The Gospel of John
(James J. Barker)


Lesson 7

HE MUST INCREASE, BUT I MUST DECREASE

(John 3:22-36)



INTRODUCTION:


1.     Here in John 3 we have the closing testimony of John the Baptist.

2.     Verse 22 says, “After these things…” – meaning after our Lord’s conversation with Nicodemus.  Our Lord and His disciples then left Jerusalem and entered the land of Judea (3:22), i.e., the surrounding countryside.

3.     Verse 22 says our Lord “tarried with them, and baptized.”  But John 4:1, 2 explain that our Lord Himself did not baptize His new converts; His disciples did.

4.     Meanwhile, John the Baptist was still preaching and still baptizing (3:23, 24).  Verse 23 reminds us that baptism is by immersion – “because there was much water there.”  The very word baptizo means “to immerse or to dip.”  Sprinkling and pouring are unscriptural.

5.     Verse 24 refers to John’s arrest and imprisonment.  Herod was living in an adulterous relationship with his brother Philip’s wife, Herodias.  Because of his immense power, no one dared to correct him – no one but John the Baptist. 

6.     All of this is recorded in Matthew 14 and Mark 6.  John told Herod, “It is not lawful for thee to have her.”  Later on, in order to satisfy the hatred of Herodias and her wicked daughter, Herod had John put to death.

7.     John 3:24 tells that these events had not taken place yet.  John the Baptist was still preaching, and John 3:25 says, “Then there arose a question between some of John’s disciples and the Jews about purifying.”  The Jews’ purification rituals are alluded to in John 2:6.

8.     These Jews saw baptism as a rite or ordinance of purification.  To this day, many people believe the same thing. We should emphasize that baptism cannot wash away sin.  Only the blood of Jesus can wash away our sins.

9.     But the idea here is that the ministry of our Lord was beginning to overshadow the ministry of John the Baptist.  The Jews interpreted this as a possible conflict.

10. There was no conflict, but perhaps they were seeking to start a conflict.  In any event, they came to John and asked him about our Lord’s ministry (3:26).

11. John’s answer is important.  It reveals his philosophy of ministry.  We have here the closing testimony of John the Baptist.

 

I.                  JOHN’S PHILOSOPHY OF MINISTRY

1.     The Jews referred to in our text are the same Jews mentioned in John 1:19 (cf. 3:25, 26; 5:33).  This is indicated in John 3:28 when John reminds them of the testimony he bore before their representatives on the previous occasion (cf. 1:20).

2.     Many Bible teachers interpret John 3:26 to mean that the Jews were seeking to stir up trouble between the followers of John the Baptist and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Note in particular their statement – “and all men come to Him” (3:26b).

3.     All men certainly were not coming to Christ (cf. 3:32).  “No man receiveth His testimony” (3:32). But the next verse says, “He that hath received His testimony…”  Therefore verse 32 is not to be understood without qualification. It is evident that what John meant was that comparatively none received the testimony of Christ.

4.     Isaiah 53:3 says our Lord was despised and rejected of men.  This is what John meant – “no man receiveth His testimony.”  Isaiah 53:1 (quoted by the apostle Paul in Romans 10:16) says, “Who hath believed our report?” and the inference is very few have believed.

5.     But what was the object of these Jews (3:26)?  Was their motive a malicious one?   

6.     Were they seeking to make John envious?  If they were, they did not succeed.  In this religious controversy, John showed his loyalty to Christ and his true greatness (3:27).

7.     Whatever success a preacher enjoys, whatever gifts a man has, whatever blessings he receives – it all comes from God.

8.     James 1:17 says, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.”

9.     If we fail we have no one to blame but ourselves.  But if we succeed, we must give God the glory (cf. I Cor. 4:1-7).

10.John the Baptist was careful to give God the glory (John 3:27, 28).  John knew who he was. He understood the ministry God had given him.  He was happy to be the forerunner of the Messiah.

11.John the Baptist kept on preaching and kept on baptizing even though his ministry was being eclipsed by the Lord.  John understood this was all part of God’s plan (cf. 1:26, 27).

12.God has given each and every one of us (i.e., those of us that are saved) a place of service.  Let us be faithful in fulfilling the ministry God has given us. 

 

II.               JOHN’S RELATIONSHIP TO JESUS (3:29, 30).

1.     John described his relationship to Christ in a beautiful metaphor.  He compared himself to “the friend of the bridegroom” (3:29), i.e., the best man at the wedding.

2.     The best man is not envious of the bridegroom; he is happy for him.  He loves him.  He wants to assist him.

3.     This symbol of Christ as the bridegroom and the church as His bride reminds us of Christ’s great love for us (cf. II Cor. 11:2; Eph. 5:22-33; Rev. 19:7-9).

4.     When people disparage the Church they are denigrating an organization that is very precious to the Lord Jesus Christ.

5.     At a wedding all eyes are on the bride and bridegroom.  Not much attention is paid to the best man.  That was the way John wanted it.  He was happy to play a subordinate role (John 3:29).

6.     This marriage metaphor helps us to understand John’s relationship with Christ.  The Jews may have been trying to make John jealous over our Lord’s success, but John tells them his “joy is fulfilled” (3:29).

7.     What best man is envious of the bridegroom?  The best man is not envious; he rejoices with his friend the bridegroom.

8.     Then John says one of the greatest statements recorded in our Bible – “He must increase, but I must decrease” (3:30). 

9.     After the wedding, the best man goes home.  He does not go on the honeymoon.  He does not move in with the new couple. John’s ministry was now coming to an end.  He was the forerunner of Christ, and he rejoiced in that role.

10. There is an important lesson here for us.  Christ must be preeminent in our lives.  He must get all the glory.  He must increase, and we must decrease.

 

III.           JOHN’S FINAL TESTIMONY CONCERNING THE LORD JESUS CHRIST (3:31-36).

1.     I should clarify that statement by saying, “John the Baptist’s final recorded testimony concerning the Lord Jesus Christ.”

2.     John does not mention the imprisonment or death of John the Baptist (cf. John 5:33-35).  This is John’s last declarative statement regarding our Lord (3:31-36).

3.     I should mention that some people feel that these closing verses (vss. 31-36) were not spoken by John the Baptist, but rather were written by the apostle John.  We will not know for sure till we get to heaven, but one thing we do know is that these are the inspired, inerrant Words of God.

4.     There are many contrasts in this portion of Scripture and we do not have time to study them all tonight, but consider 3:31.  Christ is “from above” and “above all.”  On the other hand “he that is of the earth is earthly” (3:31).

5.     Unregenerate, worldly sinners cannot grasp heavenly things.  It does not matter how religious they may be, until they are born again they cannot understand spiritual things (cf. 3:12).

6.     Another important contrast is found in 3:34, 35.  John the Baptist was sent from God (1:6).  There have many other prophets and preachers sent by God.  But Jesus Christ is God – “for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto Him.”

7.     This is what Colossians 2:9 means – “For in Him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.”

8.     Finally, our last and most solemn contrast is found in John 3:36.  Those who believe on Jesus have (present possession) everlasting life.  But those who do not believe in Jesus have the wrath of God abiding on them. 

 

CONCLUSION:


1.     William Carey was a great Baptist preacher.  He was born in England in 1761.  He served the Lord for 41 years in India and is considered one of the greatest missionaries and translators of all time.

2.     When William Carey was dying, he turned to a friend and said, “When I am gone, don’t talk about William Carey; talk about William Carey’s Saviour.”

3.     William Carey wanted Christ, and Christ alone to be magnified.  William Carey understood the words of John the Baptist – “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30).



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