Summary: John the Baptist ends his testimony and ministry with some humble words.
“A Faithful Servant’s Final Words”: John 3:22-30
Charles Spurgeon once said: “Humility is to make a right estimate of one's self.” We all recognize that humility is one of the great Christian virtues being the opposite of pride, but where does humility come from and why is so hard to attain? Part of the answer can be found in the final testimony and words of John the Baptist recorded in John 3: 22-30.
John 3:22 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). 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."
The Final days of John the Baptist’s ministry
John had achieved much popularity in the last days of his preaching and baptizing. Great crowds of people came to hear him from the whole region of the Jordan and included a cross section of the population. As we saw earlier in John, men thought that maybe he was a reincarnation of Elijah or another prophet.
King Herod even enjoyed John’s popularity and listened and responded to John’s generalities, but when John spoke personally to Herod about his sin of living with his brother’s wife, Herodias, both Herod AND his wife turned cold to John. But we are told in our text today that John had not yet been imprisoned, but John’s notoriety was decreasing as the crowds began more and more to follow Jesus. John’s disciples were more concerned about this loss of popularity than John was because they didn’t like seeing their teacher take second place.
In John 3:26, 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." They’re warning John: “You’re dropping in the numbers and in the polls. Don’t you feel bad that you are not as popular as you once were? What can we do to spruce up your ministry a little bit? Maybe you should rebuke Jesus. Say something to slow him down?” But John’s reply actually does the opposite.
God is Sovereign
His exact words are important; In verse 27 he says: "A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven.” John’s reply excludes “fate”, “chance” or so-called “luck” as an answer to any circumstances: All the events of time are under the sovereign providence of the Almighty God. If you consider the entire Bible, the Lord’s Sovereignty is apparent on every page: God’s Almighty control in all things as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords is the unfolding of history as HIS STORY, His foreknowledge and providence in History: God sees and knows the future, having declared the end from the beginning. (Isa. 46:8-10) "A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven.”
Having a proper Biblical sense of God’s Sovereignty “does not mean that you are free to be lazy in your Christian life and then blame your lack of achievement on God…but it does mean that whatever the result of our efforts, we will see God’s hand in them and will not be jealous of another through whom God apparently achieves more. Moreover, we will not be proud of our imagined spiritual insight or be jealous of another’s understanding if we are aware that even this comes only from above.” (The Gospel of John” Vol. 1, M. Boice, p. 254)
Jesus taught this, Peter also, as well as Paul: “For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not.” (1 Cor. 4:7) As people who believe God’s Word ABOUT HIMSELF, we also recognize that all Christ-centered and totally committed service is on an equal standard before God, empowered by God, and performed for His Glory, whatever that service may be. “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Eph. 2:10) We take no personal credit in anything we do for God’s Kingdom purposes when it is He that has ordained that we be saved and that we serve Him as willing slaves for the Righteous One of Heaven.