John 1:12-13 says believers receive “the power to become the children of God.” The wording of that sentence has always made me wonder whether we become children of God the instant we believe, or whether some additional, future act of Grace is needed for us to become “children of God” sometime later. Is it a matter of translation or the style of writing, or is there a real difference in meaning, two different stages in the salvation “process”?
The Salvation event (it’s not a process) is laid out in Ephesians 1:13-14. We do two things and God does two, and they all happen at the same time. We hear the word of truth, the Gospel of our salvation, and believe it. At that moment God marks us with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, and guarantees our inheritance. We hear and believe. He marks and guarantees.
In John 1:12 the word translated “power” refers to a “right” or “authority”. In effect, it says when we believe, we are given the authority to become children of God. That authority allows us to unilaterally declare God Himself as our Father without any further requirement or permission. As born again believers, we are literally and legally adopted into God’s family as one of His children.
Paul agreed with this when he said, “The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children we are also heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ if indeed we share in His sufferings in order that we mat also share in His glory” (Romans 8:16-17). Sharing in His suffering means we allow His death to pay the price for our sins. This allows God to justify us (regard us as though we are innocent) and those He justifies He will also glorify (Romans 8:30).
“But when the set time had fully come, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because we are His sons, God sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are His child, God has made you also an heir” (Galatians 4:4-7).