But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God (John 1:12-13).

The only place we receive power is after Holy Spirit baptism (Acts 1:5,8).

Does John 1:12-13 mean that we are not "the sons of God" because we haven't received the "power" that we receive after Holy Spirit baptism (Acts 1:5,8)?

  • 1
    (-1) You haven't given a clear rationale for reading John 1:12-13 through the lens of Acts 1:5,8. Hermeneutics should always begin with reading the text in its own context, not porting in assumptions from other texts. For example, "The only place we receive power is after Holy Spirit baptism" is an unexplained assumption. This question feels like it's beginning with too much eisegesis to be a good starting point for understanding the text.
    – Steve can help
    Aug 30, 2021 at 8:52

3 Answers 3


Power in John 1:12 and Acts 1:8 translates two different Greek works. In John 1:12 ἐξουσία means power usually in the sense of authority.

ἐξουσία, ας f: the power to do something, with or without an added implication of authority—‘power.’ ἡ γὰρ ἐξουσία τῶν ἵππων ἐν τῷ στόματι αὐτῶν ἐστιν καὶ ἐν ταῖς οὐραῖς αὐτῶν ‘the power of the horses is in their mouths and in their tails’ Re 9:19; ἔχειν ἐξουσίαν ἐκβάλλειν τὰ δαιμόνια ‘to have the power to drive out demons’ Mk 3:15. It is also possible to understand ἐξουσία in Mk 3:15 as meaning ‘authority,’ and in a number of instances it is difficult to determine whether the focus is upon the power which an individual has or a granted authority to do something which naturally implies strength or power (see 37.35–37.38). -- Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition., Vol. 1, p. 680). New York: United Bible Societies.

In Acts 1:8 δύναμις means power in the sense of ability.

δύναμις, εως f: the potentiality to exert force in performing some function—‘power.’ -- Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition., Vol. 1, p. 679). New York: United Bible Societies.

As far as chronology in Acts, the actual historic event with the Holy Spirit is Acts 2.

This is probably the verse that addresses your question.

Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. (Ro 8:9, ESV)


We are discussing two different words in the Greek that have separate meanings that the KJV unhappily translated with the same word in English. Let be be more specific:

In John 1:12, the operative word is ἐξουσία (exousia) for which BDAG has seven sub-meanings, but the pertinent one here is:

  1. potential or resource to command, control, or govern, capability, might, power (or capacity for something), eg, Rev 9:10, 19, 11:6, Matt 9:8, Acts 8:19, Luke 12:5, John 1:12, 7:1, etc. Note the more correct translation given by BSB:

But as many as received Him, He gave to them authority to be children of God--to those believing in His name,

The ESV is probably even better:

But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,

In Acts 1:8, the operative words is δύναμις (dounamis) for which BDAG lists six sub-meanings, but the pertinent one here is:

  1. potential for functioning in some way, power, might, strength, force, capability, eg, Acts 1:8, 3;12, Rev 17;13, Matt 22::29, Mark 12:24, Luke 22:69, etc. Here is a good translation from BSB:

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

The Gift of the Holy Spirit is absolutely essentail to functioning of both the Christian life in Jesus AND the Christian community. See appendix below. There is little wonder that Paul said (Rom 8:9) that without the Holy Spirit, we cannot be regarded as Christians.

APPENDIX - Holy Spirit Function in the NT

Jesus bequeathed the Gift of the Holy Spirit (John 20:22, Acts 1:8, 2:1-4) to His church for several reasons:

  1. To produce the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22 & 23, see especially v24-26) and so to sanctify (make distinct) the church members.
  2. The above changed life is to be a distinguishing sign or seal of God’s ownership of our lives and a guarantee of better things to come (Eph 1:13, 4:30).
  3. To provide specific guidance for the church (John 16:7-12, 14:17, 15:26 – namely
  • . Convict of sin
  • . Instruct in Righteous (= right doing)
  • . Convict of judgement to come
  1. To build up the church with spiritual (supernatural) gifts and abilities, 1 Cor 12:7, 14:12, and to influence/teach others John 7:37-39. See Rom 12:6-8, 1 Cor 12:8-10, 28-30, Eph 4:11, 1 Peter 4:10, 11, 1 Tim 4:14, Ex 35:30-33, etc.
  2. To strengthen the members in their daily walk to live the Christian ideals, Eph 3:16, 17, Heb 2:4, and maintain unity in the Christian community (Eph 4:3-6). The Christian must be born of the Spirit (John 3:5) by receiving the gift of the Spirit (Acts 2:38) and walk by the Spirit (Gal 5:25, John 6:63, Phil 3:3, John 4:24). In fact the whole life of Christian is to put aside the “psychical” mind and live by the Spirit (1 Cor 2:14, 1 Cor 15:44-46, Gal 5:17, Jude 19, John 6:63, 1 Peter 3:18). In short, the Holy Spirit is the only way we can know God, 1 Cor 2:10, 11, 14, John 16:13.
  3. To teach the church more of the character and work of Jesus and thus, imitate Jesus, John 7:38, 39, 15:26, 16:12-15, Rom 8:4, 11, Eph 3:17, 18, 4:3-6, 1 Thess 1:6, 4:8, 1 Cor 2:14.
  4. The Holy Spirit inspired the prophets to write Scripture, and explains such spiritual truths to us. John 14:16, 17, 15:26, 1 Cor 2:6-16, Eph 1:17-19, 2 Peter 1:21, 2 Tim 3:15, 16, 1 Thess 1:5, Heb 9:8, 1 Peter 1:12, Ps 119:18.
  • Are you saying the power/right/authority makes the receiver a child of God or that it just makes it possible? "The right to become" sounds like it didn't happen yet, otherwise, it might read more like "By right they became". Feb 7, 2023 at 22:19
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    @PaulaAnnMcCabe - That is a theological question. However, I offer these brief comments. Jesus' sacrifice makes possible for us to be saved. The work of the Holy Spirit makes it possible for us to live the Christian life and so reflect Christ, and in this sense of relecting Christ (by the power of the HS) we are called "sons of God". Thus, we are "bond again" to a new life of service to God by the power of the HS.
    – Dottard
    Feb 7, 2023 at 22:25
  • Put another way, does the original language require the future tense in the translation “to become”? Feb 8, 2023 at 17:22
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    @PaulaAnnMcCabe - in Acts 1:8 λήμψεσθε ... ἐπελθόντος (you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you) is a future tense; so is ἔσεσθέ (you will be) ; but that is not what the question is asking. The verb "to become" γίνομαι (ginomai) does not exist in Acts 1 until V16, 18, 19, 20, 22. In John 1:12 the verb is infinitive.
    – Dottard
    Feb 8, 2023 at 20:36

It is impossible to receive Him without Holy Spirit, who enlightens us as to who He is, that is to say that He is God whom we are to worship along with the Father (1 Cor. 12:3). Thus, John 1:12-13 can be rephrased freely as "who receive Him as God through Holy Spirit", given that it is ontologically and epistemologically impossible to acknowledge His divinity without Holy Spirit.

Thus, to give an analogy, take an imaginary phrase from an imaginary book "Motherhood" by an imaginary author Steven Sullivan: "Whoever has become a mother, has an authority to enjoy the bliss of motherhood"; one will not ask here a question whether this mother is not yet authorized for the mentioned bliss because she could not become a mother without having a sexual intercourse with a man (let us exclude here for the example's case modern artificial ways of impregnation, or the virgin birth of the Savior Himself, which was a unique occurrence in the history of mankind), for this intercourse is already implied in her being a mother. Similarly, the reception of Jesus Christ as of the Only begotten Son and the Father's co-eternal Logos and God implies that this reception was fulfilled through the Holy Spirit.

All this said, one more thing remains: of course the disciples started to believe in divinity of Jesus Christ already before the Pentecost, while He was on His mission, for they even started to work miracles invoking His name (Luke 10:17). This means that the presence and aid of the Holy Spirit was with them even before the Pentecost; like the presence of Holy Spirit was even before the Incarnation aiding the prophets through Whom they prophesied. Thus, even before the Pentecost, which signaled the most perfect and thorough saturation of the disciples with the Spirit, so as to be enable them preaching boldly in most dangerous settings, the Holy Spirit conditioned their trust in the Lordship of Jesus Christ whom they devoted their lives, even before the Pentecost.

  • 1
    (-1) No exegesis has been presented for either text from the question.
    – Steve can help
    Aug 30, 2021 at 8:54
  • @SteveTaylor Thanks for taking interest in my answer. But are you sure about your stern verdict? I ask this because in the very first paragraph I venture an exegesis of precisely John 1:12-13. As to "-" and "+" they are not of my concern, but if you have any rational objection as to ideas expressed, I will be interested to see them. Aug 30, 2021 at 9:26
  • Levan, you haven't leveraged a single hermeneutical tool in this answer - you're evidently interested in the theology and philosophy of this topic, but not the text. You've given no analysis or explanation whatsoever to suggest that John intended this verse in the way that you explain it. If you want to understand the exegetical process, read books about hermeneutics, not just the Oxford Dictionary definition. I'd recommend Duvall & Hays Grasping God's Word as a friendly starting point.
    – Steve can help
    Aug 30, 2021 at 10:18
  • @SteveTaylor Thanks for instructing, but this does not exempt you from making a false claim that I have made no exegesis of the passage in question in terms of general and most common understanding of the term exegesis. My exegetical principle is that when canonical Gospel writers write about Father, Son and H. Ghost, they are inspired by the Latter and so cannot contradict each other. Thus, when Paul says that nobody can acclaim Christ as Lord God without H. Ghost, this necessarily means that neither John can acclaim Christ as God, as he does, without aid of Holy Ghost. Good logic, isn't it? Aug 30, 2021 at 10:37
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    Please do read around the Metas, particularly What are we looking for in answers? and What does "show your work" mean in the context of exegesis?. "The take away value from answers should be seeing hermeneutical knowledge put into practice against the text. This includes seeing a particular hermeneutical approach take shape through the early stages of exegesis... putting these pieces together should be the primary focus of what an answer conveys, not a doctrinal conclusion."
    – Steve can help
    Aug 30, 2021 at 10:55

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