By Rev. John Clowes M.A.
Explaining the Inner Meaning of John 3
Verses 3:1, 2. That some in the perverted church, in consequence of the miracles which the Lord worked, seek conjunction with him, and acknowledge his doctrine to be divine.
Verse 3:3. To whom it is taught, that man cannot attain any perception of heavenly good and truth, except by regeneration.
Verses 3:4, 5. This however is understood by those of the perverted church, according to a natural idea, and not according to a spiritual idea, and therefore they are further instructed, that regeneration is effected by a reception of the truths of faith in man's understanding, and by a love and life in conformity with those truths.
Verses 3:6, 7. Because man is at first born merely natural, but has the capacity of afterwards becoming spiritual, by a life according to truths derived from the Word, and therefore he ought not to regard regeneration as a strange, or irrational operation.
Verse 3:8. Yet that scarcely any of the innumerable arcana of regeneration come to the knowledge and perception of man.
Verses 3:9, 10. This cannot be comprehended by those of the perverted church, who are in the knowledges of external truth, when yet those knowledges ought to have conducted them to the apprehension of internal truth.
Verses 3:11, 12. For the literal or external sense of the Word proceeds from, and is filled with, the interior things of the divine truth and wisdom, which things are rejected by those who remain in the love of mere natural things, and who, on that account, cannot comprehend celestial and spiritual things.
Verse 3:13. For celestial and spiritual things can only be comprehended by those who receive into their minds and lives the divine truth, inasmuch as the divine truth alone comes down from heaven, and therefore is alone capable of elevating any into the things of heaven.
Verses 3:14, 15. That this divine truth therefore assumed a sensual corporeal principle here on earth, to the intent that sensual corporeal men might have a divine object of faith presented to them, and being thus elevated to conjunction with that object, might be preserved from the defilement and death of merely sensual and corporeal life.
Verse 3:16. That this was effected from the divine love, to the intent that mankind might no longer continue immersed in mere natural love, but might be raised into the sphere of celestial and spiritual love.
Verses 3:17, 18. Wherefore God assumed the Human [nature] to the intent that mankind might conjoin goodness and truth in their minds and lives, since a right faith in the Divine Humanity of the Lord leads to such conjunction, whereas a want of that faith leads to separation.
Verses 3:19, 20. For the Divine Humanity of the Lord is divine truth, and if divine truth be rejected in consequence of evil love, then nothing appertains to man but the false principle of evil.
Verse 3:21. On the other hand, if divine truth be loved and obeyed, man is conducted to the Lord's Divine Humanity, because he is willing to acknowledge that all the good which he wills and does is from that divine source.
Verses 3:22, 23, 24. That when the Lord had finished these sayings, he instructs the perverted church in the truths of purification, which truths also were taught in abundance by those who were principled in charity and faith, whilst they were in a state of freedom.
Verses 3:25, 26, 27. Nevertheless these truths are received with doubt by those of the perverted church, and therefore it is taught that all purifying truth is from the Divine Truth, and thus that all wisdom, intelligence, reason, and science, are not of man, but of the Lord in his Divine Humanity.
Verses 3:28, 29. And that the design of all representative truth is only to prepare mankind for the reception of the Divine Truth, that thus good and truth may be conjoined in the church, and the church may rejoice in being instructed concerning the precepts of faith, and in receiving them in faith and obedience.
Verses 3:30, 31. Thus the Divine Truth becomes all in all in the church, as being inmost truth, and all other good and truth only administer externally.
Verses 3:32, 33. For the Divine Truth testifies concerning the Lord, both as to his divine wisdom and divine love, and notwithstanding its being rejected by the generality of mankind, brings conviction along with it to those who receive it.
Verses 3:34, 35. Which truth is from the Lord's Divine Humanity, whose intelligence and wisdom are infinite, being in eternal union with the divine good, and thus possessing the all of that good.
Verse 3:36. Whosoever therefore receives truth from that Divine Humanity with a right faith, is made partaker also of the divine good, but whoever rejects it, can have no apprehension of that good, but remains in his own natural evils.
8043. 'Whatever opens the womb' means which springs from charity. This is clear from the meaning of 'whatever opens the womb' as that which is born directly from someone who has been regenerated, thus which springs from charity, in accordance with what has been stated immediately above in 8042. For when a person is conceived anew he so to speak enters the womb again; and when a person is born anew he so to speak comes out of the womb again. But this time, what is conceived in and born from the womb is not the person as a person; rather it is faith, the offspring of charity. This faith gives the person a spiritual character; it so to speak remakes the person himself since his life is now begotten by it. From all this one may now see what is meant in the spiritual sense by 'whatever opens the womb'. Angels, whose ideas are solely spiritual ones, do not understand the expression in any other way. What 'the womb' means, and also what 'being in the womb' and 'coming out of the womb' mean, see 3293 (end), 3294, 3967, 4904, 4918, 4931, 5052, 5054, 6433.
(References: Arcana Coelestia 3293-3294)
 Since those things are meant by 'the womb', the Word speaks of the Lord as Him who 'formed from the womb', that is, who is the Regenerator, as in Isaiah,
Thus said Jehovah who made you and formed you from the womb, who helps you, Fear not, O My servant Jacob, and Jeshurun whom I have chosen, for I will pour out water upon thirsty land, and streams upon the dry I will pour out My spirit upon your seed, and blessing upon your sons. Isaiah 44:2-3.
The Lord is spoken of as Him who 'made and formed from the womb' because He regenerates a person, making a spiritual person out of one who is natural. Since regeneration is accomplished through truth and good it says that He will pour out water upon thirsty land and spirit upon his seed; for 'water' means the truth of faith, 2702, 3058, 3424, 4976, 5668, 7307, and 'spirit' means the good of charity, in the same way as 'water' and 'spirit' do in John,
Jesus said to Nicodemus, Truly, truly I say to you, Unless a person is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus said to Him, How can a person be born when he is old? Can he come a second time into his mother's womb? Jesus answered, Truly, truly I say to you, Unless a person has been born of water and spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which has been born of the flesh is flesh, but that which has been born of the spirit is spirit. Are you a teacher in Israel, and do not know this? John 3:3-6, 10.
 The Lord is again called the One who 'formed from the womb' elsewhere in Isaiah,
Thus said Jehovah, your Redeemer, and He who formed you from the womb, I am Jehovah who makes all things, who spreads out the heavens Alone, and who stretches out the earth by Myself. Isaiah 44:24.
'The heavens' and 'the earth' are used to mean in a general sense the internal and the external Church, 82, 1411, 1733, 1850, 3355, 4535, and in a particular sense the internal and the external aspects of the Church with a person who has been regenerated; and 'spreading out' and 'stretching out' mean making or creating by the use of Divine power, 7673. This is why the Lord as Regenerator is referred to as Maker and Creator, and why regeneration is referred to as a new creation.
 'Womb' is used in a similar way in the same prophet,
Hearken to Me, O house of Jacob, and all the remnant of the house of Israel who have been carried from the belly who have been borne from the womb. Isaiah 46:3.
And in David,
On You, O Lord Jehovih, I have been laid from the womb; You brought me out of my mother's bowels; You are my praise continually Psalms 71:6.
From all this one may now see what is meant in the internal sense by 'whatever opens the womb' and consequently by 'the firstborn'.
(References: Exodus 13:2)