He must increase, but I must decrease.
I. THE UNCONSCIOUS GREATNESS OF THE SERVANT.
1. His lofty contentment (ver. 27, cf. 1 Chronicles 29:14; Psalm 129:1, 2; Daniel 4:35; Acts 17:26) a maxim of universal application, in the realm of nature (Romans 11:36) and in the sphere of grace (1 Corinthians 4:7; 1 Corinthians 12:6; James 1:17); specially significant with reference to individual success, in the world (Psalm 57:2), in the Church (2 Corinthians 3:5). Christ's popularity, so far from exciting John to jealousy, filled him with holy peace; exhibiting the spirit afterwards exemplified by Christ (Matthew 11:26; Matthew 26:39) and by Paul (Acts 21:14).
2. His profound humility (ver. 28). This man, who was in danger of being mistaken for the Messiah, and whom Christ pronounces the greatest of men, forms the most lowly estimate of himself throughout, in chap. John 1. as here.
3. His absolute unselfishness (ver. 29). Had he been inflamed with ambition, he could have played the role of a Messianic pretender, and snatched a crown; or have founded a rabbinical school; or at least drawn around him an independent gathering. Instead of this, the end of his aspiration and effort was to espouse the nation to its Lover, and then stand aside. John pleased not himself, but lived for his Lord.
4. His cheerful resignation (ver. 30). This was just what he desired, for what he had lived; he could, therefore, view Christ's popularity and his own supercession with delight.
II. THE TRANSCENDENT GLORY OF THE SON (ver. 31-36).
1. His pre-existent Being. The historical appearing cannot be explained on natural principles.
2. His universal sovereignty "above all" — all persons, all things — in the dignity of His person, the elevation of His character, the vastness of His power, the absoluteness of His authority and sway. They are His creatures, for He made them (chap. John 1:3, 10; 1 Corinthians 8:6; Ephesians 3:9; Colossians 1:16, 17; Hebrews 1:2); His property (ver. 35); His subjects (Psalm 8:6; 1 Corinthians 15:24-28; Ephesians 1:22; Hebrews 2:8).
3. HIS AUTHORITATIVE TESTIMONY. John exhibits this as resting on three things, which mark him off from ordinary witness bearers:
(1) A direct vision of the truth (Ver. 32).
(2) A special commission to reveal the truth (ver. 34).
(3) A complete impartation to Him of the truth (ver. 34).
4. His supreme Divinity, implied in what has already been said and in His Sonship.
5. His twofold work.
1. The secret of true greatness: humility before Christ.
2. The insignificance of human glory compared with that of Christ.
3. The dignity of ministerial service: that of acting as Christ's friend.
4. The pathway to renown: to efface one's self for the sake of Christ.
(T. Whitelaw, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: He must increase, but I must decrease.