Who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God
John didn’t make a contradiction—in light of the world not knowing Jesus (v. 10) and His own people not receiving Him (v. 11)—when he wrote that there are people who do receive Jesus for who He is and embrace Him accordingly. The reason they do so is clearly stated in this verse, which shows what preceded their faith in Jesus. They were born from above. They were born again.
What comes first? Do we first believe and then are born again, or are we first born again and then are enabled to believe? What did Jesus state in John’s third chapter? He said: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Two verses later He also said: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (John 3:3, 5). Is it not through faith that we see Jesus for who He is and receive Him accordingly, becoming part of His kingdom?
Since the only way to enter God’s kingdom is through faith, Jesus clearly stated that spiritual birth has to precede that. That’s also the natural flow of the twelfth and thirteenth verse: “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name . . . who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” John also highlighted that same order in his first epistle: “Everyone who believes [present tense] has been born of God [present perfect, “an action that began in the past, continues in the present, and may continue into the future”]. Doesn’t nature also teach us the same? Natural birth is completely beyond us and we’re not able to do anything until we’re born.
Today’s verse shows that spiritual birth precedes our receiving Jesus and believing in His name. If we object to that, we classify ourselves outside the tenth and eleventh verse, as though we are smarter or better than the world and His people. We then also deny Paul’s statement when he wrote: “Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” That’s a reference to all man by nature. A natural born man cannot please God, which includes believing in Him, for faith is the heart and essence of pleasing God (see Heb. 11:6).
John made it clear that spiritual birth is entirely beyond us. It’s not “of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man.” That’s why James wrote: “Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth.” It’s through God’s word and will that we’re born again. Indeed, “the wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit” (John 3:8).
Lastly, Peter also showed how God is the sole cause of our spiritual birth: “Blessed by the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Pet. 1:3). As a result, we see Jesus for who He is and embrace Him accordingly.
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The Devotional Writer
Author of “An Unfathomable Gift!“