John 1:12, “As many as received Him, to them gave He power (or the right or privilege) to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name.” Often employed to prove that Faith precedes and is the cause of sinners, being adopted as dear children into the family of God. ‘If they will believe, then they shall become the sons of God.’ Faith, therefore, it is urged from these words, is the condition of relationship.
It will, however, be observed that the text does not state that filial relationship is bestowed on the condition of Faith; but that power to become the sons of God is given to those that believe in the name of Jesus Christ. The interpretation, therefore, hinges on the phrase “power to become.” Does this refer to the fact or the experience of sonship?
It cannot, however, refer to the fact of Adoption, for many reasons. In Gal. 4:6, the Spirit, (who is the Author of Faith) is expressly said to be sent forth into our hearts “because we are sons.” Moreover, our sonship is, in 1 John 3:1, ascribed to the love of God (which from its very nature must be sovereign, free, everlasting, immutable and uninfluenced by what goes on in the mind of a creature); and the New birth, in the verse following our text, is described as the act of God Himself. If, then, it is made to teach that Faith is the condition upon which sonship is bestowed, it will contradict other important Scriptures, and its very context. It cannot, therefore, relate to the fact of Adoption; but
On examination, it evidently refers to an experimental acquaintance with and enjoyment of the high relationship of divine sonship. For (1) the succeeding verse states of the persons mentioned that they were previously “born of God,” and thereby admitted into vital relationship with Him. (2) The word “power” or “privilege” necessarily indicates something different from the fact of being God’s sons, and to what can it refer, but to the glad and confident consciousness of the fact.
The verse therefore means, that those that are born of God, receive Jesus Christ and believe in His name, and thus become acquainted with their relationship, and are empowered to take with boldness the place of sons. Thus grace puts a sinner “among the children” (Jer. 3:19), and Faith cries, “my Father.” By Christ “we have access by Faith into the grace (of Adoption) wherein we stand,” Rom. 5:2.