13 who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
Having “received” from Christ the right to be born again, this verse qualifies how we were born again.
13 who [plural] were born,
The “who” here refers to the many who did receive Him.
The word “born” means to beget or to be born. The Greek indicates that God caused our spiritual birth. It also shows that we were born spiritually at one point in time, the time when we believed in Jesus.
not of blood [plural],
Note that the word “not” is repeated three times in the next phrases. These are three attempts at gaining acceptance with God.
This phrase indicates that we did not become Christian via natural or physical birth. We do not become believers by natural descent. Spiritual life does not come from a physical blood relationship. Spiritual birth is more than being in Abraham’s family, for example.
nor of the will of the flesh,
No matter how good our parents may be, our relationship to them has no effect on our salvation. No man seeks God by his own volition without God first seeking him with His grace (Ro 3:11). No man can come to God by unadulterated, raw human will. He needs more than that. He needs the supernatural work of God upon his heart.
nor of the will of man,
Spiritual birth does not consist of human device; it has an entirely different source, a supernatural cause. We cannot cause ourselves to be born into the family of God. We enter solely by believing in Jesus’ death on the cross to pay for our sins.
but of [out of] God.
“Of God” connotes that God is the source of our spiritual birth. Belonging to the family of God is not a matter of generation but regeneration. It is a supernatural event rather than natural because the Holy Spirit is the cause of regeneration (3:5-8). Christians have a new origin when they believe in Jesus.
Although God takes the initiative in our salvation, this does not mean He gives us our faith or causes us to believe. It simply means that God sovereignly works on us by conviction and draws us to Himself. Drawing does not inevitably lead to believing. We have the choice to believe or not believe on Him.
God offers us the authority to believe on the death of Christ to give us eternal life.
God provides everyone the right to become Christians on the condition that they believe that Jesus saves from sins. The issue is one of our choice. Deliberate refusal to believe places the onus on us as individuals. People reject Christ because of blindness to the Light.
Those who argue that the act of belief or the onset of faith follows spiritual birth do so on tenuous grounds. This is a narrative passage. When people argue propositional sequence in a narrative passage, they impose too much on the passage. This is a form of the fallacy of interpolation; that is, reading something into the text.
No doubt we cannot believe by sheer operation bootstraps. Our sin capacity will not allow for that. However, the Holy Spirit supernaturally convinces the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:8-11). God draws us to Him so that we can make a decision to accept Him. Salvation is indeed a supernatural work; however, God does not give us the faith to believe but enablement to believe should we so choose.
Nowhere do we find that God puts regeneration before faith or that God breathes faith into us. That is an imposition on the text. God gave us the option of faith so that we might exercise it.