John 3:22-36- He Must Increase
Explanation- It is interesting to note that both Jesus and John the Baptist were baptizing together. Although John’s ministry was coming to an end, there was still work to be done. It should be pointed out here that Christ Himself was not baptizing with His own hands, for we read in the opening statements of chapter four that He delegated this work to His disciples and retained the work of preaching for Himself.
The comment that the disciples of John the Baptist make concerning Christ and His disciples baptizing mirrors similar comments made by Christ’s own disciples. In Mark chapter nine the disciples comes to Jesus to inform Him that there is one casting out demons in the name of Christ, and that they sought to stop him from doing so. Jesus’ response emulates the unity that we are to have as the universal body of Christ. He says that, ‘the one who is not against us is for us’ (Mk. 9:40). This religious exclusivity is also echoed in the writings of Moses when Joshua comes to Moses to inform him of one prophesying. Moses responds by saying, ‘Would that all the LORD’s people were prophets…’ (Num. 11:29). In this respect, the gospel and all that comes with the territory of Christian ministry is very inclusive. I use this term loosely as I do not desire men to seek positions that they are not called to, but within its’ proper context this idea of ministerial inclusivity is very important. God calls men to the work of ministry despite many factors and regulations that the world, or even the church, may place on specific offices. As I have heard many times before, God does not call the equipped, but He equips the called.
More importantly in this account, John the Baptist testifies to the supremacy of Christ and His ministry over that of his own. John was a forerunner, and as such he was not meant to hold the center stage. He was meant to be a spot light pointing to the star attraction. Christ is the Bridegroom and has come to secure His bride (the church). John finds his place as the friend of the Bridegroom who takes joy at even the simplicity of Christ’s voice. In this he says, ‘this joy of mine is now complete’ (3:29). We see here the humility and genuineness of John the Baptist. Specifically in the way that he speaks of Jesus. The coming of Christ has fulfilled his joy, and he very well understands that it is now his time to decrease in the presence of Christ. John received all that he had for the ministry from God, he acknowledges this full well.
One last thing I would like to point out is John the Baptist’s final statement in verse 36. He nearly echoes Christ’s words to Nicodemus. Note the similarities in John 3:18, ‘Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already…’ and John 3:36, ‘Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life…’ These statements are nearly identical in purpose and are spoken at two different times, to two separate individuals or groups, and by two different speakers. We do not know whether or not Jesus shared the details of His conversation with Nicodemus with John the Baptist, but we do see this as another validating proof of John the Baptist’s ministry. Namely to put the glory of Christ on full display.
Application- We see so often within the church schisms of various kinds. It seems to be a reflection of our sin nature that we often try the make the gospel and its efficacy exclusive to this group or that. The above mentioned disputes that came about in the lives of Moses, John the Baptist, and even our Lord prove that we are a people who can be easily influenced by the false premise of favoritism. Even the Apostle Paul faced this when writing to the Corinthians. He says, “…each one of you says, ‘I follow Paul,” or ‘I follow Apollos,’ or ‘I follow Cephas,’ or ‘I follow Christ.” (1 Cor. 1:12). His response in verse 13 hits the nail on the head, ‘Is Christ divided?’ Each one of us who belongs to Christ are a part of His body. Sure there are numerous church buildings, small groups, and interpretative differences that we hold in regard to secondary issues; but we are all united by the gospel under the banner of Christ and Him crucified. In this there is no room for division or exclusivity. If we are to grow up into maturity in Christ then we must lay aside the dividing walls that have crept into our churches, small groups, and homes and allow the unity of Christ to build us up into that perfect spiritual building which is the body of Christ. Of course we are to still use discernment because, as we know, the wheat will still rise with the tares; but let us not allow carnal reasoning or prejudice to sway our judgement and in turn damage a wheat. Let us seek peace and unity with all those who name the name of Christ and so bring glory to God.