He Must Increase and I Must Decrease

When the apostle John through the Holy Spirit recorded the words of the gospel of Jesus Christ he had one primary goal in mind: that every reader would further their belief that Jesus is the Son of God, and would continue to have life in Christ (John 20:30-31). To fulfill this goal, he recorded several events that would sufficiently deepen the faith of his readers (Remember, John’s gospel is unique in that He wrote his to Christians). Today, we will consider just one of these events and the spiritual application that must not be overlooked.

Toward the end of the third chapter, John records a time in history when John the Immerser beheld the ministry of Jesus finally present with power. The account begins in verse twenty-two, where it is said that “Jesus and His disciples came into the land of Judea, and there He remained with them and baptized.” Someone might say: did that say that Jesus baptized individuals? Absolutely! Jesus baptized many people by God’s authority (John 3:27) through the use of his disciples (John 4:2). Notice in the following verse that John was also baptizing in the land of Judea at the same time. However, more were coming to Jesus rather than to John to obey His words and be baptized. And this must have been a great number of people because John had located himself in a place where there “was much water” (v. 23) in order to baptize the great many coming to hear his words. Now Jesus, although still early in His ministry, had so many coming to Him that He had already baptized more disciples than John ever had (John 4:1). This was no small thing and it even reached the ears of the influential Pharisees.

This fact caused some of John’s disciples to approach John saying “He who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you have testified–behold, He is baptizing, and all are coming to Him.” I do not know the hearts of these men, but it seems to me from their exaggerated statement “all are coming to Him,” that they were upset that Jesus was pulling everyone away from John the Immerser. However, John’s attitude was different. He had no feeling of jealousy toward Jesus, nor was he sorrowful that his usefulness was coming to an end. Instead, he paints a picture of his feelings in verse twenty-nine for his disciples to understand. He explains that if this situation could be compared to a wedding, then he would not be the groom, Jesus would be, and he would only be the friend of the groom. And the true friend watches with joy as the groom speaks. Therefore, we see from his illustration that it was joyous to John to see Jesus increasing, and so John tells his disciples “Therefore this joy of mine is fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease.” John’s joy being fulfilled is twofold: first, that Jesus was increasing (more were hearing His words and obeying Him); second, that John himself was decreasing. Most men would not be happy if they were decreasing in anything, but John had the humility to take a seat for Jesus to stand up. John’s reasoning for this is full of His faith in Christ: “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.” If one comes from heaven to speak, then their knowledge, wisdom, and authority are above all. Therefore, it is only reasonable and of necessity that such a one would increase, and the speaker from the earth would honorably decrease.

John the Immerser taught us something most valuable for our lives today. If one speaks from heaven we must take a seat and listen. If God ever came down from heaven to declare His will to us, then what of necessity must be done with our own will? Remember John’s words “He must increase, but I must decrease.” Friends, God has come from heaven to declare His will to us! God has spoken! God has “spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Hebrews 1:2-3) Knowing these things, what must we do? “He must increase, but I must decrease.” God’s will must increase in our lives, and our will must decrease until it is naught.

There is a spiritual song that we sing from time to time, it is called “None of Self, and All of Thee.” The song describes an individual choosing God’s will to increase while their own decreases.

Oh, the bitter pain and sorrow that a time could ever be, when I proudly said to Jesus, “All of self, and none of Thee.” Yet He found me; I beheld Him, bleeding on the accursed tree, and my wistful heart said faintly, “Some of self, and some of Thee.” Day by day His tender mercy, healing, helping, full and free, brought me lower while I whispered, “Less of self, and more of Thee.” Higher than the highest heaven, deeper than the deepest sea, Lord, Thy love at last has conquered: “None of self, and all of Thee.”  

Paul said to the Galatians “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). When someone crucifies their will, they no longer live for their wants and desires, they now live their life according to Christ’s will. When one lives by Christ’s will they have relinquished their rights to Him. They have given up their “personal choice” of how to worship and how to live, and what their lives should look like. Today, many acknowledge that Christ has spoken, just like John did, but unlike John, they are not willing to “decrease” and make Christ their life. This is terribly sad, but you and I do not have to be like that; we can surrender all to Jesus beginning today.

Article by Tanner Campbell.