Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from a Jacobite and Orthodox Perspective
Malankara World Journal
Theme: Humility of John The Baptist
Volume 7 No. 457 January 19, 2018
II. Lectionary Reflections: John 3:22-36

Competition in Ministry Between Disciples of John The Baptist and Jesus

by OCF

Gospel: John 3:22-36

Bible Text: John 3:22-36

John the Baptist Exalts Christ

22 After these things Jesus and His disciples came into the land of Judea, and there He remained with them and baptized. 23 Now John also was baptizing in Aenon near Salim, because there was much water there. And they came and were baptized. 24 For John had not yet been thrown into prison.

25 Then there arose a dispute between some of John's disciples and the Jews about purification. 26 And they came to John and said to him, "Rabbi, He who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you have testified—behold, He is baptizing, and all are coming to Him!"

27 John answered and said, "A man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven. 28 You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, 'I am not the Christ,' but, 'I have been sent before Him.' 29 He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom's voice. Therefore this joy of mine is fulfilled. 30 He must increase, but I must decrease. 31 He who comes from above is above all; he who is of the earth is earthly and speaks of the earth. He who comes from heaven is above all. 32 And what He has seen and heard, that He testifies; and no one receives His testimony. 33 He who has received His testimony has certified that God is true. 34 For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God does not give the Spirit by measure. 35 The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into His hand. 36 He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him."

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®.
Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

By this time, John the Baptist had achieved a great deal of popularity as the result of his preaching and baptizing. But he is no longer the only one baptizing. While in the Judean countryside, the disciples of our Lord baptized those who came to them. At the same time, John and his disciples were also baptizing.

Note: We would expect that John's baptism had not changed from what it had always been. His was a baptism of repentance in preparation for the coming of Messiah. Our Lord's baptism - or rather the baptism our Lord's disciples conducted in His name - was essentially the same as John's. His disciples could not baptize in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit yet since our Lord had not yet been crucified, buried, and risen from the dead.

Verse 22

Who was doing the baptizing in the Judean countryside? This verse alone can be confusing. John 4:2 clearly says that Jesus was not baptizing - His disciples were.

Verse 23

"People were constantly coming to be baptized." Describe John's ministry. Luke tells us that crowds went out to hear John. Matthew tells us that people came to him from "Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan" (Matthew 3:5).

Apparently the multitudes included all segments of the population - Pharisees, Sadducees, tax collectors, soldiers, the rich, and the poor. John the Baptist has a large, devoted following!

What do we see going on between the disciples of Jesus and those of John the Baptist in verses 25-26? Competition for "baptizees" resulted in jealousy, rivalry, and bickering.

How would you describe the attitude of John the Baptist's disciples?

• Pride. We were here first. This is our territory.

• They were more focused on themselves and their ministry than on the spiritual condition of people coming to be baptized

• John the Baptist's disciples see the end in view - for themselves and for their ministry. We're going to be out of a job if this keeps up! Yet this is the way God meant it to be.

It is interesting to note that some of the greatest men in the Bible faced this problem of comparison and competition:

• John the Baptist John 3:26-30
• Moses Numbers 11:26-30
• Jesus and His disciples Luke 9:46-50
• Paul Philippians 1:15-18


Are there any places we see examples of comparison and competition in the church today? Have you experienced it?

Verses 27-30

How would you describe the attitude of John the Baptist?

• John likens this situation to a wedding scene, where he is the best man at the wedding between Jesus and Jesus' followers.

• When the voice of the groom is heard, the best man knows his task is accomplished. He can rejoice that the bride and the groom are joined in marriage.

• "That joy is mine, and it is now complete." He is losing his congregation to Jesus - and he is happy about it! John's joy comes from knowing Jesus Christ - and from knowing his relationship to Him.

• "He must become greater; I must become less." His ministry was to announce that the Messiah had come, point the people to Jesus, and then to step back once Jesus appeared on the scene.

What does John the Baptist's response to the dissention in verses 27-30 tell us about him?

• He was in touch with God.

• He knew what his purpose was.

• He was a model of humility and Christian servanthood.

• Yet we have already seen that he was bold, unafraid, and unashamed! Clearly John understood that his ministry, his moment in the spotlight, and now his declining popularity, were all part of God's sovereign plan and purpose.


Like John the Baptist, do you know your purpose in life? Perhaps you have a calling to minister to those in the military and/or their families! Your purpose/ministry/calling is not in competition with anyone else.

Why was John the Baptist able to remain humble in the midst of all this notoriety?

• A contributing factor in John the Baptist's humility was his own self-awareness. John the Baptist knew who he was and what it was to which God had called him.

• When John the Baptist said, "A man can receive only what is given him from heaven" (v. 27), this was an awareness by John of God's sovereignty in all things. If the newcomer was attracting and winning more followers than John himself, this was not because he was stealing them away from John or acting dishonestly in presenting his claims. It was because God was giving them to Christ to be his followers.

• Another contributing factor in John the Baptist's humility was that he had his eyes fixed on Christ. He was the friend of the bridegroom, John said (John 3:29). It was not his wedding. His function was to serve the groom. This too applies to all Christians.

Is there any example from John the Baptist's life for us to follow? "He must increase, but I must decrease" should be the motto of every Christian, especially leaders among God's people. Jesus should become greater and more visible, and the servant should become less and less visible. It's all about Jesus. John the Baptist's disciples failed to understand that.


How can we get to be humble like John the Baptist? Meditate, study, and read the Word of God so that you can increasingly comprehend the hugeness of God, the magnitude of the sacrifice (the Cross), and the depths of your own depravity.

Verses 31- 35

John documents the supremacy of Jesus Christ. How is Jesus superior?

• Jesus came from heaven.
• Jesus is above all.
• Jesus testifies to what He has seen and heard - speaks the Word of God.
• Jesus has the Spirit without limit.
• The Father loves Jesus.
• The Father has placed everything in His hands.

Verse 36

What are the two options given to us in this verse? Belief or unbelief. There is no middle ground. To try and ride the fence, to make no decision, is to reject Jesus. Because He is the Son of God, there is a heavy price to pay for rejecting Him. There are eternal consequences.


Because of His supremacy, how will you react? What are you going to do with Jesus Christ?


The most important question anyone can ask and answer is, "Who is Jesus Christ?" The answer is the key to everything.

It is the key to one's eternal destiny. It is the key to one's ministry and service. There is no room for competition in serving Him.

MEMORIZE: John 3:30

Copyright Officers' Christian Fellowship (OCF)

He Must Increase, I Must Decrease

By Rev Charles Seet

Text: John 3:22-36

In the commercial world it is not uncommon to hear interesting cases of a talented employee leaving an established firm to start his own firm which flourishes and does even better than the previous one. For those who are MacUsers it may interest you to know that Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple Computers, started out as a technician working for Atari, which was the pioneer in the video game industry.

Steve Jobs had a friend, Steve Wozniak, who invented a simple personal computer. Both of them first offered the design to Atari. But Atari turned down their offer, and so Steve Jobs left Atari and started his own home business to produce and market the new product. He chose the name Apple for the new business because it comes alphabetically before Atari in the phone book. It went on to become a roaring success, leaving Atari far behind! Interestingly, Atari started producing its own line of PCs later on, but was unable to achieve anything near the success that Apple enjoyed.

In the eyes of the commercial world, success comes from the ability to outshine all the rivals who compete in the same industry. Thus any 'new kid on the block' is perceived unfavourably as a threat to one's business. A similar kind of perception was held by some of the disciples of John the Baptist about 2,000 years ago, when the Lord Jesus and His disciples began to baptize people.

John the Baptist had a very successful revival ministry and gained a rather large following from all over Israel. His bold, powerful and effective preaching brought thousands of people to hear him and to be baptized by him. According to Matthew 3:5-6:

'Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan, And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins.'

People from all walks of life came to him - fishermen, soldiers, despised publicans, and even many of the Pharisees and the Saducees, who were the religious elite of Israel. And as their esteem for John the Baptist and his powerful preaching and baptising ministry increased, some of them willingly attached themselves to him and became his devoted disciples!

To them, he was the prophetic voice of God who had finally broken a long silence of about 400 years. But some of them took their devotion to this prophet to an extreme. They blindly believed that the ministry of John the Baptist must increase by all means! But John himself was not of the same mind and spirit as them - His desire was surprisingly to decrease rather than increase!

Let us turn to our passage of scripture in John 3:22-36 to see how this was revealed to them. This passage can be divided into 3 parts which provide 3 useful lessons on successful Christian living.

  • The first part, which begins at v.22 and ends at v.27 presents us with the resentment or envy of John's disciples. The lesson we will learn from this is to forsake such an attitude.
  • The second part begins at v.28 and ends at v.30. Here we will observe how John the Baptist was content with the secondary role God gave to him. This is something that we ourselves ought to follow.
  • The final part, from vv.31 to 36 is all about the endowments of Christ, and the lesson is to keep our hearts and minds focused on them.

Let us begin with the first part:

I. Forsake the Divisive Resentment of John's Disciples (vv. 22-27)

This resentment started as a result of a new development - The Lord Jesus began to preach against sin and to baptize people, just like John the Baptist had been doing. Soon it became publicly known that there was a new ministry doing exactly the same thing that John had been doing. This news reached the ears of John's disciples through some Jews who had seen the ministry of Jesus in Judea and they used it against John's disciples as a point of argument against John's baptism.

Verse 25 says, 'Then there arose a question between some of John's disciples and the Jews about purifying.' The word 'question' in this verse actually means 'debate' or 'dispute.' The Jews were questioning the validity of John's baptism by saying that it is no longer unique and effective, since someone else was also baptizing and was now drawing even bigger crowds than him.

This news was so disturbing to John's disciples that they felt it necessary to bring it up to their master to see if he could do something about it. According to verse 26 'And they came unto John, and said unto him, Rabbi, he that was with thee beyond Jordan, to whom thou barest witness, behold, the same baptizeth, and all men come to him.' You will notice here that the disciples of John considered Jesus to be a rival to their master. While they reverently called their master 'Rabbi' they referred to Jesus disparagingly as 'he that was with thee beyond Jordan.'

To them, Jesus was someone for whom their master had done the great favour of bearing a good witness, and so He was greatly indebted to their master for His good reputation. In their thinking all this obligates Jesus to do nothing against their master or his ministry. And so they construed what Jesus was doing now in preaching and baptising as a rather unkind and inconsiderate act against John the Baptist!

Actually they would have done a lot better to see things in a different light: They should have rejoiced that God's Word was now being preached by two servants of God instead of one, and that it was now reaching more people than ever before. But they were unfortunately blinded by their own sinful perception of what Jesus and His disciples were doing.

If we are not careful, we too may fall into the same kind of error as the disciples of John the Baptist. It can easily become a besetting sin for us who live in a competitive environment. Perhaps there is someone whom you regard as your personal rival. And your feelings towards that person have been growing from bad to worse. If you are a student, this person may be your classmate. Every time a test or exam result comes out, are you eager to find out whether you did better than him? If you are a parent, you may tend to compare your child's performance in school with that of your nieces or nephews of the same age. Are you happy only when your child gets the better grades?

If you are a working adult, you may have some feeling of rivalry concerning your colleagues at work. Is there someone in particular whom you do not wish to see doing so well, but he is the one who gets all the best deals and rewards because of his extraordinary skills and talents? Are you constantly bothered by what your colleagues wear to work, or the kind of car they drive to and from work? Generally speaking, are you unable to rejoice at the apparent success of others?

If any of these are true of you, then you may have a besetting sin in your life which you need to deal with. It is called envy. Envy is a terrible sin. It is utterly destructive. It ruins close relationships. It even caused Cain to kill his own brother. Envy also caused the elder brother of the prodigal son to become hostile and bitter when his long-lost brother's homecoming was being celebrated. Envy causes you to treat your close friend as your rival.

King Saul loved David greatly and even made him his armourbearer (1 Samuel 16:21). But when his subjects began to praise David's victories he became so envious that he eventually sought to hunt him down and kill him.

Let us repent of our sins of envy and resentment, and learn to rejoice instead at the success of others. Don't ever consider anyone to be your rival, but learn to love the people around you and appreciate the blessings God has given to them. Learn from the excellent answer that John the Baptist gave to his disciples in v. 27 'A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven.' This means that all ability and success ultimately comes from God. Therefore, if you are displeased at the abilities that God has bestowed on others, or at the success that He allows them to enjoy, then you are claiming that God is unfair, unjust and unwise. Let us accept whatever God does to us and to others the same way that Job did 'The LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.' (Job 1:21)

Now, besides forsaking the divisive resentment of John's disciples, another lesson on Christian living from our scripture text is to:

II. Follow the Delightful Contentment of John the Baptist (vv. 28-30)

What John the Baptist said in verses 28 to 30 reveals his true greatness. Despite the power and popularity he had enjoyed in effective preaching that brought thousands to repentance and revival to Israel, he selflessly claimed nothing for himself than what God had assigned to him. This is seen by the 3 points of his answer:

Firstly, John reminded them that he is not the Christ. Verse 28 'Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before him.' (cf. John 1:20) He also reminded them that he was merely a fore-runner, the one who is sent before the Messiah. In fact he had already pointed Jesus out to them as the Messiah of Israel and the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

The 2nd point in John's answer to the disciples showed that he rejoiced in the secondary role he was given. Verse 29 'He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom's voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled.' We observe that he likens his joy to that of a best man at a wedding. Some of you here may have served in such a role before. Your role required you to assist the bridegroom, to relieve him of worrying about any details that will invariably crop up at a wedding.

At one time, the bestman was responsible for the safe-keeping of the wedding rings (today the page-boy brings them in). He also provides moral support to the groom and ensures that he does not chicken out at the last moment!

In all this, the important thing to note is that the role of the bestman is secondary. Under no circumstances is he to usurp the bridegroom's position (cf. Judges 14:30 - The bestman took over the bridegroom's role!). John the Baptist found his greatest joy in the secondary role that he played. He was content that he had accomplished his role. He had baptized Christ to fulfill all righteousness. He had publicly introduced Christ to the public as the Lamb of God. Two of his disciples, John and Andrew were thus directed to become disciples of Christ. His work was finished, and shortly after this he would be cast into prison (v.24).

The third point in John's answer to his disciples indicates that he regarded the exaltation of Christ as his goal. Now, the words of v.30 were not spoken as something that he was resigned to accept, 'Well, He must increase, but I must decrease.' But they were spoken by John the Baptist with satisfaction and contentment 'How happy am I that Christ in increasing. Yes, it is only right and fitting that He must increase, but I must decrease!'

This is something we should all be willing to do. Nothing should bring us greater joy than to see Christ exalted through our lives. These words of John the Baptist capture the whole essence of Christian living 'He must increase, but I must decrease!' This is what the Christian life is all about. Success is measured by the extent to which Christ is increased by our life. We must therefore follow John the Baptist in making this the foundational principle and goal of our life. It is actually akin to the words of the apostle Paul in Philippians 1:21 'For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.'

In order for us to fully espouse this as our personal goal in life we need to know the reasons why Jesus must increase and we must decrease. This brings us to the final section of our text where we learn to:

III. Focus on the Divine Endowments of Jesus Christ (vv. 31-36)

Here we find at least 2 important reasons why Jesus must increase. Firstly,

A. He Is Above All (vv. 31-33)

Verse 31 says, 'He that cometh from above is above all: he that is of the earth is earthly, and speaketh of the earth: he that cometh from heaven is above all.' The word 'all' here refers to all human messengers, teachers, prophets and apostles who communicate truths from God. This includes John the Baptist. They are all nothing but imperfect earthly messengers, and hence they are only 'earthen vessels' that convey whatever they had received. There are obvious limitations to what we can learn through 'earthen vessels.'

Jesus is an entirely different kind of messenger from them. He came from heaven above, and thus He speaks on His own authority, and as a firsthand witness of heavenly things. Who can be better qualified to communicate all the wondrous truths about God, heaven and eternal life than He who comes from above? What we can learn from this Heavenly Vessel would therefore be superior to all others.

Some of us here who are old enough may remember the time when communicating with people who are overseas was a slow, tedious process. You wrote a letter and sent it by airmail and hoped that it will reach the recipient without getting lost. The reply would come only a few weeks later. Today, you can send an SMS or email to someone on the other side of the world and expect a reply within seconds! If you had to choose between these two modes of communication I think your choice would be obvious. The same thing applies then to our Lord Jesus.

He should always be our choice of communication for all things relating to God. Through His Word we receive the most authoritative and accurate communication from God (Hebrews 1:1,2). And by Him we confidently offer up all our prayers and praises to God (Hebrews 13:15). None can ever compare with Christ. He is above all! And that's not all, He also see that:

B. He Is Given All (vv.34-36)

This is mentioned in v.35 'The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand.' This verse has some interesting similarities to another verse that we have studied before - John 3:16. John 3:16 tells us that God the Father so loved the world that He gave us His only begotten Son, Jesus. Here 19 verses later, we learn that God the Father so loved His only begotten Son that He gave Him all things. When we put both verses together we discover a very wonderful truth: When God gave us His Son to be our Saviour, He also gave us all things!

Romans 8:32 confirms this 'He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?' Dearly beloved, all spiritual blessings as well as all things that pertain unto life and godliness are to be found in Christ, and only in Christ! (Ephesians 1:3; 2 Peter 1:3)

For instance, verse 34 of our text tells us that Jesus Christ has the full endowment of the Holy Spirit without limit. Because of this we who have Christ can now experience the fullness of the Spirit and bear the fruit of the Spirit in our lives! Verse 36 tells us that those who believe in Christ have eternal life. This is possible only because that eternal life is found in Christ. 1 John 5:11-12 tells us that 'God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life.'

The Holy Spirit and eternal life are only a small sampling of all the things that God has given us in Christ. And so if you have Christ, you have all things! And conversely, if you do NOT have Christ, what do you have? I trust that you can now understand why you need Christ and why He alone must increase, and you must decrease. Now that you know these things you must give a proper response to them.

There are only two possible responses: Believe in the Son, or reject the Son. According to v.38, the consequences of rejecting the Son are not only to forfeit the opportunity to have eternal life, but also to receive the wrath of God. I say this now with all earnestness to anyone here who has not yet trusted in Jesus Christ for salvation: As long as you persist in your present state of unbelief, God's awful but righteous wrath remains upon you. You may ask, 'What have I done against God to deserve such wrath from Him?' You have doubted His truthfulness. God has already spoken to you through His beloved Son, Jesus Christ. You have heard that He is the only way of salvation from sin and eternal death. You heave heard that He is above all, and that He is given all things. By refusing to accept His testimony you doubt God's truthfulness. This is a most serious matter. It is tantamount to making God a liar!

I therefore urge you not to remain in your unbelief. Come right now to Jesus Christ, God's beloved Son, and ask Him to be your Saviour and Lord. Let this be the day of your salvation, the day when eternal life becomes yours through receiving the Son of God, When you do this you affirm that what God has revealed through Christ is 100 % true. Verse 33 of our text describes the person who does this: 'He that hath received his testimony hath set to his seal that God is true.'

For the rest of us here who have already trusted in Christ and have set to our seal that God is true, the main application of this sermon is that Christ must increase, and you must decrease. Let this become the goal and foundational principle of your whole life, as it was for the life of John the Baptist. Jesus Christ must have the pre-eminence in your life.

If you are seeking great things for yourself, seek them no more. Speak more about Christ and less of yourself. Let His honour become the goal of everything that you do. Use whatever respect or esteem you receive from others to point them to Him. Turn every personal success in your life into an opportunity to exalt Him. Whenever someone compliments or praises you for any achievement, always be quick to give all credit to Jesus Christ and what He has done for you. Matthew Henry put it very well, 'If our diminution or abasement may but in the least contribute to the advancement of Christ's name, we must cheerfully submit to it, and be content to be anything, to be nothing, so that Christ may be all.'

I remember that when I was a teenager, one of the things that my friends and I loved to do was to visit and explore buildings, including church buildings. In one particular old church building I visited, I noticed that every pew in the sanctuary had a little sign that read, 'Donated in memory of so-and-so.' The names of hundreds of church members who had departed from this world and who had given much to build and furnish the church were eminently remembered and honoured in that old church. This was probably done with good intentions. However by doing this, whoever steps into that sanctuary to pray or worship the Lord will be distracted away from the Lord Jesus Christ by all these epitaphs. They only diminish the honour and attention that Christ alone should receive!

The only name that should always be pre-eminent is the name of Christ, our Saviour. All other names, including your own name must be totally eclipsed by His name, so that Christ alone will receive all glory.

Source: Life BPC

Jesus Must Increase, But I Must Decrease

by Jim Erwin

Gospel: John 3:22-36 - Jesus Must Increase, But I Must Decrease

SCENE 1 – "He must increase, but I must decrease"

Repeat this with me: "He must increase, but I must decrease"

SCENE 2 – Competition about Baptism

The Scene: There is a competition between baptismal leaders.

Then a dispute arose between John's disciples and a Jew about purification. So they came to John and told him, "Rabbi, the One you testified about, and who was with you across the Jordan, is baptizing–and everyone is flocking to Him."
(John 3:25-26 HCSB)

The scene now shifts to the work of the Baptist with his disciples (3:22–36) and it makes one point: Jesus' baptism is superior: "He must become greater; I must become less" (3:30). 1

We just had a baptism today. Just like in those days, there were people baptizing in different places.

What was the dispute? Was it the "method of purification?" Was it how they were baptized? Was it differently than before? "Was it the style of baptism?"

So what's the dispute over purification? We can only guess. Maybe it went something like this. A Jewish man says to John's disciples: "Look, you are baptizing lots of people. It looks like a kind of bath or purification. But more and more people are leaving your movement and going over to that other group gathering around Jesus. So what's the deal with his baptism and your baptism? Does his work and yours doesn't? Does his really make people pure and yours fails?" 2

It appears that some of John's disciples started the argument. It began on doctrinal grounds - the matter of purifying - but soon moved to personal grounds. 3

So, while the controversy was baptism, the idea of a competition between styles is very relevant today:

  • Do we argue over styles of worship?
  • Do we argue over styles of leadership?
  • Do we argue over styles of management?

SCENE 3 – Submission

The Answer to Competition: Submission

He must increase, but I must decrease.
(John 3:30 HCSB)

John the Baptist modeled submission.

Out of this discussion, a statement is thrown at the Baptist that surely could have been an opening for a jealous explosion. This must have come from John's own disciples, for they address him as "Rabbi." They speak of One who was with John beyond the Jordan to whom he bore witness. Surely, Jesus, whose name is not mentioned here, must have been in the company of the Baptist longer than we assume. Then these disciples report, "He is baptizing, and all are coming to Him!" It is almost as if they are saying, "He is getting into our territory, taking over what you, John, were called to do." What an opportunity for John to strike back.

How difficult it is for those of us who are so-called spiritual leaders to handle the success of some other brother and "his church" down the street. Think of how easy it is to be subtly or openly critical of, or envious of some great church and its pastor and try to imitate them. It can be difficult to pray for him and his people and to rejoice in his spiritual victories.

But John is spiritually mature and sensitive, a true man of God. He is profoundly aware that anyone can only be and do what God gives him. He cannot take by force what only heaven can give. Each of us is to be content and faithful with his gifts and his own calling. So John reiterates what he has so emphatically stated before, "I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before Him" (v. 28). 4

John responded, "No one can receive a single thing unless it's given to him from heaven. You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Messiah, but I've been sent ahead of Him.'
(John 3:27-28 HCSB)

This has enormous implications for our relationships:

SCENE 4: Who Is Submitting?

Our marriage relationships – who is submitting? What happens when we compete? We split and divorce. When I compete for the attention and I stop submitting to my wife, I run the risk of losing my wife because of my selfishness.

Our work relationships – who is submitting? Are you submitting to your boss graciously? Or are you taking every chance you have to do evil against him/her? While it is ok to work hard and seek promotions, it should not be with an evil intent. We must learn to submit to our leaders.

Our friendships – who is submitting?

The Reason to Submit: The Show is about Him

He who has the bride is the groom. But the groom's friend, who stands by and listens for him, rejoices greatly at the groom's voice. So this joy of mine is complete.
(John 3:29 HCSB)

Illustration: The Best Man

Our problem is that we want to be the groom, and it's not even our party.

Illustration: President and Vice-President

The President is inaugurated every four years. It is historic. But the same idea of submission applies, even in our governmental structure. The Vice President submits to the President.

"He must increase, but I must decrease"

  • So how can I begin to let Jesus be increased in my life, and how can I decrease myself in importance?
  • How can I let Jesus become more important in my life, while I become less important?
  • How can Jesus become the Center, while I step out to the sidelines?

Jesus must grow in my life, while I must fade out.

What am I going to do to stop competing with others and start submitting? What am I going to do to let Jesus be the Center of my life? How can I make Jesus more than just Someone I get to know, and become Someone Whom I want to follow? This is the challenge that John the Baptist showed us. He gives us a model to follow. We don't try to compete with Jesus but submit to Jesus.

I must decrease so that Jesus may increase. The sooner we learn this, the better our life will be. You must decrease so that Jesus may increase, because it is all about Him.


1. How do I let arguments over insignificant things bother me? What are some things that I argue about (with my spouse or someone else) which are really not useful?

2. Where have I been competing, when I should have been submitting?

3. In what relationships do I need to give up control and learn to start being more faithful and submissive?

4. Is there a relationship in which I need to repair because of my controlling/competing nature?

5. What area do I need to let Jesus take center stage? How will I start to let Him do that?


1 Walter A. Elwell, Evangelical Commentary on the Bible, vol. 3, Baker Reference Library (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1995), Jn 3:1–22.

2 John Piper, Sermons from John Piper (2000–2014) (Minneapolis, MN: Desiring God, 2014).

3 Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), 297.

4 Roger L. Fredrikson and Lloyd J. Ogilvie, The Preacher's Commentary Series : John, vol. 27, The Preacher's Commentary Series (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Inc, 1985), 87–88.

Source: Patheos

He Must Increase

by Rev. Dr. Peter A. Butler, Jr.

Gospel: John 3:22-36

John sets the scene for us: Jesus had celebrated the Passover in Jerusalem. Then, Jesus had spoken with Nicodemus - THE teacher of Israel, a high-ranking Pharisee who held political office.

Sometime later, Jesus and His disciples left Jerusalem and headed northwest over thirty miles to Aenon near Salim, along the Jordan River. There, Jesus' disciples baptized people in His Name. (We are told in John 4:2 that Jesus, Himself, did not baptize anyone). John and his disciples were also baptizing in the same area.

"After this Jesus and his disciples went into the Judean countryside, and he remained there with them and was baptizing. John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim because water was plentiful there, and people were coming and being baptized (for John had not yet been put in prison)."

We have this note of chronology: this event happened between the time that John the Baptist baptized Jesus and when Herod put John in prison. During this time, both Jesus' disciples and John and his disciples were baptizing. It was a time when the "already" and the "not-yet" were visible - the time that the baptism of John was passing away and the baptism of Jesus was being fulfilled through the historical events of the Gospel.

And then we have this wonderful understatement:

"Now a discussion arose between some of John's disciples and a Jew over purification."

What we have here is a Jew who was baptized by Jesus' disciples having a "discussion" with John's disciples over whose baptism was superior: John's or Jesus'.

The discussion may have gone something like this:

"Why are you disciples of John still baptizing? I was just baptized by the disciples of Jesus - and Jesus' baptism is the superior baptism."

"How can you say that? John the Baptist is the first prophet in four hundred years. John the Baptist is the forerunner of the Christ - the Messiah - the Savior."

"But that's the point - John the Baptist came to announce Jesus - to prepare the way for Him - so Jesus is greater and His baptism is greater."

"Na-uh. John's is greater, because he is the one chosen by God to reveal the Savior and call people to repentance."





And John's disciples went to tell John about their "discussion" so he could weigh in on it.

1. And we see first, this morning, everything we have comes from God.

"And they came to John and said to him, ‘Rabbi, he who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you bore witness - look, he is baptizing, and all are going to him.' John answered, ‘A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven.'"

John answered his disciples: "If people are going to Jesus - if people are leaving me for Him and His baptism - then that is what God has given Jesus - that is what God wants to have happen."

Nebuchadnezzar confessed:

"[God's] dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation; all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the hosts of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, ‘What have you done?'"
(Daniel 4:34b-35, ESV).

Everything that happens occurs via God's Sovereign Hand and Will.

Now, we must be careful: God does not do evil and God does not cause us to sin.

If we remember the beginning of the book of Job, Satan went to God and asked permission to inflict Job, and God told Satan exactly how much he could do. In other words, God uses evil and sin to accomplish His Will, but He does not do or cause evil or sin.

On the Day of Pentecost, Peter began his sermon saying, "Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst - this Jesus delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men" (Acts 2:22-23, ESV).

Peter began by telling the crowd of Jews that Jesus' crucifixion and death happened by the authority and plan of God - it was a good thing. And, Jesus' crucifixion and death happened by the sin of the Jews and the Romans - it was an evil thing. God used the evil and sinful motivations of the Jews and the Romans to accomplish His good plan of the crucifixion and death of Jesus.

The same event can be accomplished - at the same time - by one person with good motives and another with evil or sinful motives.

God never sins and God does not commit evil, but God uses sin and evil to accomplish His good plan. So, everything that is and occurs is according to the plan of God, yet God does not sin or commit evil.

So, if you have good health, and a fit body, and lots of friends, and a good job, and plenty of money, and a happy family - all these things have been given to you by God. And, if you are sick, and you repel people, and you are impoverished, and your family is in turmoil - all these things have been given to you by God.

One of the speakers at the conference I just went to said, "If suffering comes, it is because we really need it."

Now, that can sound pretty harsh, but what he was saying is that we believe in a Sovereign God Who loves us, and if His plan includes suffering for us, it must be because we need it for some reason - and there are many possible reasons we could need to suffer.

Paul tells us that he was given some sort of suffering to keep him from becoming prideful (II Corinthians 12).

I have sarcoidosis because my loving Father knows I need it. Illness is the result of sin in the Garden by our first parents, and my own sin may be the reason for my illness, or it could be for some other reason. Whatever the reason, the point of this illness is that I would turn to God and trust Him and rely on Him and look to Him for all that I need and all He has called me to be - using this broken body to glorify Him.

And so, John the Baptist was not concerned about being less popular or less powerful - he was concerned that God and His Gospel would be known and that He would be glorified in the unfolding of His plan.

And you - everything you have comes from God - everything you see as good, bad, and indifferent comes to you from the Hand of the Almighty God Who is perfectly carrying out His plan. Are you drawn to God - to acknowledged Him and glorify Him for everything that comes to you and everything you are?

2. We see second, this morning, Jesus must increase, by our decreasing.

"'You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, "I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him." The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom's voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease.'

John continued by telling his disciples that they were absolutely right - kind-of: "You spoke the truth - I am the first prophet in four hundred years, God chose me to be the forerunner of the Messiah and announce His coming, and you heard me proclaim to the world that Jesus is the Christ, the Lamb of God, Who takes away the sin of the world!" (cf. John 1:29).

"Look at it this way: it's like at a wedding - it is the bride and the bridegroom who become one in spirit and body in the bonds of matrimony. The bride does not become one with the best man. The ordinance of marriage and the sanctity of the marriage bed are for the bride and the bridegroom. It would profane the ordinance and the sanctity of the marriage bed if the bride united with anyone other than the bridegroom.

"The best man is at the wedding - not to become one with the bride - but to rejoice in the union of the bride and the bridegroom. The joy of the best man is found in seeing the bride and the bridegroom take their vows and commit to each other until death.

"In the same way, I am the best man. I stand as the forerunner and the witness to the coming of the bridegroom to receive his bride. I announced Who Jesus is so the Bride would know Him and become one with Him. Jesus is not for me alone, but for the Church as a body - throughout time and space - one Bride, prepared for Jesus, her Bridegroom, to be perfectly united at the end of the age.

"That is my joy - that is my hope - that is the fulfillment of what God has given me to be and do. So, whereas I was the center of attention as the first prophet in four hundred years - he who was called to be the forerunner to the Savior of all those who will believe - His bride - now my work is done. Jesus is here. He is preparing for the Marriage Feast of the Lamb - the day when He and His Church will be united together in eternity. So, it is time for me, as the best man, to step aside. He must increase, and I must decrease."

So, the question is, how does Jesus increase and we decrease?

There are two possible ways:

1. First, we could make Jesus greater than He is right now - which is ridiculous.

Make Jesus greater than He is? The Holy, Holy, Holy, Almighty God, Sovereign King of kings and Lord of lords, the First and the Last, the One and Perfect Savior of all those who will believe.

2. Second, we could prostrate ourselves before Jesus in all humility - bowing ourselves below His feet - in faith and obedience - in recognition of who we are in comparison with Who He is. We can cry out with the Psalmist,

"Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but to your name give glory. For the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!"
(Psalm 115:1, ESV).

So, Jesus "increases" when we show a right humility before Him - we step down to where we belong so Jesus can better be seen at the heights where He is. When we understand ourselves as sinners saved by grace alone, who daily receive mercy and forgiveness, as our loving Father provides for all of our needs, and we trust Him and believe that what occurs is necessary for His plan and that all things are working together for the good of all we who love Him, and that Jesus, the Son of God Incarnate, is the One and Only Hope of Salvation, we tend to act in humility and point others to Jesus and His Gospel, rather than ourselves.

Another speaker at the conference told the story of a man who went to his pastor to tell him that he had decided to leave the church. The man said, "Pastor, after much thought, I have decided to leave the church: I don't like your sermons, I don't like you as a person, I don't like the choir or the organist, I don't like the hymns you choose, I don't like the pews, and I don't like the other people in the church, so I have decided to leave." The pastor turned to him and said, "It's not about you, stupid!" and walked away.

It is a lesson in right-thinking: surely, we seek to worship God as He would have Himself be worshipped, and we accommodate the needs of our people within the bounds of what we believe God has said to do - but the worship service is not about you, it's not about me, it's not about our preferences and our dislikes, it is about the worship of the One Triune God - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit - for all He is and all He has done. Worship is all about Him.

3. Third, Jesus has all power, authority, ownership, and is the Only Way to be right with God.

"'He who comes from above is above all. He who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks in an earthly way. He who comes from heaven is above all. He bears witness to what he has seen and heard, yet no one receives his testimony. Whoever receives his testimony sets his seal on this, that God is true. For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.'"

John the Baptist continued to explain to his disciples why Jesus is greater than he is, and that people ought to be dropping away from John and following Jesus:

John tells them that he is just a man - a man born of the earth, as every other mere human being. But Jesus came from Heaven - He is God come to earth in the flesh - in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. John is merely a man; Jesus is the God-Man.

Although Jesus is God in the flesh, most people don't believe what He says - that He is the Promised Savior - the Only Way to be saved from the Wrath of God. Jesus speaks the Truth; He is the Truth.

And Jesus puts His Seal on all those who believe in Him savingly - that is, Jesus gives the indwelling of God the Holy Spirit and the assurance of salvation through Him to all those who will believe.

God the Father, Who loved the world so much that He sent God the Son to incarnate and be the Savior of His people, has sent God the Holy Spirit to indwell us - "in full measure" - God has not given part of the Holy Spirit to each Christian, but He indwells each one who believes.

John, the author of the Gospel, puts it this way:

"The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor the will of man, but of God"
(John 1:9-13, ESV).

And this Savior, Jesus, the Son of God and the Son Man, is the One Sovereign God over all things - with the Father and the Holy Spirit. He is in complete control of all things, since the Father has put all things into His Hands. From the tiniest, microscopic creature, to the dinosaurs, to the vastness of space and time, Jesus reigns sovereign over all, and every molecule is following the plan that God conceived in Holy Trinity before the creation of all things.

Most important for we humans is the question, "how does a person become right with God?" As sinners, we have disobeyed God and God has promised us His Wrath and suffering that never ends. However, if we believe savingly in Jesus, we have eternal life.

But whoever does not obey the Son is everlastingly under the Wrath of God and shall never see the life bought for believers in Jesus Christ.

And so we see this morning:

1. Everything we have comes from God.

Nothing has been left to chance - as if that were even possible! Our Father Who loves His children bring everything to us and for us. Even when we have need to suffer - for whatever reason - our Father has set the limits of our suffering. And He has promised to give us everything we need. Are we willing to receive whatever our loving Father knows is best for us and trust Him in it?

2. Jesus must increase, by our decreasing.

Jesus is the center of our worship and life. Will we humble ourselves and seek His Glory, His Worship, telling others how great He is - not worrying about what we think we deserve or what other people think of us?

3. Jesus has all power, authority, ownership, and is the Only Way to be right with God.

Will we pray to the Father, in Jesus' Name, through the Holy Spirit, acknowledging that He has all power, all authority, and all rights of ownership to everything in all of Creation?

Step down. Get out of the way. Stop complaining. Stop thinking everyone owes you. Stop sinning. Everything that is is not about us - it's not about you - it's not about me. When we humble ourselves, we will find peace and joy in Jesus.

Let us pray:

Almighty God, cause our eyes to be fixed on You - seeking Your Kingdom and Your Will, glorifying You, proclaiming Your Gospel - help us to forget ourselves and seek to have Jesus increase in the eyes of the whole world - and may the Holy Spirit use our proclamation of the Gospel to bring many to salvation. For Yours in the Kingdom, and the Power and the Glory, forever and ever.

In Jesus' Name, Amen.


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