When you speak of your faith in Christ who do people see? Do they see you and your great accomplishments? Or do they see Christ? When you have opportunity to point people to Christ do they actually get to see him or do they just see you?
Let’s look at John 3:22. Here we are at the end of John 3 and here we see the witness of John the Baptist for the last time in the Apostle John’s Gospel.
What I want you to see today is what the Apostle John makes clear about John the Baptist. And it’s actually what John the Baptist makes clear about Christ. It’s plain in the text before us that John the Baptist was calling out to all who would listen that Jesus Christ is superior to all others. Jesus Christ is to be exalted and honored above all others.
22 After this Jesus and his disciples went into the Judean countryside, and he remained there with them and was baptizing. 23 John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because water was plentiful there, and people were coming and being baptized 24 (for John had not yet been put in prison).
Note here that it sounds like Jesus is doing the baptizing but it was actually his disciples who were with him who were baptizing. We’ll see that made clear in verse 2 of chapter 4. Note too that John was also baptizing. And this raised concern in the minds of some of John’s disciples.
25 Now a discussion arose between some of John’s disciples and a Jew over purification. 26 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.” 27 John answered, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given 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 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. 30 He must increase, but I must decrease.”
31 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. 32 He bears witness to what he has seen and heard, yet no one receives his testimony. 33 Whoever receives his testimony sets his seal to this, that God is true. 34 For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. 35 The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand. 36 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.
Did you see the concern that was raised as a result of some seeing Jesus disciples baptizing and John the Baptist also baptizing? Do you see a bit of rivalry in the minds of some going on here? Maybe a bit of jealousy?
Jesus is with his disciples and they are baptizing and some of John’s disciples see this and bring this concern to John seen in verse 26, “Rabbi, he who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you bore witness—look, he is baptizing, and all are going to him.”
A little competitiveness in the right context might be a good thing, but beware that the devil would just love to get John’s disciples and Jesus’ followers and the church today completely sidetracked with a competitive kind of jealousy that’s always trying to one-up the next person or the other pastor or the other church. It would be for our good and God’s glory for us to understand that we’re competing with no other church in this community and you are competing with no other believer in this church or any other and I am competing with no other pastor.
So here come some who were with John saying, “what are you going to do — look at all those people who were once following you and now they’re all going over there to him.”
Note how John answers their concern. Here’s the first part of his answer in verse 27.
27 John answered, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven.
What’s their concern? Jesus is getting more attention than John. What’s his answer? A person only gets what God gives him. You only have what you have because God allows you to have it.
That goes for all of us. That goes for your neighbor too. Be careful that you don’t allow yourself to think that you achieve great things without God’s hand being in it.
John’s point is that any attention given him by others at any given point was to fulfill the role for which God had appointed him.
This was even true of Christ which is what Hebrews 5:5 makes clear:
5 So also Christ did not exalt himself to be made a high priest, but was appointed by him who said to him,”You are my Son, today I have begotten you”;
So John is reminding them here in John 3:27 that it was God’s appointment that allowed him to point to Christ, and for God’s glory, not his own.
Look at the second part of John’s answer to their concern. Verse 28.
28 You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’
It’s a though John is saying, “I made it clear to you from the beginning that I am not the Christ — I’m simply a messenger.” I’m a herald here to declare that Jesus is the Christ. It’s like John is saying to his disciples, “weren’t you listening to me?”
There’s a reminder here for all who serve Christ. We’re not serving to exalt ourselves over one another. We serve to exalt Christ. We serve not to make ourselves known but to make Christ known. We’re all part of the same body, the church, under the Head, Christ.
Note that third, John says this in verses 29,
29 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.
John says it’s his joy to be a member of the bridal party. He’s not there to take the bride from the bridegroom. He’s not there to get the attention at the wedding. He’s there to rejoice with the other members of the bridal party at the arrival of the bridegroom to take his bride. He makes this very clear when in verse 30 he says, He must increase, but I must decrease.
That’s what our lives lived for Christ should be all about. That ought to be the heartfelt desire of all who call themselves Christians — that Jesus would be magnified more and more as they seek to live for Christ and give Him the glory.
Now a question. Why should Jesus increase and we decrease in the eyes of others? Why must Jesus get the glory and not his followers? Look at verse 31.
31 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.
John is saying that he couldn’t be happier that people are going to Jesus because He is above all; he who comes from heaven is above all. Jesus is of heaven, he’s not limited to earthy wisdom like John is, Jesus has heavenly knowledge. Why? Because he’s God in flesh.
Now this is not to contradict the fact that the Holy Spirit gives heavenly wisdom to those who are Christ’s when they feed upon and yield to God’s Word. Certainly John had been sent and enabled by God as are all God’s faithful children. But he’s making a comparison here. Compared to Christ my wisdom is limited because it’s not the high truth that only God holds. He goes further in verse 32 saying “He bears witness to what he has seen and heard…”
John is pointing to the fact that Jesus Christ has witnessed and heard first-hand what He preaches. Christ has full knowledge of what he teaches. Again we see a pointer here to the divinity of Christ. God the Son knows fully because He’s been fully taught by God the Father.
Yet note that John says in verse 32, no one receives his testimony.
This is not a problem with Christ, it’s a problem with mankind. It’s a sin problem. And John isn’t suggesting that literally no one believes in what Jesus preaches. It’s that in comparison to those who do believe, it’s the majority of people who don’t believe.
Why this is true is made clear by Paul in Philippians 3:19 when speaking of unbelievers he says, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. And in Ephesians 2:2-3 he reminds believers from what they had been saved saying they once followed “the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”
So yes, sadly, there are many who don’t believe and the scriptures make it clear that Satan’s pull is strong and inviting. But here’s the good news, God is greater and His promises are sure. Look at verse 33.
33 Whoever receives his testimony sets his seal to this, that God is true. 34 For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure.
John continues to make much of Christ and and makes clear why it is far better to follow Christ than any man.
It’s like this says John, when you believe in Christ you have the inner assurance of the Spirit, he whom God has sent. And the Spirit confirms for you that what Jesus says is true. You who believe in God the Son have the witness of God the Spirit within assuring you that you are indeed hearing the truth of God the Father.
And John says, all that Jesus speaks is with the final authority of God the Father. That’s why he says in verse 35 that, “The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand.”
And this is why it is so important to see Jesus as the one supreme object of our worship and obedience. Here’s why you must see Jesus as the only way to life. Here’s why you must believe in him if you would be born again. We see it in verse 36. It’s a two-fold reminder. One hope filled reminder and one sobering reminder.
36 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.
So I ask again. When you point people to Christ do they actually get to see the One who gives eternal life or do they only see you?
May God help us, each one, to live each day to make Christ known.