He Must Increase. I Must Decrease

We’re going through the New Testament now and trying to come to a deeper understanding of the doctrine of God. I am referring to the Trinity as there are other doctrines of God as well, but this is one that is truly unique to Christianity. I have this idea that if the church could grasp the concept of the Trinity, it would turn us around. Perhaps the American church would finally have the revolution that it needs. We’re in the gospel of John and tonight, we’re going to be concluding the third chapter.

 22After this, Jesus and his disciples went out into the Judean countryside, where he spent some time with them, and baptized. 23Now John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because there was plenty of water, and people were constantly coming to be baptized. 24(This was before John was put in prison.) 25An argument developed between some of John’s disciples and a certain Jew over the matter of ceremonial washing. 26They came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, that man who was with you on the other side of the Jordan—the one you testified about—well, he is baptizing, and everyone is going to him.” 27To this John replied, “A man can receive only what is given him from heaven. 28You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Christ but am sent ahead of him.’ 29The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. 30He must become greater; I must become less.

 31“The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is from the earth belongs to the earth, and speaks as one from the earth. The one who comes from heaven is above all. 32He testifies to what he has seen and heard, but no one accepts his testimony. 33The man who has accepted it has certified that God is truthful. 34For the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God gives the Spirit without limit. 35The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands. 36Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.”

When I started writing this blog, I was writing the first part in the title and thought “I cannot put that title without putting in the second part.” It would be awfully easy to have simply stated the truth that Christ must increase. What is hard to put in is that we must decrease.

The ancient worldview was that there was limited good. If one person had goodness, it was because it was taken from another. This was especially the case with honor. It wasn’t given out freely. Honor had to be earned. If someone attacked your honor, you had better defend it.

John the Baptist was told that his following was decreasing. John the Baptist, however, saw that this was to a greater good. (Thus further indication that part of John is written to stop an idea that John the Baptist was not the end-all.) The Baptist knew the truth. He must decrease. Christ must increase.

Why? Christ came from Heaven. (Contrary to those who think our souls might drop down from heaven like gumballs when we are conceived.) He is the one who is above all. I believe this is John the writer’s testimony again as he speaks in the same style that he did in the dialogue with Nicodemus. We have a response to Christ and then we have commentary. The Baptist publicly certified who Christ is. Nicodemus came by cover of night.

Let us make further comparisons. John the Baptist was a figure willing to lose what he had. Nicodemus was ashamed. John the Baptist understood what was going on at the time. Nicodemus, who was a teacher of Israel, did not. Nicodemus spoke to Jesus as just a teacher. John the Baptist saw him as the Christ, the bridegroom, and the lamb of God.

In this passage, we see the contrast and the only reason I can think of for the different responses these men had to Christ is the different way they saw him. John was willing to lose all. Nicodemus was afraid of losing what he had. 

Which side are you on today? Are you on the side of John the Baptist who saw Christ as the bridegroom and was willing to lose everything and did not seek his own honor at the expense of Christ, or are you coming by cover of night like Nicodemus because who knows what those around you could think if they knew that you were a follower of Christ?

You know the answer to that.

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