Verse of the Day Devotion: John 3:30
“He must increase, but I must decrease.” – John 3:30
There came a rather controversial dispute regarding purification between John’s disciples and a Jew or Jews. Purification was a very important issue with the Jews, and so the discussion became a dispute. We are not sure what the exact argument was, however, it was in no doubt regarding baptism. In the time before Jesus, the Jews would purify a proselyte by a form of baptism to purify them. The issue was which baptism was the correct one, Jesus’ or John the Baptist’s. “They asked him (John the Baptist), and said to him, “Why then are you baptizing, if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” John 1:25.
After a while, both sides came to John wanting clarification. We see in verse 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.” John 3:26. The way this is worded is as if John’s disciples were concerned that Jesus’ was, in essence, taking over the work John had been doing. However, John did not answer this question in the way they expected. He did not address their feelings or hurts regarding this. He answered in such a way that only one who truly knew him, and his purpose would understand. “John answered and said, ‘A man can receive nothing unless it has been given him from heaven.’” John 2:27 What he basically said was that anyone who does the work of God, referring specifically to himself and Jesus, receives the calling and its success from God. Our calling is from God, and the way we succeed come from following God’s way.
He then goes on to clarify that he is not the promised Messiah, the Christ. “You yourselves are my witnesses that I said, ‘I am not the Christ,’ but, ‘I have been sent ahead of Him.’” John 3:28. He was sent before the Messiah to announce His appearing. “He said, “I am A VOICE OF ONE CRYING IN THE WILDERNESS, ‘MAKE STRAIGHT THE WAY OF THE LORD,’ as Isaiah the prophet said.” John 1:23. These words of Isaiah are found Isaiah 40:3, “A voice is calling, ‘Clear the way for the LORD in the wilderness; Make smooth in the desert a highway for our God.’” This was his calling. Then he makes the following statement that shows he knows Jesus is the true Messiah. “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. So, this joy of mine has been made full.” John 3:29. John refers to Isaiah many times, and he does so again regarding God as the bridegroom. “I will rejoice greatly in the LORD, my soul will exult in my God; For He has clothed me with garments of salvation, He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.” Isaiah 61:10.
John recognized that Jesus is the Messiah, and therefore the bridegroom. He is the friend of the bridegroom, in essence, best man. Jesus is the bridegroom and therefore the believers belong to Jesus, not himself. John regards himself as the friend of Jesus. And because the believers belong to Jesus, He is the one that must take over. For John was only announcing the Messiah was coming, not that he was the Messiah. And because of all this, we read in our focus verse, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” John 3:30.
This very much speaks of us as well. The purpose of ministry is to point the way to Jesus, the true bridegroom and Messiah. He has called us to preach the gospel. “And He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.’” Mark 16:15. That is our calling. We must decrease in the eyes of men, not building ourselves up but building Him up. He should be the focus of our work, not ourselves. He must be greater and we, humbler. When we preach, teach or simply share our hearts regarding Christ, we should do it in a way that when our listeners leave, they remember Christ more, and us less. I encourage us to look at our calling the same way as John the Baptist did. Jesus must increase in this world, and we must decrease in this world.
William Funkhouser MDiv, ThD, Founder and President of True Devotion Ministries, Inc.