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Galatians 5:16-23 teaches that at any moment we are either walking by the Holy Spirit or according to the sin nature. Walking by the Spirit, enjoying fellowship with God, walking in the light are virtually synonymous. During these times, the Holy Spirit is working in us to illuminate our minds to the truth of Scripture and to challenge us to apply what we learn. But when we sin, we begin to live based on the sin nature. Our works do not count for eternity. The only way to recover is to confess (admit, acknowledge) our sin to God the Father and we are instantly forgiven, cleansed, and recover our spiritual walk (1 John 1:9). Please make sure you are walking by the Spirit before you begin your Bible study, so it will be spiritually profitable.

John 3:22-30 by Robert Dean
Duration:53 mins 20 secs

John's Faithful Witness to the Light; True Humility
John 3:22-30
Lesson #031
December 6, 1998

Remember the reason John wrote this Gospel: "but these [signs] have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name." So his purpose is to tell the unbeliever how to become saved, how to have eternal life. In doing that he is going to marshal certain evidence. It is a courtroom scene. He is going to begin to call witnesses to take the stand and to give their evidence about Jesus Christ. The first witness was John the Baptist. Here in verse 31 we are going to focus on the second witness, which is the Lord Jesus Christ. And remember there is a biblical principle of jurisprudence that goes back to the Old Testament mosaic Law, that everything must be confirmed by two witnesses. So here we are going to have our second witness of seven in order to demonstrate that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.

In verses 22 and 23 we are going to see that there are two parallel ministries related to light going on in Israel at this time. There is Jesus who is the Light. Back in John chapter one in the prologue we are told that Jesus was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. Later on Jesus would say: "I am the Light of the world."

Jesus is rejected at the temple, He is rejected at Jerusalem, and He moves out into Judea looking for positive volition. He is doing the same thing, conducting the same ministry as John the Baptist, announcing the kingdom. His message is, "Repent for the kingdom of God is at hand." John 3:22 NASB "After these things Jesus and His disciples came into the land of Judea, and there He was spending time with them and baptizing." This is at the very beginning of the first year on His ministry. It seems there that the Lord is doing the baptizing, but if we look at 4:2 we have clarification: "(although Jesus Himself was not baptizing, but His disciples were)." He recognizes the delegation of responsibility and authority. This is something that is recognized from the Scripture, that the purpose of Jesus was to teach and the disciples carried out the administrative functions. That further developed in Acts chapter six when the apostles recognized that their task was to teach the Word and to pray, and they needed men who would take care of administration. In the same way in the local church it is the pastor's job to teach the Word of God and it is the task of the deacons to carry out the administrative function, and it is the work of all believers to carry out the ministry of their spiritual gifts which are utilized for the benefit of the entire body.

Jesus in His function as the Light is proclaiming the message of truth in teaching and baptizing. At the same time, verse 23, we find that the one who testifies of the Light, John the Baptist, is also carrying out a similar ministry. "John also was baptizing in Aenon near Salim, because there was much water there; and {people} were coming and were being baptized—for John had not yet been thrown into prison." They are operating in different areas but it is one complimentary ministry. John and Jesus are seen as linked together preaching the same message with the same baptism, calling the nation Israel to repentance in preparation for the messianic kingdom. Thousands of people, apparently, are flocking to hear their message. More are beginning to go to Jesus at this time than John the Baptist and the religious leaders are in a panic. They are in a panic because they see that if this trend continues that there is going to be a mass defection from Judaism to the ranks of John the Baptist and Jesus. So they are going to do something about it; the darkness has to turn out the light.

Verse 24 is simply a chronological note: "for John had not yet been thrown into prison." These little things are so important to us because they tell us that the writer of Scripture is who he claims to be, that this is not a document written by someone in the second century or third century who is just writing down church tradition about Jesus for us. That is what the liberals say. John the Baptist was thrown into prison very early. In a study of the synoptic Gospel what we discover is that John the Baptist was thrown into prison before Jesus makes His move north into Galilee. So this is a little chronological note that lets us know that this is very early in the ministry of Jesus Christ. That is a parenthesis.

John 3:25 NASB "Therefore there arose a discussion on the part of John's disciples with a Jew about purification."  

In verse 23, "John also was baptizing in Aenon near Salim, because there was much water there." The Greek indicates that there were springs there. This is flowing water which is consistent with the Old Testament law that water that was used for purification or ceremonial cleansing had to be moving or rushing water, the idea being living water as opposed to stagnant water which symbolized or represented death. It had to be living water. Jews were coming and were being baptised.

John 3:25 NASB "Therefore there arose a discussion on the part of John's disciples with a Jew about purification." This Jew is a Pharisee. We learn that in verse 26 because of what he is saying. He is going to raise some contentions about this washing, this ceremonial purification or baptism that John is conducting there, and he is going to try to create a division in this new movement, the movement of light that is taking place here, the message of the truth. He is going to try to create dissension in the ranks, a divide and conquer strategy to destroy the effective of this ministry. He is challenging them with the question: Is your baptism more significant than Jesus' baptism" what is the difference between you and Jesus? Is His better than yours" is yours better than His? What exactly are you trying to accomplish? And he begins to theologically wrangle with them over the method and the means of baptism. This baptism of John is also, just as believer's baptism in the New Testament church, was to symbolize something after salvation had taken place. In Matthew chapter three when the Pharisees came out to see John the Baptist to find out what was going on, John sent them back and said: "First produce fruit that is in keeping with repentance." In other words, first make sure you are saved, then come out to be baptised; it is not the other way around. Baptism has nothing to do with salvation, it is simply a sign of what has taken place in the spiritual realm because of one's salvation. John's disciples don't know quite how to handle this confrontation so in v. 26 they come to John to try to have some light shed on the whole subject of baptism and what is going on with Jesus. 

John 3:26 NASB "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'." The Pharisee looks as though he is making inroads. The first witness in the Gospel is John the Baptist, but, "behold, He is baptizing and all are coming to Him." He has a bigger congregation, John. John, your congregation is shrinking and His congregation is increasing. Shouldn't we be jealous here? shouldn't we be upset? That is always the temptation. How many people do you have in your church? All of that is really irrelevant because what we are going to learn here is that what matters is how God blesses. It is irrelevant to evaluate any individual on how large his congregation is or how small, it is understanding your place, your role within the plan of God, and living within that. John now demonstrates his grace orientation and his authority orientation to the plan of God, which is the basis for all true humility in the way he answers this. This is the principle: Authority orientation to the plan of God is fundamental to true humility. If you do not have authority orientation to the plan of God you will never have humility and you will never really have grace orientation, and you will always be operating on the principle of works. Look at John's answer:

John 3:27 NASB "John answered and said, "A man can receive nothing unless it has been given him from heaven." God controls human history; Jesus Christ controls human history. Success or failure is in the hands of God, not in the volition of mankind. Here we see what true humility and meekness is all about. True humility is not being a door mat, not being walked over; it is recognizing your role and your position in the plan of God and being comfortable with that, and living in light of that role and responsibility. If we are going to understand what the Bible says about humility we don't start with modern human viewpoint conceptions about humility. Modern human viewpoint conceptions about humility are comparable to being a weak, spineless wimp. True humility is based on authority orientation to the plan of God and that means we understand that success and promotion comes from God. Psalm 127:1 NASB "Unless the LORD builds the house, They labor in vain who build it; Unless the LORD guards the city, The watchman keeps awake in vain." It is better to have a church of twenty to thirty people who are positive to the Word and want to grow than a church of 400 or 500 with only twenty or thirty people who are positive and ready to grow, because all those others are just going to create problems. The issue is not numbers; the issue is quality, not quantity. The issue is having people who are ready to go forward, to learn the Word. That is the key. That is what the church is all about; it is a classroom for instruction and training believers to live the spiritual life so that they can go out and live their lives in a way that glorifies God. Then, when you are ready, when you are prepared, God will promote you in His time in His way. Psalm 75:5 NASB "Do not lift up your horn [do not express your own power] on high, Do not speak with insolent pride. [6] For not from the east, nor from the west, Nor from the desert {comes} exaltation; [7] But God is the Judge; He puts down one and exalts another." This means that it is not your job to promote yourself.

God always uses prepared people. One of the things we will notice is that as we come prepared, and if our attitude is to be willing to be used by God in whatever opportunities come along, then as we learn the Word, as we learn the gospel, and when we learn how to present the gospel, God is going to suddenly give us opportunity after opportunity to give the gospel to unbelievers. He will open those doors. We don't have to go out and start trying to learn a lot of marketing techniques in order to build the kingdom of God.

This is the attitude of John the Baptist. It has been his time to be a witness to the Light, but now that the Light of the world has come he is to fade into the background and it is the role of the Light to take centre stage.

John 3:28 NASB "You yourselves are my witnesses that I said, 'I am not the Christ,' but, 'I have been sent ahead of Him.'" Role recognition.

John 3:29, an illustration from the culture of that day: NASB "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."

 This is an illustration that is going to shock a few people. The Jewish culture, especially in the marriage ceremony, is a little too earth for a lot of modern Christians. They get a little too squeamish, especially about the issue of sex. "He who has the bride is the bridegroom" is a euphemism for sexual intercourse. What would take place in a Jewish wedding ceremony is that for many years the bride and the groom's mother and father would choose who they would marry. The marriage contract was established years before they would be married. Then they would enter into the formal betrothal stage, then they would come to the wedding and the bride would be brought to the groom, and they would go through the legal ceremony. Then they would go to an upper room which was where the marriage bed was in order to consummate the marriage. The guests were outside, they don't just leave and go off home and the couple go off on their honeymoon. No, while everybody is there they go upstairs to consummate and that is all part of the entire procedure. Then they had to present evidence that the bride was indeed a virgin in keeping with the marriage contract. The interesting thing here, a little cultural note to give us confidence that this is the Word of God, and that it is written by a person who was an eye witness of all of this, is that the wedding in Cana took place in Galilee which had different customs. There is no mention in John chapter two of the friends of the groom. They didn't have friends of the groom. The friend of the groom was still operational in the early first century Judea. Because of abuses it faded out of practice but the end of the first century. So it is clear that the writer of Scripture here is familiar with custom, marriage custom unique to Judea in the early part of the first century. What would happen is that the friend of the groom would go upstairs with the bride and groom, and he would stand outside. The groom and the bride would go in to consummate the marriage. And when the groom discovered evidence that she was indeed a virgin and the marriage was consummated and he gave his shout of exultation, then the bridegroom outside would give his shout exultation. It has been consummated, everything is over with, and he rejoiced at the joy of the groom who has just consummated the marriage. That is the background for this.

So John uses this comparison because in the Old Testament and the New Testament there is this analogy of marriage in God's relationship with His people. In the Old Testament Yahweh is the groom; Israel is referred to as the bride of Yahweh. So John uses this illustration. He who has the bride [consummates the marriage] is the bridegroom. Who is that? That is Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the groom who consummates. What has he just said? Doctrine of the deity of Christ. He is making an affirmation that Jesus Christ is analogous to Yahweh; He is the bridegroom. "…the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom's voice." He doesn't give in to jealousy or any other mental attitude sin, he is truly rejoicing in the pleasure and joy and happiness and the groom. He takes no thought for himself, for his own position, he is completely in the background. All of the joy, all of the honour, everything belongs to the groom. 

Therefore, conclusion: John 3:30 NASB "He must increase, but I must decrease." True authority orientation. This is one of the greatest passage sin all of the Scripture about what true humility is all about: recognizing who you are in the plan and purpose of God, and being willing to take promotion as well as demotion. If your view of the spiritual life and God's blessing for you isn't large enough to include the fact that God will take everything away from you, take all your material possessions away from you, reduce you to poverty, then you don't have a view of the grace of God that is biblically accurate. Because God's blessing is not defined in terms of material possessions or numerical strength. God's blessings are related spiritually, so that however God blesses us, whatever the plan for us is in terms of material possessions and prosperity, we can handle that, whether that includes a lot or a little.