But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
Last time, we began looking at the text above. Our text reveals three specific ways the new birth does NOT occur, the first of which we’ve already considered, namely that we are not born of blood into the kingdom of God. Today, we’ll look at the second way in which this birth does not happen:
2) Nor of the will of the flesh
Do men really think you can become a child of God by the will of the flesh? Do you know what the flesh is by definition? It is the nature of man apart from the influence of God! It is the body and soul without a spirit made alive to God. What can the flesh do? Just listen to the horrible list of the works of the flesh in Gal 5:19-21:
“Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
Does anything in that list sound like something that would make God decide to adopt us?!! These things are an abomination to Him! Some might say, “But what if in my flesh I instead did those things that God said to do? What if I lived by His law and rule?” Gal 2:16 answers that question! “…knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.” Further, Titus 3:5 reminds us that it was “not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit…”
In Rom 7:18-19, the Apostle Paul took an honest assessment of his flesh and came to this conclusion: “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice.” How can a man possibly be born into the kingdom of God by the will of the flesh if Paul said after he was saved that the will of his flesh was still coming up short and committing sin?
Of course, we understand that he is not saying in this text that we shouldn’t strive against sin? There are too many verses telling us to strive, resist, fight, etc. The problem is when we are confident in our ability! Too many people pick one or the other. That is, either it’s all up to me or it’s all up to God. In reality, we need to strive as if it depends on us while continually crying out to God, confessing we can’t make it unless God does it in us and through us! He works it in, and we work it out according to Ph 2:12,13: “…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” Only AFTER this work of God in me can I walk in a manner pleasing to God (Gal 2:20). To say we’re born by the will of the flesh is to get the cart before the horse! God originates this new life!