"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: Which 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
These verses caught my eye last week. As I read through the Bible, I am consistently amazed at just how much information is contained in just a few short sentences, particularly in the New Testament. Take Jude, for example - there are 25 verses in the entire book, and I know that I could preach a four part series on the first three verses alone. That's how much gets packed into those first three verses.
The first chapter of the gospel of John is the same way. There is a ton of theology, doctrine, and amazing revelation poured into that chapter. Let's take a look at just these two verses, and you'll see what I mean.
I. "But as many as received him..."
Consider the phrase "as many as". What follows is contingent upon accepting Christ. It isn't someone else's decision, not even God's - it's yours. Anyone who cared to receive Christ, experienced the consequences of that reception. That reception is a matter of faith, receiving him for who he was, the promised Messiah. Most of all, Jesus Christ was definitely a him, not an it. He is described as the living Word earlier in the chapter, and here is described as an individual person. Jesus was God made flesh, and we need to relate to Him and receive Him as a living person, not as a spirit, a thing, or an unknowable entity.
II. "... to them gave he the power to become the sons of God..."
This living Word, this person, this Jesus - he had both the right and the ability to make a specific grant grant of power: the power to become a son of God. The term "power" is a Greek work that can be used to mean privilege, liberty, or right. Those who received Jesus did not gain the potential to become the sons of God; instead, they gained the privilege and right to become the children (sons) of God (Romans 8:15).
III. "...even to them that believe on his name"
This phrase tells us that there is a very specific way to receive Jesus Christ - you have to believe on His name. Jesus' name - His reputation, His authority, His character - are the only way by which we can be saved (Acts 4:12).
Believing means having faith in something, or trusting in the truth of something. You have faith in Jesus' name (reputation, authority, character). You can have all the faith that you want, but unless you put that faith in something, it's useless; and unless you put that faith in Jesus, it's unprofitable. The purpose of that faith is to accept Jesus so we can be reconciled with God. We are sinners, at enmity with God. (Romans 8:7), and the only way we can become sons of God is if we are first reconciled with the Father (Ephesians 2:16). This reconciliation is only possible through Jesus; He is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6)
IV. "Which were born..."
Here, John gets to the gist of the matter: how salvation works, and how it doesn't work. He starts off with three negative examples, telling us what salvation isn't. His introduction in the previous sentence - receiving Jesus based on his name - lays the foundation, and this verse tells us what we should avoid adding to that foundation, no matter how much we're tempted.
First off, he tells us that salvation is not a matter of who you are ("not of blood"). Your family, your nationality, your race - none of that matters to God, and it is not enough to save you.
Secondly, salvation is not a matter of what you do ("nor of the will of the flesh"). No matter what we do, we can't measure up to God's standard of righteousness (Romans 3:23). If we try, we will always fall short.
Thirdly, salvation is not a matter of what others do ("nor of the will of man"). No other man, organization, or other earthly entity can declare you to be saved or unsaved. No other human being in all the world knows the state of your relationship with Jesus Christ except you; and no other human being can establish or disestablish that relationship for you.
Finally, John tells us what salvation is - it is a matter of god ("but of God.") It is God alone who can save (Jonah 2:9). But it is the receiving of Jesus that grants the privilege of salvation by becoming a member of God's family. The conclusion has to be, then, that if God alone can save, and salvation is only accomplished through Jesus... then, obviously, Jesus must be God.
All in all, some pretty amazing stuff. The simplicity of salvation, the certainty of receiving Christ, the adoption of sons, the denial of person, works and organized religion as a means of salvation, and finally, three words that make it obvious that our Savior isn't just a man of God, but is God himself. Wow.