John 3:22-36: “He Must Increase”

Read: John 3:22-36

John was baptizing at Aenon (called, “The place of springs”) near Salim outside of Sychar, the village that converted after Jesus spoke to the woman at the well. This all happened before John was thrown in jail and executed (Mark 6:14-29). Jesus was baptizing somewhere nearby because and some of John’s disciples took note of this. That, and they were having a discussion over Jewish purification in the context of baptism.  The disciples asked John why people were going to Jesus instead of coming to John. Apparently, there was some issue raised as to who’s baptism was better in making one clean. This is the same problem that arose in the Corinthian church (1 Corinthians 1:11-17) as they were claiming some sort of authority or propriety because of who baptized them. Paul attempts to smooth over the discord and unify the church as fellow workers centered on the work of Christ (1 Corinthians 3:1-9). John makes a similar argument here in that he too points everything back to Christ. He claims that he is not the Christ, but was sent before to testify to the Christ. Paul claims to be mere preacher of the word (1 Corinthians 1:17), one who proclaims Christ and not a baptizer. In the same manner of concession, John says his mission was to prepare the way for the Christ, and was not the Christ himself. He says that Jesus must increase and he must decrease.

After saying these things, John gives another testimony about Jesus: Jesus is from above and Jesus is above all. God sent Jesus, and he tells people what God says because God gives the Spirit fully to Jesus, because God loves Jesus, and has given him power over everything. The one’s that do believe put there “seal” on the matter that this is the truth — that is, they testify to the truth of the matter. John says that “no one” has receives this testimony, but this does not mean that literally no single person has, rather only few have.  John sums up the matter by echoing Jesus’ words from John 3:16-18, saying the ones that believe have eternal life, but the ones that don’t believe are already condemned.

Often times, believers can get a “holier than thou” complex about themselves for any number of reasons. It could be who their family is, what church they go to, what version of the Bible they reads, what kind of cloths they wears, what kind of car they drives, where they works, among many other things. The fact of the matter though, is that next to Jesus, everyone is petty. Likewise, such complexes detract from the main thing. John acknowledges Jesus’ position: Jesus is from above and above all. For this reason, John says Jesus must increase and he must decrease. Christians too should be as John and acknowledge that Jesus is from above and is above all and get out of the way so Jesus can shine. Christians should set their seal on Jesus as the truth and testify to the matter so that some might believe and receive eternal life and not be condemned.

Lord, help me decrease so that you might increase so your testimony can be received by many!

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