Posted by: Standing Solus Christus | July 29, 2007

How Are We Born of God? (Lesson 2 Question 8 Answer)

8.  What does the author mean that we have to be born of God?  Why does he disqualify certain types of birth?

The construction of this verse demands that the concept of being born of God is something that is performed outside of the person.  There is a passive verb (be born), which inherently means that the subject (us, the children of God from the previous verse) is receiving an action from an outside agent.  The author goes onto explicitly clarify that this being born of God is not induced by any human decision (the will of man).  Nor is it granted by descent, ethnicity, or race (not of blood) as we referenced Calvin above.  Nor is he speaking of a natural birth (the will of the flesh).  This birth is obtained solely from God and as will be clarified in chapter 3, God the Holy Spirit. This is the basis for us obtaining the right or the authorization to be called children of God.

It seems apparent that John specifically disqualifies these other forms of being born to be clear to the reader that the birth he is speaking of is not done on their own.  Why else would he list these exclusions?  In his commentary on this verse Calvin summarizes it well and although we quoted it above its worth repeating:

Though he refers directly to the Jews, who gloried in the flesh, yet from this passage a general doctrine may be obtained: that our being reckoned to the sons of God does not belong to our nature, and does not proceed from us, but because God begat us willingly, (James 1:18,) that is, from undeserved love.  Hence it follows, first, that faith does not proceed from ourselves, but is the fruit of spiritual regeneration; for the Evangelist affirms that no man can believe, he be begotten of God; and therefore faith is a heavenly gift.  It follows, secondly, that faith is not bare or cold knowledge, since no man can believe who has not been renewed by the Spirit of God

…For since faith as we have said, receives Christ, it puts us in possession, so to speak, of all blessings.  Thus so far as respects our sense, it is only after having believed – that we begin to be the sons of God.  But if the inheritance of eternal life is the fruit of adoption, we see how the Evangelist ascribes the whole of our salvation to the grace of Christ alone; and, indeed, how closely soever men examine themselves, they will find nothing that is worthy of the children of God except what Christ has bestowed on them. 29 

What a comfort to know that our faith is not contingent upon our own strength or intestinal fortitude, but is also the gift of God.  We know our hearts and it is relieving to know that our being born again comes from an outside agent and does not find its source in us.

29 John Calvin (1550) Commentary on the Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ According to John (Calvin’s Commentaries, 17; Baker, 2005) 43-44


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