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Chapter 3:22-36 (ESV)

Posted on July 26, 2023  - By Chris LaBelle  

Chapter 3:22-36 (ESV) - 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).

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

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 to 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.”

Question to consider: How does John’s message about decreasing apply to us?

After the apostle John described Jesus’ encounter with Nicodemus regarding the new birth through water and the Holy Spirit, he took the readers back to the forerunner, John, who was baptizing nearby.

Again the topic of the need for purification arose between John’s disciples and a Jew when his disciples noticed that people were beginning to get baptized by the disciples of Jesus. John reiterated that he was just the forerunner for the one who had now come. He compared himself to the best man at a wedding. Christ was the bridegroom, and the people being baptized were His bride so John rejoiced that his ministry was now complete and had served its purpose.

John recognized that Jesus had come from God and so needed to be above all. There is debate about whether the last paragraph was a continuation of John the Baptist’s words to his disciples or a side note from the apostle John. I would argue they are John the Baptist’s words since they qualify the comment, “He must increase, but I must decrease,” but they could easily be the apostle John giving the explanation for that statement as well.

It’s interesting that they mirror Jesus’ words to Nicodemus about receiving the testimony from Himself and John about what they had seen and heard. In John’s case, he had seen the Holy Spirit descend and rest on Jesus as a sign that He would baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire. John had also heard the proclamation from God the Father that Jesus was His Son. Jesus, of course, bore witness as one who had come down from heaven into flesh.

As Jesus had told Nicodemus that the Son had come to save a world of people who were condemned already so John proclaimed that those who believed in Him would have eternal life and those who did not still had the wrath of God on them.

This idea of Christ being above all and should therefore increase extends from John to all of us. When we are baptized into Christ Jesus, the Holy Spirit daily works in us to conform us to the image of Christ. The will and work of Christ in us increases, and our identity with the things of this world decreases. In our flesh, we seek to build our own kingdom, pursue our own plans and pleasure and happiness. As we are filled with the Spirit, we begin to set aside these earthly things so that Christ may be glorified in us.


Dear heavenly Father, thank You for continuing to conform us to the image of Christ. May we desire to decrease and seek to glorify Your Son. Thank You for giving us the Hope of everlasting life in Him. Amen.