|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
3:22-36 John was fully satisfied with the place and work assigned him; but Jesus came on a more important work. He also knew that Jesus would increase in honour and influence, for of his government and peace there would be no end, while he himself would be less followed. John knew that Jesus came from heaven as the Son of God, while he was a sinful, mortal man, who could only speak about the more plain subjects of religion. The words of Jesus were the words of God; he had the Spirit, not by measure, as the prophets, but in all fulness. Everlasting life could only be had by faith in Him, and might be thus obtained; whereas all those, who believe not in the Son of God, cannot partake of salvation, but the wrath of God for ever rests upon them.
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.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
He must increase,.... Not in stature of body, or in wisdom and understanding of mind, as man, he being come to maturity in these things already; but in fame, credit, and reputation among men; as he afterwards did in the land of Judea, by reason of his miracles and doctrines; and after that among the Gentiles, through the publication of his Gospel; and will more and more in the latter day, when he, and he alone, shall be exalted: and he must increase in the ministry of his word, which was published by him, and his disciples, throughout all the cities of Israel; and which, after his resurrection and ascension, grew and increased mightily, notwithstanding the opposition made unto it both by their civil and ecclesiastical rulers; and which, by the means of his apostles, was spread throughout the Gentile world, and will hereafter cover the earth, as the waters do the sea: and also in his kingdom and interest, which at first were very small, like a grain of mustard seed, or like a little stone cut out of the mountain without hands; but in process of time grew exceedingly, and will, ere long, till the face of the whole earth; for the kingdoms of this world will become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and his dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the river to the ends of the earth; and of the increase of it there shall be no end. And so likewise in the number of his followers, which at first were but few in Judea, but afterwards greatly increased, and especially among the Gentiles; and will be very numerous in the latter day glory, when the nation of the Jews will be born at once, and the fulness and forces of the Gentiles are brought in:
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.
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