Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. – I John 5:1 ESV
1 John 5:1-5
His status as a child of God was extremely important to John, and he wanted his readers to understand and appreciate just how significant their position as God’s children was as well. He did not want them to take it for granted. He also did not want them to assume that this was a condition for which they were responsible. Their spiritual rebirth, like his, was a work of God – from start to finish. They had been “born of God.” The Greek word John used is gennaō and it can mean “to be born or begotten,” but it can also be used in a metaphorical sense, “in a Jewish sense, of one who brings others over to his way of life, to convert someone.” Of course, Jesus most certainly had the first meaning in mind when He used the very same word in His conversation with the Pharisee, Nicodemus, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3 ESV). But Jesus also made it clear to Nicodemus that this new birth was a spiritual, not a human event. “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:5-6 ESV). All men and women experience a natural birth. They are born of water. They are born of the flesh. But Jesus said that unless you are born of water AND the Spirit, you cannot enter the kingdom of God. There is a second birth required and that birth is spiritual in nature and completely the work of God.
But it is interesting to think about that second definition for the word, gennaō. It refers to one who brings others over to his way of life, converting and changing them. With the new birth, we become children of God. We are given new natures and a new way of living. No longer simply flesh-based, we are spiritual creatures with the very Spirit of God living within us. Paul puts it this way: “So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord–who is the Spirit–makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image” (2 Corinthians 3:18 NLT). In his letter to the believers in Rome, Paul puts it even more bluntly. “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers” (Romans 8:29 ESV). To the believers in Ephesus he wrote, “even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved” (Ephesians 1:4-6 ESV). God has chosen us. He has, through the death of His own Son, provided a means by which we could be brought over to His way of life, converting and changing us. It is NOT our faith that changes us. It is Jesus. He is the one who has provided us with new life. Paul put it so well when he wrote, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20 ESV). It is our faith IN Jesus that provides us with new life. Paul describes how that happened. “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4 ESV). He goes on to say, “we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code” (Romans 7:6 ESV). “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV).
Those who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ have been been born of God. But even that capacity to believe has been given to us by God. In his letter to the church in Ephesus, Paul wrote, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been save” (Ephesians 2:4-5 ESV). God made us alive (syzōopoieō) together with Christ. We were dead in our sins, incapable of doing anything good or right, but God “quickened” us, putting the capacity within us to open our spiritually blinded eyes and see the truth of His gracious gift of new life in Christ. God regenerated us. Yes, we chose Christ. We placed our faith in Him. But even that choice had to be made possible by the grace and mercy of God. We who are children of God have truly been born of God. He chose to adopt us, not the other way around. He has made us His sons and daughters. And as a result of that new birth, we have been given new life. And the life we now live in the flesh, we live by faith in the Son of God. Same old bodies. Same old world. But new life, new nature, new power, new hope, new relationship with God, new future.