John 1:13
Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
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(13) Which were born.—The result of receiving Him remains to be explained. How could they become “sons of God?” The word which has been used (John 1:12) excludes the idea of adoption, and asserts the natural relation of child to father. The nation claimed this through its descent from Abraham. But they are Abraham’s children who are of Abraham’s faith. There is a higher generation, which is spiritual, while they thought only of the lower, which is physical. The condition is the submissive receptivity of the human spirit. The origin of life is “not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”

1:6-14 John the Baptist came to bear witness concerning Jesus. Nothing more fully shows the darkness of men's minds, than that when the Light had appeared, there needed a witness to call attention to it. Christ was the true Light; that great Light which deserves to be called so. By his Spirit and grace he enlightens all that are enlightened to salvation; and those that are not enlightened by him, perish in darkness. Christ was in the world when he took our nature upon him, and dwelt among us. The Son of the Highest was here in this lower world. He was in the world, but not of it. He came to save a lost world, because it was a world of his own making. Yet the world knew him not. When he comes as a Judge, the world shall know him. Many say that they are Christ's own, yet do not receive him, because they will not part with their sins, nor have him to reign over them. All the children of God are born again. This new birth is through the word of God as the means, 1Pe 1:23, and by the Spirit of God as the Author. By his Divine presence Christ always was in the world. But now that the fulness of time was come, he was, after another manner, God manifested in the flesh. But observe the beams of his Divine glory, which darted through this veil of flesh. Men discover their weaknesses to those most familiar with them, but it was not so with Christ; those most intimate with him saw most of his glory. Although he was in the form of a servant, as to outward circumstances, yet, in respect of graces, his form was like the Son of God His Divine glory appeared in the holiness of his doctrine, and in his miracles. He was full of grace, fully acceptable to his Father, therefore qualified to plead for us; and full of truth, fully aware of the things he was to reveal.Which were born - This doubtless refers to the "new birth," or to the great change in the sinner's mind called regeneration or conversion. It means that they did not become the children of God in virtue of their natural birth, or because they were the children of "Jews," or because they were descended from pious parents. The term "to be born" is often used to denote this change. Compare John 3:3-8; 1 John 2:29. It illustrates clearly and beautifully this great change. The natural birth introduces us to life. The new birth is the beginning of spiritual life. Before, the sinner is "dead" in sins Ephesians 2:1; now he begins truly to live. And as the natural birth is the beginning of life, so to be born of God is to be introduced to real life, to light, to happiness, and to the favor of God. The term expresses at once the "greatness" and the "nature" of the change.

Not of blood - The Greek word is plural; not of "bloods" - that is, not of "man." Compare Matthew 27:4. The Jews prided themselves on being the descendants of Abraham, Matthew 3:9. They supposed that it was proof of the favor of God to be descended from such an illustrious ancestry. In this passage this notion is corrected. It is not because men are descended from an illustrious or pious parentage that they are entitled to the favor of God; or perhaps the meaning may be, not because there is a union of illustrious lines of ancestry or "bloods" in them. The law of Christ's kingdom is different from what the Jews supposed. Compare 1 Peter 1:23. It was necessary to be "born of God" by regeneration. Possibly, however, it may mean that they did not become children of God by the bloody rite of "circumcision," as many of the Jews supposed they did. This is agreeable to the declaration of Paul in Romans 2:28-29.Nor of the will of the flesh - Not by natural generation.

Nor of the will of man - This may refer, perhaps, to the will of man in adopting a child, as the former phrases do to the natural birth; and the design of using these three phrases may have been to say that they became the children of God neither in virtue of their descent from illustrious parents like Abraham, nor by their natural birth, nor by being "adopted" by a pious man. None of the ways by which we become entitled to the privileges of "children" among people can give us a title to be called the sons of God. It is not by human power or agency that men become children of the Most High.

But of God - That is, God produces the change, and confers the privilege of being cawed his children. The heart is changed by his power. No unaided effort of man, no works of ours, can produce this change. At the same time, it is true that no man is renewed who does not himself "desire" and "will" to be a believer; for the effect of the change is on his "will" Psalm 110:3, and no one is changed who does not strive to enter in at the strait gate, Philippians 2:12. This important verse, therefore, teaches us:

1. that if men are saved they must be born again.

2. that their salvation is not the result of their birth, or of any honorable or pious parentage.

3. that the children of the rich and the noble, as well as of the poor, must be born of God if they will be saved.

4. that the children of pious parents must be born again; or they cannot be saved. None will go to heaven simply because their "parents" are Christians.

5. that this work is the work of God, and "no man" can do it for us.

6. that we should forsake all human dependence, east off all confidence in the flesh, and go at once to the throne of grace, and beseech of God to adopt us into his family and save our souls from death.

13. Which were born—a sonship therefore not of mere title and privilege, but of nature, the soul being made conscious of the vital capacities, perceptions, and emotions of a child of God, before unknown.

not of blood, &c.—not of superior human descent, not of human generation at all, not of man in any manner of way. By this elaborate threefold denial of the human source of this sonship, immense force is given to what follows,

but of God—Right royal gift, and He who confers must be absolutely divine. For who would not worship Him who can bring him into the family, and evoke within him the very life, of the sons of God?

Which were born, not of blood; not of the blood of men and women; or, not of the blood of Abraham (which was the boast of the Jews, We have Abraham to our Father).

Nor of the will of the flesh; nor from the lusts of the flesh.

Nor of the will of man; nor from a power in man’s will, or men’s free act in adopting other men’s children. To be born, signifieth to receive our principle of life: those who are the children of God hard not the principle of their life, as they are such, from the motions of nature, nor from the will of men.

But of God: whatever be the sense of the former words, these words plainly affirm God to be the principal efficient, and procreant cause, of all those who are the sons of God; for faith, by which we are the children of God, Galatians 3:26, is the work of God, John 6:29, his gift, Philippians 1:29; and men are born again, not of corruptible seed, but of that which is incorruptible, 1 Peter 1:23: they are sanctified and cleansed with the washing of water by the word, Ephesians 5:26; the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost, Titus 3:5.

Which were born not of blood,.... Or bloods, in the plural number. The birth, here spoken of, is regeneration, expressed by a being born again, or from above; by a being quickened by the Spirit and grace of God; by Christ being formed in men; and by a partaking of the divine nature; and by being made new creatures, as all that believe in the name of Christ are; and which is the evidence of their being the sons of God: and now this is owing not to blood, or bloods; not to the blood of circumcision; or of the passover, which the Jews had an high opinion of, and ascribe life and salvation to, and to which notion this may be opposed: so their commentators (f) on Ezekiel 16:6 where the word "live" is twice used, observe on the first "live", by the blood of the passover, on the second "live", by the blood of circumcision; but, alas! these contribute nothing to the life of the new creature: nor is regeneration owing to the blood of ancestors, to natural descent, as from Abraham, which the Jews valued themselves upon; for sin, and not grace, is conveyed by natural generation: all men are of one blood, and that is tainted with sin, and therefore can never have any influence on regeneration; no blood is to be valued, or any one upon it, but the blood of Christ, which cleanses from all sin,

Nor of the will of the flesh; man's free will, which is carnal and corrupt, is enmity to God, and impotent to every thing that is spiritually good: regeneration is ascribed to another will and power, even to the will and power of God, and denied of this:

nor of the will of man: of the best of men, as Abraham, David, and others; who, though ever so willing and desirous, that their children, relations, friends, and servants, should be born again, be partakers of the grace of God, and live in his sight, yet cannot effect any thing of this kind: all that they can do is to pray for them, give advice, and bring them under the means of grace; but all is ineffectual without a divine energy. So with the Jews, "a man", signifies a great man, in opposition to "Adam", or "Enosh", which signify a mean, weak, frail man; and our translators have observed this distinction, in Isaiah 2:9 and the mean man (Adam) boweth down, and the great man (Ish) "humbleth himself": on which Jarchi has this note, "Adam boweth down", i.e. little men; "and a man humbleth himself", i.e. princes, and mighty men, men of power: and so Kimchi on Psalm 4:2. "O ye sons of men", observes, that the Psalmist calls them the sons of men, with respect to the great men of Israel; for there were with Absalom the sons of great men. Though sometimes the Jews say (g), Adam is greater than any of the names of men, as Geber, Enosh, Ish. But now our evangelist observes, let a man be ever so great, or good, or eminent, for gifts and grace, he cannot communicate grace to another, or to whom he will; none are born again of any such will:

but of God; of God, the Father of Christ, who begets to a lively hope; and of the Son, who quickens whom he will; and of the grace of the Spirit, to whom regeneration is generally ascribed,

(f) Jarchi & Kimchi in loc. Shemot Rabba, sect. 19. fol. 103. 2. & 104. 4. & Mattanot Cehuna in Vajikra Rabba, sect. 23. fol. 164. 2. Zohar in Lev. fol. 39. 2.((g) Zohar in Lev. fol. 20. 2.

Which were born, not of blood, nor of the {t} will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

(t) Of that shameful and corrupt nature of man, which is throughout the scriptures described as an enemy of the spirit.

John 1:13. Οἵ] refers to τέκνα θεοῦ (the masculine in the well-known constructio κατὰ σύνεσιν, 2 John 1:1, Philemon 1:10, Galatians 4:19; comp. Eurip. Suppl. 12, Androm. 571), not to τοῖς πιστεύουσιν, because the latter, according to John 1:12, are said to become God’s children, so that ἐγεννήθησαν would not be appropriate. The conception “children of God” is more precisely defined as denoting those who came into existence not after the manner of natural human generation, but who were begotten of God. The negative statement exhibits them as those in whose coming into existence human generation (and consequently also Abrahamic descent) has no part whatever. This latter brings about no divine sonship, John 3:6.

οὐκ ἐξ αἱμάτων] not of blood, the blood being regarded as the seat and basis of the physical life (comp. on Acts 15:20), which is transmitted by generation.[88] Comp. Acts 17:26; Hom. Il. vi. 211, xx. 241; Soph. Aj. 1284, El. 1114; Plato, Soph. p. 268 D; Liv. 38, 28. Kypke and Loesner on the passage, Interpp. ad Virg. Aen. vi. 836; Horace, Od. ii. 20. 6; Tib. i. 6. 66. The plural is not to be explained of the commingling of the two sexes (“ex sanguinibus enim homines nascuntur maris et feminae,” Augustine; comp. Ewald), because what follows (ἀνδρός and the corresponding ἘΚ ΘΕΟῦ) points simply to generation on the man’s side; nor even of the multiplicity of the children of God (B. Crusius), to which there is no reference in what follows; quite as little does it refer to the continuos propagationum ordines from Adam, and afterwards from Abraham downwards (Hoelemann, p. 70), which must necessarily have been more distinctly indicated. Rather is the plural used in a sense not really different from the singular, and founded only on this, that the material blood is represented as the sum-total of all its parts (Kühner, II. p. 28). Comp. Eur. Ion. 705, ἄλλων τραφεὶς ἀφʼ αἱμάτων; Soph. Ant. 121, and many places in the Tragedians where αἵματα is used in the sense of murder (Aesch. Eum. 163, 248; Eur. El. 137; Or. 1547, al.); Monk, ad Eur. Alc. 512; Blomf. Gloss. Choeph. 60. Comp. Sir 22:22; Sir 31:21; 2Ma 14:18; also Plato, Legg. x. p. 887 D, ἔτι ἐν γάλαξι τρεφόμενοι.

The negation of human origination is so important to John (comp. John 3:6), that he adds two further parallel definitions of it by οὐδέ

οὐδέ (which he arranges co-ordinately); nor evennor even, where σαρκός designates the flesh as the substratum of the generative impulse, not “the woman” (Augustine, Theophylact, Rupertus, Zeger, Schott, Olshausen),—an interpretation which is most inappropriately supported by a reference to Genesis 2:22, Ephesians 5:28-29, Judges 1:7, while it is excluded by the context (ἀνδρός, and indeed by what follows). The man’s generative will is meant, and this is more exactly, i.e. personally, defined by ἐκ θελ. ἀνδρός, to which the contrasted etc ἘΚ ΘΕΟῦ is correlative; and hence ἈΝΉΡ must not be generalized and taken as equivalent to ἌΝΘΡΩΠΟς (Lücke), which never occurs—even in the Homeric ΠΑΤῊΡ ἈΝΔΡῶΝ ΤΕ ΘΕῶΝ ΤΕ only apparently—but here least of all, because the act of generation is the very thing spoken of. The following are merely arbitrary glosses upon the points which are here only rhetorically accumulated to produce an ever increasing distinctness of description; e.g. Baumgarten Crusius: “There is an advance here from the most sensual to the most noble” (nature, inclination, will—in spite of the twice repeated θελήματος!); Lange (L. J. III. p. 558): “There is an onward progress from natural generation to that which is caused by the will, and then to that consummated in theocratic faith;” Hoelemann: “σάρξ, meant of both sexes, stands midway between the universalis humani generis propagatio (ΑἽΜΑΤΑ) and the proprius singularis propagationis auctor (ἈΝΉΡ).” Even Delitzsch refines upon the words, finding in ΘΕΛΉΜ. ΣΑΡΚΌς the unholy side of generation, though John has only in view the antithesis between the human and the divine viewed in and by themselves.

ἐκ θεοῦ ἐγεννήθ.] were begotten of God, containing the real relation of sonship to God, and thus explaining the former τέκνα θεοῦ, in so far as these were begotten by no human being, but by God, who through the Holy Spirit has restored their moral being and life, John 3:5. Hence ἘΚ ΘΕΟῦ ἘΓΕΝΝ. is not tautological. ἘΚ indicates the issuing forth from God as cause, where the relation of immediateness (in the first and last points) and of mediateness (in the second and third) lies in the very thing, and is self-evident without being distinctively indicated in the simple representation of John.

[88] ὡς τοῦ σπέρματος ὑλὴν τοῦ ἔχοντος, Eustath. ad Hom. Il vi. 211. Comp. Delitzsoh, Psychol. p. 246 [E. T. p. 290, and note].

John 1:13. οἳ οὐκ ἐξ αἱμάτωνἐγεννήθησαν. This first mention of τέκνα θεοῦ suggests the need of further defining how these children of God are produced. The ἐκ denotes the source of the relationship. First he negatives certain ordinary causes of birth, not so much because they could be supposed in connection with children of God (although thoughts of hereditary rights might arise in Jewish minds) as for the sake of emphasising by contrast the true source.—οὐκ ἐξ αἱμάτων; that is, not by ordinary physical generation. αἵμα was commonly used to denote descent; Acts 17:26, Odys. iv. 611, αἵματος εἰς ἀγάθοιο. This is rather a Greek than a Hebrew expression. The plural αἱμάτων has given rise to many conjectural explanations; and the idea currently received is that it suggests the constituent parts of which the blood is composed (Godet, Meyer). Westcott says: “The use of the plural appears to emphasise the idea of the element out of which in various measures the body is formed”. Both explanations are doubtful. The plural is used very commonly in the Sept[27], 2 Samuel 16:8, ἀνὴρ αἱμάτων σύ; Psalm 25:9, μετὰ ἀνδρῶν αἱμάτων; 2 Chronicles 24:25, etc.; and especially where much slaughter or grievous murder is spoken of. Cf. Eurip., Iph. in Taur., 73. It occurs in connection with descent in Eurip., Ion., 693, ἄλλων τραφεὶς ἐξ αἱμάτων (Lücke). The reason of John’s preference for the plural in this place is not obvious; he may perhaps have wished to indicate that all family histories and pedigrees were here of no account, no matter how many illustrious ancestors a man could reckon, no matter what bloods united to produce him.—οὐδὲἄνδρος. The combination of these clauses by οὐδὲοὐδὲ and not by οὔτεοὔτε excludes all interpretations which understand these two clauses as subdivisions of the foregoing. οὐδέ adds negation to negation: οὔτε divides a single negation into parts (see Winer, p. 612). “Nor of the will of the flesh,” i.e., not as the result of sexual instinct; “nor of the will of a man.” i.e., not the product of human purpose (“Fortschritt von Stoff zum Naturtrieb und zum persönlichen Thun,” Holtzmann). Cf. Delitzsch, Bibl. Psych., p. 290, note E. Tr.—ἀλλʼ ἐκ θεοῦ ἐγεννήθησαν. The source of regeneration positively stated. Human will is repudiated as the source of the new birth, but as in physical birth the life of the child is at once manifested, so in spiritual birth the human will first manifests regeneration. In spiritual as in physical birth the origination is from without, not from ourselves; but just because our spiritual birth is spiritual the will must take its part in it. Nothing is spiritual into which the will does not enter.

[27] Septuagint.

13. S. John denies thrice most emphatically that human generation has anything to do with Divine regeneration. Man cannot become a child of God in right of human parentage: descent from Abraham confers no such ‘power.’ A bitter word to Jewish exclusiveness.

were born] Literally, were begotten. Comp. 1 John 5:1; 1 John 5:4; 1 John 5:18.

not of blood] The blood was regarded as the seat of physical life. Genesis 9:4; Leviticus 17:11; Leviticus 17:14, &c.

nor of the will of the flesh] Better, nor yet from will of flesh, i.e. from any fleshly impulse. A second denial of any physical process.

nor of the will of man] Better, nor yet from will of man, i.e. from the volition of any earthly father: it is the Heavenly Father who wills it. A third denial of any physical process.

There is an interesting false reading here. Tertullian (c. a.d. 200) had ‘was born’ for ‘were born,’ making it refer to Christ; and he accused the Valentinians of corrupting the text in reading ‘were born,’ which is undoubtedly right. This shews that as early as a.d. 200 there were corruptions in the text, the origin of which was already lost. Such things take some time to grow: by comparing them and tracing their roots and branches we arrive at a sure conclusion that this Gospel cannot have been written later than a.d. 85–100. See on John 1:18 and John 9:35.

John 1:13. Οἱ, who) This is to be referred to τέκνα, children. For as the words [ἐλαβον] received and to them that believe [τοῖς πιστεύουσιν] correspond to one another, and denote the cause: so the effect is denoted in that expression to become children, and it is further explained in this verse.—οὐκ ἐξ αἱμάτων, not of bloods) דמים αἵματα, the Hebrew idiom often has bloods in the Plural number, even when only one man is spoken of: but when the subject treated of is generation, it does not call it the blood or bloods of the parents. But for the commendation of a noble lineage, the term blood is frequent among the ancient writers, as it is in the usage of the present day: and thence it is that bloods denote variety of origins, in consequence of which various prerogatives [privileges] are either sought after, or even enjoyed, in the world.—οὐδε ἐκ θελήματος σαρκός, nor of the will of the flesh) Husband and wife are Flesh, and that one flesh: and the will of the wedded pair, חפץ, gives birth to the children, who being born of the flesh are flesh, and sons of the flesh. John 3:6, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh;” Romans 9:8, “They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God.” With propriety the term, the will, is used as moving midway between holy [pure] love, and grovelling lust, ὄρεξιν. Nor does John use the softer word, of which the flesh considered in itself is unworthy: nor the harsher, lest those born of holy [pure] parents should except themselves [i.e. Had John said, The children of God were born not of lust, then those men who are born of a pure marriage union might think themselves excepted from the children of the flesh].—οὐδὲ ἐκ θελήματος ἀνδρός, nor of the will of man) The will of man is contained in the will of the flesh: and yet it is mentioned separately, as if it were the greater, and in some measure, the more guilty part of it. For Christ had a mother, but one who knew not man. Luke 1:34, “How shall this be, seeing I know not a man.” [Mary to the angel].

These three things, bloods, the will of the flesh, the will of man, bring to the sons of men ἐξουσίαν, power and rank, which are noble, but natural and human. For, indeed, it was on these three the Jews used to lean, being wont to boast either of their ancestors, Abraham, Isaac, Israel, Juda, Benjamin, Levi, Aaron, David, etc., or of both parents, but more especially of their fathers, and fancied that owing to these they could not but be pleasing to God; but John declares that these very things have no weight [with Him].—ἀλλʼ ἐκ Θεοῦ, but of God) To the natural generation of men is opposed generation of God. And although the former, as the latter, is in reality single, yet the former being expressed in a threefold manner [“infert,” causes] carries with it a threefold mode of viewing the latter. We are therefore taught, that they become Sons of God, who are born, not as the sons of men, such as themselves also were by original descent, after the manner of men, but of God: that is, 1) not of bloods, but of the heavenly and supreme Father, from whom the whole of the blessed and holy family is named: 2) not of the will of the flesh, but of that love, of which the Son is Himself the first-begotten of every creature; Colossians 1:13; Colossians 1:15, “His dear Son, Who is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of every creature:” and of that will which hath begotten us as a “[a kind of] first fruits of His creatures;” Jam 1:18, אב father, and אבה he willed, he loved, are kindred words. 3) Not of the will of man, but of the Holy Spirit. A similar antithesis occurs, Luke 1:34-35, Mary, “I know not a man.” The angel, “The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, etc., therefore that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.” These indeed are the sons of God, and of such sons Adam was a type, since he was begotten not of bloods, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, and in consequence he stood in a peculiar relation to God; Luke 3:38, “Adam, which was the son of God;” and Isaac, Galatians 4:23; Galatians 4:29, “He who was of the bond-woman was born after the flesh, but He of the free-woman was by promise;—He, that was born after the flesh, persecuted Him that was born after the Spirit:” but John uses this phraseology, of the sons of God, in a higher sense.—ἐγεννήθησαν, were born) This as to regeneration is not merely a mode of speaking peculiar to this evangelist; but a doctrine frequently and emphatically dwelt upon in the writings of the Prophets and Apostles. Believers are sons of God by a generation peculiarly so called, deriving their life from Himself, reproducing [referentes, exhibiting in themselves traits of] His character, shining in His image: how much more so the Only-begotten One, ὁ μονογενής? They are sons through Him by adoption. In all ways God claims as to Himself.

John 1:13Which (ὃι)

Referring to children of God.

Were born (ἐγεννήθνσαν)

Literally, were begotten. The phrase γεννηθήναι ἐκ τοῦ Θεοῦ, to be born or begotten of God, occurs only here in the Gospel, and several times in the First Epistle. It is peculiar to John.

There is a progress of thought in the three following clauses, describing the proper origin of a believer's new life. Children of God are begotten, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man. "The new birth is not brought about by descent, by desire, or by human power" (Westcott).

Of blood (ἐξ αἱμάτων)

Literally, of bloods. The plural is variously explained: by some as indicating the duality of the sexes, by others of the multiplicity of ancestors. The best explanation seems to be afforded by a similar use of the plural in Plato, ἔτι ἐν γάλαξι τρεφόμενοι, "while still nourished by milks" ("Laws," 887). The fluids, blood or milk being represented as the sum-total of all their parts. Compare τὰ ὕδατα, the waters.

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