man—nobody becomes a child of God by the decision of a church committee, by participating in a religious ceremony, or by following church traditions. It is a work of God. It is entirely God’s doing:
Although spiritual birth is brought about by God, rather than by man, each of us must decide either to accept or reject Jesus Christ. This may seem confusing—that spiritual birth is all God’s doing, yet we are given the freedom to decide for or against Jesus. Be assured, and comforted, that God wants you to know Him. He wants you to receive Christ and be born into His family: