“A person can receive nothing unless it is given to him from heaven.” (John 3:27)
John repeats a point that Christ actually makes in the discussion with Nicodemus recorded in the same chapter (John 3). The story is well known. Jesus has been doing (and saying) some pretty impressive things. He comes to Jesus by night, because he was a Pharisee of the Sanhedrin after all, and wonders how it is possible that Jesus is doing this work.
It is the similar question that John’s disciples asked him: how is it possible that Jesus is allowed to do this work?
Jesus responds that entrance into the Kingdom of God is by miraculous means: one must be born again (John 3:3). One isn’t born of their own power but they are born by the power of the Spirit (John 3:5-8). God functions how he functions and he decides how things are to be.
Nicodemus, confused and wondering then how anyone can therefore enter the Kingdom of God asks “How can these things be?” (John 3:9)
Christ’s answer is that we speak what we know and what he knows is outright heavenly things. No one has gone up to heaven to be able to explain these things but only the one who descended from heaven: the Son of Man. The Son of Man came with God’s purpose: to be lifted up so that whoever believes in Him will have eternal life (John 3:16).
He points to himself.
Christ’s response to Nicodemus is that God’s initiative is evidenced in the provision of Christ. To hammer this point home, he uses a metaphor from Numbers 21:4-9 to illustrate the point.
The Children of Israel were dying in the wilderness. They had sinned. God punished: they were to be bit by poisonous snakes. Moses interceded and God didn’t have to respond. The people had already covenanted with him that they would be a holy nation, a royal priesthood and they had repeatedly broken their pact with God. God had every right to be done with them.
But God in his mercy and sovereignty provided a solution. He told Moses to make a bronze serpent and to lift the thing up. If anyone who was bit and dying, poison coursing through their veins, turned away from their situation to look at what God had provided they would live. They wouldn’t diminish. They would be lifted up. They would be able to walk. They would be able to grab hold of the promises of God. They would live.
In that same way, says Christ, the Son of Man is lifted up as God’s provision which God points to wanting people to look. The fact that they don’t look speaks of their own sinfulness and condemnation already because this gift is actually God given.
So John, understanding Mankind’s contingency, says anything man has is actually given, not taken: it is God Given. Breath. Life. Ministry. All God given.