John 3:22
Our Lord's discourse to Nicodemus was mainly of redemption and regeneration, and was therefore bright and hopeful. Yet he was constrained, in faithfulness and candour, to speak also of condemnation. The prospect before mankind was not one of unclouded glory. The prevalence of sin and the alienation of man from God were a cloud upon the horizon which obscured the brightness even of the gospel day.

I. THE ADVENT OF LIGHT. In the spiritual world light is the emblem of knowledge. Christ is designated by the evangelist "the true Light;" he calls himself "the Light of the world." He brings the knowledge of God, and consequently of salvation and of eternal life. This spiritual sunrise involves the diffusion of purity, peace, and joy.

II. THE PREFERENCE OF SOME MEN FOR DARKNESS OVER LIGHT. In itself light is best. "Light is good, and a pleasant thing it is for the eyes to behold the sun." Those who live and walk in the light of God are spiritually blessed. If any person rejects and loathes the light, the fault is in the eye of the soul, which is manifestly diseased. The captive may prefer the dungeon to liberty. Of many of the Jews - Christ's own countrymen - it was justly said, "He came unto his own, and his own received him not." And even now, when the gospel is preached, and men are invited to come into the sunshine of God's favour, there are found those who prefer to lurk in the dark caves of ignorance, superstition, and sin.

III. THEIR REASON OR MOTIVE FOR THIS PREFERENCE. Our Lord speaks explicitly and powerfully upon this. His doctrine, his religion, condemns sin; his gospel is good tidings of deliverance from sin. His own hatred to sin was such that he was crucified by sinners who could not endure his purity, whilst he endured crucifixion that he might redeem men from the power and love of sin. Hence Christ's society was distasteful to impenitent sinners when he was upon earth, and his gospel is distasteful, is repugnant, to the same class today. Those whose works are evil will not come to the light, for thus their evil works would be exhibited in their monstrous heinousness, and they themselves would be reproved.


1. The ground of judgment is here plainly stated; it is not so much for sin, as for that content and delight in sin, which leads to the rejection of the gospel, to the refusal of deliverance from sin, to the hatred of that Saviour who came to vanquish sin.

2. The court of judgment is implied. The lovers of darkness are condemned by their own conscience, whose dictates they disregard in order to follow the impulses of passion. Yet it is Christ himself, the Word of God, who speaks in human nature, and utters the sentence of disapproval and of condemnation. Thus it is that Christ is to all men either their Saviour or their Judge. His coming to this earth was the cause only of salvation, but to many it was the occasion of judgment and of confusion. - T.

After these things came Jesus and His disciples unto the land of Judaea (see also on ver. 30 for the whole paragraph).

1. This spirit is but too common in the churches. Men care more for the increase of their party than for the increase of Christianity, and cannot rejoice when it spreads outside of their own denomination or congregation.

2. True Christians must watch and pray against this spirit. It is contagious, injurious, and brings contempt on religion. Whereever good is done we should acknowledge it and be thankful (Philippians 1:18).


1. John's conduct is contrasted with that of his disciples.

(1)His principle is that acceptance with men is the gift of God (ver. 27).

(2)He reminds his followers of his repeated declaration (ver. 28).

(3)He informs them that his office and joy is only that of a bridegroom's friend (ver. 29).

(4)He testifies to the coming greatness of Christ and his own eclipse.

2. This frame of mind is the highest degree of grace to which a man can attain.

(1)God declares this to be the case (1 Peter 5:5).

(2)This is seen in the cases of Abraham, Moses, Job, David, Daniel, Paul, and the Baptist.

(3)The way to true honour is humility, No man was ever so praised by Christ as John.


1. For the last time John testifies to Christ's dignity. Christ is —

(1)The Bridegroom of the Church.

(2)"Him that cometh from above."

(3)One to whom the Spirit is given without measure.

(4)One whom the Father loves.

(5)One into whose hands all things are given.

(6)One to believe in whom is life everlasting, and whom to reject is eternal ruin.

2. Let us hold. the same views.

(1)We can never make too much of Christ. We can easily think too much of church, sacraments, etc.

(2)Christ only is worthy of all honour.


1. Salvation is not a future and distant privilege. The believer "hath" everlasting life.

2. Unbelief is a tremendous peril.

(Bp. Ryle.)

I. HOW MUCH OF HUMAN NATURE THERE EVER HAS BEEN AND IS EVERYWHERE AND THROUGH ALL TIME, Even with the Lord present and overseeing jealousies arose.

II. HOW SMALL OFTENTIMES WERE AND ARE THE SUBJECTS OF QUESTIONING BETWEEN FOLLOWERS OF JESUS. On this occasion it was an unknown something about purifying which neither the Baptist nor the evangelist thought it worth while to name. Is it not humiliating that ecclesiastical history is largely a story of strife on the merest "mint and anise" as compared with those fundamentals wherein all true disciples are practically at one. A politician once sought to allay alarm about the invasion of India by sending a large map showing the vast distances and obstacles that would have to be overcome. So if men would only scan the height and depth and length and breadth of the work given to all who love the Lord they could never wrangle over petty things.

III. HOW LITTLE JOHN'S DISCIPLES KNEW HIM OR HAD BEEN INFLUENCED BY HIS MINISTRY. Had they known him could they have imagined rivalry between him and Christ? Had they received his testimony about Christ, they must have known that appeal from what Christ elected to do was impossible. It must have saddened John to have to repeat his testimony again. Let the preacher and teacher be humbly patient in recognizing the transciency of the impression left by the most momentous truths and the necessity of their frequent repetition.

IV. TRIVIAL AND UNWORTHY AS WAS THE OCCASION OF THIS QUESTIONING WE MUST REJOICE THAT IT CAME TO PASS. From this low level the Forerunner re-argues the whole position, and speaks out with a new volume and momentum all that lay in his mind and heart. Trivial circumstances may give rise to the most important disclosures.

(A. B. Grosart, D. D.)

John also was baptizing
was exercised —

I. In the WILDERNESS OF JUDAEA, where he preached and also baptized (Matthew 3:1; Mark 1:1-5; Luke 3:3).

II. IN PERAEA, east of Jordan at BETHANY (John 1:28).

III. At AENON near to Salim. In these places he proclaimed Christ.

1. In the first by preannouncing Him as the great Baptizer and Judge of all (Matthew 3:11, 12).

2. In the second, by pointing Him out as the Lamb of God (John 1:19-28; John 3:26).

3. In the third by declaring Him to be the Bridegroom of the Church and by delivering the illustrious testimony here recorded.

(Bp. Wordsworth.)

Three miles east of Shechem, at the head of the great Wady Farah, which has in all ages been the highway from the Damiet ford of the Jordan to Sheehem, there are great springs marking this spot. They rise in open ground amidst bare and unattractive hills, and flow down the slope, through a skirting of oleanders, in a strong brook which grows deeper on its way from the addition of numerous small streams. The village of Salim is a wretched collection of small huts, square and flat-roofed, with a tree, large for Palestine, near them, enclosed within a stone wall for preservation, and with a few olives dotting the bare slopes. Looking westward, the eye crosses the great plain and travels up the valley of Shechem, but around Salim itself there is nothing at all attractive. To make the identification complete there is a village called Ainun four miles north of the principal stream. With abundant water flowing all the year round, a central position, free space for the crowds, and a situation on the edge of the descent to the Jordan, of which the waters of the neighbourhood are, south of the plain of Esdraelon, the main tributary on the west, no position more favourable in every way could have been chosen by the Baptist for his work. That he once raised his earnest voice in regions now so silent and forlorn casts an interest over the landscape more powerful than it could otherwise have had, even had it possessed great natural attractions.

(C. Geikie, D. D.)

Then there arose a question between some of John's disciples and the Jews about purifying

1. The Lord and His messenger are the cause of this dispute.

2. The minds of the disputants were carnal.

3. Times of reformation specially breed such disputes. The gospel is then a new truth. Prejudices are excited and inflamed.

4. We must not be scandalized when such things occur.


1. The question seems to have been the comparative efficacy of John's baptism, the various Jewish washings, and probably Christ's.

2. Ecclesiastical rites may be substituted for Christ and His gospel.

3. Salvation may come without ritualism of any kind.


1. Certain Jews, grieved at the progress of the gospel, approach certain disciples of John and artfully endeavour to excite their minds to jealousy against Christ.

2. These come to John and try to inflame his envy by representing the universal popularity of Christ.

(A. Beith, D. D.)

Among the several wonders of the loadstone this is not the least, that it will not draw gold or pearl, but, despising these, it draws the iron to it, one of the most inferior metals: thus Christ leaves the angels, those noble spirits, the gold and the pearl, and He comes to poor sinful man, and draws him into His embraces.

(T. Watson.)

Biblical Treasury.
A Christian mother was once showing her little girl, about five years old, a picture representing Jesus holding an infant in His arms, while the mothers were pushing their children towards Him. "There, Carrie," said her mother, "this is what I would have done with you if I had been there." "I wouldn't be pushed to Jesus," said little Carrie, with beautiful and touching earnestness; "I'd go to Him without pushing."

(Biblical Treasury.)

"I come very often," said the pitcher one day to the spring, which it again approached to be filled with its pure water. "I hope I do not come too frequently, but I soon get emptied, and as often need to be replenished." "You are but one of a great many that come with the same errand," answered the flowing spring. "It is very generous of you to give unto all that come," said the pitcher, "and that, like myself, apply so frequently." "I never refuse any, and send none empty away," replied the spring, "and however large the number that I take, I am not at all impoverished. I draw in order to supply the wants of the thirsting, and whosoever will let him come."


There is enough in Jesus Christ for to serve us all. If two, or six, or twenty men be athirst, and they go to drink out of a bottle, while one is drinking the other envies, because he thinks there will not be enough for him too; but if a hundred be athirst, and go to the river, while one is drinking the other envies not, because there is enough for all.

(W. Bridge.)

John answered and said, A man can receive nothing except it be given him from heaven
I. JOHN ASCRIBES HIS POSITION AND QUALIFICATIONS TO THE DIVINE SOVEREIGNTY (ver. 27). What he says is true of temporal things, much more of spiritual things and the happy use of both.

1. John wished his disciples to entertain truthful views of his position. It was of God that he had been qualified for his work, and had been successful in it. God therefore could only say when it was done and give him his discharge. He was content to patiently await the issue.

2. From this it follows that envy of others reflects upon God. Those who rate against Moses rebelled against God. Backbiting, calumny, a secret or open opposition to those whom God has made superior to us, comes under this category (cf. the cases of Miriam and of Aaron and of Korah).

3. To be dead to such a passion on John's principle, how precious! This grace distinguished Jonathan and Paul.


1. We may reasonably conclude that John was disappointed in his disciples. That all his teaching had been lost upon them was a humbling trial. If he had ever been tempted to exult over results this must have been a severe correction. Yet he must have felt unspeakable comfort that he could boldly appeal to their consciences for the character of his testimony.

2. Two things were ever prominent.(1) That he was not the Christ. Good cause for this in the notions and expectations of his followers. He clearly saw the rock towards which they were drifting.(2) That he was the messenger of Christ — fore-announcing one more glorious than himself. That done, and Christ having arrived, his office ceased.

3. Truths so obvious must have silenced his too zealous followers. They could not now but remember what he had said. Let us learn that not hearing only, but profitable hearing is our duty.


1. Christ's relation to the Church is that of bridegroom. John here alludes to a common Old Testament emblem. The Jews understood the marriage of the first pair as typical, and so that of Abraham with Sarah, and Isaac with Rebecca. The marriage relation was that which God sustained to His people (Ezekiel 16.; Psalm 45.; and Song of Solomon).

2. John ascribes to Christ the glory due to Him, and it is of vital interest that we should receive his testimony. Christ qualified Himself for entering into this alliance with us by sharing our nature while retaining His own. He entered upon it by special contract with the Father. He fulfilled every legal obligation, and "loved the Church, and gave Himself for it." He participates with His people and provides for them, and whatever a faithful, tender husband might do, He has engaged to do and actually does.

3. John's relation was that of the Bridegroom's friend. The bridegroom, on all nuptial occasions, had his "friend," whose office was to conduct the bride to the bridegroom. Thus, Moses was God's "friend," when he brought Israel into the wilderness. Similarly John was, and all ministers are Christ's "friends" to bring the Church to him.

IV. THE NECESSARY ISSUE OF JOHN'S MINISTRY AND CHRIST'S (ver 30). The course of Christ was that of the sun in the firmament. John's that of a lamp to shine on a dark path until the orb of day appeared. In the consummation of this ministry John rejoiced.

(W. Bridge.)

The points of contrast between Christ and the Baptist, as stated by the latter in these five verses, are five-fold; thus: He is the Christ: I am but the forerunner. He is the Bridegroom: I am but the' friend of the Bridegroom. He must increase: I must decrease. He is from heaven: I am of the earth. He speaks what He has seen and heard in heaven: I speak of the earth. With the last of these compare a somewhat similar opposition in Hebrews 12:25.

(G. J. Brown, M. A.)

I am not the Christ... I am sent before Him.

1. He delivered the whole law against sin; even in the case of Herod (Mark 6:18-20) and of the Pharisees (Luke 3:7). He showed how the law extended to the words and thoughts of men (Matthew 3:8, 9). He counselled circumspection in the walks of ordinary life, with a view to the final account. Thus he aroused the consciences of the people.

2. He made a demand for immediate repentance, and its fruits in a new life (Matthew 3:2).

3. He heralded Jesus as the Messiah predicted of old (Matthew 3:3). In this way he connected Moses with Christ. For himself he took pains to withdraw and resist every claim (John 1:20). Thus he gave a forward look to all his denunciations of sin in view of the true baptism cleansing from it.

4. He announced the special office of Jesus as the Redeemer of men. Thus he prepared the way for a gospel which based all its invitations of peace on the doctrine of sacrifice.


1. Christ testified to the entire accuracy of John's doctrine. He accepted the ministry of His forerunner without one question.

2. He proclaimed the full necessity of an atonement, Not even John exceeded Christ in denouncing sin and requiring renewal of heart.

3. He declared that the necessary sacrifice was now to be accomplished by Himself (ver. 16).

4. He thus raised no new issues between man and God; but rather narrowed all the old into one: He made it clear that faith was the instrument of salvation (Chronicles 6:28, 29). He offered the freest gospel, but He left no chance of mistake to those who might suppose a simple issue was a weak one (ver. 18; Mark 16:16).

III. THE ORDER BETWEEN THE TEACHING OF JOHN AND JESUS. John's came earliest in fact and logical necessity.

1. The historic position of the two men is enough to show all that is here claimed. Our Lord's life was part of His teachings, and each step depended on whatever steps went before. John's work was a necessary and solemn prerequisite to the work of Jesus.

2. Their methods of procedure were similar, John presented the law first, then the gospel; but his of was was plainly to press the law into prominence. Jesus presented the law first, then the gospel: but His office was to bring the gospel into prominence. In both cases the law came earliest.

3. The conclusion, therefore, is inevitable. Law work precedes gospel work in all God's dealing with souls.


1. We see why religious instruction sometimes proves inefficacious; Jesus is preached without John. The Lord does not seem in the still, small voice, because men miss the preparation of wind, earthquake, and fire.

2. Why inquirers are so slow in finding peace. There has been nothing to awake conscience.

3. Why there is so much of unrest and misgiving among Christ's people. They have no intelligent sense of Christ's loyal work in bearing the curse of the law for them.

4. Why backsliding is so frequent as the sin of converts. Somebody has been daubing them with untempered mortar.

5. We see how the new life begins and continues according to the revealed plan (Romans 5:1, 2; Romans 8:1, 3).

(C. S. Robinson, D. D.)

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