CHRIST must ‘INCREASE’ as we ‘DECREASE’ daily: 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 answered and said, "A man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven. You yourselves bear me witness that I said, 'I am not the Christ,' but, 'I have been sent before Him.' He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom's voice. Therefore this joy of mine is fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease’. (John 3:26-30)
The disciples of John the Baptist were deeply concerned about the decreasing popularity of their leader. In their astonishment that Jesus was competing with and surpassing John’s ministry, they came to John and exaggerated the predicament, saying, ‘all are coming to Him’. However, without any hesitation John clarified the relationship between himself and Jesus. First, he talked about himself (vv. 27–29); then, he talked about Jesus (vv. 30–36).
In his reply, John clarified that each person has been given a place of service from heaven, and he had no right to claim any importance other than what God had given him. In God’s plan, John must diminish and Christ must continue to grow. John’s position was only as the forerunner of Christ. He was like the friend of the bridegroom, and his joy came from the success of the bridegroom. So, rather than regretting his loss of popularity to Christ, John actually rejoiced in his subservient role. John was content to be just a “voice” (1:23) and a friend.
John’s declaration that “He must increase, but I must decrease” (3:30) seems to repudiate the idea of personal achievement, recognition, or material gain—common measures of success in our society. Indeed, John labored ceaselessly to point men and women to the Lord, and to make them realize His true worth. In doing this, John realized that he must keep himself in the background only.
Why did John the Baptist insist that Jesus had to increase? This was primarily because the origin of Jesus was divine (v. 31), the teachings of Jesus were divine (vv. 32–34), and the authority of Jesus was divine (vv. 35, 36). Jesus was the Son of God (1:1-2); the Word who “became flesh and dwelt among the people” (1:14). The greatest joy of John the Baptist was from being privileged, as the forerunner to prepare the people for the heavenly Bridegroom!
For a servant of Christ to seek to attract attention to self is really a form of disloyalty to his/her Master. Let us note the following five strategic principles pointed out by Nelson's New Testament Survey that have been distilled through John’s reply (3:27–30):
- Every ministry is a God-given privilege.
- A servant’s role is to introduce others to the Savior.
- The joy of fulfilling service comes through serving the Master.
- A servant should always draw attention to the Lord and not himself or herself.
- The Lord’s servants must humbly recognize the Lord in their service to Him.