Born of God (John 1:10-13)
When I was a kid (probably no more than 10, but perhaps a little older) Mom and Dad considered adopting a child. I do not know how seriously they considered looking into adoption, but they considered it seriously enough to sit down with my brothers and me to discuss the idea. My brothers were fine with the idea, but I wasn’t. I still remember something of what I said: “Mom and Dad, if you want to have another baby, that’s fine. But, I don’t want to want some other kid being my brother or sister.” Mom and I talked about that conversation about a year ago and she remembers it almost verbatim as I do. My response is the reason that Mom and Dad did not consider adoption any more seriously than they did. I know I was just a kid when that transpired, but I seriously regret reacting that way now. I failed to understand then, but there is more than one way to be born into a family, there is more than one way to be flesh and blood, and there is more than one way to build a family.
p>Some of you have beautiful adopted families. Some of the people I’ve been closest to on this earth made the decision to adopt. There was an elder to whom I was especially close in West Virginia. He adopted a challenged boy when the boy was about 5. Gerald and Sylvia did everything they could for that boy. It utterly broke their heart that Gary wasn’t everything he needed to be as an adult. Gerald’s daughter adopted two boys from Shults-Lewis in Indiana. I think it may have been when Gerald died many years ago that Connie, his daughter, shared with me that Gerald went with them to pick Andy up in Indiana. She shared how much it meant to her to have her dad drop everything and go to Indiana to get Andy.
You understand that God has adopted us as His children. Galatians 4:4-5. God has “predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will” (Eph 1:5). You understand, however, that adoption into God’s family is different from adoption into earthly families. Being adopted by an earthly family is a legal process. Being adopted by God is a spiritual process of a new birth. This morning’s text speaks about that new birth, of being “Born of God.” The text speaks about the new birth in a context of rejection and, by doing so, makes a very important point: “Only a few accept the right to become children of God.”
Scripture (John 1:10-13)
John writes about rejection and new birth in this passage almost as if it’s an inverted pyramid. At verse 10, John speaks most broadly and talks about the world’s rejection of the Christ. He narrows his focus at verse 11, and John speaks about Israel’s rejection of the Christ. In verses 12 and 13, John gets as narrow as he can and speaks about those who receive the Messiah by believing in His name.
Jesus “was in the world.” This reminds us that Jesus was the Incarnate Word, that He came from heaven to this earth to enable us to have that new birth. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn 1:14).
“The world was made through Him.” Everything in this world has been made through Jesus. “By Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth” (Col 1:16). Since Jesus created the spiritual world (“in heaven”) and the physical world (“on earth”), He can enable me to be born again spiritually.
But, “the world did not know Him.” That’s a sad statement–It’s heartbreaking that Jesus made everything and came into this world to save it, but the world did recognize Him. That’s also an indictment of the world–The Savior was here, the Savior came to save you, but you didn’t care, you rejected Him.
“He came to His own.” Jesus came into this world for the Jew first. “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matt 15:24).
“His own did not receive Him.” The very people He came to save rejected Him. The Jews firmly believed that when the Messiah came into this world He would be universally accepted. But, even they refused to accept Jesus as the Christ.
To those who would receive Him, He gave the right to become children of God. Not everyone rejected Jesus. Those who accepted Him would become children of God. No longer were children of God born through a natural process, descending from Abraham. Instead, the children of God are born again.
The right to become a child of God is given “to those who believe in His name.” You know there is much error that is taught about believing “in His name.” I don’t really want to spend a great deal of time this morning getting sidetracked in talking about that error. You know the truth of the matter, and as we talk about the truth of the new birth this morning, we’ll directly refute a great deal of error. The Greek construction of “those who believe in His name” speaks about trust and confidence. The idea isn’t that we simply believe Jesus is the Son of God, but that we put our trust and confidence in Him. That trust leads us to obey every word the Lord has said.
Those born of God are not:
- Born of blood. I have always read this as the natural process of childbirth. However, the Greek is plural—”of bloods.” It seems that this speaks about violence–In other words, you do not become a child of God through violence or attempting to become a child of God by force.
- Born of “the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man.” Both of these phrases point in different ways to the natural process of human procreation. The idea is that this is not a natural process at all. In fact, becoming a child of God runs against nature.
- “But of God.” That simple phrase says so very much. It says: God is in control of this process. This process is by the power of God. This is birth into a new relationship with God.
“Only a few accept the right to become children of God.” The world at large did not accept their right to become children of God. Most of the Jews refused the right to become children of God. Yet, you and I–if we accept Jesus–have the right to become children of God.
If you are not a child of God, you need to be born of God. Unless you are born of God, you cannot be saved. That’s not what I think; that’s what Jesus says. “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (Jn 3:3). “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (Jn 3:5).
If you have not been baptized for the remission of your sins, you need to be born again. Let me encourage you with everything I have to be baptized today for the remission of your sins. You might ask a fair question: “Justin, why do you connect the new birth with baptism? John doesn’t make that connection.” John doesn’t make that connection in our text of John 1–that is true. Yet, Jesus makes that connection when he speaks to Nicodemus–He speaks about being born of “water and the Spirit.” Paul makes the connection when he writes to Titus: “According to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5). Paul uses the term “regeneration,” which simply means “rebirth.” There’s another text that links the two very closely together, and we’ll get to it with another point a little later.
If you need to be baptized or have questions about your baptism, please see one of us today.
Being born of God means that I am part of a family.
- God is my Father. Because God is my Father, I can pray to Him: “Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name” (Matt 6:9). Because God is my Father, I know that He will bless me with what is best (according to His will): Matthew 7:7-11.
- Jesus is my brother. “Both He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren” (Heb 2:11). I know of no honor that rivals the fact that Jesus is not ashamed to call this poor, weak, sinful, vile creature His brother.
- We are also brethren to one another. That we have been born again means that we need to love one another: 1 Peter 1:22-23. Because we are brethren, we help one another, we care for one another, we pray for one another, and we do whatever we can. The love we have for one another may run counter to this world, but we have been born again–not of this world, but from above.
Being born of God means that I need to live differently. Romans 6:1-4. I told you there was a text that clearly connects baptism with the new birth, and this is it. Paul doesn’t exactly use the term “new birth,” but he talks about getting rid of one life and starting another. If that isn’t a “new birth,” I don’t know what is.
Because you and I have been born again, let us live the life that comes from above. What do you need to put away from you? What acts do you need to add to your life? Do you need to come this morning to be born again? Do you need to start a life that is from above?
This sermon was originally preached by Dr. Justin Imel, Sr., at the Dale Ridge church of Christ in Roanoke, Virginia.