John 1:13 – Born of the Will of God

Gospel of John

who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

who were born. This is the Greek word “gennao”, which means “to procreate”. Those who received Him are given the right to become (“ginomai”) children. this procreative becoming is a birth, a second birth. Jesus refers to this in his dialog with Nicodemus:

John 3:3 Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

So, those who receive Christ, who do not outright reject Him, become new people. They are new humans with new identities with new minds and new spirits that look at the world with new eyes. They have been newly conceived and are new persons that did not exist before. I think perhaps we don’t usually give enough consideration to the reality of the new birth. Something entirely new in us is created that wasn’t in existence before. We have been given an entirely new identity as Christians.

not of blood.  I thought that perhaps this could mean, not of physical, but rather of biological descent. After all bloodlines are very important in the Hebrew mindset. Jesus’ own bloodline was carefully documented in two of the synoptic gospels. Jesus did not pass on a genetic bloodline; His blood was spilt. His children are not born genetically of blood, but through His shed blood. I think this idea could be supported by considering that in context, we are talking about conception and birth and becoming children. So the mention of blood in the context of conception suggests that blood is being thought of in this way — as a genetic thread passed down from ancestors. Several commentators agree with this idea, such as Edwin Blum:

“The new birth does not come by natural descent (lit. ‘of bloods’)”. – The Bible Knowledge Commentary, pg 272

However, in the Old Testament, this is the meaning of the man’s “seed”. The blood is the life of the flesh, which sustains its life, even for beasts (Leviticus 17:11,14). So I think this reference in John 1:13 could really mean, not of the physical life of the man as beast. Truly, I’m not sure exactly what this means. It seems anachronistic to impose our ideas of blood as a carrier of genetic imprint upon this text. I’m not convinced that this was the meaning at the time this was written, and so I’m left with saying “I’m not exactly sure what this means.”

Until I learn differently, I will tenuously hold that “born, not of blood” indicates a lack of need for genetic bloodline to be born of God. This would indicate that salvation is available to all, not just to Hebrews.

nor of the will of the flesh. I think this means, not by human sexual passion. Flesh has a “will” — the Greek word is “thelema”. It means, a determination, but also an inclination in terms of desire or pleasure. Putting together “will” with “flesh” means sexual attraction and drive, to me. So, while physically we are all born of sexual passion, the second birth which comes to those who receive Christ which is of God is not born of sexual passion, but of something greater.

nor of the will of man. The will of man is different than the will of the flesh. This actually indicates the will of “a man”, as in an individual male, typically a husband. This means, for those who are born of God, it did not happen because someone decided it was time to finally start a family. God decided to birth them as children of God.

but of God. It is quite something to say that someone is born of God. First, this is to be distinguished from Jesus Christ, who is the “only begotten” from the Father (John 1:14). As believers we are born of God, but we are not the only begotten.

However, we are saying that something very new and very different has been conceived in us. It was not conceived as a result of the random vagaries of genetic bloodline, nor of the sexual passion of our genetic parents. We were not conceived as part of our well-meaning but probably selfish and short-sighted planning of our human parents. God, who existed before time and planned out the existence of everything, conceived us. There is no place in this idea for a deist existence, in which God set things in motion which indirectly caused our existence to come about. We become children of God by His direct intervention and will as citizens of the realms of heaven.

So, by the outward free will act of receiving Christ, we walk out the conception and birthing of our new self at the initiative and choice of God. How can it be that a free will act is ordained by the will of Another? It just is! It is supposed to be a mystery.

Ephesians 1:4 He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him In love 5 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.

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