John 3:22-36 The believer’s call is to preach the Gospel accurately and truthfully
22 After these things Jesus and His disciples came into the land of Judea, and there He was spending time with them and baptizing. 23 John also was baptizing in Aenon near Salim, because there was much water there; and people were coming and were being baptized — 24 for John had not yet been thrown into prison. Therefore there arose a discussion on the part of John’s disciples with a Jew about purification. 26 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.” 27 John answered and said, “A man can receive nothing unless it has been given him from heaven. 28 You yourselves are my witnesses that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, ’ but, ‘I have been sent ahead of Him. ’ 29 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. So this joy of mine has been made full. 30 He must increase, but I must decrease.
31 “He who comes from above is above all, he who is of the earth is from the earth and speaks of the earth. He who comes from heaven is above all. 32 What He has seen and heard, of that He testifies; and no one receives His testimony. 33 He who has received His testimony has set his seal to this, that God is true. 34 For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God; for He gives the Spirit without measure. 35 The Father loves the Son and has given all things into His hand. 36 He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”
A discussion arose among John’s disciple concerning the rising influence of Jesus’ ministry. John reminded his disciples of his calling as a forerunner of Christ. He cited the heavenly nature and authority of Christ which he must be subordinated to. A minister’s calling is not to raise his own profile but to fuel support towards the preeminence of Christ so that all may be drawn towards Him. In today’s passage, we learn the importance of preaching the gospel accurately and truthfully so that all may be saved without delay.
A man can receive nothing unless it has been given him from heaven.
There was a dispute concerning matters of purification practices among John’s disciples and some Jews. It surfaced some disquiet in John’s disciples about what seemed like a competing ministry pioneered by Jesus. It was disturbing in their minds that so many were flocking to Jesus whereas formerly they were flocking to John. It was an obvious disconnect between John’s ministry purpose and his disciples’ perception of it. John took the occasion and pressed in to clarify the nature of His call. John was ordained by God from heaven to go ahead in preparing the people to receive Jesus as Messiah. Therefore, he was not to go beyond what was commanded of him but to be the friend of the bridegroom. He was not to “own” the people but to release them to receive their bridegroom.
So this joy of mine has been made full. He must increase, but I must decrease.
John expressed his full submission to the call of heaven which formed the purpose of his existence. And having heard the bridegroom’s voice, he rejoices as having fulfilled his destiny: So this joy of mine has been made full. This joy brought a sense of contentment in which he must now retreat and lend full support to the eminence of Christ: He must increase, but I must decrease. John expressed no desire to go beyond his call of duty other than to bring the world under Christ’s lordship. Therefore, the lordship of Christ necessitates the subordination of all human instruments without which the eminence of Christ may be veiled.
He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life. John justified his decision before his disciples in giving preeminence to Christ with the following:
- He who comes from above is above all, he who is of the earth is from the earth and speaks of the earth. By virtue of the fact that Christ comes from heaven and he was from the earth, was reason enough. Christ is perfect and untainted by the sins of humanity. John was numbered with the sinners of the earth and was even disqualified from (in his words) untying Christ’s scandal strap.
- What He has seen and heard, of that He testifies; and no one receives His testimony. By virtue of the fact that Christ’s call and testimony was different from John’s. Jesus is appointed as Lord and carries full authority from the Father to save those who acknowledge His lordship. He who received His (Christ’s) testimony received God: God is true. John was not tasked to save the people but to prepare them through repentance to receive Christ’s testimony.
- For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God; for He gives the Spirit without measure. The Father loves the Son and has given all things into His hand. The Father lends His whole weight behind the Son and He was sent to speak and judge on behalf of the Father. The Son also carries the anointing of the Spirit without limit: without measure. Jesus possesses the full authority to save and to baptize in the Spirit those who acknowledge Him as Lord and Savior.
- He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him. As the Father has given all authority to the Son, He becomes the Lord of all and worthy of all submission and worship. He who believes in the Son’s authority obeys Him, and he will be saved. Therefore, believing in Christ is synonymous with obeying Christ’s commandments. Belief and obedience towards Christ cannot be separated.
A man’s greatest fulfillment is to embrace his destiny from heaven. Many derive their significance from the things that interest them on earth as opposed to things given from heaven. Yet more are drawn by the lure of material wealth, being swamped by the cares of life and in keeping up with the Joneses. As a result, many become lost and disillusioned in the thick of their earthly pursuits. They profess to be driven by success, to always be on top of their peers and to finally become somebody. Many of such possess great titles and boast of great achievements but they are forgotten as soon as they retire. God gives every man a unique design to fulfill a destiny divinely ordained for him. Therefore, it is absolutely crucial to understand one’s destiny lest at the close of his life he finds his ladder up against the wrong wall. John said, “A man can receive nothing unless it has been given him from heaven.” No man can be filled with any vision or destiny other than the one given from heaven.
A man’s greatest joy is to help others find their destiny. It is human instinct to use others to fulfill one’s personal agenda. Companies allocate fewer resources in their employees’ yearly training budget. They compete by poaching one another’s employees instead of upgrading their own workforce. Companies milk their employees, and employees use companies for their personal progress – this is business as usual.
Christian organizations must differ in purpose and ethos from commercial companies. The church’s existence is to help believers discover and fulfill their heavenly destiny in Christ. Churches are not to treat members as packing material to raise their profile; they are souls waiting to discover their destiny. Therefore, the church must focus on discipling the individual and not on meeting the general needs of the crowd. Thus, it is necessary to understand the capacity and maturity of the church before embarking on a “membership recruitment drive.” Younger believers must be adequately discipled by more mature believers so that they could overcome their circumstances and go on to become disciple makers. Pastors must make time for his leaders so that they continue to find inspiration to grow towards their destiny.
Every restaurant is structured to cater for a certain crowd size before food quality begins to deteriorate. And it takes time and effort to scale itself up to handle bigger crowds. In the same way, it takes time for members of a church to mature in order to meet the needs of the community. Packing the crowds in on Sunday for a two-hour worship and sermon will not do much for the individual.
John the Baptist did not amass the people in order fulfill his personal ego. He redirected them to Christ in order that each may grow and find their destiny under the lordship of Christ. Disciples are not to increase the profile of the disciple maker or the church but the eminence of Christ. The strength of a church is not measured by the size of its Sunday crowd, but by each member’s ability to overcome dire circumstances and to help others find their destiny.
The lordship of Christ is the key foundation towards salvation. The true gospel carries the message of obedience. John the Baptist arrived at the scene even before Christ did. In preparing the people to believe in the Son, he spoke about obedience to the commands of the Son,
“He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”
Some churches played down the requisite of obedience for fear of prematurely losing the crowd. Hence, they keep the people on a holding ground of divine love and forbearance hoping to gradually shift them towards repentance. This strategy runs counterproductive to evangelism and discipleship as the people become immunized in the romantic notion of unconditional love and limitless forgiveness. Taking an observation from how kids are raised. We teach and remind children repeatedly of moral principles so that they may live and prosper.
Therefore, the longer we delay in teaching the truth to the congregation, the more strong willed and unpliable people become. The end result is a generation of lawlessness having little regard for authority nor grace. Preaching the love of God alone with little regard to repentance in reality becomes counterproductive with many trampling God’s love under foot as a common thing. Jesus said,
Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many. Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved. This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come. Matthew 24:11-14
- What is your destiny and end game? You can start to understand your destiny by following the instructions of Christ on a daily basis. By reading the Word regularly, we build up our Spirit to do His will.
- Do you constantly try to help your subordinates grow in their character and competence? If you are a minister, do you constantly immerse yourself in the Word and be enlightened by it? Only by doing so, you can inspire your leaders and fill them continually with the truth of Christ.
Dear Lord, I thank you for calling me and ordaining me towards a glorious destiny. Prepare me for your work and use me to point others to Christ. Cause me to speak the gospel of truth boldly to the people at my workplace and community so that they may be saved. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.