This is Part 2 of a series where I'm taking a look at biblical passages that have direct bearing on the issues of God's sovereignty and man's responsibility as they relate to salvation.
Several months ago I discussed John 1:12-13. I've expanded on that post here.
First, here is John 1:12-13 in a few different bible versions:
NKJV, "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God."
KJV, "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: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God."
ESV, "But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God."
NASB, "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, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God."
NIV, "Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God -- children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God."
NLT, "But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. They are reborn! This is not a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan-- this rebirth comes from God."
YLT, "but as many as did receive him to them he gave authority to become sons of God -- to those believing in his name, who -- not of blood nor of a will of flesh, nor of a will of man but -- of God were begotten."
As always, context is important to this passage. John 1:1-18 is the opening prologue to John's account of the gospel. In these 18 verses, we are told many amazing things about the Word - Jesus. I encourage you to read this passage by clicking here.
In the verses immediately preceding 1:12-13, we are told that Jesus' own did not receive Him. This is referring to Jesus' rejection by the vast majority of His Jewish brethren. The wording says that they, "did not receive Him."
In verse 12, we are told something wonderful. Verse 12 tells us that anyone who receives God by believing in His name has the right to become a child of God. What an amazing right this is! To become a child of God is the best adoption any of us could imagine.
Verse 13 tells how this comes about. We are told how it is that a person comes to receive Christ. We read that anyone who receives God has been spiritually born because it was the will of God for this to happen. Take note of the fact that John makes it explicit that this did not happen because of the will of man. It is because of God's will that anyone is born spiritually.
What is going on here? The ordering of what is happening is the key. First, God wills that a person be born spiritually ("born again"). Second, a person who has been spiritually born receives God by believing in his name. Third, that person has the right to become a child of God.
It is clear based on this passage that God initiates salvation (being born spiritually) by His sovereign will. Again, John states that this is according to the will of God, not of man. When a person is born spiritually, he is then able to respond in faith (believing in God). When a person responds to God in faith, he is saved (becoming a child of God).
John 1:12-13 refers to God's election of some people to become His children. This passage indicates that this is based not upon foreseen merit (belief) in His followers, but rather is based upon His will.
This passage, then, is supportive of God's sovereign hand in salvation. It is also important to note that this passage speaks of people "receiving" Christ. This makes it clear that man is involved somehow in this process - it is not robotic. Therefore, faith is important.