John uses another key term here: world. This is not merely the same concept as in verse three, “all things.” For John, the term world is a specific term. It is not creation or the universe. It is specifically the realm of rebellious humanity. It is the world after sin became a part of the mix.
Here we see the Word—the true Light of revelation about God, God Himself—enter fallen creation. God has broken into this world and all truth available to us comes from Him. However, fallen creation did not recognize Him. Even his people—those to whom He spoke through special revelation of prophets, those He freed from slavery and whom He ruled as his special people—rejected Him.
However, there are those who do receive Him. They are called out of the world. They are not a part of the world due to their special relationship with God. They are characterized by two things: faith and spiritual birth.
Faith means receiving the Word; believing in his name, his character, his person. Belief is not mere intellectual acceptance of a concept, but rather trust. We trust God, his claims about himself, and we follow his leadership—his lordship—in obedience.
Spiritual birth is independent of a human characteristic or condition. Race nor family matter. It is not something some people are more qualified for, through personality, will or predisposition. It is completely a result of God’s will.
One might ask, does faith lead to spiritual birth, or does spiritual birth lead to faith? What John here writes renders that distinction impossible to make.