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.
Although as a people, the nation of Israel did not receive or believe Him, there were those who, in childlike faith, understood who He was. They believed in Him, and their belief gave them the power (the right) to become children of God.
It is interesting to me that John chooses the picture of a child in this passage. Perhaps that is because childlike faith is pure, simple, and unquestioning. I was only five when I prayed with my Sunday school teacher after class in the basement of the First Baptist Church in Fairmont, Minnesota. A very long time ago—67 years! I understood clearly that I was a sinner. I believed that Jesus died for my sin and rose again so that I could go to heaven when I died, and be with Him forever.
Of course I didn’t understand all there was to know about God at the age of five. Now I’m 72, and I still don’t comprehend His amazing grace, love, holiness, forgiveness. . . .it’s a long list. But I believe it. I’ve seen Him work in my life and in the lives of family members over and over. I’m so thankful that I trusted Him as a small child, and grew up in a home where He was honored. I’ve attended some good churches where the pastor and the people loved God and loved each other, and reached out to the community. I’ve been so blessed!
I believe verse 13 holds the first mention in this book of being “born” into relationship with God. Being born again is a major theme of the book of John. This verse makes it clear that it has nothing to do with human reproduction, or the will of man. It is, rather, and act of God that regenerates our hearts and minds and leads us to a new life in Christ.
To receive is simply to believe. When we truly believe in Him, then we have received Him into our hears and lives. The word for child, tekna, is similar in meaning to the Scottish bairns, born ones. It is a term of endearment. Believers are God’s little ones, related to Him by birth.
Here is a quote that I like a lot:
“The man is like a watch which has a new mainspring, not a mere face and hands repaired, but new inward machinery, with freshly adjusted works, which act to a different time and tune; and whereas he went wrong before, now he goes right, because he is right within.” (Spurgeon)