Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John. 1:13)
The immediate connection in which these words stand is as follows: Our Lord Jesus Christ, the promised Messiah, “came unto his own, and his own received him not.” by “his own” we are to understand the whole of the Jewish nation, which are nationally His peculiar people; He came unto them, but they received Him not, but conspired against Him, and said, “This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance shall be ours.” Peter charges the horrid deed upon them; they “killed the Prince of life;” but “as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believed on his name.” (John 1:12) None ever did, can, or will receive Christ, believe in His name, and enjoy their relationship to …God as His sons, but such as are “born, not of blood, not of the will of the flesh. nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:13)
Paul draws a line of distinction between natural and spiritual Israel: “They are not all Israel which are of Israel, but in Isaac shall thy seed be called;” (Rom. 9:6,7) a remnant according to the election of grace. (Rom. 11:5) So that whether Jew or Gentile, Barbarian, Scythian, bond, or free, if they be the sons of God, by eternal adoption, they must in God’s time and way be born again, “not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, but of God.”
In endeavouring to make a few remarks from the words we have now read, to the Lord’s honour and our spiritual comfort and consolation and establishment in the truth as it is in Christ Jesus, we would notice three things.
I. The necessity of the new birth. The necessity appears from the solemn, important, and interesting conversation which took place between Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews, and our Lord Jesus Christ. Nicodemus comes and speaks of the great miracles that the Lord had wrought, which were evident displays of His eternal power and Godhead. Our Lord makes no reply to Nicodemus in reference to the miracles that had been wrought by Him, but directs his attention to a great work, in which there is a greater display of His almighty power than in these miracles to which Nicodemus refers; and at once insists upon the new birth: “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” (John 3:5)
Here the Lord insists on the necessity of being born again, and follows it up: “Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.” The kingdom of God is a kingdom prepared by our heavenly Father, in which all His saints shall be landed safe, and appear for ever in His presence. And this kingdom shall be given to none but to those for whom it is prepared; and while the kingdom is prepared for a people, the people that are to be put in possession of it are prepared for the enjoyment of it. Hence we read of “vessels of mercy which he had afore prepared unto glory.”
This preparation for immortal glory, commences in regeneration, in being born again, “not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” It is impossible in every sense of the word, for an unregenerate person to enter heaven…
So, it is those who are born again by the Spirit of God, made new creatures in Christ Jesus, led by the Holy Spirit to see and feel the need of Him, to believe in Him, to glory in His Person, triumph in His finished salvation. These are the people who are born again, who love each other as members of the household of faith, who unite under the means of grace, and have a hidden melody in the heart, and can sing, “Hallelujah to God and to the Lamb,” and can also join in the chorus, “Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.” (Rev. 1:5,6)
Before I dismiss this branch of the subject, beloved, a solemn thought presents itself. Death and eternity are before us. Some of us are advanced in years; there can at the most be but a short space between us and the grave…. The question arises in much solemnity, Are we, or are we not, born again of God? Are we, or are we not, in a prepared state for death and the kingdom? How frequently, when musing on this important subject, do the following lines drop into my mind:
“Prepare me, gracious God,
To stand before thy face-.
Thy Spirit must the work perform,
For it is all of grace.”
II. The power by which the great change of being born again is effected. The evangelist in our text speaks particularly of this power, and in order that the transaction may shine the brighter and appear the more distinct, he couples three negatives with the positive declaration. Let us first notice the negatives, and then proceed to the positive.
We shall say a little upon the negatives.
1. “Which were born, not of blood. ” God’s grace does not run in the blood from father to son. The abominable and fifthy thing, sin, that our God hates, is hereditary; it runs in the blood from father to son. Adam begat sons and daughters in his own image, as a depraved creature. How explicitly David speaks of it. He says, “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” (Ps. 51:5) How frequently is it seen that gracious, God-fearing parents, parents that are born of God, have profligate sons and daughters. See it in Eli; behold it in David; and in many among ourselves. On the other hand, there are the most profligate parents, whose offspring, born in actual sin and transgression, have been, by the grace of God, regenerate and made new creatures in the Lord Jesus Christ. See Abijah in the house of an adulterous king… So that the Lord has mercy upon whom He will have mercy, and compassion upon whom He will have compassion. Our religion is therefore not of blood, but by the teaching of the Holy Spirit of our God.
2. “Nor of the will of the flesh. ” What are we to understand by the will of the flesh, in this portion of God’s Word? Paul, speaking of this subject, says, “I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart; for I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen, according to the flesh.” His desire was that they might be saved. As a Christian and a man of God he had great desires for the spiritual and eternal welfare of those who were allied to him by nature. We see this desire shine very prominently on a very memorable occasion. Behold him declaring what God had done for his soul in the presence of king Agrippa and a splendid earthly court, before which he had to appear as a witness for the precious name of the Lord Jesus Christ. He speaks of the miraculous manner in which he was converted and called to his apostleship; of the revelation of Christ to his soul; of the preciousness of Jesus; and how he was commanded to proclaim the glorious glad tidings of salvation to perishing sinners. He also, reviews the birth, sufferings, death, and resurrection of Christ, and His ascension to glory; and he declares these things are the records of heaven, and puts it all to King Agrippa, who believed the prophets, and knew that these things “were not done in a corner.” Paul’s powerful language has an effect upon the king’s mind, so that he exclaims, “Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.” Now mark the feeling of Paul’s mind. And Paul said, “I would to God that not only thou, but also all that hear me this day, were both almost and altogether such as I am, except these bonds.” Now we see the fleshly feeling and desire of the apostle was such that he would, had it been in his power, have regenerated the king and all that were then with him; but he could not reach the case; it required a greater Power.