John 3:30 -He must increase, but I must decrease. NKJV
John the Baptist’s words have become a mantra of humility in the Church. When a soloist gets up to sing, she may say this before singing to give the impression of humility and that she isn’t really singing; it’s God! Or a minister may say it before preaching, so everyone will know that he isn’t 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 is that He is using the individual. I want to explain!
First, we need to understand what motivated John the Baptist to say these words. Let’s look at 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 repenting and being 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 he 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 the Messiah.
John explains to his followers what they see 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 had 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 he was not the Messiah; he was only sent before the Messiah. His disciples already knew the witness that John had given regarding Jesus. John just reminds them of that truth. He was not the Christ!
- 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 groom’s voice and opens the bridal tent to him only. Then he goes away, rejoicing that his work is done. John had come to announce the Groom. His work was finished! That was his ministry!
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 for his life. His ministry was complete. It was time for Jesus to take front and center stage so His ministry and His time would be fulfilled.
Was John showing humility in this declaration? Yes, he was! But he was not saying that to mean “none of him and all of God.” 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 mission was sure. He fulfilled that assignment with everything in him, in the way 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. Matthew described his clothes as made with camel’s hair, and his diet was locusts and wild honey to help us see that John was different from other Jewish men. He was God’s prophet! 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 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?
Let’s be honest for a moment. I have heard a lot of people preach over the years, and you have, also. When I listen to Joel Osteen preach, I am challenged by the word of God. But I know it’s him. His demeanor is that of a quiet individual who remains in control of his mannerisms. His voice level fluctuates to make a point, but he doesn’t preach until he sweats and his voice trembles. That is not his way!
But when I hear my pastor preach, Pastor Charlie Dates, he’s a fireball from start to finish. He always starts his message with a story that is relevant to his point. As he gets into the message he might raise his voice, clap his hands, or sing a song, because something has blessed him or he wants to make a point. It’s his personality that is filled with a passion that seeps through his preaching of the gospel. It’s just his way. And I hear God through him.
The same is true for all ministers. We can listen to them and note different things about them that are very much a part of who they are. I like to pace when I preach or teach; it keeps my thoughts flowing. And I might even get a little loud. But another woman may not! Those little things about me, you, or another person make us uniquely who we are. When God calls us to service, it is us He is calling.
Some people are really charismatic, and they make great evangelists. Some people are genuinely calm, and they make great ushers. He calls us and assigns with us in mind! Now! Should we be humble as we minister? Absolutely! Should we direct all the glory to Him? Without a doubt? But we should also realize that we are the people God wants to use. He didn’t make us cookie-cutter pastors, preachers, singers, or teachers. Yet, we can all be used by Him, and people can still see Him through us. It’s just a thought!
So next time you are called upon by God to serve Him in any capacity, remember that He wants to use you! Your voice, your hands, your personality, and your mannerisms. You! And when you are careful to do it as unto the Lord, giving Him the glory, He will be seen in you! Wonderful Jesus!