Monthly Archives: November 2010

John 3:22-30 – He Must Increase

1) HE INCREASES IN OUR OBEDIENCE

John 3:22–24 (ESV) — 22 After this Jesus and his disciples went into the Judean countryside, and he remained there with them and was baptizing. 23 John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because water was plentiful there, and people were coming and being baptized 24 (for John had not yet been put in prison).

In our text today, we have something peculiar taking place.
• Both John the Baptist and Jesus Christ are baptizing “at Aenon near Salim”.
• And each has his own disciples with him.
• And, in spite of Jesus presence, people were still coming to John for baptism.

Something that makes it even more peculiar is that both groups were doing water baptisms.

How do we know this?
• The geographical location – “Aenon” is a Semitic term meaning “springs” – A. Kostenberger.
• The comment that John was “also” baptizing there (his was a water baptism).
• And the question in verse 25 concerning purification, which was a Jewish concern, “over the matter of ceremonial washing…not on the relative merits of the baptism administered by John versus the baptism administered by Jesus” – D.A. Carson.
• Therefore, “the context requires that this be taken as water baptism, not the baptism in the Holy Spirit the Baptist promised Jesus would administer [Matthew 3:11]” – D.A. Carson.

So what we don’t have going on explicitly is:
• Folks coming to John for his water of repentance baptism.
• And then folks heading over to Jesus for His Holy Spirit baptism.

POI – Did Jesus personally baptize?
• “Only the Fourth Gospel mentions that Jesus baptized, and 4:2 specifies that he himself did not perform the rite but left it to his disciples” – D.A. Carson.
• John 4:2 (ESV) — 2 (although Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples),

So a couple of questions obviously arise:
Why did John the Baptist continue to fulfill his heavenly call of a water baptism of repentance even though Christ’s ministry was underway?
• The answer I found over and over is “Perhaps John continued his ministry of baptism so as to have further opportunity to bear witness to Jesus as the Christ” – Kostenberger.
• This answer is valid only if the scene as presented in our text today really does “bear witness to Jesus as the Christ” and increases Jesus’ standing while decreasing John’s.

So, this leads us to our second question.
Did the event described in our text (an overlapping ministry) “bear witness to Jesus as the Christ”?
• To answer that question, we need to get a little background.

POI – What is the purpose of verse 24?
• “Rather than representing a discrepancy with the Synoptics, the Fourth Evangelist seeks to clarify the chronology, indicating that everything that happened up to this point in his Gospel took place prior to John’s imprisonment by Herod Antipas, which is recorded in Mark 1:14” – Kostenberger.

So back to our “bear witness to Jesus as the Christ” question.

Background we need to know:
(1) John was divinely called to do this.
(2) And his ministry was a fulfillment of prophecy.
• Luke 3:2–4 (ESV) — 2 during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness. 3 And he went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 4 As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.
(3) John had “achieved a great deal of popularity as a result of his preaching” – Boice.
• Luke tells us that “crowds”, “tax collectors”, “soldiers” all came to hear him preach.
• Matthew tells us in Matthew 3:5 (ESV) — 5 Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him,
• Mark tells us in Mark 6:20 (ESV) — 20 for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he kept him safe. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed, and yet he heard him gladly.
    o Even the powerful were attracted to John’s ministry

So from points (1) and (2), we see that he continued his ministry out of obedience to his call and in fulfillment of prophecy.
• And in this obedience he did “bear witness to Christ”.
    o John 1:29 (ESV) — 29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!

And from point (3), we will see that our text today will demonstrate to us the nature of his obedience.
• John’s obedience was a humble obedience not a calculated or self-serving obedience.
• Facing competition and declining success, John could have easily been tempted to:
    o Quit and go back to a safe, normal life.
    o Or even to join up with Jesus; we know that a couple of his disciples did (John 1:37).

But John kept going in humble obedience.
How exactly did he do this and how did it “bear witness to Christ”?
• John’s words to his disciples will flesh this out for us.

2) HE INCREASES IN OUR HUMBLE OBEDIENCE

John 3:25–30 (ESV) — 25 Now a discussion arose between some of John’s disciples and a Jew over purification. 26 And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, he who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you bore witness—look, he is baptizing, and all are going to him.” 27 John answered, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven. 28 You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’ 29 The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. 30 He must increase, but I must decrease.”

I believe a preview of how John’s humble obedience “bore witness to Christ” can be found in the following observation:
• For John to halt his ministry at the onset of Jesus’ would have been done under the influence of worldly considerations:
    o “My ministry is waning and Jesus’ is growing – I should quit while I’m ahead”.
    o “My ministry must not be as good as His because I’m losing my own disciples and some of the crowd to His ministry.”
    o “My ministry is just a distraction from Christ’s, so it is time to stop”.

But this is not what John the Baptist said or did.
• He used the John/Jesus baptizing event to “bear witness to Christ” with his humble obedience.
• And he did this in at least 5 ways.

John 3:25 (ESV) — 25 Now a discussion arose between some of John’s disciples and a Jew over purification.
• As mentioned earlier, this was question about Jewish stuff not Jesus/John stuff.
• Or as Kostenberger puts it, the question was a concern over the relationship between water baptism and “more traditional ceremonies practiced in contemporary Judaism.

John 3:26 (ESV) — 26 And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, he who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you bore witness—look, he is baptizing, and all are going to him.”
• In the course of this discussion between the Jew and John’s disciples, John’s disciples came to John to point out something that obviously was a concern to them – a worldly one that we alluded to earlier.
• In the words of James Boice, “This was the same as saying, “John, your star is sinking. What shall we do?

John 3:27–28 (ESV) — 27 John answered, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven. 28 You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’
• In reply to their worldly concern, John, once again, “bore witness to Christ” and made much of Him.
• John, in verse 27, discloses a profound truth.
• Our ministries for the kingdom are bestowed by God from heaven to serve Him – (1) God is sovereign.
• They are not bestowed by man to serve the interests of man.
• That means, for John, not only was his ministry but Christ’s also was bestowed from heaven.
• And as measured by John’s words and actions, he, “was entirely content with his” ministry – D.A. Carson.

This wisdom expressed by John discloses another profound truth – (2) a right understanding of his ministry.
• The value and effectiveness of His ministry was not determined by comparing it to another’s, but by following the ministry through, in all obedience, no matter the cost.
• In other words, John is not capitulating to the circumstances and reluctantly accepting his “defeat”.
• He is wholeheartedly embracing God’s will both in his ministry and Christ’s!

And it is this attitude of John the Baptist that enables him to be humbly obedient in spite of the worldly concerns of his disciples and worldly temptations that were buffeting him.
• He declares, in recognition and full acceptance of the ministry given him by God, “I am not the Christ”.
• “For John the Baptist to have wished he were someone else, called to serve in a way many would judge more prominent, would simply be covetousness by another name; if the person he envied were the Messiah himself, he would be annulling the excellent ministry God had given him” – D.A. Carson.

So the message given by John loud and clear to his disciples and to us is:
• “If the newcomer was attracting and winning more followers than John himself, this was not because he was stealing them away from John or acting dishonestly in presenting his claims. It was because God was giving them to Christ to be his followers” – James Boice.
• And the benefit to anyone’s ministry in recognizing “that all spiritual insight and advance comes from God is to be freed from jealous efforts at comparison” – James Boice.

John goes on and continues to “bear witness to Christ” in his humble obedience in 2 more ways.

John 3:29 (ESV) — 29 The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete.
• John makes mention of the bride, the bridegroom and the “friend” or best man.
• Clearly, John sees himself as the best man.
• He sees Jesus as the bridegroom.
• And, “In light of the OT background where Israel is depicted as “the bride of Yahweh”, the Baptist is suggesting that Jesus is Israel’s [the bride’s] awaited king and messiah” – Kostenberger.
    o And we know that ultimately, the bride of Christ is the Church as Paul says in Ephesians 5:25 (ESV) — 25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,

So with these words, John is downplaying himself and not only (3) fixing his eyes on Christ but also (4) pointing all in the direction of Christ.
• The fact of this can be demonstrated with the following cultural insight.
• In the A.N.E., the best man was “absolutely prohibited” from marrying the bride.
• So when John identifies himself with the best man, he is acknowledging that the salvation of Israel is Jesus’ God given ministry and not his.
• His support and his eyes are firmly fixed on the heavenly ordained ministry of Christ.
• And he invites us and his disciples to do the same, thereby pointing to Christ as Messiah.
• And he explicitly states that in this knowledge his joy “is now complete”.
    o As mentioned earlier, another example of embracing and expressing God’s will.

And finally, John brings us to one of the fundamental truths of any effective ministry, and the 5th way he he uses the occasion to “bear witness to Christ”.

John 3:30 (ESV) — 30 He must increase, but I must decrease.
• With these words, John reveals what ultimately defines a successful ministry – (5) the glorification of Christ.
• Whether his ministry succeeded in the eyes of the world (his disciples) or not was irrelevant.
• His aim was humble obedience to his heavenly ordained ministry.
• And in seeking to understand the practice of John’s humble obedience, we can point to the words of A.W. Pink, “Humility is not the product of direct cultivation, rather it is a by-product. The more I try to be humble, the less shall I attain unto humility. But if I am truly occupied with that One who was ‘meek and lowly in heart,’ if I am constantly beholding His glory in the mirror of God’s Word, then shall I be ‘changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord’ (2 Cor. 3:18).”
• John’s ministry truly led to the “by-product” of humble obedience!
• And this statement was again an affirmation of God’s sovereignty, for who would determine when John’s time had come and his ministry was over?

So this leads us back to our second question from the beginning of our lesson.
• We saw that John was simply being obedient.
• But we wondered how that obedience could be helpful at this point in the story.
How did John’s ministry during the onset of Jesus’ ministry “bear witness to Christ”?

It did so because John’s obedience was a humble obedience as demonstrated in the following (Boice):
(1) Recognizing and submitting to the sovereignty of God.
(2) Knowing and understanding his ministry in light of God’s will, directives and expectations, not the world’s.
(3) Fixing his eyes on Christ and His desire to save and establish his Church – John was only the best man.
(4) Pointing and leading others to Christ.
(5)The final factor in John’s humility was his knowledge of the fact that whatever might happen in this world, whatever glory the world might or might not give him, the ultimate outcome would be increase of the glory given to Jesus Christ and the bowing of every human knee before him” – James Boice.

At first glance, it made no since that John would continue in his ministry after Jesus’ started His.
• In fact, the other three Gospels leave this info out all together.
• But, clearly, we have seen that what can make little worldly since, can make heavenly since.
• However, one necessary ingredient for this to be the case is humble obedience.
• John the Baptist has unequivocally set that example for us.

Lesson for Us:
What is your heavenly ordained ministry in the Church?
How do you evaluate its success – with heavenly or worldly standards?
Do your actions and attitudes “increase” Christ or yourself?

John 3:16-21 – Two Worlds, Two Whoevers, Two Wills

John 3:16–21 (ESV) — 16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”

In John 2:23-25, John showed us why Jesus does not believe in man.
• The heart of man is depraved, full of sin and iniquity and is incapable of saving faith.

In John 3:1-13, John revealed to us the nature of the new birth.
• The new birth is something made possible through the work of the Holy Spirit.
• It is a regeneration of the heart which makes saving faith possible.

In John 3:14-15, John introduced the necessity of Jesus work on the cross.
• It is our belief in the necessity of Christ’s death on the cross as punishment for our sins that is the object of our saving faith.

In our text today, John 3:16-21, John explains both the reason God chose to provide for us the object of our saving faith and the consequences of having or not having saving faith.
• In order to really dig deep into these verses, we will look at the implications developed “behind” the text.
• We are introduced to 3 concepts – Two Worlds, Two Whoevers, Two Wills.
• We will deal first with Two Worlds.

1) TWO WORLDS

John 3:17 (ESV) — 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

We get a glimpse of these “Two Worlds” in verse 17.
• John tells us Jesus as Messiah did not come to condemn or pass judgment on the world.
• He came to save it.
• John echoes this same thought in chapter 12.
    o John 12:47–48 (ESV) — 47 If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. 48 The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day.

Judge” or “Condemn” is the Greek word “krima”.
• It is an action whereby the righteous are approved and the wicked are condemned – Strongs.
• From this, we can see that John is telling us that the purpose of Christ’s incarnation was the first action and not the second.
• God loved the world so much that He sent His Son to die (the action) to save those that would “look at the bronze serpent and live” (John 3:14-15).
• The “First World” is the one which contains “the action” of Christ’s work on the cross that believers might be saved.

From this observation we can conclude what the “Second World” is.
• Revelation 20:13–15 (ESV) — 13 And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. 14 Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
• The “Second World” is the one which contains “the action” of Christ’s judgment of the unbelievers.
• That action is the 2nd coming of Christ.

So we have a clear picture of the world about which John was talking in our text today; it is the “First World”.

However, it doesn’t take long to discover that within John, there are some apparent contradictions to what we have just learned.
• John 5:27 (ESV) — 27 And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man.
• John 9:39 (ESV) — 39 Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.”

These verses answer squarely those that try to argue that “Jesus didn’t come to judge us”.
• But, how do we reconcile them with John’s words in verse 17?
• We know that whatever judgment Jesus is talking about, it is not the “Second World” judgment.

The world into which Christ came was not a neutral one morally and in relation to the truth of God.
• Christ, the Light and the Truth, came into a wicked and fallen world.
    o Remember, in John 2:25 we are told that Christ couldn’t believe in men because he knew what was in them.
• So when Christ shed His Light and Truth into this “First World” there were and are unavoidable consequences for unbelievers.
• There is a judgment taking place – just not the “Second World” judgment.
• “The provision of “salvation for all who believe implies judgment for those who do not believe”; while “the purpose of Christ’s coming was redemptive, when His saving work is rejected, judgment results. Even though judgment results from unbelief, condemnatory judgment was not the purpose of the incarnation” – Andreas Kostenberger.

This implied judgment is why John says as much when he tells us in our text today:
• John 3:19–21 (ESV) — 19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.
    o When Christ’s light shines, judgment is unavoidable.

Now let’s deal with the Two Whoevers that reside in the world Christ came to save.

2) TWO WHOEVERS

John 3:18–21 (ESV) — 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”

BTW – The contrasts presented here are another excellent example of what we discussed in the Heart and Mind of Belief lesson.
• Born again believers with regenerated hearts think and thus act in the direction and presence of the Light.
• Unbelievers with wicked hearts think and thus act in the direction and presence of darkness.

Moving on, our text must be understood in light of the “Whoevers”.
• Remember, Jesus is telling Nico about being born again (what makes saving faith possible) and the cross (the object of our saving faith).
• In our text today, John is revealing the consequences of the presence or absence of saving faith.
• And John does this by introducing us to the Whoevers (ESV).

The first “Whoevers” John describes as the following:
• They believe
• They come to light
• They are not condemned
• They do truth
• These are the people described to Nicodemus as the born again in John 3:1-8 and thus have saving faith.

The second “Whoevers” John describes as the following:
• They don’t believe
• They hate the light
• They are condemned
• They do wickedness
• These are the people John tells us about in John 2:23-25; they have no saving faith.

There is no 3rd option.
• All of humanity is either the first or the second Whoever.
• You are either in the light (3:21) or you are in the darkness (3:19-20).

To understand the gravity and consequences of the Whoevers, we need to answer the following:
Which Whoever does Jesus say will “see the kingdom of God” in 3:3?
Which Whoever does Jesus describe to Nico as able to “enter the kingdom of God” in 3:5?
Which Whoever does Jesus say understands “heavenly things” in 3:12?
Which Whoever does Jesus send His only begotten Son in 3:16 to save?
Which Whoever “is not condemned” in 3:18?
Which Whoever “comes to the light” in 3:21?

This leads us to an obvious question, did God even send Jesus into the “First World” for the “Second Whoevers”?
• Our next section on Two Wills will help us answer this question.

3) TWO WILLS

John 3:16a (ESV) — 16 “For God so loved the world…”
• John goes on to tell us that an expression of this love that God has for the world is demonstrated in Christ.

But implicit in John’s declaration of God’s love is that His love for the world has a purpose.
• In other words, it is not a flimsy, superficial, feel-good, worldly love.
• For God to express His love to the world in Christ, is God expressing an intention He has for the world.

And this intention or purpose is what leads us in these verses to a discussion of the Two Wills of God.
• Understanding the Two Wills of God will help us further understand our text today and answer the question mentioned earlier, “Did God send Jesus into the “First World” for the “Second Whoevers?”

What are the Two Wills of God?
(1) God’s Prescriptive Will
• This is God prescribing what HUMANITY SHOULD DO.
• God desires for everyone to respond to gospel with belief and bring them under His saving grace.
• However, God’s Prescriptive Will is often disobeyed.

Examples of God’s Prescriptive Will:
• 1 Timothy 2:3-4 (ESV) — 3 This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
• 2 Peter 3:9 (ESV) — 9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.
• Matthew 23:37 (ESV) — 37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!

(2) God’s Decretive (Decreed) Will
• This is God determining what HE WILL DO.
• God does not save the unbeliever, but brings him under His holy and just wrath.
• God’s Decretive Will is always accomplished.

Examples of God’s Decretive Will:
• Acts 18:9–10 (ESV) — 9 And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, 10 for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.”
• John 12:37–40 (ESV) —37 Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him, 38 so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “Lord, who has believed what he heard from us, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” 39 Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said, 40 “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn, and I would heal them.”
• Romans 1:18; 24–25 (ESV) — 18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth…. 24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

An implication of God’s Two Wills:
Does all of humanity “come to knowledge of the truth” or “reach repentance”?
• No, and in fact Scripture tells us they “would not” in spite of the fact that “God so loved the world…”
• God wants them to, but because they are the “Second Whoevers”, Scripture tells us “they could not believe”.
• So God’s salvation is, on the Prescriptive level, available to all, but on the Decretive level, only for a few (Matt 7:13-14).
• “The free offer of the gospel is broad enough to encompass the vilest sinner (1 Tim. 1:15), yet narrow enough to exclude all who reject Christ (John 3:18)” – John MacArthur.

So as asked earlier, did God send Jesus into the “First World” for the “Second Whoevers?”
• It seems the answer is yes, but not in the same way as for the First Whoevers.
• John Piper says, “…all men are the intended beneficiaries of the cross in some sense. 1 Timothy 4:10 says that Christ is “the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe.” [But all men are not] intended as the beneficiaries of the death of Christ in the same way.”

Here is how this is best understood:
• Prescriptively, we learned that clearly God loves the Second Whoevers and wants them to be saved.
• And Jesus had to come for that to ever be a possibility.
• But Decretively, they are not the beneficiaries of God’s work on the cross in the same way as the born again are because God’s holiness must condemn the unbeliever.

How do we know they don’t benefit the same way?
• John 3:17–18 (ESV) — 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
    o Here, John tells us Jesus did not come to condemn the world, but then in verse 18 qualifies his statement with “whoever believes” is not condemned and “whoever does not believe is condemned already”.
    o There is a clear difference in how the Two Whoevers relate to the “Son of God” – the first have saving faith and the second do not.

But how do the Second Whoevers benefit from the cross?
• “How is God just to withhold judgment from sinners who deserve to be immediately cast into hell? The answer is that Christ’s death so clearly demonstrates God’s just abhorrence of sin that he is free to treat the world with mercy without compromising his righteousness. In this sense Christ is the savior of all men. If God sent Jesus in the same way for everybody, everyone would be saved” – John Piper.

And another way to dig into the Two Wills of God is via the following questions:
Did God send Christ to die hoping that people would believe (prescriptive will)?
OR
Did God send Christ to die knowing that people would believe (decretive will)?
    o And did He know simply because He knew the future or because He chose them ahead of time?

Lesson for Us:
• If God wants to save everybody why doesn’t He?
• This question may not have a good answer this side of heaven, but Piper urges us to realize that God is glorified in this First World with the consequences incurred by both Whoevers.
• “The coming of Jesus into the world clarifies that unbelief is our fault, and belief is God’s gift. Which means that if we do not come to Christ, but rather perish eternally, we magnify God’s justice. And if we do come to Christ and gain eternal life, we magnify God’s grace” – John Piper.