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John says that Christ is the living Light that was spoken at the beginning. Christ is therefore the living Word (Memra/Logos) through which all things were created at the beginning and through which all things are again being made new.
The question is HOW? What is the process? How does the first creation set the pattern for the new creation, so that we may understand it? Even as Christ manifested light at the first creation, so also is He manifesting the light in the re-creation process, beginning with His incarnation and ministry in the earth. But this time, the creation must be renewed, not re-created per se. The present world order has again become chaotic through sin and needs to be brought back into order.
The first attempt to bring order from chaos put the responsibility upon a man who was created (Gen. 1:27) and formed (Gen. 2:7). Though Luke calls Adam “the son of God” (Luke 3:38), Adam was not a begotten son but was created with the rest of the world. But in the re-creation, God switched tactics so that both the Son of God and the sons of God are begotten by the same Spirit.
John 1:11-13 says,
11 He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, 13 who were born [gennao, “begotten”] not of blood [“bloodline”], nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
First, the Greek word paralambano, translated “receive,” means “to associate one’s self with.” The opposite would be to shun, or to refuse fellowship with Jesus Christ. In this case, “His own” was the nation of Judah as a whole, i.e., Judea (Greek name). All nations are represented by their leaders in an official capacity, and those leaders (Sanhedrin) rejected Jesus as the Messiah when they condemned Him to death.
So “His own” nation rejected Him.
Yet on another level we see individuals within the nation who did indeed “receive Him.” Not only the twelve and the seventy but also three thousand received Him on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:41). Many years later James reminded Paul that there were still thousands in Jerusalem itself who had received Him (Acts 21:20). These, however, did not constitute the nation, because they had no authority to decree or speak in an official capacity.
Nonetheless, those who received Jesus were given “the right to become children of God.” This right came from the temple in heaven, not from the temple in Jerusalem. By fellowshipping with Him, they became part of His body and partook of His essence.
When John says, “even to those who believe in His name,” we see that sonship status is by faith in Him. A believer is one who has faith. For John, faith is the basis of sonship, whereas in Paul’s writings, faith is the requisite for justification (Rom. 4:2, 5). For James, faith was the cause and motivation for one’s works (James 2:18). All of these writers are in harmony, but each focuses on a different aspect of faith.
John says that the children of God are not merely created but begotten (gennao). The NASB renders it “born” (John 1:13). The Greek word has a double meaning, as Dr. Bullinger tells us in his notes on Matt. 1:2,
“begat. Gr. gennao. When used of the father = to beget or engender; and when used of the mother it means to bring forth into the world.”
So Matt. 1:2 says, “Abraham begat Isaac,” for it is plain that men beget, while only women give birth. So also in Luke 1:13 Gabriel told Zacharias, “your wife Elizabeth will bear [gennao] you a son.” It is clear that Zacharias begat John the Baptist, while Elizabeth later gave birth to him.
We must always look at the context to see how gennao should be translated. Unfortunately, most translations render it “begotten” only when they are absolutely forced to do so. This is probably to accommodate the multitudes of Christians who are accustomed to the term “born again” but who are unfamiliar with being “begotten from above.” So the NASB renders 1 Peter 1:23,
23 for you have been born again [gennao] not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and abiding word of God.
“Seed” does not give birth. Seed begets. Men have seed; women have eggs that are seeded. To speak of being “born again” by imperishable seed does not create a proper understanding of Peter’s teaching. This misinterpretation has caused confusion among believers, for they think that their faith brings them to birth, when in fact their faith accepts imperishable (immortal) seed that begets Christ in them.
The birthing takes place later, even as we see in the natural cycle from conception to birth.
If we study the feast days and their application to individuals, Passover represents the time of conception, Pentecost is the time of development and growth, while Tabernacles is the time that the sons of God are brought to full birth. The eighth day of Tabernacles is when the sons of God are to be presented to the Father (Exodus 22:29, 30).
Such teaching is relatively unknown, largely because so few people understand the dual meaning of gennao.
In John 1:13 the apostle makes the same point that Peter does in 1 Peter 1:23. Both emphasize the fact that we are not begotten by the mortal seed that comes from Adam. Instead, we are begotten, as Peter says, “through the living and abiding word of God.” Those who are begotten by mortal seed are like “grass” and “flowers” which spring up beautifully for a short season and soon die (1 Peter 1:24). By contrast, he says, the seed of the word (rhema) “abides forever” (1 Peter 1:25).
The point is that mortality is passed down through physical seed through our earthly fathers, while spiritual seed is immortal and begets immortal children after its kind. Those who place their hope and faith in their physical bloodline as the basis of their sonship, those who believe that they are inheritors of the promises of God on account of their genealogy, or by their fleshly works, or by their own “free will,” may still have need to be begotten by the Word.
Faith is not true faith unless its object is Christ and the word of God as taught by the apostles. One can have faith in virtually anything, but only faith in the word gives us the right to be called children of God. Hence, I cringe when I hear men claim that they are sons of God by virtue of their physical genealogy or by virtue of their own will.
John 1:13 clearly tells us three ways that men CANNOT become children of God:
1. “Not of blood” (i.e., bloodline, or genealogy)
2. “nor of the will of the flesh” (the result of sexual desire and relations)
3. “nor of the will of man” (man’s decisions, vows, and intentions)
The first explicitly says that genealogy (by an earthly father) is not the basis of sonship. The second is similar in that sons of God are not begotten by the desires of the flesh, i.e., sexual desire. The third says that the sons of God are not begotten by the power of man’s will “but of God,” that is, by God’s will.
This third statement sets forth the New Covenant idea that we are children of God through the promises of God, not through the promises of men. The Old Covenant (Exodus 19:8) was made by the promises of men, whereas the New Covenant sets forth the promise of God, as we read in Heb. 8:10,
10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws into their minds, and I will write them upon their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be My people.
Whoever makes the vow or promise is the one responsible to keep it. Those who depend upon the will of their mortal flesh are not yet truly begotten by the word. Those who depend upon “the will of man,” as many Christians seem to do by their own confession, must examine the basis of their faith. If they say, “I am saved because I made a profession of faith and accepted Christ,” implying that it was done by their own will, their faith may be misplaced. Their faith might be in themselves and in their ability to keep their vows.
By contrast, Abrahamic faith is set forth in Rom. 4:21, 22,
21 and being fully assured that what God had promised, He was able also to perform. 22 Therefore it was also credited to him as righteousness.
Our faith must be in God’s ability to keep His promises, not in our ability to keep our own promises. God does indeed help us to walk righteously, but that is not the basis of imputed righteousness. In the end, the New Covenant is not God’s promise to help us keep our Old Covenant vows. It is the promise of God to work in us by the power of the Holy Spirit until we are perfected. He is responsible, not us, because he who makes a vow is the one responsible to keep it.
Only God knows for sure where our faith lies, for He alone sees the heart. But it is important at some point that we understand the apostolic teaching about sonship, so that our faith is in Him and not in ourselves. True faith is based on truth.
When John took sonship out from the hands of men and put it into the hands of God and His will alone, he was defining the Light, which is the message or word that we must believe.
We need the revelation of the sovereignty of God, for this is the basis of the New Covenant. The New Covenant is based on God’s free will; the Old Covenant is based on man’s “free will.” Only one of these can succeed. When God gives us the gift of faith (Eph. 2:8), it is because He has spoken the word and has caused us to hear His voice and to see the light of the word. Hence, it is the goodness of God that leads us to repentance (Rom. 2:4, KJV). He is the First Cause; we are only responders, and our fleshly will can take no credit for initiating our salvation.
The bottom line is that God has made a promise (vow) to write His laws in our heart and to make us His people and to be our God. If God fails to do this—if He fails to justify all men (Rom. 5:18), if He fails to save all men (1 Tim. 4:10), if He fails to put all things under His feet (1 Cor. 15:27, 28; Heb. 2:8)—then He cannot pass the blame upon men for resisting His grace. He cannot blame men for preventing Him from keeping His vow. It would have been foolish indeed for God to vow to do something that was ultimately out of His control.
It is God’s responsibility to work through His Holy Spirit to accomplish His original purpose for creation. To fail is to sin, for the Hebrew word khawtaw means “to sin, to miss the mark, to fail.” God purposed at the beginning to create a world in which the glory of heaven could descend. He created a good universe that heaven could marry. There is no divine marriage without full unity, and there is no full marital unity apart from a New Covenant marriage.
The real underlying question is whether or not we believe that God is indeed capable of fulfilling His original purpose. Was He wise enough to devise a plan that would succeed? Or is His hand shortened that He cannot save? Is He limited, as so many say, by His holiness? Or does His holiness demand that He must fulfill His promise and not fail in His original purpose for creation?