John Bible Study (That You May Believe)

John 3:22-36, He Must Increase

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John’s gospel continues to decisively point to the greatness of Jesus. Jesus is God who came in the flesh to deliver the people from their sins under which they are condemned. Jesus is greater than the blessings of the old covenant, as seen in the water to wine miracle. Jesus is greater than the physical temple, fulfilling its symbolism. Jesus is now the place where we worship the Father. Jesus is the place where people come to meet God and find atonement for sins. Jesus fulfills the prophecies about water and spirit regeneration. Life transformation will occur for those who grasp the salvation God brought in the Son. The final verses of chapter 3 continue to teach about the superior greatness of Jesus.

Glory Belongs To Jesus (3:25-30)

Verse 22 reveals that the scene has changed. Jesus is no longer in a discussion with Nicodemus over the new birth and seeing the kingdom of God. Jesus and his disciples are going through the Judean countryside and they are baptizing in Judea. John the Baptizer is also baptizing at Aenon and people are coming to John for baptism. The scene is setting up for a competition. Jesus and his disciples are baptizing in Judea. John is baptizing and people are coming to him also. This sets up the question in verse 25 over purification between a Jew and John’s disciples.

I think it is worth mentioning at this point the connection between baptism and purification. This is not an incidental to the story. There is a reason that the apostle John introduced this dispute over purification with a description about Jesus and John baptizing. If baptism is not important and necessary, why are Jesus’ disciples baptizing people? Why is John baptizing? Why is there a dispute over purification regarding these two baptisms? Even the apostle John, the author of this gospel, is highlighting the importance because he brings up this very point! Any suggestion that baptism is not necessary ignores the fact that Jesus’ disciples are going around baptizing people. There must be a reason they are baptizing and the reason is tied to purification. Otherwise, why are Jesus’ disciples baptizing and why does Jesus after his resurrection continue to command his disciples to go and baptize (cf. Matthew 28)?

John’s disciples come to him and tell him that Jesus is baptizing and everyone is going to him. His disciples see a problem. John the Baptizer is at the Jordan River baptizing people for the forgiveness of sins and toward repentance. But now that Jesus fellow that John was with is also baptizing. Even more, all the people are flocking to him. John is diminishing and his disciples see it. Everyone is going to Jesus and not to John. John’s disciples seem to think this is a problem. Notice John’s response:

“A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven.” (John 3:27 ESV)

This is a humble and wise reply. God had granted John a particular task. John was on a mission defined by God. There is no room in the kingdom of God for jealousy. There is no room for rivalry. This is not a competition. John is making the point that he is not going to try to seize a greater position. John knows his role. He knows what he has been sent to do. This is a contrast to what we will see later in this gospel. The Pharisees are outraged that “the world has gone after him.” They did not understand their position and purpose. John the Baptizer did. Servants of God know their roles. They know what they are supposed to do. Moses had the same kind of thinking as John the Baptizer.

Now two men remained in the camp, one named Eldad, and the other named Medad, and the Spirit rested on them. They were among those registered, but they had not gone out to the tent, and so they prophesied in the camp. 27 And a young man ran and told Moses, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.” 28 And Joshua the son of Nun, the assistant of Moses from his youth, said, “My lord Moses, stop them.” 29 But Moses said to him, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the LORD’s people were prophets, that the LORD would put his Spirit on them!” (Numbers 11:26–29 ESV)

Servants of the Lord do not compete with one another, but experience joy when God is glorified. John’s purpose was to give glory to Jesus and point the way to him. Listen to what John says in verses 28-30. In verse 28 he tells his disciples that he told them from the beginning that he was not the Messiah. John always knew and always taught that he was the forerunner and not the Christ. Further, at the wedding, does the best man receive the glory, or the groom? John makes the point that groom receives the bride, not the friend of the groom. The best man simply rejoices with the groom. No best man should be sad at the wedding because he is not the one getting married. This is the bride and the groom’s day and the best man has great joy is witnessing to this marriage. John’s joy is complete. His mission is accomplished. In fact, in John’s gospel we will not read any more about the preaching of John the Baptist. John wants people to go to Jesus. Remember what happened in John 1:35-37. John is standing with his two disciples and Jesus walked by. John declared, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” Then what happened? Those two disciples left John and followed Jesus. Mission accomplished. John’s mission is to testify to the light so that people will recognize the light (John 1:8). John is experiencing joy that God’s mission and purposes are at work and being fulfilled. Success is getting people to follow Jesus, not us.

“He must increase, I must decrease!” Success has nothing to do with us. Success is in pointing to Jesus and taking all the attention away from ourselves. The divine necessity is that eyes turn to Jesus and not us. Our job is to elevate Jesus. We are not to elevate ourselves. We do not elevate the church. There is only one thing that receive our attention, our adoration, our glorification, and our efforts: Jesus. Nothing else. No one else. So John declares that there is nothing to worry about. There is no jealousy. There is no rivalry. We are not in competition with other churches. I am not in competition with other preachers. There is one goal: point to Jesus. The attitude of the apostles must also be our attitude.

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” (2 Corinthians 4:7 ESV) We are not the treasure. We are the jars of clay. Jesus is the treasure. The gospel is the power. All glory belongs to God. John the Baptizer was the greatest prophet to ever walk to the earth, according to Jesus (Matthew 11:11). Yet even John understood that Jesus must increase. It is the divine command. I must decrease. Let all praise go to Jesus.

Jesus Is God’s Supreme Representative (3:31-36)

This elevation of Jesus is what is right. The passage now explains why John the Baptizer must decrease but Jesus must increase. The chapter lists five reasons for the supremacy of Jesus, therefore proving that Jesus must increase and all glory must be directed to him.

Christ’s heavenly origin (3:31). According to verse 31, he who comes from above is above all. Jesus is God come in the flesh. His heavenly origin places him above all creation. Jesus came from heaven and spoke with a higher authority than that of earth.

Christ’s heavenly testimony (3:32-33).Jesus spoke with firsthand observation and knowledge. Since Jesus is from heaven, he can speak from knowledge, not theory. Yet again John emphasizes the sad news. Jesus is testifying about heavenly things, but no one receives his testimony. How foolish to reject the message from the one who truly knows heavenly things! He is the only one who knows about heavenly things. But those who do receive Christ’s testimony sets his seal to this: that God is true. By accepting Jesus’ testimony as to what he has seen and heard, the believer has certified that God is truthful (see NIV). Jesus so completely says and does all that God says and does, and only what God says and does, that to believe Jesus is to believe God. Conversely, not to believe Jesus is to call God a liar.

Christ’s heavenly words (3:34).Jesus spoke the very words of God. He speaks God’s words because he has the Spirit without limitation. God attested to Jesus by the Spirit (cf. John 1:32-33). No one else has this testimony. No one else has this proof. He is the very fullness of God, and from his fullness we have all received grace upon grace (John 1:14-16; cf. Colossians 2:9). Jesus is more than a prophet. He is also the distributor of the Spirit, as will be described later in this gospel (cf. John 14-16).

Christ’s supreme authority (3:35).The Father has given Jesus all authority. The Father loves the Son and has given ALL things into his hand. Ridderbos makes a terrific point about the relationship of God’s love for the Son.

“Therefore, the Father loves the Son is a pronouncement about both the nature and the authority of Jesus’ mission. With regard to the nature of that mission, as the Son he represents the love of God. In him and in his mission God is presented in the world as the God of love. With regard to Jesus’ authority, it is he in whom the victorious fullness of God’s love makes its way and into whose hand, for the sake of that revelation, all things have been given.” Since he has all authority, then all things must glorify him and all things must decrease in his presence. He must increase, we must decrease.

Christ’s authorship of life (3:36).The Son is where life is at. If faith in the Son is the only way to inherit eternal life, and is commanded by God himself, then failure to trust him is as much disobedience as unbelief. Notice that belief and obedience are used interchangeably in this verse. This shows our observations throughout this chapter have been correct. Genuine belief is the new birth, life transformation, so that we will desire Jesus. We will desire to obey him and desire to flee from sin, rebellion, and disobedience. True belief as seen the new birth leads to eternal life. John ends with the thought he declared in verse 18. We are the condemned. Jesus did not come to condemn the world because we were already condemned by our actions. Jesus came to rescue the world. But if we do not have a new birth through Jesus, the wrath of God remains on us. We are still condemned and therefore wrath still rests upon us. We need to hear this verdict upon us also. The wrath of God rests on us until we come to Jesus for salvation. The wrath of God is revealed against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of people (Romans 1:18). Jesus came to save. Will we believe his heavenly testimony and be transformed into his children?

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