Power to Become the Sons of God
© 2021 C. O. Bishop
Last week we considered the implications of John 1:34, where John the Baptist declared Jesus to be “the Son of God.” We extended our focus to include the fact that He is the “Only begotten Son of God, and what that means. But there are many references to other persons being called the sons of God.
In Job, chapters one and two, we see a group of persons (evidently the angelic host) who are called the “sons of God,” and Satan was among them. In Job 38, God says that (earlier) at the Creation of our World, “all the Sons of God shouted for joy!” (That actually gives us a hint as to when Satan must have fallen into perdition: if “All” the Sons of God shouted for joy at the creation, but by Genesis 3, Lucifer had become the adversary, Satan, then his fall into sin and rebellion must have been between those two times.
In Genesis 6:2, we have a somewhat obscure reference to some persons also called the “sons of God,” and whoever they were, it seems that they were doing something bad. We aren’t going there, today, except to point out that the term “Sons of God” is not always in reference to “His cherished offspring.”
When Jesus cast out evil spirits (demons, devils, unclean spirits as they are variously called) they frequently spoke and called Him by name, recognizing Him as Jesus of Nazareth, “thou Son of the most high God” (Mark 5:7) They obviously knew the difference between themselves (who had once been numbered among the “sons of God,”) and Jesus, THE Son of the most high God.
So, it seems a good idea that we learn the difference as well. Last week we saw that Jesus is the Eternal Son, God the Son, fully God, and specifically, the Creator of all the universe, both physical and spiritual. He is the Creator God, but eternally existent as God the Son. So, with that as our starting point, and, knowing that Jesus, in His earthy ministry was the “Only Begotten Son:” born the Son of God, lets address this passage where we are told there is a way for us to “become the sons of God.”
Unpacking the passage
10 He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.
11 He came unto his own, and his own received him not.
12 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:
13 Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
This is what we call a “packed” verse: there is a lot there, and we want to “unpack” at least some of it. I don’t speak or read Greek beyond just a few words, so I have to laboriously “look up” any words for which I need better understanding. The words I would want to research in this passage would be at least the following:
- His own…who were they?
- Power…what sort of power?
- To Become…how? (Transformation, evolution, what?)
- Sons…what kind of “sons?”
So, the first one is pretty easy: Jesus said repeatedly that He had come primarily to reach the Jews. They were the children of the Promise, and Jeusus, the fulfillment of that Promise, was now among them, if only they would receive Him. But, as a nation, they rejected Him. There were thousands who believed in Him, many of whom followed Him and worshipped Him. To those who did receive Him; to them is directed the rest of this passage.
There are at least three different kinds of “power” listed in the scripture. The most common, of course, is the one we usually mean: “ability,” raw power to accomplish great things. The Greek word in that case would be “dunamis,” from which we derive our English words “dynamo” and “dynamic.” But that is not the word, here.
Another would be the word “kratos,” meaning rulership, or dominion. This is the word from which we derive our English words, “autocrat, plutocrat, aristocrat, bureaucrat, and democrat, or democracy.” But that is not the word used, here, either.
The third is the Greek word “exousia,” meaning “authority.” This is the kind of power Jesus exhibited when he calmed the storm. There was no “force” exerted by which he stopped the movement of millions of tons of moving water, nor halted the moving masses of wind. He simply spoke and the Creation obeyed. In fact, that is the same “power” by which he originally created the physical universe: He spoke it into existence, according to Hebrews 11:3. He willed it to be so, and it was so. It is interesting and a little distressing to note that we humans and the fallen angels are the only creatures to ever have disobeyed the will of the Creator.
By the way, this is also the word Jesus used when He said, “all Power is given unto Me in heaven and earth: go ye therefore…” The word is “exousia.” Authority. And that is the word here in John 1:12. To those who receive Him he gives the authority to do…what?
There are lots of ways to become something different than one already is: one can grow up into adulthood, physically, so that, physically at least, one is no longer a child. We can choose to learn, to be educated to become skilled or knowledgeable in a given field.
A caterpillar will “metamorphose” into a butterfly or a moth. They do not simply “grow” wings and legs: they build a cocoon around themselves, and a mysterious thing occurs. Their entire body dissolves into a “living soup” which is then reconstructed into a completely new body. Metamorphosis means a change of body. Meta = change. Morphe = form or body. (Interestingly, the word “Metanoia” is translated “repentance,” and it literally means “change of mind.”)
When Jesus became a man, he was born into the human race just as we have been. In doing so, He became a “Son of Man.” But, for us to become children of God, we must be reborn. How do we know that?
Jesus said so: He told Nicodemus that unless a man was born again, he could not see the Kingdom of God. And, interestingly, the word translated “become” in John 1:12 is the Greek word, “genesthai,” which is a form of the infinitive verb “gennao,” meaning, “to be born.” (This was an “aha!” moment for me when I first discovered it!)
So, what we just read is that to everyone who receives Jesus (as opposed to rejecting Him) He gives the authority to be born into His family! We are not the children of God by our natural birth: Paul says (in Ephesians 2:3) that we are by nature the children of wrath. In John 8:44, Jesus told the Jews more pointedly that, “Ye are of your father, the Devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do.” And he told Nicodemus that he had to be born again to change that status. And John is telling us how it is done!
Last week we found that there are three different words translated “sons” or “children,” in the New Testament, and that they are not the same. The word used regarding Jesus, in every case, and regarding others in some cases, is the word “huios”(singular) or “huioi” (plural) meaning a fully mature, and universally recognized heir: Not just “offspring.”
Another, less common, is the Greek word “nepioi” meaning “babes…not able to talk yet” which is not translated “sons,” but rather “babes” or “children” in the context that we are not to remain “children” but are to grow up.
But the one used in this case (and in most cases, in regard to believers) is the word “teknoi,” meaning, “offspring: born-ones.” It literally says that if we receive Jesus for who He really is, the master, and the Savior, the Messiah, then He gives us the “authority” to be “re-born” as the “offspring” of God. How do I know that it is by faith? Verse 12 goes on to say it is to those who “believe on His name.” It means those who trust in Him as their Savior. Acts 4:12 says that there is no “…other name under heaven, given among men, by which we must be saved.” Acts 16:31 says “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved…”
Why does it matter “what kind of son” is in view, here? Because, in the first place, it was possible for someone to be declared an heir who was not the offspring of the one whose heir they had become. (Abram complained that he had no son and that the heir of his house was one of his servants, Eliezer of Damascus.) We will be joint-heirs with Jesus, as we discussed last week, but we are already born again as God’s legitimate “offspring:” His children by rebirth.
Even if you knew nothing about any of the things we are talking about today, if you have trusted in Jesus as your Savior, you were born again that moment, as a legitimate child of God. You are His offspring. Yes, you will also be His Heir, joint-heir with Jesus, and positionally, you are already a Son, and a joint-heir with Jesus. Ephesians 2:6 says you are already seated in the Heavenlies with Him.
Galatians 4:6, 7 states that “because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying Abba, Father. Wherefore, thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.” This is our eternal position in Christ, even though we are not experiencing it yet.
But you are His precious child right now! You are free to experience that tender relationship with Him every moment. He loves you. He counts you as precious in His sight, and He is pleased with your toddling attempts to walk with Him. Psalm 103:13, 14 tells us that He understands our frailty, and He is compassionate toward our weakness, as a loving father is compassionate toward his little children.
He further clarifies our relationship, in John 1:13 by pointing out that it is not the natural birth in question, but rather, being born of God. (“…born, not of blood, not of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”) In some translations of the New Testament, it is referred to as being “born from above.”
Sons of God
So, what kind of sons have we become? We are certainly not among the angelic host. And we are in no danger of committing whatever sin the fallen angels committed that resulted in their eternal perdition. We are eternally God’s personal possession, and His holy offspring, whether we feel that way or not.
Obviously, we are also not in the same class as Jesus, who is the Only Begotten Son of God: there is only one of Him. But, He does say that we have been “begotten again”, and that we are His begotten children.
On the other hand, we are also not full-fledged heirs, able to command the elements or whatever things the full-grown heirs can do. The rest of humanity, let alone the rest of the physical creation, does not recognize us as being in authority. Why? Because we have not yet been elevated to that status, in the sense of being able to employ the authority of Sons. Paul explains, in Romans 8:23, that we will receive “the Adoption” (Greek “huiothesis” = placement of sons) when we receive our new bodies.
In the meantime, He calls us “teknoi” (plural) or “teknon” (singular.) We are God’s offspring, His children: and he calls us to behave as His children. He says that we have received the “Spirit of Adoption”, and that we are to act as the sons of God. Every single one of His “born-ones” will eventually receive full “Sonship,” and live through eternity as joint-heirs with Jesus. But we are called to live in the reality of our position in Christ today, acting as His Sons are expected to act.
Living as Sons
When I consider how a Son is supposed to live, and when I see Jesus as my eternal example, I am frequently overwhelmed, and think, “But I can’t! I can’t even come close to that standard!” That is why we have been given the “Spirit of Adoption.” Remember that the word “Adoption,” in Greek, is “huiothesis.” It means the “placement as sons.” If the Spirit who already placed you into the Body of Christ to begin with, according to 1st Corinthians 12:13, is the same one who lives in you to see you grow in Christ, and function as a Son, then the promise that we can choose to walk in the Spirit by Faith makes perfect sense.
Galatians 5:16 says, “Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh.” 1st John 1:7 echoes that promise, saying “If we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ, his son, cleanseth us from all sin.”
And that is the only way we can do it! This is not a “self-help” scheme: not a “do-it-yourself” project. In John 15:5, Jesus said, “Apart from Me ye can do nothing.” He meant it literally! The only way we can behave as the Sons we are called to be, is if we allow the Holy Spirit to do it through us. Philippians 2:13 says that “it is God who works in you, both to will and to do of His good pleasure.” Jesus, the eternal Son, lives in you, in the person of the Holy Spirit. He can behave perfectly as a son because He is The Son! And He desires to lead us to do the same, along with Him. He calls us to walk with Him. He calls us to work with Him. He calls us to serve and to suffer with Him.
Choose to walk by faith, allowing Jesus to live through you, so that your priorities become His priorities, and you embrace His agenda entirely. Feed on the Living Word as you learn from the Written Word, and see His nature begin to grow in you. This is the only way for us, as believers, to enjoy the Peace and Joy He has promised. It is also the only way we can bear the fruit in our lives that He created us to bear.
But, day by day, the choice is ours.
Lord Jesus, help us to see you before us as our example at all times, and grant that we may walk with you in obedience and faith. Teach us to live as your children, and let us grow to be Sons that honor you in every area of our lives.