AN INTERVIEW WITH JOHN THE BAPTIST ABOUT JESUS
Verses 22-36 say, “After these things came Jesus and his disciples into the land of Judaea; and there he tarried with them, and baptized. And John also was baptizing in Aenon near to Salim, because there was much water there: and they came, and were baptized. For John was not yet cast into prison. Then there arose a question between some of John's disciples and the Jews about purifying. 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. John answered and said, A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven. Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before him. 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. He must increase, but I must decrease. 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. And what he hath seen and heard, that he testifieth; and no man receiveth his testimony. He that hath received his testimony hath set to his seal that God is true. For he whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God: for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him. The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand. He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.”
There was a time when John’s ministry and the ministry of Christ were running at the same time. This is what this passage describes. When this takes place comparisons are normally made. This is what is happening on this occasion. On this occasion, we have an interview with John about his ministry in relationship to Jesus. In Matthew 11:1-19 Jesus comments on John. In this passage we have John’s comments on Jesus and His ministry.
The question arose about “purifying” (verse 25). This is a definite reference to baptism. Jamieson, Fausset and Brown in their commentary say, “The symbolical meaning of washing with water being put (as in ch. 2:6) for the act itself. As John and Jesus were the only teachers who baptized Jews, discussions might easily arise between the Baptist’s disciples and such Jews as declined to submit to that rite.” This is what caused the question to arise.
Verse 26 says, “And they came unto John . . .” and informed him that Jesus was baptizing more converts than him. Who are the “they?” It does not seem to be a private meeting between John and his disciples. The “they” probably refers to John’s disciples and the Jews of verse 25 and they were going to let John settle the question.
The first thing that comes out of John’s mouth is, “A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven.” A lot of these guys who think the great crowds who come to hear them preach need to see if this verse is in their Bibles. If it isn’t, they need to borrow an authentic Bible and let this verse take them off their pedestal. Now I know that is not nice. John is saying “My ministry is given from heaven. I can’t make it larger. God gave me something to do and I am doing it. And I am not threatened by His greater ministry.”
John said, “He that hath the bride is the bridegroom . . .” John is saying, “Jesus is the Bridegroom and I am only a friend.” The friend is not supposed to be the attention getter. John says, “As the friend of the Bridegroom, I have great joy and not jealousy.” These are the words of true humility. Jesus said of John, “Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he” (Matt. 11:11). Jesus is the only One who had the right to make a comparison like this. There is no doubt that John’s humility was a major factor in his greatness. You are never intimidated in the presence of true humility. The humble man will always make you feel that he is your servant and not your master.
John said, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” The word “increase” (auxano) is used of the growth of plant or growth in grace.” We know that Jesus as God cannot grow. But as a Man, and in popularity, He could and did. It is a present active infinitive which means John is saying “as we speak He is increasing.” The word “decrease” (elattoo) means “to make less or inferior: in dignity, or, authority.” It is a present passive infinitive. The present tense means John’s ministry was in the process right then of decreasing. The passive voice means that this is happening by the power of God because this is the way God has chosen for it to happen. It is not the middle voice which would suggest John’s ministry was dying out of itself. It is hard for the modern man to accept the principle that John’s decrease was ordered of God and therefore His will. We are so success oriented that we may be blind to this. John is saying this is the way Heaven has so ordered and I am thrilled at what is going on.
Next lets notice John’s reasoning: “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.” John knew where he was from, i.e., this world. He knew where Jesus is from, “he that cometh from above is above all. . .” John says, “I am not even in the running by way of comparison with Jesus.” Then he adds, “and no one else is.” The words “above all” mean what they say.
Next notice two things. First, John says Jesus knows what He is talking about because of where he came from. And John is saying that He is speaking with authority as a personal witness to what He has seen and heard. He speaks of heavenly things “and no man receiveth his testimony.” Second, he says, “He that hath received his testimony hath set to his seal that God is true.” Now let me state this so that we will understand it. If you believe what Jesus says you are saying “I believe what God has said because what Jesus is saying is what God is saying.” If you do not believe what Jesus says you are saying, “God is a liar.” John says, “We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error” (1 John 4:6).
Then John makes another important statement: “ . . . for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him.” The Holy Spirit is the power of any work of God including the ministry of Jesus. Every Christian has a measure of the Spirit in this sense. I’m not talking about dividing the Holy Spirit in to small portions or larger portions. He is a Person and you either have all of Him or none of Him. John’s ministry had a limit on it. It had reached its limit and was at the time on its way down. With Jesus it was different. God had given the Spirit without measure to Christ. He could raise the dead, cleanse the leper, command winds and calm seas. Jesus was not limited on the God side of His ministry. He was only limited by unbelief from man.
Here is the testimony of John the Baptist concerning what it takes to be saved: “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him” (verse 36). John believed that Jesus was the Son (the only begotten Son of God). And he believed and taught his followers that salvation was by faith in Jesus. One other thing in closing. John taught that when you believe in Jesus you get everlasting life now. It is not pie in the sky by and by, it is salvation that you can know you have while you are still alive on this earth so that you can know where you are going when you depart this earthly life. The word “hath” is a present active indicative verb. It means he keeps on having everlasting life in the present. If this everlasting life ever ceases to be, it was not everlasting. Amen!
This truth was the result of an interview with John.
May the Lord bless each of you.