To understand the writings of John, we must understand what it means to be “born of the Spirit” or “born of God.” As recorded in the Gospel of John, Jesus had a famous conversation with Nicodemus, a teacher of the Pharisees and a ruler of the people (a member of the Sanhedrin) (John 3). Jesus explained to Nicodemus that unless “someone is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). To “see” the Kingdom of God means to experience and understand the Kingdom of God, which is a spiritual place under God’s authority. Many of us have heard the phrase “born again,” but do we understand what Jesus really meant? The Greek word anothen is best translated as “from above.” Jesus was speaking of being born “from above.” Additionally, the Greek word gennao is most often translated as “born,” but in John, Chapter 3 (when speaking of the Spirit), Jesus used gennao metaphorically. Jesus was not speaking of literally reentering or passing again through a mother’s birth canal. Metaphorically, gennao means “to engender, cause to arise, or excite.” In other words, in order to enter the Kingdom of God (i.e., Kingdom Living), we must consent to a Spirit-directed existence. We must be engendered by the Spirit. The spiritual must take precedence over the fleshly. Yes, after believing, we retain our fleshly desires, but we must learn to give first priority to the spiritual. By doing so, our lives will, more and more, be characterized as righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit, which describes an existence in the Kingdom of God (Rom. 14:17). Jesus explained that “unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God” (John 3:5). In other words, a human is literally born when or shortly after the mother’s water (amniotic fluid) sac is broken, but to enter the Kingdom of God, the human must also be born of the Spirit. Life in the Kingdom of God is a spiritual existence. It is a life that comes down to us from Heaven.
Jesus taught that “that which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:6). Most humans are completely dominated by their fleshly inspired motivations. Each follows his or her own feelings and desires. At John, Chapter 3, Jesus described to Nicodemus a life where God’s will takes priority over the human will. Jesus explained that we must be born from above (John 3:7). Jesus is not teaching that every human desire is morally wrong or evil. He is teaching that God’s will must have priority over our own. For example, there was nothing wrong in Jesus preferring not to die at or around 30 years of age on a Roman cross. However, on the night before His crucifixion, Jesus subjugated Himself and consented to the will of His Father when He said “Your will be done” (Matt. 26:42).
The great Old Testament believer, King David, prayed “Teach me to do Your will, for You are my God; May Your good Spirit lead me on level ground” (Ps. 143:10). The Holy Spirit teaches us how to live the Spiritual Life in the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is both a present spiritual reality and future coming reality. Jesus taught His disciples to pray, “Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10-11). Heaven is a very civilized place where God’s will is always followed. Our present Earth is not a very civilized place. In fact, in many ways, our present Earth is more and more hostile to God, His people, and His commandments. Certainly, in the United States, there is a growing hostility toward the people of God and the way of God.
In regard to the Spiritual Life, Jesus taught that the “wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it is coming from and where it is going; so is everyone who has been born of the Spirit” (John 3:8). As an example, Jesus was completely guided and directed by the Spirit in the conduct of His earthly ministry. Jesus functioned in the timing of His Father (John 5:19, 6:38, 14:31, 15:10). Sadly, only a minority have ears to hear the Spirit. The vast bulk of humanity seemingly has no understanding or appreciation of the Spiritual Life. They are dominated by human desires and feelings. Most humans live according to lust, which is inordinate desire. They are commonly under the influence of envy, malice, anger, or arrogance. Others are dominated by sexual immorality, selfish ambition, dissensions, or factions. Most stubbornly cling to a life independent and separate from God. In contrast, Jesus taught humans to lay hold of the Spiritual Life and walk in love.
John, the Elder described a new way of living wherein our actions are born of God. More and more, our words and deeds should be incited or engendered by God. It is a life of fellowship with God. John taught, “If you know that He [God] is righteous, you know that everyone who practices righteousness also has been born of Him [God]” (1 John 2:29). This verse describes the Christian’s walk of faith and how we can practice righteousness by means of the Holy Spirit and by following God’s Word.
John also taught that “No one who has been born of God practices sin, because His seed [the Spirit] remains in him; and he cannot sin continually, because he has been born of God” (1 John 3:9). This verse can breed confusion. John is not teaching that those who believe that Jesus is the Christ will no longer sin. John is teaching us that when our words and actions are born of God, we cannot sin. This is describing functioning in relationship with God (engendered by the Spirit). Being born of God and sin are mutually exclusive (1 John 5:18). In other words, if we function in fellowship with God, we refrain from sin. This is how God has designed us to function in righteousness. However, as finite beings, we do sin and periodically falter in our spiritual walk, failing to function in righteousness. If we do sin, we simply acknowledge (or confess) our sin, and God will restore us to fellowship (1 John 1:9). As we grow spiritually, we become more and more consistent in our Christian walk (i.e., how we function), but we never become sinless as long as we inhabit these bodies of weakness, which are inclined to sin.
John said, “Beloved, let’s love one another; for love is from God, and everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God” (1 John 4:7). Many Christians profess to love God and know God. However, we do not practice love for God or others or even truly know God if we reject this new way of being. We must accept a life in which God’s commandments flow to us like a river from beneath His throne. Our words and deeds must rest under His authority. Any other life is a counterfeit existence. Authentic love is possible only in a life lived under God’s authority.
Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born (engendered) of God (1 John 5:1). In fact, every moment of belief or trust in God is engendered by God. Our moment of first believing is just the beginning. Every believer has the capacity to live the Spiritual Life. Such a life is made possible by the Holy Spirit. However, we are required to grow in the Word by means of the Spirit. We become a victorious believer by laying hold of the Spiritual Life and by living in such a way that God engenders or incites our actions, words, and way of being (1 John 5:4). We must have persistence and perseverance over many years. The Holy Spirit is our primary teacher, and yes, over the years, we may have a number of human teachers, as well.
 “G509 – anōthen – Strong’s Greek Lexicon (nasb20).” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 2 Nov, 2021. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/g509/nasb20/mgnt/0-1/>.
 “G1080 – gennaō – Strong’s Greek Lexicon (nasb20).” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 2 Nov, 2021. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/g1080/nasb20/mgnt/0-1/>.