“But to all who did receive Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God— children born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but born of God.” (John 1:12-13)
Johns packs a lot into these short verses, tucked into the first chapter of his Gospel that is profoundly full of other significant meaning:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…. All things were made through him….In him was life, and the life was the light of men…. The true light…. was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him… he gave the right to become children of God…. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us….”
These are some of the most profound and remarkable verses in all of Scripture. God became flesh, and He lived among the people He chose as His own, but they didn’t even recognize who He was. But those who received – who believed Him – He gave the right to become children of God.
I see two choices here: the choice of receiving Christ and the choice God gives us after receiving Christ – the right tobecome children of God. My Reformed friends might be tempted to overlook the import of this power-packed passage. I am little unnerved by it myself, truth be told. I don’t trust my own heart to make the right choices!
God lets us choose Him: “But to all who did receive Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God.” But that isn’t the beginning of the story – or the end of it.
God chooses us. He gives us the right to become children of God[i], and He made that choice before the foundation[ii] of the world. We become the children of God not by blood descent, not by the will of parents or anyone else – maybe not even by our own will – but by God’s choice.[iii]
I do not have a systematic theology. I am not a theologian, and my understanding of systematic theology is limited, but free will has always seemed self-evident to me. It also seems eminently biblical. God created us in his own image[iv], and a primary characteristic of God is agency. We see in the story of Adam and Eve that God gave us agency too, by giving them dominion over the animals of the earth and in the choice to eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
The freedom to choose is also a necessary condition of love. God is love[v], and he created us in His image to reflect Him, to glorify Him and to love Him.
The point of an image is to image. Images are erected to display the original. Point to the original. Glorify the original. God made humans in his image so that the world would be filled with reflectors of God. Images of God. Seven billion statues of God. So that nobody would miss the point of creation. Nobody (unless they were stone blind) could miss the point of humanity, namely, God. Knowing, loving, showing God.[vi]
God created us to love him. Therefore, we must have agency/free will in order to be able to reflect back His love as He intended.
“[T]he mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject[i] itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so…. (Romans 8:7)
[C]reation was subjected[ii] to futility[iii], not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free ….” (Romans 8: 20-21)
Life and death, the universe and all the “stuff” that is, ever was and ever will be are “in God’s hands”. That is another way of saying that God created everything. God is timeless and immaterial and has created all that is material out of nothing, including us.
But the material world, the world as we know it, is passing away, even from the moment it was created!
And that is all part of God’s ultimate plan, though we, being only part of the material creation, have a hard time seeing it.
“[C]hosen[i] according to the foreknowledge[ii] of God….” (1 Pet.1:1-2)
We cannot understand anything about God unless we understand that He is the uncreated Creator, the Beginner without a beginning; He IS outside of time and space; He always was, always is and always will be. Continue reading →
His “kingdom come” is an imperative cry for an emerging and growing reality in the life of the believer and in the world. The prayer, “They will be done”, is like it. Both phrases are couched in the Greek verb tense, aorist imperative[iii]) on top of it. This suggests an emphatic, insistent, ongoing desiring and abandonment to the will of God.
“YOUR will be done!” is how Jesus taught us to pray, with emphatic insistence. Continue reading →
If anyone is willing[i] to do His will, he will know[ii] of the teaching, whether it is of God…. (John 7:17)
Jesus said these words in response to people who questioned what he was saying because he was uneducated. (John 7:15) Jesus did not have the credentials or the experience people thought he should have. How ironic!
Jesus did not gain his knowledge in the usual way, of course. He did not graduate from the Pharisaical seminary. He did not have a diploma. He was I AM. He did not need a diploma! Continue reading →