Summary: He must increase, but I must decrease.


John 3:31-36.

John’s disciples came to him with the observation, ‘The One of whom you testified is baptising, and all men come to Him’ (cf. John 3:26). ‘All men’ might have been an exaggeration, but Jesus was making more disciples than His forerunner (cf. John 4:1-2). John’s response was one of humility, culminating in the words, ‘He must increase, but I must decrease’ (cf. John 3:30).

Jesus, of course, is greater than John the Baptist. John is the herald; Jesus is the King (cf. John 1:26-27). John is the ‘friend of the groom’; Jesus is the heavenly bridegroom (cf. John 3:29).

JOHN 3:31. Jesus “comes from above.” The whole doctrine of the incarnation is wrapped up in this phrase (cf. Philippians 2:5-8).

Mere man is “of the earth, earthly, and speaks of the earth” (cf. John 8:23; 1 Corinthians 15:47-48; 1 John 4:5).

Jesus is “from heaven” (cf. John 3:13).

Jesus is “above all” (cf. Matthew 28:18; Ephesians 1:20-21; Philippians 2:9-11).

JOHN 3:32. Jesus testifies of “what He has seen and heard” (cf. John 3:11; John 5:20; John 8:28; John 12:50).

“No man receives His testimony” seems to rebuke John’s disciples’ earlier exaggeration, ‘all men come to Him’ (cf. John 3:26). Both, perhaps, can be viewed as hyperbole. This need not be taken too literally, as the next verse shows.

JOHN 3:33. “He that receives His testimony” metaphorically “seals” the fact that “God is true” (cf. Romans 3:4). God is true to His word. God is true to His promise. Thus do I believe ‘the record that God gave of His Son,’ and would happily confirm it with my signature (cf. 1 John 5:10).

JOHN 3:34. “For He whom God has sent” - i.e. ‘the Son’ (cf. John 3:17).

“Speaks the words of God” (cf. Deuteronomy 18:18).

“For God gives not the Spirit by measure unto Him.” Earlier prophets only had ‘a measure’ of the Spirit, and that only for a limited time or function; whereas Jesus, being the One ‘in whom dwells the fulness of the Godhead bodily’ (Colossians 2:9) already has the fulness of the Spirit (cf. Isaiah 11:2).

JOHN 3:35. “The Father loves the Son.” That the Father has loved the Son from all eternity is echoed by Jesus Himself in His great high priestly prayer (cf. John 17:24).

“And has given all things into His hand.” He has all things pertaining to our salvation (cf. John 17:2). He has the keys of death and hell (cf. Revelation 1:18). He has all authority, and commissions us to go out into all the world (cf. Matthew 28:18-20).

JOHN 3:36. “He who believes on the Son has everlasting life.” Not ‘pie in the sky when I die’, but a fulness of life for all eternity already begun - for the believer, at the point of believing - in this realm of time (cf. John 3:16). To believe is to ‘pass from death to life’ (cf. John 5:24).

“And he who believes not the Son shall not see life.”

The Greek word usually translated “believes not” here in John 3:36 is not simply a negation of ‘believe’ (as in John 3:18). It is a stronger word, implying an unbending refusal to believe. The same word is translated elsewhere as ‘disobeying’ (Cf. Romans 10:21).

“But the wrath of God abides on him.” This takes us right back to the beginning of the chapter: ‘Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God’ (cf. John 3:3). There is no other way.

‘He that has the Son has life; he that has not the Son of God has not life. These things I have written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that you may know that you have eternal life’ (1 John 5:13).