12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
(Little Orphan Annie and her adopted father Daddy Warbucks ran by Tribune Media 1924-2010)
Thoughts: In the very beginning of John's Gospel we hear about being born again. This not only emphasizes change, but it also emphasizes (especially here) belonging. Jesus came that we who were orphans would have the opportunity to be part of the family of God. Adoption was even more important in those days. A key example would be that Julius Caesar adopted his great nephew Augustus. From then on it was common for the emperor of Rome to adopt the heir to his throne (so Augustus adopted Tiberius his successor). So the true King of Kings comes to find us and adopts us. That old comic strip, "Little Orphan Annie" has a lot of images that would apply here- Daddy Warbucks coming down to find her and blessing her. For Gentiles, this was especially important, because we were not part of the ancient adopted people, but were ingrafted into the family (Rom. 11:17). We are not alone and on our own as the atheist indicates. Rather God has come; He has spoken; He has adopted those who welcome Him into their hearts and lives.
Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for coming down to find me. Thank you for your offer of adoption. May I live as your true child, not dishonoring your name today.
John Calvin Abridged: Obviously some of the children of God rejected Christ. Their rejection meant that God would set up his kingdom elsewhere- opening up the gospel to all nations. This transfers the right of adoption, as it were to strangers (Rom. 11:12). "Gave the right" does not mean we choose by ourselves, for later it says "born not of human decision." Rather it is that Christ comes and claims us as his adopted children. Matthew 3:9 says that God raises "out of stones" children of God. We receive Christ by believing in Him. Thus we are engrafted into Him by faith. (which is also a gift from the Holy Spirit). It may seem that the Evangelist is reversing the natural order with faith preceding regeneration. But it is by faith that we receive the incorruptible seed (1 Pt. 1:23). When the Lord breathes faith into us, he regenerates us by some method that is hidden and unknown to us; but after we have received faith, we perceive, by a lively feeling of conscience, not only the grace of adoption, but also newness of life and the other gifts of the Holy Spirit. For since faith, as we have said, receives Christ, it puts us in possession, so to speak, of all his blessings.