John 3:30 -He must increase, but I must decrease. NKJV
In the Church, John the Baptist’s words have become a mantra of humility. When a soloist gets up to sing, she may say this before she sing to give the impression of humility and that she isn’t really singing, it’s God! Or a minister may say it before he preaches, so everyone will know that he isn’t really preaching, it’s God. Whether they are being truthful or not, with their message of humility, I believe this theology is flawed. Although God is using both individuals, the important truth here is that He is using the individual. I want to explain!
First of all, we need to understand what motivated John the Baptist to say these words. Let’s look in verses 25 and 26 to gain some insight:
“Then there arose a dispute between some of John’s disciples and the Jews about purification. 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 3:25-26
John the Baptist had been the voice of spiritual renewal in Israel. As he went about with the message of repent and be baptized, he was actually paving the way for Jesus. This is why he was “the voice of one crying in the wilderness”. The ministry John had been given was given to him from birth, and it was simply to be a forerunner of the Messiah. On this particular day in John’s life, we see his followers upset that people are beginning to flock to Jesus. They see Jesus as the usurper of John’s ministry, not as the Messiah.
John explains to his followers what they are seeing happening with Jesus is what is supposed to be happening:
- A man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven (v. 27). John is helping them to see that his followers are flocking to Jesus because it is what God has purposed to happen. Every single follower he had, God gave to him, and every single follower Jesus has, was given by God.
- I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before Him (v. 28). John reminded his followers that he had already told them that he was not the Messiah, he was only sent before the Messiah. His disciples already knew the witness that John had given in regards to Jesus. John just reminds them of that truth.
- Lastly, John calls himself the friend of the bridegroom. In Jewish tradition, the friend of the bridegroom, the shoshben, was the individual who was the mediator between the bride’s family and the bridegroom’s family. He negotiated the terms of the marriage and was said to be the one who watched the bridal tent. On the night the bridegroom comes, he recognizes the voice of the groom and opens the bridal tent to him only. Then he goes away rejoicing for his work is done.
This is the point of John’s words in verse 30, “He must increase, and I must decrease!” John had fulfilled his part of the plan of God. His ministry was complete. Now it was time for Jesus to take front and center stage that His ministry, His time would be fulfilled.
Was John showing humility in this declaration? Yes, he was! But he was not saying that to be humble. It really was his time to get off the scene of spiritual renewal, and Jesus’ time to usher in the kingdom. During the time of John’s crying in the wilderness, he cried aloud and spared not. He didn’t ask God to let him decrease at that time. No! He was the chosen vessel at that time to be used by God to get a specific task completed. It was his assignment and God had chosen to use him.
John saw his assignment for the honor that it was. His birth was miraculous and his assignment was sure. He fulfilled that assignment with everything in him, in the way that God led him, but it was John that God was using.
Now John himself was clothed in camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey.Matthew 3:4
John was a simple man. The fact that Matthew described his clothes being made with camel’s hair, and his diet as locusts and wild honey is to help us to see that John was different from other Jewish men. But God used John to fulfill an important assignment, to set the stage for His son. It was an assignment that John was handpicked for, and he did it well!
I thought of this when I was having a conversation with my niece. She preached her first sermon and her heart was that we would see “none of her and all of Jesus!” Great sentiment, but is it scriptural? More next time! Wonderful Jesus!