This is part 7 of 49 parts video series covering the Gospel of John. In this part, John the Baptist declares his final testimony about Jesus. Watch how John addressed Jesus.
John 3:22-36 (GNT)
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JOHN 3: 22-36 (GNT)
Jesus and John
22 After this, Jesus and his disciples went to the province of Judea, where he spent some time with them and baptized. 23 John also was baptizing in Aenon, not far from Salim, because there was plenty of water in that place. People were going to him, and he was baptizing them. (24 This was before John had been put in prison.)
25 Some of John’s disciples began arguing with a Jew[d] about the matter of ritual washing. 26 So they went to John and told him, “Teacher, you remember the man who was with you on the east side of the Jordan, the one you spoke about? Well, he is baptizing now, and everyone is going to him!”
27 John answered, “No one can have anything unless God gives it. 28 You yourselves are my witnesses that I said, ‘I am not the Messiah, but I have been sent ahead of him.’ 29 The bridegroom is the one to whom the bride belongs; but the bridegroom’s friend, who stands by and listens, is glad when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. This is how my own happiness is made complete. 30 He must become more important while I become less important.”
He Who Comes from Heaven
31 He who comes from above is greater than all. He who is from the earth belongs to the earth and speaks about earthly matters, but he who comes from heaven is above all. 32 He tells what he has seen and heard, yet no one accepts his message. 33 But whoever accepts his message confirms by this that God is truthful. 34 The one whom God has sent speaks God’s words, because God gives him the fullness of his Spirit. 35 The Father loves his Son and has put everything in his power. 36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever disobeys the Son will not have life, but will remain under God’s punishment.
Commentary by Enduring Word
After these things Jesus and His disciples came into the land of Judea, and there He remained with them and baptized. Now John also was baptizing in Aenon near Salim, because there was much water there. And they came and were baptized. For John had not yet been thrown into prison.
a. Jesus and His disciples came into the land of Judea: John continues his account of the life of Jesus with the emphasis on what He did in Judea. The other Gospels focus on the work of Jesus in the Galilee region.
b. He remained with them and baptized: Jesus, together with His disciples, did a work of baptizing apparently similar to the work of John the Baptist. This was Jesus’ humble way of recognizing the goodness and importance of John’s work.
i. Of the baptizing work of Jesus, Morris observed: “More probably it represents a continuation of the ‘baptism of repentance’ that was characteristic of John the Baptist.” We know that when Jesus began to preach, He began with John’s same message: repent (Matthew 3:2 and 4:17). It made sense for Jesus to also practice the symbol of repentance that John used with such great effect.
ii. “The baptism now carried on by the disciples [of Jesus] appears to have stood very much in the same position as that of John.” (Alford)
iii. ” ‘Tarried’ [remained] is another word that is not very specific, but we get the impression of an unhurried period during which Jesus and His followers got to know each other better.” (Morris)
iv. The location of Jesus’ work of baptizing is not reported. This may be because it happened in several places in the general area.
c. John also was baptizing in Aenon near Salim: There is some dispute as to the exact location of this place. The best evidence is that it was a place some seven miles (12 kilometers) south of modern Bethshan.
i. “The name Aenon (Ainun means ‘springs’, which would provide the ‘much water’ (literally ‘many waters’) required by John for baptizing.” (Bruce)
ii. “The exact location of Aenon is uncertain. Two sites are possible: one south of Bethshan, where there were numerous springs; another, a short distance from Shechem. Of the two, the former seems to be the better possibility.” (Tenney)
iii. John’s work of baptizing was still showing itself effective; we read: And they came and were baptized. “The sense of the last two verbs is continuous and we might give it the force of it as ‘they kept coming and being baptized’.” (Morris)
2. (25-26) John learns of the baptizing work of Jesus.
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!”
a. A dispute between some of John’s disciples and the Jews about purification: We don’t know the precise nature of this dispute. John’s baptism certainly had an element of personal purification, and perhaps some of the Jewish leaders objected to what he did or how he did it.
b. He is baptizing, and all are coming to Him! We don’t know the details of the dispute regarding purification, but in that discussion the disciples of John learned that Jesus was baptizing, and drawing large crowds.
i. ” ‘All men’ is an indignant exaggeration, very natural in the circumstances.” (Morris)
c. All are coming to Him! John’s disciples seemed alarmed, but it didn’t bother John one bit. John would not allow envy or the fickle crowds make him forget his mission: to announce that the Messiah had come, and then to step back and let the attention be focused upon the Messiah.
3. (27-30) John’s answer to his worried disciples.
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.”
a. A man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven: John first answered his worried disciples that everything he had – including those who responded to his ministry – were a gift from God. If they are God’s gift, then they should be received gratefully.
b. I said, “I am not the Christ,” but, “I have been sent before Him”: John then reminded his disciples that he knew who he was, and he also knew who Jesus was. Understanding that, he could keep his proper place; not too high (thinking he was the Christ) and not too low (thinking he had no call or place in God’s plan).
c. The friend of the bridegroom: John explained to his followers that he was like the best man at a wedding; he isn’t the bridegroom. He isn’t to be the focus of attention, but to supervise the bringing of two people together.
i. In the Jewish wedding customs of that day, the friend of the bridegroom arranged many of the details of the wedding and brought the bride to the groom. Nevertheless, the friend of the bridegroom was never the focus of attention, and wanted it that way.
ii. The fact that the bridegroom represents Jesus is another way the Bible says Jesus is God. In the Old Testament, it was only Yahweh who was the husband of Israel. “The Baptist would have been well aware that in the Old Testament Israel is regarded as the bride of Jehovah.” (Morris)
d. Therefore this joy of mine is fulfilled: John wanted his followers to know that all these arrangements fulfilled his joy. One might say that John the Baptist lost his congregation – and he was happy about it! John was happy because he lost his congregation to Jesus.
i. “It is not John’s regret that men are attracted to Jesus: rather it is the fulfillment of his work and hope.” (Dods)
ii. “John betrays no sense of envy or rivalry. It is not easy to see another’s influence growing at the expense of one’s own; it is even less easy to rejoice at the sight. But John found his joy completed by the news which his disciples brought.” (Bruce)
e. He must increase, but I must decrease: John the Baptist understood it was good for him to become less visible and known, for Jesus to become more visible and known. In even larger aspects, this should be the motto of every Christian, especially leaders among God’s people. Jesus should become greater and more visible, and the servant should become less and less visible.
i. Even though Jesus was baptizing men unto repentance and drawing large crowds, John understood that they did not have the same ministry, the same role. Jesus was uniquely the Messiah and His work must be continually exalted.
ii. John the Baptist shows us that we may be very popular and outwardly successful, and still be humble. John the Baptist had fame and crowds that modern celebrity pastors could only dream of, yet he was an example of genuine humility.
iii. John that Baptist also did not quit his work just because Jesus was doing a similar work and doing it for more people. He labored on, content to do what God called him to do even though Jesus gained more and more attention and John less and less.
iv. “Here ministers may learn not to be wanting to their duties, though God may stir up others about them of greater parts and better success to obscure them.” (Trapp)
v. “If it is not due to your lethargy or sloth that the crowds have ebbed away, and that the tide of conversions has dropped below its former level, be at peace. These are things which the Holy Spirit worketh, dividing to each one severally even as He will.” (Meyer)
4. (31-33) John’s testimony about Jesus.
“He who comes from above is above all; he who is of the earth is earthly and speaks of the earth. He who comes from heaven is above all. And what He has seen and heard, that He testifies; and no one receives His testimony. He who has received His testimony has certified that God is true.”
a. He who comes from above: John wanted everyone to know where Jesus came from. Jesus was different from everyone else because He came from heaven. He wasn’t an exceptionally spiritual or wise or good man; He was and is God, from heaven.
i. There is some debate as to if John 3:31 continues the words of John the Baptist or if it begins a section where John the Evangelist comments on themes suggested by the prior words of the Baptist.
b. He who comes from heaven is above all: Jesus is not only different from everyone else; Jesus is also greater than everyone else.
i. “If we want information about a family, we will get it at first hand only from a member of that family. If we want information about a town we will get it at first hand only from someone who comes from that town. So, then, if we want information about God, we will get it only from the Son of God; and if we want information about heaven and heaven’s life, we will get it only from him who comes from heaven.” (Barclay)
ii. What He has seen and heard: “Seeing and hearing are equivalent to having direct knowledge.” (Dods)
c. No one receives His testimony: John prophetically anticipated the rejection Jesus would endure in His ministry. He came from heaven, He testified to the truth, but relatively no one received His testimony, even though witnesses certified it as the truth of God.
i. “He meant that comparatively none received it. Compared with the crowds who came to him, compared with the nation of Israel, compared with the human race, those who received Christ’s testimony were so few that his sadness made him call them none.” (Spurgeon)
ii. “To accept His teaching is therefore to testify that God is true; on the other hand, to reject it, is in effect to make God a liar (John 3:33; cf. 1 John 1:10, 5:10).” (Tasker)
iii. Certified: “When you believe in Jesus, you have set your seal to the testimony of Jesus, which is the revelation of the Lord. You have certified that you believe in God as true.” (Spurgeon)
5. (34-36) The price for rejecting the true testimony regarding Jesus.
“For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God does not give the Spirit by measure. The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into His hand. He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”
a. He whom God has sent speaks the words of God: Jesus is a uniquely reliable revelation, because He has the Holy Spirit without measure, in contrast to the previous prophets.
b. For God does not give the Spirit by measure: John spoke both of Jesus (who had the Holy Spirit without measure) and prophetically of the New Covenant (which featured a true outpouring of the Holy Spirit). For those joined to the Messiah through the New Covenant, there is as much of the Spirit as needed, given without measure.
i. “The Rabbinical books say that the Holy Spirit was only given to the prophets by measure. This unmeasured pouring of the Spirit on Him accounts for his speaking the words of God.” (Alford)
ii. The Father loves the Son: “Twice in this Gospel we read that ‘the Father loves the Son’ – here (John 3:35) and in John 5:20. The verb here is agapao; in the other place it is phileo. The alternation of those two verbs in identical statements illustrates the Evangelist’s propensity for varying his choice of synonyms.” (Bruce)
iii. The Son: “This absolute use of ‘the Son’ as a designation of Christ certainly suggests, if it does not prove, the proper Divinity of Christ. It is the favourite designation in this Gospel.” (Dods)
c. He who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him: John explained that because Jesus is the man from heaven, there is a heavy price to pay for rejecting Him. If you reject the Son, then you receive the wrath.
i. He who does not believe: “He may think that his not believing is a very small business, but, indeed, it is a barbed shaft shot against the Deity.” (Spurgeon)
ii. The wrath of God: “The word does not mean a sudden gust of passion or a burst of temper. Rather, it is the settled displeasure of God against sin. It is the divine allergy to moral evil, the reaction of righteousness to unrighteousness.” (Tenney)
iii. To reject the Son is to reject His gift – eternal life. You can’t tell Him, “I’ll take the gift but reject You.”
iv. ” ‘The wrath of God’ is a concept which is uncongenial to many modern students, and various devices are adopted to soften the expression or explain it away. This cannot be done, however, without doing great violence to many passages of Scripture and without distracting from God’s moral character.” (Morris)
v. “It is not that God sends wrath upon him; it is that he brings that wrath upon himself.” (Barclay)
d. The wrath of God abides: It abides in this world, because sin’s evil abides until the wrong of it is perfectly satisfied. It abides into the next world, because those who reject Jesus cannot offer a perfect sacrifice acceptable to God. The wrath of God abides until the perfect payment Jesus made on the cross satisfies the debt of evil and guilt.
i. “We may not like it but we should not ignore it. John tells us that this wrath ‘abideth’. We should not expect it to fade away with the passage of time.” (Morris)
ii. “Holy Whitfield, when he was preaching, would often hold up his hands, and, with tears streaming down his eyes, would exclaim, ‘Oh, the wrath to come! the wrath to come!’ Then would he pause because his emotions checked his utterance.” (Spurgeon)
iii. Looking back over John 3, one might say that it is a must read chapter of the Bible. There are three prominent musts in John 3.
· The Sinner’s must: you must be born again (John 3:7).
· The Savior’s must: so must the Son of Man be lifted up (John 3:14).
· The Sovereign’s must: He must increase (John 3:30).
· The Servant’s must: I must decrease (John 3:30).
Commentary by Enduring Word
About the Gospel of John. The gospel of John was written to persuade people to believe in Jesus (20:30-31). The opening verses declare that Jesus is God, stressing His unique relationship with God the Father. The book focuses on seven of Jesus’ signs (miracles), to show his divinity. Jesus called people to believe in him, promising eternal life. He proved he could give life by raising Lazarus (ch.11) and by his own death and resurrection. John features Christ’s seven “I am” statements, his encounters with Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman, his upper room teachings and washing of disciple’s feet (chs. 13-16, and his high priestly prayer (ch. 17. It includes the most well-known summary of the gospel (3:16).