He must increase, but I must decrease.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)He must increase, but I must decrease.—The office of the paranymph ceases to exist when the marriage is accomplished. It must be so. So too in the interpretation. His own work was well-nigh done, but he is filled with the joy of having done his work, not with disappointment that it pales before the brightness of the work which is to follow. This is the text of the Forerunner’s life. Well will it be for those followers of Christ whose lives shall be sermons on it!John 3:30-31. He must increase — And appear continually more and more glorious, like the growing moon; but I must decrease — Must gradually wane and decline, till I disappear: for the end of my ministry is now, in a great measure, answered, and therefore I quickly expect to be dismissed from it. He that cometh from above is above all — As if he had said, It is fit he should increase, while I decrease; for he is a person of infinitely greater dignity than I am, possesses far more knowledge of the divine will, and the discoveries which he makes thereof as far transcend mine as heaven exceeds earth. Thus John speaks of Christ’s increase and his own decrease, not only as what was necessary and unavoidable, and that which could not be prevented, and therefore must be borne; but as highly just and agreeable to him: and he is entirely satisfied with it, nay, and rejoices in it. Thus they who are now like John, burning and shining lights, must, (if not suddenly eclipsed,) like him, gradually decrease, while others are increasing about them; as they in their turns grew up amid the decays of the former generation. Let us know how to set as well as how to rise; and let it comfort our declining days, to trace, in those who are likely to succeed us in our work, the openings of yet greater usefulness. But let us especially rejoice to observe the glory of Christ increasing, and eclipsing the lustre of all other glory, as the increasing light of the morning causes the glory of the morning star to decline, and at last entirely to disappear. And, if our diminution and abasement may but in the least contribute to the advancement of his name and honour, let us cheerfully submit to it, and be content to be any thing, yea, to be nothing, so that Christ may be all.
I must decrease - "The purpose of my ministry is to point men to him. When that is done my work is done. I came not to form a party of my own, nor to set up a religion of my own; and my teaching must cease when he is fully established, as the light of the morning star fades away and is lost in the beams of the rising sun. This evinced John's humility and willingness to be esteemed as nothing if he could honor Christ. It shows us, also, that it is sufficient honor for man if he may be permitted to point sinners to the Lord Jesus Christ. No work is so honorable and joyful as the ministry of the gospel; none are so highly honored as those who are permitted to stand near the Son of God, lead perishing men to his cross. Compare Daniel 12:3.
A man can receive, &c.—assume nothing, that is, lawfully and with any success; that is, Every man has his work and sphere appointed him from above, Even Christ Himself came under this law (Heb 5:4).He must increase, in honour, and dignity, and reputation in the world; he is the rising sun, (to give you notice of which I was but as the morning star), he must shine every day more and more.
But I must decrease; God hath indeed used me as a prophet, yea, more than a prophet, not to foretell Christ alone, but to point him to you. I have had my time, and finished my course, and God hath given me a reputation proportioned to the work he gave me to do, and to the time in which I was to work; but I must every day decay, and grow less and less, as Christ increaseth and groweth more and more.
but I must decrease; as he did in his esteem among the people; see John 5:3; and in his work and office, which were now come to an end, Christ, whose forerunner he was, being come; and quickly after this he was put into prison, and there put to death.He must increase, but I must decrease.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)John 3:30. ἐκεῖνον δεῖ αὐξάνειν, ἐμὲ δὲ ἐλαττοῦσθαι. Paley translates, “it is for Him to go on growing and for me to be ever getting less,” and adds, “the language seems to be solar”. In the Church Calendar, no doubt, John the Baptist’s day is Midsummer Day, while our Lord’s “natalitia” is midwinter, but scarcely founded on solar considerations of the day’s increase after Christmas and decrease after 24th June. Rather John is the morning star “fidelis Lucifer” whose light is eclipsed in that of the rising sun (cf. Bernard’s “Lucet ergo Johannes, tanto verius quanto minus appetit lucere,” and Euthyrnius, ἐλαττοῦσθαι ὡς ἡλίου ἀνατείλαντος ἑωσφόρον). If the style of the following verses is any clue to their authorship we must ascribe them to the evangelist. Besides, some of the expressions are out of place in the Baptist’s lips: e.g., τὴν μαρτυρίαν αὐτοῦ οὐδεὶς λαμβάνει could scarcely have been said at the very time when crowds were flocking to Him. The precise point in the Baptist’s language to which the evangelist attaches this commentary or expansion [“theils erklärende, theils erweiternde Reflexion,” Lücke] is his affirmation of the Messiah’s superiority to himself. To this John adds (John 3:31): He is superior not only to the Baptist but to all, ἐπάνω πάντων ἐστίν, the reason being that He comes from above, ἄνωθεν; which is the equivalent of ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ in the latter part of the verse. These expressions are contrasted with ἐκ τῆς γῆς, the ordinary earthly origin of men, and they refer Christ’s origin to a higher and unique source: unique because the result of this origin is that He is supreme over all, ἐπάνω πάντων. His origin is superior to that of all, therefore His supremacy is universal (cf. John 3:13). The results of origin, whether earthly or heavenly, are traced out in a twofold direction: in the kind of life lived and in the words spoken. On the one hand ὁ ἐκ τῆς γῆς … ἐστι. The first ἐκ expresses origin: the second moral connection, as in John 18:37, John 15:19 : he whose origin is earthly is an earthly person, his life rises no higher than its source, his interests and associations are of earth. Another result is given in the words ἐκ τῆς γῆς λαλεῖ, from the earth his ideas and his utterance of them spring. A man’s talk and teaching cannot rise above their source. So far as experimental knowledge goes he is circumscribed by his origin. In contrast to persons of earthly origin stands ὁ ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ ἐρχόμενος; ἐρχ. is added that not only his origin but his transition to his present condition may be indicated. His origin in like manner determines both his moral relationships and his teaching. The one is given in ἐπάνω πάντων ἐστί. He lives in a higher region than all others and is not limited by earthly conditions.30. must] It is so ordained in the counsels of God. Comp. John 3:7; John 3:14, John 9:4, John 10:16, John 20:9. This joy of the friend of the Bridegroom, in full view of the inevitable wane of his own influence and dignity, is in marked contrast to the jealousy and vexation of his disciples.John 3:30. Αὐξάνειν· ἐλαττοῦσθαι, increase: be diminished) so that all are to come hereafter, not to me, but to Him: Joshua 4:14, “The Lord magnified Joshua in the sight of all Israel; and they feared him, as they feared Moses.” גִדַּל, ηὔξησς Κύριος τὸν Ἰησοῦν ἐνάντιον παντὸς γένους Ἰσραήλ. Not even death was about to hinder the increase of Christ; for which reason the Evangelists speak concerning His death far otherwise than they speak concerning the death of John.Verse 30. - He must - by a Divine necessity of things (cf. vers. 7, 14; John 9:4; John 10:16; John 20:9; Revelation 1:1), he must - increase; augment in power and following and great joy. He must win eventually all hearts. His enemies must become the footstool of his feet. His is the beginning of an eternal blessedness. I must decrease; not become annihilated, though through the very completion of the purpose of my calling of God, my scope must, by the nature of the case, become narrower and smaller. Some have felt the improbability of the great prophet, the ascetic reformer, acquiescing so patiently in the diminution of his influence or the virtual cessation of the primary importance of his career. Yet this is in complete harmony with John's repeated and continuous recognition of the preparatory and transitory nature of his own work. He cannot lay down his commission, but he knows that, like prophetism, priesthood, Nazarite asceticism, and the like, it will be merged in the grander life of which he was the herald. The ministers of the New Testament all take up the same note of Divine praise and of self-depletion as they prepare the way of the Lord to human hearts. They hide themselves behind the greater glory of their Lord. However considerable their powers, they are serviceable only as they contribute to the glory, and succeed in unveiling the thee, of their Lord. There is a Johannine message still required to disturb the fleshly equanimity and to break up the narcotized sleep of the unbeliever. The stern spirit of rebuke and warning is still indispensable; yet the voice of him that cries, "Repent!" knows that his voice may fade away into faint echoes and stillness, so soon as the promises of redemption and salvation are uttered by the Divine Lord. When the absolution of grace gives the kiss of peace to the broken-hearted, the morning star fades into the dawning of the day.
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