John 1:9 The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
The metaphor of light is now deepened. We have already noted that in John ‘light’ can refer to the observable light emanating from the source (akin to photons of light), or light can refer to that which is revealed by the light– enlightenment. The true light (Jesus) emanates from its source (the Father) and gives light (enlightenment) to everyone.
What does it mean to ‘receive’ Jesus, the light? It must mean more than simply agreeing that he existed. Verse 12 parallels ‘receiving’ with ‘believing in his name’ so the two are closely connected. But I suggest that ‘receiving him’ means more than acknowledging that he is ‘God who has come from God’, to be the saviour of the world, as this gospel testifies. No, to actually receive him requires that he be installed as my God, my Saviour, and my Lord. ‘Receiving’ him is personal.
John’s gospel reveals much about Jesus. I can learn a lot and pass an exam on the topic of Jesus… but remain unchanged. I can agree with all that John teaches, but not know Jesus. Receiving Jesus requires me to engage in a relationship with him such that his life becomes my life. While my old life is discarded, I am (we are!) born of God. We are children of God.
The distinction between Jesus as “Son of God” and the status given to his people to become “children of God” (τέκνα θεοῦ) is significant. It is a profoundly close association but not the same. The power given is that of “becoming”; yet even in the fulfilment they are not the same. As we shall see in verse 14, Jesus is unique in his relationship with God, as God, in the persons of the Trinity. And yet, as God’s children by adoption, we are invited and enabled to share in relationship with him.
Dear God, I am humbled and surprised.
I was an orphan lost at the Fall
Running away when I’d hear Your call
But Father, You worked Your will
I had no righteousness of my own
I had no right to draw near Your throne
But Father, You loved me still
And in love before You laid the world’s foundation
You predestined to adopt me as Your own
You have raised me so high up above my station
I’m a child of God by grace and grace alone.*
*from ‘Grace Alone’ by Dustin Kensrue.