John 1:12,18 – He Gave Us the Right to be called Children of God

Adoption into God’s Family (John 1:12)

He Gives us the Right to Become Children of God (John 1:12)

But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12), John has said that His own people rejected Him. But there was a counterpart. Some did in fact receive Him. John calls this “believing in His name”. This is what it means to believe in Jesus. It is not just an intellectual belief that He lived and died as a historical figure. It means to accept all that He is – God Himself and to throw the weight of our lives on this knowledge and trust Him completely. John says that to all who do this, He gives them the right to be called children of God. We had looked at this profound truth in more depth when we studied Paul’s letter to the Galatians.

We saw last week that the reason why John wrote this Gospel is so that we as the readers will be confronted with the magnificent portrait of Jesus, and to receive Him – to put our trust in Him. By believing in this way, we will have “life in His name” (John 20:31),  and in fact become the adopted children of God. As children, we will get to inherit all of God’s wealth – the universe itself, and live in His presence forever – that is enjoy eternal life. Here we see that most people do not get to have this experience. Most people reject Jesus. But John is inviting us to be among the minority that do not reject Jesus but receive Him and believe Him for who He is!

He Helps Us Know God (John 1:18)

No one Has Ever Seen God (John 1:18)

John is asserting a fact here. God is invisible. Paul describes Jesus as the One “who alone has immortality, how dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see” (1 Tim 6:16).

He Has Come From the Father’s Side (John 1:18)

However, this same Jesus, chose to come down from heaven – from the Father’s side, and to become man.

He Makes God Known (John 1:18)

This Jesus makes God known. Jesus said the same thing to Nicodemus: “If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man” (John 3:12-13). What a privilege we have, to actually know the God who could not possibly have been known unless He had chosen to reveal Himself to us. Yet this is what He did through all of Scripture, and ultimately in the Person of Jesus Christ!

When we see Jesus, we are actually seeing God. Jesus said “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9)

We Can Still See God in Jesus

You may think – “Oh no! I did not live at that time. I lost the opportunity to see God”. But that is not true. There are two reasons

Firstly, we have just seen that when He was on earth, the world did not recognize Him. That would most likely have been our lot if we lived at that time. Remember Isaiah said that there was nothing attractive in Him as a human being, and only those who saw Him with opened spiritual eyes could actually see His glory (see John 9:39-41). Today as believers, we have the Holy Spirit living in us. He is the one who opens our spiritual eyes when we read the Bible. And when we read with opened spiritual eyes, this is how Paul describes it: “We all, with unveiled faces, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Cor 3:18). This is what we are doing when we study the Bible together. We are getting to see God in His glory through the words of Scripture and the illumination of the Holy Spirit. We see God with the eyes of our heart (Eph 1:18) that are wide open and able to see God. We are privileged to be alive today, with the Bible as accessible as it is (it has only been this way in the last few centuries), with this opportunity of revelation.

Secondly, the Bible says that this life is not all there is. There is eternal life to follow. That is where we fully experience what it means to be children of God. That is when we have unfettered access into the Presence of God Himself, and will actually “see Him as He is” in all of His glory, and that joy will never end (see 1 John 3:2 and John 17:24).


If we ask “what is God like”, a very good place to start is to see God in the Person of Jesus. In Jesus, we see a God full of compassion and grace who is the embodiment of truth.

Let us do a quick recap of the prologue of John’s Gospel. What is John actually saying here? He is climbing a ladder here. He starts by asserting that God is invisible and cannot be seen. This God existed before time, and is the Creator of the universe. Then He says that this God revealed Himself by giving the law through Moses. This helped us to better understand what God was like. But He was too holy and too scary for most people to think they could have an intimate relationship with Him (although some even in the Old Testament who got to know Him, did). But then, God became human. And as a human being, he walked and talked with us, and spoke to us and taught us. And the promise is that when we put our trust in Jesus, He will give us the right to become children of God! God is just not knowable, but He is knowable as our Heavenly Father.

Thus, as we see in this passage, when we read Scripture, God came not just to stock our heads with knowledge, and not just to show us grace, but to give us grace; and we must receive it. Don’t spurn this grace. Receive it. And let your hearts be filled with everlasting joy as children of God.

Questions to Dig Deeper

  1. Jesus said “it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper [the Holy Spirit] will not come to you. But if I go I will send him to you” (John 16:7). Do you see that living at now an advantage compared to if we had lived at the time of Jesus? Explain why you feel this way.
  2. When you think about God in the Old Testament, do you see Him differently compared to what you see in Jesus? Discuss what appears the same or different, and what it means.
  3. If no one has seen God at any time, how was it possible for people to not only see Jesus, but to  interact with Him and even touch Him? What do you understand about the nature of Jesus while He was on earth?
  4. What is preventing you from knowing God intimately, the way John describes in his prologue?
  5. What do you think John means by saying Jesus gave those who believed in His name the right to become children of God?

7 thoughts on “John 1:12,18 – He Gave Us the Right to be called Children of God”

  1. Jesus is the second Adam. All who believe in Him are born of the Spirit and we are adopted into the family of God–We have the right to be called his sons and daughters–just as any adopted child once adopted has the right to call his/her parents ‘mother/father’.
    This life is not physical but spiritual–the invisible realm. This was made possible because Jesus God himself-the son of God–came to earth as a human–who could be touched and had all the characteristics of mortal man–cept his innate sin nature–yet he had the capacity to sin–but didnt–as seen by the temptations of Jesus.
    We are blessed because the Holy Spirit speaks to each one of us-and is with us–So while the disciples were limited with Jesus till his resurrection–they were people with purpose and power and led by the Holy Spirit
    I am still unable to draw close to Jesus-because my sin nature pulls me to do everything but place him first–my daily chores at home, the phone calls I make, social media esp whatsapp–I have learnt –still learning-not to read whatsapp messages before reading God’s Word-SEcondly I can be judgemental and that is pride which keeps me from drawing close to God-Thirdly I need to know that God is my everything–and people come second. To trust God is key to victory–but people and their expressed opinions can often blind me to reality and truth. I need to focus of God alone, his truth alone, to draw closer to him

  2. Thank you, Joyce. Yes, while the Jesus was on earth, people (including his disciples) had limited access to Him, compared to the access we now have to the presence of God through the Holy Spirit (Rom 5:1). As you have also said, there is a struggle to put God first above all due to partial spiritual blindness (even for believers), pride and unbelief. One of the main ways we battle this is by constant exposure to the Word of God, and meditating on its truths. The Holy Spirit uses it to strengthen our faith and to reveal Jesus to us more and more, and make us increasingly dependent on Him through prayer.

  3. Although it would have been great to be living at the time of Jesus to see him in person, we have an opportunity to know and understand Him in a very new and unique way now since the Holy Spirit has been sent in Jesus’ name by God the father as mentioned also in John 14:26. Though we can’t really see God we get many glimpses of Him and His work in the Old Testament. Throughout the bible, we see His handy work woven into the very fabric of humanity. As we progress into the New Testament, we see the same God take the form of man (John 10:30) to live amongst us sinful human beings. But He did this to show us His power and to allow us to see the sacrifice He was willing to endure to rescue our souls from eternal damnation. I think He did this (coming down as human) so that we ourselves as human beings could identify with Him. Him being fully man would have gone through similar struggles, temptations, thoughts, emotions, and life in general, just like we all would have growing up. In-fact as he grew up the temptations would have been much stronger coming from Satan to continuously slip Him up. However, what we do know is that Jesus never once sinned nor did He give into temptation, perhaps it was also because of the amount of time He spent with His father to grow and mature (Luke2:52).

  4. Thank you for your deep insights, Sandeep. Yes, we do have a unique and better perspective because we have the entire Bible to read and understand with the help of the Holy Spirit.

  5. Tku so much Sandeep. Yes, we are so blessed to be called God’s children by believing in Jesus Christ and to have HIS Spirit living inside of us , Who gives us strength to move on in life wiith the hope that one day we can see HIM face to face and be with HIM eternally.

  6. “the right to become…”
    So, as I read it, a person believes, has accepted the gospel, is a “believer. And as such, Jesus gives them the right to become God’s child. In other words, they are not presently His child but have the right to become one. They are “saved” but not yet His child.
    So… how does one become His child, or in other words, how does one exercise the right Jesus gives the believer?

  7. Dear DjCL, thank you for your question. I think this passage says more than just that Jesus gives them the right to become God’s children, but that right still needs to be exercised. If we read further, it says “He gave the right to become children of God, who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, or of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:13). So John is talking about a supernatural birth here, that is not based on human actions but solely by God’s work. If we go on to read Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus we get further information. This is a “new birth”, that is done by the sovereign work of the Holy Spirit (John 3:3-8). This is the most amazing truth. God did not just take the initiative to forgive us or sins by sending His Son to die for us. It was not even inviting us to heaven. The most amazing truth is that God makes us His children and becomes our Father. This relationship is only available to those who “believe in Jesus” (i.e. that He is everything He claimed to be, that He atoned for our sins by dying on the cross, and rose again in victory), as this passage affirm, and not for those who don’t. Putting it another way, being a child of God is one of the distinguishing characteristics of every true Christian.

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