John 3:6
That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(6) That which is born of the flesh is flesh.—The first step is to remind him of the law of likeness in natural generation. “Flesh,” as distinct from “spirit,” is human nature in so far as it is common with animal nature, consisting of the bodily frame and its animal life, feelings, and passions. “Flesh,” as opposed to “spirit,” is this nature as not under the guidance of the human spirit, which is itself the shrine of the Divine Spirit, and therefore it is sinful. (Comp. Galatians 5:16 et seq.; Galatians 6:8.) It is this nature in its material constitution, and subject to sin, which is transmitted from father to son. The physical life itself is dependent upon birth. That which is born of the flesh is flesh.

There is an analogous law of spiritual generation. Spirit as opposed to flesh is the differentia of man as distinct from all other creatures. It is the image of God in him, the seat of the capacity for the communion with God, which is the true principle of life. In the natural man this is crushed and dormant; in the spiritual man it has been quickened by the influence of the Holy Ghost. This is a new life in him, and the spiritual life, like the physical, is dependent upon birth. That which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

(6) The sense suggested for the last clause, “In this manner is every one born who is of the Spirit,” removes the necessity of finding something with which the work of the Spirit may be compared, and it is in this necessity that the received versions of the first clause really find their root.

These reasons are, it is thought, not an insufficient basis for the interpretation here adopted. It is adopted not without the knowledge that a consensus of authorities may be pleaded against it. For its details it may be that no authority can be pleaded, but the rendering of πνεῦμα here by “spirit” is not without the support of width of learning and depth of power, critical acumen and spiritual insight, for it rests on the names of Origen and Augustine, of Albrecht Bengel and Frederick Maurice.

John 3:6-8. That which is born of the flesh is flesh — Only flesh, void of the Spirit: or is carnal and corrupt, and therefore at enmity with the Spirit. And that which is born of the Spirit is spirit — Is spiritual, heavenly, divine, like its author. As if our Lord had said to Nicodemus, Were it possible for a man to be born again in a literal sense, by entering a second time into his mother’s womb, such a second birth would do no more to qualify him for the kingdom of God than the first; for what proceeds, and is produced from parents that are sinful and corrupt, is sinful and corrupt as they are; but that which is born of the Spirit is formed to a resemblance of that blessed Spirit, whose office it is to communicate a divine nature to the soul, and to stamp it with the divine image. Marvel not, therefore, that I said unto thee — And have declared it as a truth that ye are all concerned in; that ye must be born again — Ye Jews, though descendants of Abraham; ye scribes, though learned in the law; ye Pharisees, though exact in the observance of its ceremonies, and the traditions of the elders; ye doctors of Israel and rulers of the people, notwithstanding your authority in matters civil and religious, must all be born again in this spiritual sense, since the degeneracy of the human nature is of so universal an extent as to be common to you all. The wind bloweth, &c. — As if he had said, Nor have you any cause to be surprised if there be some things in this doctrine of regeneration which are of an obscure and unsearchable nature, for even in the natural world many things are so: the wind, for instance, bloweth where it listeth — According to its own nature, not thy will, sometimes one way, and sometimes another, not being subject to the direction or command of man; and thou hearest the sound thereof — And feelest its sensible and powerful effects on thy body; but canst not tell whence it cometh — Canst not explain the particular manner of its acting, or where it begins, and where it ceases blowing; for whatever general principles may be laid down concerning it, when men come to account for its particular variations, the greatest philosophers often find themselves at a loss. So is every one that is born of the Spirit — The fact is plain, the manner of its operations is inexplicable. “It is worthy of remark,” says Dr. Campbell, “that as, in the Greek and in the Vulgate, the same word, in this passage, signifies both wind and spirit, the illustration is expressed with more energy than it is possible to give it in those languages which do not admit the same ambiguity.” But “I shall give what appears to me the purport of John 3:7-8. ‘Nor is there,’ as if he had said, ‘any thing in this either absurd or unintelligible. The wind, which in Hebrew is expressed by the same word as spirit, shall serve for an example. It is invisible; we hear the noise it makes, but cannot discover what occasions its rise or its fall. It is known to us solely by its effects. Just so it is with this second birth. The Spirit himself, the great agent, is invisible; his manner of operating is beyond our discovery; but the reality of his operation is perceived by the effects produced on the disposition and life of the regenerate.’”3:1-8 Nicodemus was afraid, or ashamed to be seen with Christ, therefore came in the night. When religion is out of fashion, there are many Nicodemites. But though he came by night, Jesus bid him welcome, and hereby taught us to encourage good beginnings, although weak. And though now he came by night, yet afterward he owned Christ publicly. He did not talk with Christ about state affairs, though he was a ruler, but about the concerns of his own soul and its salvation, and went at once to them. Our Saviour spoke of the necessity and nature of regeneration or the new birth, and at once directed Nicodemus to the source of holiness of the heart. Birth is the beginning of life; to be born again, is to begin to live anew, as those who have lived much amiss, or to little purpose. We must have a new nature, new principles, new affections, new aims. By our first birth we were corrupt, shapen in sin; therefore we must be made new creatures. No stronger expression could have been chosen to signify a great and most remarkable change of state and character. We must be entirely different from what we were before, as that which begins to be at any time, is not, and cannot be the same with that which was before. This new birth is from heaven, ch. 1:13, and its tendency is to heaven. It is a great change made in the heart of a sinner, by the power of the Holy Spirit. It means that something is done in us, and for us, which we cannot do for ourselves. Something is wrong, whereby such a life begins as shall last for ever. We cannot otherwise expect any benefit by Christ; it is necessary to our happiness here and hereafter. What Christ speak, Nicodemus misunderstood, as if there had been no other way of regenerating and new-moulding an immortal soul, than by new-framing the body. But he acknowledged his ignorance, which shows a desire to be better informed. It is then further explained by the Lord Jesus. He shows the Author of this blessed change. It is not wrought by any wisdom or power of our own, but by the power of the blessed Spirit. We are shapen in iniquity, which makes it necessary that our nature be changed. We are not to marvel at this; for, when we consider the holiness of God, the depravity of our nature, and the happiness set before us, we shall not think it strange that so much stress is laid upon this. The regenerating work of the Holy Spirit is compared to water. It is also probable that Christ had reference to the ordinance of baptism. Not that all those, and those only, that are baptized, are saved; but without that new birth which is wrought by the Spirit, and signified by baptism, none shall be subjects of the kingdom of heaven. The same word signifies both the wind and the Spirit. The wind bloweth where it listeth for us; God directs it. The Spirit sends his influences where, and when, on whom, and in what measure and degree, he pleases. Though the causes are hidden, the effects are plain, when the soul is brought to mourn for sin, and to breathe after Christ. Christ's stating of the doctrine and the necessity of regeneration, it should seem, made it not clearer to Nicodemus. Thus the things of the Spirit of God are foolishness to the natural man. Many think that cannot be proved, which they cannot believe. Christ's discourse of gospel truths, ver. 11-13, shows the folly of those who make these things strange unto them; and it recommends us to search them out. Jesus Christ is every way able to reveal the will of God to us; for he came down from heaven, and yet is in heaven. We have here a notice of Christ's two distinct natures in one person, so that while he is the Son of man, yet he is in heaven. God is the HE THAT IS, and heaven is the dwelling-place of his holiness. The knowledge of this must be from above, and can be received by faith alone. Jesus Christ came to save us by healing us, as the children of Israel, stung with fiery serpents, were cured and lived by looking up to the brazen serpent, Nu 21:6-9. In this observe the deadly and destructive nature of sin. Ask awakened consciences, ask damned sinners, they will tell you, that how charming soever the allurements of sin may be, at the last it bites like a serpent. See the powerful remedy against this fatal malady. Christ is plainly set forth to us in the gospel. He whom we offended is our Peace, and the way of applying for a cure is by believing. If any so far slight either their disease by sin, or the method of cure by Christ, as not to receive Christ upon his own terms, their ruin is upon their own heads. He has said, Look and be saved, look and live; lift up the eyes of your faith to Christ crucified. And until we have grace to do this, we shall not be cured, but still are wounded with the stings of Satan, and in a dying state. Jesus Christ came to save us by pardoning us, that we might not die by the sentence of the law. Here is gospel, good news indeed. Here is God's love in giving his Son for the world. God so loved the world; so really, so richly. Behold and wonder, that the great God should love such a worthless world! Here, also, is the great gospel duty, to believe in Jesus Christ. God having given him to be our Prophet, Priest, and King, we must give up ourselves to be ruled, and taught, and saved by him. And here is the great gospel benefit, that whoever believes in Christ, shall not perish, but shall have everlasting life. God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, and so saving it. It could not be saved, but through him; there is no salvation in any other. From all this is shown the happiness of true believers; he that believeth in Christ is not condemned. Though he has been a great sinner, yet he is not dealt with according to what his sins deserve. How great is the sin of unbelievers! God sent One to save us, that was dearest to himself; and shall he not be dearest to us? How great is the misery of unbelievers! they are condemned already; which speaks a certain condemnation; a present condemnation. The wrath of God now fastens upon them; and their own hearts condemn them. There is also a condemnation grounded on their former guilt; they are open to the law for all their sins; because they are not by faith interested in the gospel pardon. Unbelief is a sin against the remedy. It springs from the enmity of the heart of man to God, from love of sin in some form. Read also the doom of those that would not know Christ. Sinful works are works of darkness. The wicked world keep as far from this light as they can, lest their deeds should be reproved. Christ is hated, because sin is loved. If they had not hated saving knowledge, they would not sit down contentedly in condemning ignorance. On the other hand, renewed hearts bid this light welcome. A good man acts truly and sincerely in all he does. He desires to know what the will of God is, and to do it, though against his own worldly interest. A change in his whole character and conduct has taken place. The love of God is shed abroad in his heart by the Holy Ghost, and is become the commanding principle of his actions. So long as he continues under a load of unforgiven guilt, there can be little else than slavish fear of God; but when his doubts are done away, when he sees the righteous ground whereon this forgiveness is built, he rests on it as his own, and is united to God by unfeigned love. Our works are good when the will of God is the rule of them, and the glory of God the end of them; when they are done in his strength, and for his sake; to him, and not to men. Regeneration, or the new birth, is a subject to which the world is very averse; it is, however, the grand concern, in comparison with which every thing else is but trifling. What does it signify though we have food to eat in plenty, and variety of raiment to put on, if we are not born again? if after a few mornings and evenings spent in unthinking mirth, carnal pleasure, and riot, we die in our sins, and lie down in sorrow? What does it signify though we are well able to act our parts in life, in every other respect, if at last we hear from the Supreme Judge, Depart from me, I know you not, ye workers of iniquity?That which is born of the flesh - To show the necessity of this change, the Saviour directs the attention of Nicodemus to the natural condition of man. By "that which is born of the flesh" he evidently intends man as he is by nature, in the circumstances of his natural birth. Perhaps, also, he alludes to the question asked by Nicodemus, whether a man could be born when he was old? Jesus tells him that if this could be, it would not answer any valuable purpose; he would still have the same propensities and passions. Another change was therefore indispensable.

Is flesh - Partakes of the nature of the parent. Compare Genesis 5:3. As the parents are corrupt and sinful, so will be their descendants. See Job 14:4. And as the parents are wholly corrupt by nature, so their children will be the same. The word "flesh" here is used as meaning "corrupt, defiled, sinful." The "flesh" in the Scriptures is often used to denote the sinful propensities and passions of our nature, as those propensities are supposed to have their seat in the animal nature. "The works of the flesh are manifest, which are these: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness," etc., Galatians 5:19-20. See also Ephesians 2:3; 1 Peter 3:21; 1 Peter 2:18; 1 John 2:16; Romans 8:5.

Is born of the Spirit - Of the Spirit of God, or by the agency of the Holy Spirit.

Is spirit - Is spiritual, "like" the spirit, that is, holy, pure. Here we learn:

1. that all men are by nature sinful.

2. that none are renewed but by the Spirit of God. If man did the work himself, it would he still carnal and impure.

3. that the effect of the new birth is to make men holy.

4. and, that no man can have evidence that he is born again who is not holy, and just in proportion as he becomes pure in his life will be the evidence that he is born of the Spirit.

6-8. That which is born, &c.—A great universal proposition; "That which is begotten carries within itself the nature of that which begat it" [Olshausen].

flesh—Not the mere material body, but all that comes into the world by birth, the entire man; yet not humanity simply, but in its corrupted, depraved condition, in complete subjection to the law of the fall (Ro 8:1-9). So that though a man "could enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born," he would be no nearer this "new birth" than before (Job 14:4; Ps 51:5).

is spirit—"partakes of and possesses His spiritual nature."

That which is born of the flesh: that which is born of natural flesh; for flesh sometimes signifies the man. So the prophet saith, All flesh is grass, Isaiah 40:6. So Genesis 6:12, All flesh, that is, all men, had corrupted their way. Or, that which is born of corruption, from vitiated and corrupted nature; so flesh is oft taken in Scripture, Romans 8:4,5,8, &c.

Is flesh; that is, it bringeth forth effects proportionable to the cause; a man purely natural brings forth natural operations. Man, as man, moveth, and eateth, and drinketh, and sleepeth. Corrupted man brings forth vicious and corrupt fruit, which often are called the works of the flesh, Galatians 5:19.

Flesh here signifieth the whole man, whether considered abstractly from the adventitious corruption of his nature, or as fallen in Adam, vitiated and debauched through lust.

And that which is born of the Spirit is spirit: but that man or woman who is regenerated by the Spirit of grace is spiritual; he is after the Spirit, Romans 8:5; he is one spirit with God, 1 Corinthians 6:17; he is made partaker of the Divine nature, 2 Peter 1:4; he doth not commit sin, 1Jo 3:9. Nothing in operation exceedeth the virtue of that cause which influences it; so as no man from a mere natural principle can perform a truly spiritual operation; and from hence it is absolutely necessary that man must be born of the Spirit, that he may be qualified for the kingdom of heaven. That which is born of the flesh, is flesh,.... Man by his natural birth, and as he is born according to the flesh of his natural parents, is a mere natural man; that is, he is carnal and corrupt, and cannot discern spiritual things; nor can he, as such, enter into, and inherit the kingdom of God; see 1 Corinthians 2:14. And therefore there is a necessity of his being born again, or of the grace of the Spirit, and of his becoming a spiritual man; and if he was to be, or could be born again of the flesh, or ever so many times enter into his mothers womb, and be born, was it possible, he would still be but a natural and a carnal man, and so unfit for the kingdom of God. By "flesh" here, is not meant the fleshy part of man, the body, as generated of another fleshy substance; for this is no other than what may be said of brutes; and besides, if this was the sense, "spirit", in the next clause, must mean the soul, whereas one soul is not generated from another: but by flesh is designed, the nature of man; not merely as weak and frail, but as unclean and corrupt, through sin; and which being propagated by natural generation from sinful men, cannot be otherwise; for "who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? not one", Job 14:4. And though the soul of man is of a spiritual nature, and remains a spirit, notwithstanding the pollution of sin; yet it being defiled with the flesh, and altogether under the power and influence of the lusts of the flesh, it may well be said to be carnal or fleshly: hence "flesh", as it stands opposed to spirit, signifies the corruption of nature, Galatians 5:17; and such who are in a state of unregeneracy, are said to be after the flesh, and in the flesh, and even the mind itself is said to be carnal, Romans 8:5.

And that which is born of the Spirit, is spirit: a man that is regenerated by the Spirit of God, and the efficacy of his grace, is a spiritual man; he can discern and judge all things of a spiritual nature; he is a fit person to be admitted to spiritual ordinances and privileges; and appears to be in the spiritual kingdom of Christ; and has a right to the world of blessed spirits above; and when his body is raised a spiritual body, will be admitted in soul, body, and spirit, into the joy of his Lord. "Spirit" in the first part of this clause, signifies the Holy Spirit of God, the author of regeneration and sanctification; whence that work is called the sanctification of the Spirit, and the renewing of the Holy Ghost, 1 Peter 1:2. And "spirit", in the latter part, intends the internal work of grace upon the soul, from whence a man is denominated a spiritual man; and as a child bears the same name with its parent, so this is called by the same, as the author and efficient cause of it: and besides, it is of a spiritual nature itself, and exerts itself in spiritual acts and exercises, and directs to, and engages in spiritual things; and has its seat also in the spirit, or soul of man.

That which is born of the flesh is {g} flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

(g) That is, fleshly, namely, wholly unclean and under the wrath of God: and therefore this word flesh signifies the corrupt nature of man: contrary to which is the Spirit, that is, the man ingrafted into Christ through the grace of the Holy Spirit, whose nature is everlasting and immortal, though the strife of the flesh remains.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
John 3:6. A more minute antithetic definition of this birth, in order further to elucidate it.

We have not in what follows two originally different classes of persons designated (Hilgenfeld), for the new birth is needed by all (see John 3:7; comp. also Weiss, Lehrbegriff, p. 128), but two different and successive epochs of life.

τὸ γεγεννημ.] neuter, though designating persons, to give prominence to the statement as general and categorical. See Winer, p. 167 [E. T. p. 222].

ἐκ τῆς σαρκός] The σάρξ is that human nature, consisting of body and soul, which is alien and hostile to the divine, influenced morally by impulses springing from the power of sin, whose seat it is, living and operating with the principle of sensible life, the ψυχή. See on Romans 4:1. “What is born of human nature thus sinfully constituted (and, therefore, not in the way of spiritual birth from God), is a being of the same sinfully conditioned nature,[154] without the higher spiritual moral life which springs only from the working of the divine Spirit. Comp. John 1:12-13. Destitute of this divine working, man is merely σαρκικός, ψυχικός (1 Corinthians 2:14), πεπραμένος ὑπὸ τὴν ἁμαρτίαν (Romans 7:14), and, despite his natural moral consciousness and will in the νοῦς, is wholly under the sway of the sinful power that is in the σάρξ (Romans 7:14-25). The σάρξ, as the moral antithesis of the πνεῦμα, stands in the same relation to the human πνεῦμα with the νοῦς, as the prevailingly sinful and morally powerless life of our lower nature does to the higher moral principle of life (Matthew 26:41) with the will converted to God; while it stands in the same relation to the divine πνεῦμα, as that which is determinately opposed to God stands to that which determines the new life in obedience to God (Romans 8:1-3). In both relations, σάρξ and πνεῦμα are antitheses to each other, Matthew 26:41; Galatians 5:17 ff.; accordingly in the unregenerate we have the lucta carnis et MENTIS (Romans 7:14 ff.), in the regenerate we have the lucta carnis et SPIRITUS (Galatians 5:17).

ἐκ τοῦ πνεύματος] that which is born of the Spirit, i.e. that whose moral nature and life have proceeded from the operation of the Holy Spirit,[155] is a being of a spiritual nature, free from the dominion of the σάρξ, and entirely filled and governed by a spiritual principle, namely by the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:2 ff.), walking ἐν καινότητι πνεύματος (Romans 7:6).

The general nature of the statement forbids its limitation to the Jews as descendants of Abraham according to the flesh (Kuinoel and others), but they are of course included in the general declaration; comp. John 3:7, ὑμᾶς.

In the apodoses the substantives σάρξ and πνεῦμα represent, though with stronger emphasis (comp. John 6:63, John 11:25, John 12:50; 1 John 4:8; Romans 8:10), the adjectives σαρκικός and πνευματικός, and are to be taken qualitatively.

[154] The sinful constitution of the σάρξ in itself implies the necessity of a being born of the Spirit (vv. 3, 7); comp. 1 John 2:16. The above exposition cannot therefore be considered as attributing to John a Pauline view which is strange to him. This is in answer to Weiss, according to whom Jesus here merely says, “as the corporeal birth only produces the corporeal sensual part.” Similarly J. Müller on Sin, vol. I. p. 449, II. 382. See on the other hand, Luthardt, v. freien Willen, p. 393.

[155] The ἐκ τοῦ ὕδατος, implying the ἐκ τοῦ πνεύματος (after ver. 5), and the meaning of which is clear in itself, is not repeated by Jesus, because His aim now is simply to let the contrast between the σάρξ and the πνεῦμα stand out clearly.John 3:6. The necessity of the new birth is further exhibited by a comparison of the first and second birth: τὸ γεγεννημένον ἐκ τὴς σαρκὸς σάρξ ἐστι· καὶ τὸ γεγεννημένον ἐκ τοῦ Πνεύματος, πνεῦμά ἐστι. The neuter is used because the speaker “wishes to make His statement altogether general” (Winer, 27, 5), whatever is born. The law is laid down in Aristotle (Eth. Maj., i., 10), “Every nature generates its own substance,” flesh, flesh; spirit, spirit.6. The meaning of ‘birth from above’ is still further explained by an analogy. What a man inherits from his parents is a body with animal life and passions; what he receives from above is a spiritual nature with heavenly aspirations and capabilities. What is born of sinful, human nature is sinful and human; what is born of the Holy Spirit is spiritual and divine.John 3:6. Σάρξ) True flesh: but also mere flesh, void of spirit, opposed to spirit, of an old generation.—τὸ γεγεννημένον, what is born) This being in the neuter, sounds more general, and denotes the very first stamina [groundwork] of new life: comp. Luke 1:35, “The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee; therefore that holy thing, τὸ γεννώμενον,” etc.: or even the whole body of those born again: comp. John 6:37; John 6:39, “All that—πᾶν ὅ—the Father giveth Me, shall come to Me,” etc.: “This is the Father’s will, etc., that of all which—πᾶν ὅ—He hath given Me, I should lose nothing—ἐξ αὐτοῦ—but should raise it—αὐτό—up again at the last day.” Afterwards it is expressed in the masculine, ὁ γεγεννημένος, who is born, John 3:8; which signifies matured birth.—πνεῦμα, spirit) That which is born of the Spirit is spirit: he who is born of the Spirit is spiritual.Verse 6. - That which hath been born of the flesh, is flesh. Σάρξ is not the physical as opposed to the spiritual or immaterial. nor is σάρξ necessarily sinful, as we see from John 1:14, but as it often appears in John's writing and Paul's, σάρξ is the constituent element of humanity as apart from grace - humanity (body, intellect, heart, conscience, soul, spirit) viewed on its own side and merits and capacity, without the Divine life, or the Divine supernatural inbreathing. The being born of the flesh is the being born into this world, with all the privations and depravations, evil tendencies and passions of a fallen humanity. Birth into the theocracy, birth into national or ecclesiastical privilege, birth that has no higher quality than flesh, no better germ or graft upon it. simply produces flesh, humanity over again. When the Logos "became flesh," something more than and different from ordinary traduction of humanity took place. Destitute of any higher birth than the birth of flesh, man is fleshly, psychical, earthly, σαρκικός ψυχικός χοι'κός (Romans 7:14-25), and, more than that, positively opposed to the will and grace of God, lashed with passions, defiled with debasing ideas, in enmity against God. Hence the birth "from the Spirit" is entirely antithetic to the birth from the flesh. That which hath been born of the Spirit, is spirit. There is a birth which supervenes on the flesh-be-gotten man, and it is supernaturally wrought by the Spirit of God. As in the first instance, at man's creation, God breathed into man the breath of life, and by that operation man became a living soul; so now the new birth of man is wrought in him by the Spirit, and there is a new life, a new mode of being, a new bias and predomimating impulse. "A spiritual mind which is life and peace" has taken the place of the old carnal mind. He is "spiritual," no longer "psychical," or "carnal," but able to discern the things that are freely given to him. The eye of the spirit is opened, unsealed, the τὰ τοῦ πνεύματος are revealed to him (1 Corinthians 2:12-16; 1 Corinthians 3:1-5). The reference to "birth of water" is not repeated, because the birth from water is relatively unimportant, and of no value apart from the Spirit-change of which it may be a picture, or even a synonym. More than that, the Spirit-birth, the Divine operation, is the efficient cause of that which, under the form of a human experience, is called μετάνοια. The human metanoia, rather than the new birth, is the great burden of our Lord's public address, as recorded in the synoptic Gospels. In both representations the same fact, the same condition and state of the human consciousness, is referred to. In "repentance," however, and in the moral characters which are the several preliminaries to the beatitudes of the Sermon on the Mount, a change is declared necessary for the constitution and inauguration of the kingdom of heaven. This change is there viewed from the standpoint of human experience, and urged in the form of a direct appeal to conscience. In this discourse to Nicodcmus the same change is exhibited on its Divine side, and as one produced by the Spirit of God. In the Sermon on the Mount "meekness," "poverty of spirit," "mourning," "hunger after righteousness," "purity of heart," the spirit of forgiveness and long suffering, are the moral conditions of those minds and hearts which would become the city of God and the light of the world (Matthew 5:1-12). On this occasion, when addressing the learned rabbi, Christ sums all up in the demand for a birth from the Spirit - a new and spiritual recommencement of life from the Spirit of God. The clause found in the Vetus Itala and the Syriac, quia Deus spiritus est, et de Deo natus est, is a gloss sustained by no Greek manuscript authority. Thorns here quotes two interesting passages from Philo, 1:533, 599, where the νοῦς is spoken of as given to man from above, and where the supremacy of the spiritual over the fleshly is made the only guarantee of admission into the world of spirit. But Philo obviously meant the intellectual rather than the moral element in human nature, and prized the ascetic process rather than the supernatural regeneration. That which is born (τὸ γεγεννηένον)

Strictly, that which hath been born, and consequently is now before us as born. The aorist tense (John 3:3, John 3:4, John 3:5, John 3:7), marks the fact of birth; the perfect (as here), the state of that which has been born (see on 1 John 5:18, where both tenses occur); the neuter, that which, states the principle in the abstract. Compare John 3:8, where the statement is personal: everyone that is born. Compare 1 John 5:4, and 1 John 5:1, 1 John 5:18.

Of the flesh (ἐκ τῆς σαρκὸς)

See on John 3:14. John uses the word σάρξ generally, to express humanity under the conditions of this life (John 1:14; 1 John 4:2, 1 John 4:3, 1 John 4:7; 2 John 1:7), with sometimes a more definite hint at the sinful and fallible nature of humanity (1 John 2:16; John 8:15). Twice, as opposed to πνεῦμα, Spirit (John 3:6; John 6:63).

Of the Spirit (ἐκ τοῦ πνευματος)

The Holy Spirit of God, or the principle of life which He imparts. The difference is slight, for the two ideas imply each other; but the latter perhaps is better here, because a little more abstract, and so contrasted with the flesh. Spirit and flesh are the distinguishing principles, the one of the heavenly, the other of the earthly economy.

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