“But as many as received Him (Christ) to them gave he the power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.” (John 1:12, KJV)
In the above-quoted Scripture verse the word “power” is rendered from the Greek dunamis, from which we derive the words “dynamo” and “dynamics.” A footnote in my KJV Bible gives the alternate rendering of the same Greek word as the right, or, privilege.”
The NKJV, in fact, renders the same word as “the right to become children of God.” The NIV renders the word as “the full rights of sons.”
Right — or privilege?
In our present society, it is often said that, for instance, a driver’s license is not a right which a holder is entitled to unconditionally, but only a privilege which can be taken away on certain conditions, such as an infraction of a civil rule or ordinance.
A “right” implies what is commonly called an “entitlement” – something one can claim as one who is worthy of it.
When it comes to salvation – to receiving everlasting life in God’s kingdom – do we obtain it as a “privilege” – not a “right?”
As evangelicals [those who profess to proclaim the “evangel” or gospel [“good news”] of God’s salvation declare, one is saved by God’s grace [undeserved gift] and not through one’s works. They would readily quote Ephesians 2:8 – “For we are saved by grace through faith, not by works lest anyone should boast.”
Thus has arisen the issue of the “security” of our salvation. Is our salvation a secure promise — sure and certain? That is, to put it simply, that once we have such a promise we cannot lose it by something we might do, or not do?
Evangelicals would point to Christ’s “finished work” at Calvary’s cross (John 19:20). By this is meant that, as beneficiaries of Christ’s sacrifice for our sins, we cannot add anything to it — any work on our part — to make us “more forgiven” or “more acceptable.”
In that strict sense, this is true! We cannot be justified from our sin – made clean, just and righteous – through anything we might do to cleanse ourselves from it. Only Christ’s blood, shed on Calvary’s cross, can cleanse and pardon us of our sin. [See: Freed From Bondage, The Ransomed of the LORD, and Transgressions Under the First Covenant.]
After the cross — then what?
The apostle Paul, under inspiration by Christ’s Spirit, writes that our justification does not begin and end at the cross of Christ: “And if Christ is not risen [from the dead], your faith is futile; you are still in your sins” (1 Corinthians 15:17)! Christ’s resurrection is vital in order to complete our justification from sin! [See: Two Goats Together.]
Paul also wrote: “Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism unto death; that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we should walk in newness of life” (Romans 61-4).
Further: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, all things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
At the start of His earthly ministry Jesus preached: “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand” (Matthew 4:17). He also twice declared: “…unless you repent you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3, 5). To repent means to change one’s attitude and behavior from living in sin to living a righteous and holy life.
Christ’s disciples preached the same message, and exhorted those whom they had baptized to “…repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance” (Acts 26:20). [See: Christian Formation, “Be Holy, for I Am Holy,” Saved for Good Works, and Being and Doing.]
The Bible consistently teaches that God looks for the “fruit” or result of His saving work in one who believes in Christ. In the ultimate analysis, Christ will judge every single person on the basis of what he or she has done in their lifetime on this planet (John 5:27-30; Matthew 25:21-36; Acts 24:15; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Revelation 20:12-13).
Power to do good
Despite his spiritual stature, Paul readily admitted that in himself, by his own human fleshly resources, he did not have the power to do good: “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells” (Romans 7:18). In the next verses he explains his predicament – which, to be honest, we all face, too! – and the only solution: Christ (Verses 24-25)!
Paul then proceeds to explain how Christ helps us out of our predicament – through the power of His Spirit (Romans 8). [See: God’s Spirit and Obedience, The Higher Law of the Spirit and Breaking Down our “Walls of Jericho.”]
Through the power of Christ’s Spirit which Jesus imparts to His true believers, they are thus given the assurance of the rights or entitlement as God’s very own children. Galatians 4:4-5 (NKJV) assures: “But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons,” from the Greek uihothesia [notice how the first part of the word sounds like the Spanish hijo, for “son”]. [See: Are We All God’s Children?]
Privilege can be taken away
Consistent with Christ’s judgment of our works or deeds – whether good or evil – we will be rewarded or penalized accordingly. It is, after all, possible for anyone –including Christians – to commit the “unpardonable sin,” and thus miss out on God’s reward. [See: Why Is the “Unpardonable Sin” Unpardonable? and The Value of the “Firstborn.”]
By hanging on to the power Christ gives, we assure ourselves of “walking worthy of our calling” (Ephesians 4:1; Colossians 1:10; 1 Thessalonians 2:12; 2 Thessalonians 1:11). As such, we will truly be known by Christ and welcomed into His glorious kingdom at His return. [See: “I Never Knew You!”]
Such is my prayer for all of you, my dear readers, especially during this year’s Day of Pentecost (31 May)!
Pedro R. Meléndez, Jr.