Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

John 3:6

That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - Heredity;   Holy Spirit;   Jesus, the Christ;   Life;   Man;   Nicodemus;   Regeneration;   Salvation;   Scofield Reference Index - Flesh;   Inspiration;   The Topic Concordance - Flesh;   Holy Spirit;   Kingdom of God;   Rebirth/being Born Again;   Spirit/souls;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Baptism;   Fall of Man, the;   Holy Spirit, the, Is God;   Life, Spiritual;   New Birth, the;   Titles and Names of the Holy Spirit;  
Dictionaries:
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Nicodemus;   Regeneration;   Spirit;   Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - Baptism;   John, gospel of;   Life;   Nicodemus;   Regeneration;   Sin;   Spirit;   Teacher;   Water;   Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Baptize, Baptism;   Disciple, Discipleship;   Holy Spirit;   Jesus Christ, Name and Titles of;   King, Christ as;   Life;   Obedience;   Salvation;   Spirituality;   Charles Buck Theological Dictionary - Episcopacy;   Knowledge of God (1);   Easton Bible Dictionary - Birth;   Nicodemus;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Birth;   Jesus Christ;   Nicodemus;   Noah;   Spirit;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Bible, Theology of;   Birth;   Holy Spirit;   Infant Baptism;   New Birth;   Wind;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Children (Sons) of God;   Ethics;   Gospels;   John, Gospel of;   John, Theology of;   Mss;   Nicodemus;   Regeneration;   Scribes;   Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament - Communion (2);   Death (2);   Discourse;   Eternal Life (2);   Fall (2);   Flesh (2);   Heart;   Holy Spirit;   Individuality;   Life ;   Man;   Mediator;   Mental Characteristics;   Personality;   Property (2);   Reality;   Regeneration;   Regeneration (2);   Repentance (2);   Righteous, Righteousness;   Sanctify, Sanctification;   Teaching of Jesus;   Trinity (2);   Worldliness (2);   Morrish Bible Dictionary - Flesh,;   Nicodemus ;   The Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary - Regeneration;   Wilson's Dictionary of Bible Types - Flesh;   Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary - Heart;  
Encyclopedias:
Condensed Biblical Cyclopedia - Tabernacle, the;   Jesus of Nazareth;   International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Baptismal Regeneration;   Bear;   Johannine Theology, the;   Nicodemus;   Regeneration;   Salvation;   Sin (1);   The Jewish Encyclopedia - Birth, New;   Holy Spirit;   Nicodemus;  
Devotionals:
Daily Light on the Daily Path - Devotion for December 14;   Every Day Light - Devotion for December 4;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

That which is born of the flesh is flesh - This is the answer to the objection made by Nicodemus in John 3:4. Can a man enter the second time into his mother's womb and be born? Our Lord here intimates that, were even this possible, it would not answer the end; for the plant will ever be of the nature of the seed that produces it - like will beget its like. The kingdom of God is spiritual and holy; and that which is born of the Spirit resembles the Spirit; for as he is who begat, so is he who is begotten of him. Therefore, the spiritual regeneration is essentially necessary, to prepare the soul for a holy and spiritual kingdom.

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Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on John 3:6". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/john-3.html. 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

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.

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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on John 3:6". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/john-3.html. 1870.

Coffman Commentaries on the Bible

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

Just as there are two elements in the new birth, there are two elements in man that require it. The flesh is born of the water (baptized), and the spirit is born of the Spirit (receives the Holy Spirit); but these are not two births, only one new birth.

Born ... The etymology of this word bears witness to the nature of the ceremony of baptism, coming from an old Anglo-Saxon word, "to be drawn forth from."

The previous verse revealed the two elements of the new birth, this the requirement that both flesh and spirit participate in it. Thus, what Jesus was saying to Nicodemus was: "Do what my disciples have done; first submit to John's baptism, and then come join my company."[12] If he had done so, the second element of the new birth, the reception of the Spirit would have been completed after Pentecost. The fact that at that particular time, Nicodemus could not have received the Holy Spirit, since he was not given yet, proves that the new birth as experienced in the new dispensation was in view here. See under John 7:39.

ENDNOTE:

[12] A. M. Hunter, The Gospel according to John (Cambridge: University Press, 1965), p. 37.

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Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
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Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on John 3:6". "Coffman Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/john-3.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

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.

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The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on John 3:6". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/john-3.html. 1999.

Geneva Study Bible

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.
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Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on John 3:6". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gsb/john-3.html. 1599-1645.

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

That which is born (το γεγεννημενονto gegennēmenon). Perfect passive articular participle. The sharp contrast between flesh (σαρχsarx) and Spirit (πνευμαpneuma), drawn already in John 1:13, serves to remind Nicodemus of the crudity of his question in John 3:4 about a second physical birth.

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The Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament. Copyright Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman Press (Southern Baptist Sunday School Board)
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Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on John 3:6". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rwp/john-3.html. Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.

Vincent's Word Studies

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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Vincent, Marvin R. DD. "Commentary on John 3:6". "Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/vnt/john-3.html. Charles Schribner's Sons. New York, USA. 1887.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

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

That which is born of the flesh is flesh — Mere flesh, void of the Spirit, yea, at enmity with it; And that which is born of the Spirit is spirit - Is spiritual, heavenly, divine, like its Author.

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These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
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Wesley, John. "Commentary on John 3:6". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wen/john-3.html. 1765.

The Fourfold Gospel

That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit1.

  1. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Jesus here draws the distinction between fleshly birth and spiritual birth. He did this to prepare Nicodemus to understand that it is the "spirit" and not the flesh which undergoes the change called the new birth. Regeneration is no slight, superficial change, but a radical one, and one which we cannot work for ourselves.

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These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website. These files were made available by Mr. Ernie Stefanik. First published online in 1996 at The Restoration Movement Pages.
Bibliographical Information
J. W. McGarvey and Philip Y. Pendleton. "Commentary on John 3:6". "The Fourfold Gospel". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tfg/john-3.html. Standard Publishing Company, Cincinnati, Ohio. 1914.

Abbott's Illustrated New Testament

The meaning seems to be, that the qualities which are inherited by natural birth are earthly and sensual, and that a great change, to be wrought only by the Holy Spirit, will make man heavenly-minded and pure.

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Abbott, John S. C. & Abbott, Jacob. "Commentary on John 3:6". "Abbott's Illustrated New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ain/john-3.html. 1878.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

Рожденное от плоти. Христос доказывает от противного, что царство Божие закрыто для всех нас, если вход в него не откроет палингенесия. Ведь Он принимает как данное: мы не можем войти в царство Божие, не будучи духовными. Однако от материнской утробы мы не заимствуем ничего кроме плотской природы. Итак, отсюда следует, что все мы по природе изгнаны из царства Божия и, лишенные небесной жизни, находимся в рабстве смерти. Далее, когда Христос рассуждает таким образом и говорит, что людям надлежит родиться заново, поскольку они – плоть, под плотью Он без сомнения разумеет всего человека. Поэтому плоть здесь означает не только тело, но также и душу вместе со всеми отдельными ее частями.

Папистские богословы весьма глупо ограничивают плоть одной лишь чувственной частью души, поелику в этом случае довод Христа оказался бы неуместным: нам надо родиться заново, потому что порочна в нас лишь одна часть. Если же плоть противопоставляется духу как порочное – непорочному, извращенное – правому, оскверненное – святому, замутненное – светлому, отсюда можно сделать вывод: этими словами осуждается вся человеческая природа. Итак, Христос объявляет наш разум и нашу душу порочными, поелику они плотски. Одновременно превратны и негодны все чувствования сердца, потому что они также принадлежат плоти. Однако здесь можно задать вопрос: поскольку душа не рождается от человеческой отрасли, получается, что главной своей частью мы не рождаемся от плоти. Отсюда многие стали думать, что мы происходим от родителей не только по плоти, что также и души одновременно передаются от родителей к детям. Ибо казалось абсурдным, что первородный грех, прежде всего гнездящийся в душе, может распространиться от одного человека на всех потомков, ежели души всех не происходят из его души как из одного источника.

Действительно, на первый взгляд слова Христа намекают на это. Мы потому являемся плотью, – говорит Он, – что рождаемся от плоти. Отвечаю: что касается слов Христа, их смысл состоит в том, что все мы плотские, каковыми и рождаемся. И поскольку рождаем мы в мир смертных людей, природа наша производит лишь принадлежащее плоти. Христос весьма просто различает здесь между природой и сверхприродным даром. Ведь то, что в лице одного Адама был испорчен весь человеческий род, происходит не столько от рождения, сколько от установления Божия, Который, прежде украсив всех нас в лице одного человека, затем в его же лице лишил всех нас дарованных украшений. Посему каждый из нас не столько перенимает порок и испорченность от своих родителей, сколько все мы равным образом испорченны в одном Адаме, поскольку сразу же после его отпадения Бог отнял у человеческой природы то, что прежде ей даровал.

Но возникает другой вопрос. Несомненно, что в этой выродившейся и порочной природе до сих пор пребывает некий остаток даров Божиих. Отсюда следует, что мы извращённы не во всех своих составляющих. Решение довольно просто: Дары, которые Господь оставил нам после грехопадения, взятые сами по себе, достойны похвалы. Но поскольку все наши части осквернены злом, в нас нет ничего чистого и лишенного скверны. Да, у нас имеется некое врожденное познание Бога, в нашей совести запечатлено некоторое различение между добром и злом, мы обладаем способностями обустроивать земную жизнь и во много раз превосходим несмысленных животных. Все это само по себе, как исходящее от Бога, совершенно прекрасно, но в нас оказывается оскверненным. Так и вино, впитав нечистоту сосуда, теряет приятное благоухание, более того – становится вредным и горьким на вкус. Ибо познание Бога, ныне остающееся в человеке, есть не что иное, как жуткое нагромождение идолопоклонства и суеверий. Способность судить о том, чего следует желать, а чего избегать, отчасти ослепла, отчасти стала увечной и беспорядочной. Всякое имеющееся в нас старание обращено на суету и пустые забавы. Сама наша воля в яростном стремлении полностью влечется ко злу. Посему во всей нашей природе нет ни одной капли праведности. Откуда явствует, что именно второе рождение делает нас пригодными к царству Божию. И это же говорят слова Христа: Поелику человек из утробы матери рождается плотским, он должен преобразиться Духом и стать духовным. Слово «Дух» здесь несет двоякий смысл: благодати, и следствия этой благодати. Вначале Христос учит, что Дух Божий – единственный творец чистой и праведной природы, а затем говорит, что мы духовны, постольку поскольку обновлены Его силой.

 

 

 

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Calvin, John. "Commentary on John 3:6". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/john-3.html. 1840-57.

Frédéric Louis Godet - Commentary on Selected Books

Ver. 6. "That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit."

The logical transition from John 3:5 to John 3:6 is this understood idea: "The Kingdom of God can only be of a spiritual nature, as God is Himself." In order to enter it, therefore, there must be, not flesh, as every man is by his first birth, but spirit, as he becomes by the new birth. The word flesh (see pp. 268-269), taken in itself, does not necessarily imply the notion of sin. But it certainly cannot be maintained, with Weiss, that the question here is simply of the insufficiency of the natural birth, even in the state of innocence, to render man fit for the divine kingdom. Nevertheless, we must not forget that the question here is of humanity in its present constitution, according to which sin is connected with the fact of birth more closely than with any other of the natural life (Psalms 51:7).

The expression: the flesh, seems to me, therefore, to denote here humanity in its present state, in which the flesh rules the spirit. This state is transmitted from generation to generation in such a way that, without renewal, no man can come out of that fatal circle. And hence the necessity of regeneration. How does this transmission of the carnal state accord with individual culpability? The last words of this conversation will throw some light on this difficult question. According to this saying, it is impossible to suppose that Jesus regarded Himself as born in the same way as other men (John 3:7, you). The substantive flesh, as a predicate (is flesh), has a much more forcible meaning than that of the adjective (carnal) would be. The state has, in some sort, become nature. Hence, it follows that it is not enough to cleanse or adorn outwardly the natural man; a new nature must be substituted for the old, by means of a regenerating power. We might also see in the second clause a proof of the necessity of the new birth; it would be necessary, in that case, to give it the exclusive sense: "Nothing except what is born of the Spirit is spiritual (and can enjoy, in consequence, the Kingdom of the Spirit)." But the clause has rather a positive and affirmative sense: "That which is born of the Spirit is really spirit, and consequently cannot fail to enjoy the Kingdom of the Spirit." The idea, therefore, is that of the reality of the new birth, and consequently, of its complete possibility.

This is the answer to the question: "How can a man?" Let the Spirit breathe, and the spiritual man exists! The word Spirit, as subject, denotes the Divine Spirit, and, as predicate, the new man. Here, again, the substantive (spirit), is used instead of the adjective (spiritual), to characterize the new essence. This word spirit, in the context here, includes not only the new principle of spiritual life, but also the soul and body, in subjection to the Spirit. The neuter, τὸ γεγεννημένον (that which is born), is substituted in the two clauses for the masculine (he who is born), for the purpose of designating thenature of the product, abstractedly from the individual; thus, the generality of the law is more clearly brought out.Hilgenfeld finds here the Gnostic distinction between two kinds of men, originally opposite.

Meyer well replies: "There is a distinction, not between two classes of men, but between two different phases in the life of the same individual."

Jesus observes, that the astonishment of Nicodemus, instead of diminishing, goes on increasing. He penetrates the cause of this fact: Nicodemus has not yet given a place in his conception of divine things to the action of the Holy Spirit; this is the reason why he is always seeking to represent to himself the new birth as a fact apprehensible by the senses. Recognizing him, however, as a serious and sincere man, He wishes to remove from his path this stumbling-stone. Here is not a fact, He says to him, which one can picture to himself; it can be comprehended only as far as it is experienced.

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Godet, Frédéric Louis. "Commentary on John 3:6". "Frédéric Louis Godet - Commentary on Selected Books". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gsc/john-3.html.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

Ver. 6. That which is born of the flesh, &c.] Whole man is in evil, and whole evil in man. Quintilian saw not this, and therefore said, that it is more marvel that one man sinneth than that all men should live honestly; sin is so much against man’s nature. Many also of the most dangerous opinions of Popery (as justification by works, state of perfection, merit, supererogation, &c.) spring from hence; that they have slight conceits of concupiscence, as a condition of nature. Yet some of them (as Michael Bains, professor at Lovain, &c.) are sound in this point.

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Trapp, John. "Commentary on John 3:6". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/john-3.html. 1865-1868.

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

John 3:6. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; That Nicodemus might see the absurdityof his notion, Jesus told him, that whatsoever is begotten, must necessarily partake of the nature of that which begets it; and therefore, that a man's being begotten and born a second time by his natural parents, were that possible, would not make him holy, or qualify him for the kingdom of God. After such a second generation, his nature would be the same sinful and corrupt thingas before, because he would still be endued with all the properties and sinful inclinations of human nature; and consequently would be as far from a happy immortality as ever:—That which is born of the flesh is flesh:—But that which is born of the Spirit is Spirit: spiritual, heavenly, divine, like its author.

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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on John 3:6". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/john-3.html. 1801-1803.

Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament

As if Christ had said, "As men generate men, and nature begets nature, so the Holy Spirit produceth holy inclinations, qualifications, and dispositions."

Learn hence, That as original corruption is conveyed by natural generation, so saving regeneration is the effect and product of the Holy Spirit's operation.

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Burkitt, William. "Commentary on John 3:6". Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wbc/john-3.html. 1700-1703.

Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary

6.] The neuter denotes not only the universal application of this truth, but (see Luke 1:35) the very first beginnings of life in the embryo, before sex can be predicated. So Bengel: “notat ipsa prima stamina vitæ.”

The Lord here answers Nicodemus’s hypothetical question of John 3:4, by telling him that even could it be so, it would not accomplish the birth of which He speaks.

In this σάρξ is included every part of that which is born after the ordinary method of generation: even the spirit of man, which, receptive as it is of the Spirit of God, is yet in the natural birth dead, sunk in trespasses and sins, and in a state of wrath. Such ‘flesh and blood’ cannot inherit the Kingdom of God, 1 Corinthians 15:50. But when the man is born again of the Spirit (the water does not appear any more, being merely the outward form of reception,—the less included in the greater), then just as flesh generates flesh, so spirit generates spirit, after its own image, see 2 Corinthians 3:18 fin.; and since the Kingdom of God is a spiritual kingdom, such only who are so born can enter into it.

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Alford, Henry. "Commentary on John 3:6". Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hac/john-3.html. 1863-1878.

Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament

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.

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Meyer, Heinrich. "Commentary on John 3:6". Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hmc/john-3.html. 1832.

Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament

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 —the Father giveth Me, shall come to Me,” etc.: “This is the Father’s will, etc., that of all which— πᾶν —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, 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.

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Bengel, Johann Albrecht. "Commentary on John 3:6". Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jab/john-3.html. 1897.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

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, 1 John 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.

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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on John 3:6". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/john-3.html. 1685.

Justin Edwards' Family Bible New Testament

Born of the flesh is flesh-born of the Spirit is spirit; by the natural birth, fleshly children come from fleshly parents; by the spiritual birth, spiritual children come from the Holy Spirit. Flesh and spirit are here opposed to each other. The first denotes what is earthly and impure; the second, what is heavenly and holy. Compare Romans 8:1-9.

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Edwards, Justin. "Commentary on John 3:6". "Family Bible New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/fam/john-3.html. American Tract Society. 1851.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

6.Flesh’ Spirit—Flesh is not synonymous with body. The word is used in the Old Testament to designate the entire transient, perishable, fallen, and corrupt nature of man, both in body and soul. Hence the meaning of the first clause of this first verse is: That which is generated of fallen and depraved humanity, is itself fallen and depraved humanity. Like produces like. Through all the productive, procreative kingdoms, whether animal or vegetable, no offspring is of a higher species than its parentage. On the other hand, Spirit here refers to the Holy Spirit as so operating upon the human spirit, and so changing its nature, as to be said to beget it anew. For as generation is a modifying of substance or being, imparting to it a new principle of life, conforming it, as living being, to the likeness of the generator, so regeneration is a modification of the human spirit by the Holy Spirit, conforming the temper of the human to the Holy.

Is spirit—As flesh signifies a depraved nature, so spirit in this verse signifies a pure nature.

For it is a pure and holy Spirit which is the generator, and it must be a pure and holy spirit which is generated. The whole text then is: As a depraved nature generates a depraved nature, so the holy nature generates a holy nature. And as we are first born of a depraved nature, and therefore depraved, so we must be born (or rather begotten) from a holy nature, and so be renewed.

 

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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on John 3:6". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/john-3.html. 1874-1909.

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible

“That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”

Here we can refer back to John 1:12-13 where John had distinguished natural birth from being ‘born of God’. Being born a Jew, or in Christendom, or in a Christian family is not sufficient. Just as being baptised is not enough. New life received from the Spirit is what is required, God watering the heart. This comparison of flesh and Spirit arises, of course, from Nicodemus’ earlier question. Having made clear that He is referring to the Spirit under the picture of life-giving water Jesus has now connected it up with what Nicodemus has asked.

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Pett, Peter. "Commentary on John 3:6". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/john-3.html. 2013.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

Here, not in John 3:5, Jesus clarified that there are two types of birth, one physical and one spiritual. "Flesh" again refers to human nature (cf. John 1:14). The Holy Spirit gives people spiritual life. We are spiritually dead in sin until the Spirit gives us spiritual life. Jesus had been speaking of a spiritual birth, not a physical one. Nicodemus should not have marveled at the idea that there is a spiritual birth as well as a physical birth since the Old Testament spoke of it (cf. Psalm 87:5-6; Ezekiel 36:25-28). It revealed that entrance into the kingdom is a spiritual matter, not a matter of physical descent or merit. This was a revelation that most of the Jews in Jesus" day, including Nicodemus, missed.

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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on John 3:6". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/john-3.html. 2012.

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament

John 3:6. That which hath been born of the flesh is flesh, and that which hath been born of the Spirit is spirit. In the last verse was implied the law that like is produced from like, since the pure and spiritual members of God’s kingdom must be born of water and spirit. Here this law is expressly stated. Flesh produces flesh. Spirit produces spirit. Thus the necessity of a new birth is enforced, and the ‘cannot’ of John 3:3 explained. It is not easy to say whether ‘flesh,’ as here used, definitely indicates the sinful principles of human nature, or only that which is outward, material, not spiritual but merely natural. The latter seems more likely, both from the context (where the contrast is between the natural and the spiritual birth) and from John’s usage elsewhere. Though the word occurs as many as thirteen times in this Gospel (chap. John 1:13-14, John 6:51-52, etc., John 8:15, John 17:2), in no passage does it express the thought of sinfulness, as it does in Paul’s Epistles and in 1 John 2:16. Another difficulty meets us in the second clause. Are we to read ‘born of the Spirit’ or ‘of the spirit’? Is the reference to the Holy Spirit Himself, who imparts the principle of the new life, or to the principle which He imparts,-the principle just spoken of in John 3:5, ‘of water and spirit’ It is hard to say, and the difference in meaning is extremely small; but when we consider the analogy of the two clauses, the latter seems more likely.—There is no reference here to ‘water;’ but, as we have seen, the water has reference to the past alone,-the state which gives place to the new life. To speak of this would be beside the point of the verse now before us, which teaches that the spiritual life of the kingdom of God can only come from the new spiritual principle.

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Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on John 3:6". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/scn/john-3.html. 1879-90.

The Expositor's Greek Testament

John 3:6. The necessity of the new birth is further exhibited by a comparison of the first and second birth: · , . 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.

 

 

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Nicol, W. Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on John 3:6". The Expositor's Greek Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/egt/john-3.html. 1897-1910.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

That which is born = That (Neuter) which has been begotten. Note the difference between this Perfect here and in John 3:8 and the Aorists in verses: John 3:3, John 3:3, John 3:4, John 3:5, John 3:7.

flesh. See note on John 1:13.

the Spirit: the Holy Spirit (with Art.) See App-101.

is spirit. This is a fundamental law, both in nature and grace.

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Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on John 3:6". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bul/john-3.html. 1909-1922.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

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

That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. A most weighty general proposition. As Olshausen expresses it, 'That which is begotten partakes of the nature of that which begat it.' By "flesh" here is meant, not the mere material body, but all that comes into the world by birth-the entire man: yet since "flesh" is here opposed to "spirit," it plainly denotes in this place, not humanity merely, but humanity in its corrupted, depraved condition-humanity in entire subjection to the law of the fall, called in Romans 8:1-39 "the law of sin and death." (See the notes at Romans 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. (See Job 14:4; Psalms 51:5.) Contrariwise, when it is said, "that which is born of the Spirit is spirit," the meaning is, that the fruit of that operation of the Holy Spirit upon the inner man, which had been pronounced indispensable, is the production of a spiritual nature, of the same moral qualities as His own.

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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on John 3:6". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/john-3.html. 1871-8.

The Bible Study New Testament

6. But he Is born spiritually of the Spirit. The new birth has nothing to do with natural birth. It is one who has already been born of natural birth, who is to be born again of water and the Spirit. It is the spirit, not the physical, which is radically transformed in the new birth. [But a physical act can have spiritual results. Look at the Cross!]

 

 

 

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Ice, Rhoderick D. "Commentary on John 3:6". "The Bible Study New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ice/john-3.html. College Press, Joplin, MO. 1974.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(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.

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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on John 3:6". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/john-3.html. 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
born of the flesh
Genesis 5:3; 6:5,12; Job 14:4; 15:14-16; 25:4; Psalms 51:10; Romans 7:5,18,25; Romans 8:1,4,5-9,13; 1 Corinthians 15:47-49; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 5:16-21,24; Ephesians 2:3; Colossians 2:11
that
Ezekiel 11:19,20; 36:26,27; Romans 8:5,9; 1 Corinthians 6:17; Galatians 5:17; 1 John 3:9
Reciprocal: Genesis 6:3 - is;  Genesis 8:21 - the imagination;  Job 12:10 - mankind;  Psalm 51:5 - shapen;  Psalm 78:39 - For he;  Proverbs 22:15 - Foolishness;  Luke 10:13 - repented;  Luke 11:13 - being;  John 1:13 - of God;  John 3:3 - Except;  Romans 8:8 - they that;  1 Corinthians 15:48 - such are they also that are earthy;  Galatians 5:19 - the works;  Ephesians 1:19 - exceeding;  Hebrews 12:9 - fathers

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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on John 3:6". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/john-3.html.

Commentary by J.C.Philpot on select texts of the Bible

John 3:6

"That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." John 3:6

There is no promise made that we shall be set free in this life from the indwelling and the inworking of sin. Many think that they are to become progressively holier and holier, that sin after sin is to be removed gradually out of the heart, until at last they are almost made perfect in the flesh. But this is an idle dream, and one which, sooner or later in the case of God"s people, will be rudely and roughly broken to pieces. Nature will ever remain the same; and we shall ever find that the flesh will lust against the spirit. Our Adamic nature is corrupt to the very core. It cannot be mended, it cannot be sanctified, it is at the last what it was at the first, inherently evil, and as such will never cease to be corrupt until we put off mortality, and with it the body of sin and death. All we can hope for, long after, expect and pray for, Isaiah, that this evil nature may be subdued, kept down, mortified, crucified, and held in subjection under the power of grace; but as to any such change passing upon it or taking place in it as to make it holy, it is but a pharisaic delusion, which, promising a holiness in the flesh, leaves us still under the power of sin, while it opposes with deadly enmity that true sanctification of the new man of grace, which is wrought by a divine power, and is utterly distinct from any fancied holiness in the flesh, or any vain dream of its progressive sanctification.

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Philpot, Joseph Charles. "Commentary on John 3:6". Commentary by J.C.Philpot on select texts of the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jcp/john-3.html.

Ernst Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms

Ver. 6. "That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit."

The presupposition is, that only the spiritual can be true members of the kingdom of God, which is spirit. But such a position cannot be attained by the way of nature. Of that which is fleshly only the fleshly, of sinners only the sinner, can be born. (Berleburger Bibel: "Thou hast indeed the wretched bodily birth in thee, but thou canst not by it enter into the kingdom of heaven.") Therefore, together with the bodily, there is needed a higher, spiritual birth. The doctrine which our Lord here lays down, is clearly presented also in the Old Testament. Adam begets a son after his image, and in his likeness. Genesis 5:3; therefore, after his fall, a sinner like him. David says, in Psalms 51:5, "Behold, I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me:" he confesses, that even at his birth, yea, even at his conception, he was tainted with sin. In Job 14:4 it is said, "Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? not one." Cf. Genesis 8:21; Psalms 58:3.

Philippi, in his Glaubenslehre 3, S. 200, says, "When it is said, that that which is born of flesh is flesh, by this is meant not merely the material human nature as the seat of the depraved human inclinations. This limitation is the less justified in the present connection of thought, since Nicodemus is the representative of Pharisaism, which, in opposition to Sadduceeism, did not seek after sensual pleasure, but after righteousness in good works; which legal striving must, therefore, likewise be comprehended under σὰρξ." The σὰρξ, he continues, designates not only the sensuous human nature, but human nature in general, as comprising both sense and spirit, and indeed human nature in its present character; therefore, corrupt, spiritual-sensuous human nature. Hence in Galatians 5:19-20, sins of selfishness, as much as sins of sensuality, are adduced, as works of the flesh; and in Colossians 2:18, even the puffed-up mind of a hyper-spiritual ascetic, who is bent on annihilating his sensuality, is designated as a fleshly mind. From these reasons it is concluded, that " σὰρξ signifies man as he is by nature, before regeneration by the Spirit;" or, as Wieseler says on Galatians 5:13, " σὰρξ is the sinful nature of man, both bodily and spiritual." But when it is shown by such reasons that σὰρξ cannot possibly denote mere "sensuality," that it comprehends the whole range of human corruption; yet thus, on the other hand, there is still wanting an answer to the question, why then the whole of the old man is thus, without further explanation, designated by the flesh,—a designation which, according to that rendering, cannot at all be justified as an a potiori one. Further, if every special reference to the bodily side of human existence is set aside in the use of σὰρξ, it is not explained, why, in Galatians 5:19-21, the series of the works of the flesh is opened and concluded by those very sins in which the reference to the bodily side is quite manifest; as fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, at the commencement,—drunkenness and revilings, at the end. That σὰρξ always has a special reference to the material nature, is evident also from this, that instead of flesh simply, the designation flesh and blood repeatedly occurs; cf. on John 1:13; and that body is repeatedly substituted for flesh, as in Romans 8:13 : εἰ δὲ πνεύματι τὰς πράξεις τοῦ σώματος θανατοῦτε, ζήσεσθε. According to Romans 8:10, the σῶμα even of the regenerate still remains the abode of sin, which from thence continually incites the spirit. This is explicable only, when greater importance is attributed to corporeality with respect to sin, than is done by those who understand by flesh alone the "sinful nature of man." The "body of death" also, in Romans 7:24, and the "law in the members," in ver. 23, are hardly compatible with such a conception. What is then the correct solution of the problem? Sin has its starting-point not in the flesh, but in the spirit. The temptation of our first parents was directed to the spirit. So also the temptation of Christ. Regeneration also must proceed from the spirit. The Apostle, in Ephesians 4:23, requires the renewing of the inner man, or of the spirit of the mind, in proof that from thence sin has taken its origin, that there is its real source. But what renders sin so dangerous for man, as a being of both body and spirit, is, that the impulses proceeding from the spirit make an impression upon the flesh, the material nature; that sin gradually becomes fixed in this, and from thence incites the spirit, making it at last a wretched slave, sold under sin. This is true not merely of lust and drunkenness—when the Apostle says, in 1 Corinthians 6:18, φεύγετε τὴν πορνείαν. πᾶν ἁμάρτημα ὃ ἐὰν ποιήσῃ ἄνθρωπος ἐκτὸς τοῦ σώματός ἐστιν· ὁ δὲ πορνεύων εἰς τὸ ἴδιον σῶμα ἁμαρτάνει, this is only spoken by way of comparison; in fornication, the body has the most direct and immediate part—it is true also of anger, pride, avarice, envy, etc. All these sins are accompanied by corporeal excitement, and transfer themselves, as it were, to the body. This is the truth contained in the physiognomy of Lavater, in the phrenology of Gall, and similar theories. If it were otherwise, the connection of the body and spirit would be reduced to a purely external, mechanical one; and it would also appear strange, that Holy Scripture designates sin with so much preference, according to its bodily expression. Sinful impulses exist in the material nature, also, in consequence of original sin: how otherwise could there be family sins, which can yet be propagated only by physical generation? We may see from the very stubbornness of such sins, how dangerous a part the flesh plays in the sphere of sin.

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Hengstenberg, Ernst. "Commentary on John 3:6". Ernst Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/heg/john-3.html.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

6.That which is born of the flesh. By reasoning from contraries, he argues that the kingdom of God is shut against us, unless an entrance be opened to us by a new birth, ( παλιγγενεσία) For he takes for granted, that we cannot enter into the kingdom of God unless we are spiritual. But we bring nothing from the womb but a carnal nature. Therefore it follows, that we are naturally banished from the kingdom of God, and, having been deprived of the heavenly life, remain under the yoke of death. Besides, when Christ argues here, that men must be born again, because they are only flesh, he undoubtedly comprehends all mankind under the term flesh. By the flesh, therefore, is meant in this place not the body, but the soul also, and consequently every part of it. When the Popish divines restrict the word to that part which they call sensual, they do so in utter ignorance of its meaning; (59) for Christ must in that case have used an inconclusive argument, that we need a second birth, because part of us is corrupt. But if the flesh is contrasted with the Spirit, as a corrupt thing is contrasted with what is uncorrupted, a crooked thing with what is straight, a polluted thing with what is holy, a contaminated thing with what is pure, we may readily conclude that the whole nature of man is condemned by a single word. Christ therefore declares that our understanding and reason is corrupted, because it is carnal, and that all the affections of the heart are wicked and reprobate, because they too are carnal.

But here it may be objected, that since the soul is not begotten by human generation, we are notborn of the flesh, as to the chief part of our nature. This led many persons to imagine that not only our bodies, but our souls also, descend to us from our parents; for they thought it absurd that original sin, which has its peculiar habitation in the soul, should be conveyed from one man to all his posterity, unless all our souls proceeded from his soul as their source. And certainly, at first sight, the words of Christ appear to convey the idea, that we are flesh, because we are born of flesh. I answer, so far as relates to the words of Christ, they mean nothing else than that we are all carnal when we are born; and that as we come into this world mortal men, our nature relishes nothing but what is flesh. He simply distinguishes here between nature and the supernatural gift; for the corruption of all mankind in the person of Adam alone did not proceed from generation, but from the appointment of God, who in one man had adorned us all, and who has in him also deprived us of his gifts. Instead of saying, therefore, that each of us draws vice and corruption from his parents, it would be more correct to say that we are all alike corrupted in Adam alone, because immediately after his revolt God took away from human nature what He had bestowed upon it.

Here another question arises; for it is certain that in this degenerate and corrupted nature some remnant of the gifts of God still lingers; and hence it follows that we are not in every respect corrupted. The reply is easy. The gifts which God hath left to us since the fall, if they are judged by themselves, are indeed worthy of praise; but as the contagion of wickedness is spread through every part, there will be found in us nothing that is pure and free from every defilement. That we naturally possess some knowledge of God, that some distinction between good and evil is engraven on our conscience, that our faculties are sufficient for the maintenance of the present life, that — in short — we are in so many ways superior to the brute beasts, that is excellent in itself, so far as it proceeds from God; but in us all these things are completely polluted, in the same manner as the wine which has been wholly infected and corrupted by the offensive taste of the vessel loses the pleasantness of its good flavor, and acquires a bitter and pernicious taste. For such knowledge of God as now remains in men is nothing else than a frightful source of idolatry and of all superstitions; the judgment exercised in choosing and distinguishing things is partly blind and foolish, partly imperfect and confused; all the industry that we possess flows into vanity and trifles; and the will itself, with furious impetuosity, rushes headlong to what is evil. Thus in the whole of our nature there remains not a drop of uprightness. Hence it is evident that we must be formed by the second birth, that we may be fitted for the kingdom of God; and the meaning of Christ’s words is, that as a man is born only carnal from the womb of his mother; he must be formed anew by the Spirit, that he may begin to be spiritual.

The word Spirit is used here in two senses, namely, for grace, and the effect of grace. For in the first place, Christ informs us that the Spirit of God is the only Author of a pure and upright nature, and afterwards he states, that we are spiritual, because we have been renewed by his power.

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Bibliographical Information
Calvin, John. "Commentary on John 3:6". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/john-3.html. 1840-57.