May 14, 2017 – May 20, 2017
“He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30).
Study Help: The Desire of Ages, 178–182.
“John the Baptist was pronounced by our Saviour the greatest of prophets. Yet what a contrast between the language of this man of God and that of many who profess to be ministers of the cross. When asked if he was the Christ, John declares himself unworthy even to unloose his Master’s sandals.” Testimonies, vol. 5, 224.
1 A PROBLEM AMONG THE DISCIPLES
What question arose between some of John’s disciples and the Jews? John 3:25.
Note: “A question arose between them [John’s disciples] and the Jews as to whether baptism availed to cleanse the soul from sin; they maintained that the baptism of Jesus differed essentially from that of John. Soon they were in dispute with Christ’s disciples in regard to the form of words proper to use at baptism, and finally as to the right of the latter to baptize at all.” The Desire of Ages, 178.
How did the disciples of John display their envy at Christ’s work? John 3:26.
What noble answer did John give to his disciples? John 3:27.
Note: “John had by nature the faults and weaknesses common to humanity, but the touch of divine love had transformed him. He dwelt in an atmosphere uncontaminated with selfishness and ambition, and far above the miasma of jealousy. He manifested no sympathy with the dissatisfaction of his disciples, but showed how clearly he understood his relation to the Messiah, and how gladly he welcomed the One for whom he had prepared the way.” The Desire of Ages, 179.
2 JOHN’S MISSION
How did John demonstrate that he knew his mission? John 3:28, 29.
Note: “He [John] said, ‘A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven. Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before Him. He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice’ (John 3:27–29). John represented himself as the friend who acted as a messenger between the betrothed parties, preparing the way for the marriage. When the bridegroom had received his bride, the mission of the friend was fulfilled. He rejoiced in the happiness of those whose union he had promoted. So John had been called to direct the people to Jesus, and it was his joy to witness the success of the Saviour’s work. He said, ‘This my joy therefore is fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease’ (Verses 29, 30).” The Desire of Ages, 179.
What was John’s work? John 1:23, 29.
What is our work?
Note: “Looking in faith to the Redeemer, John had risen to the height of self-abnegation. He sought not to attract men to himself, but to lift their thoughts higher and still higher, until they should rest upon the Lamb of God. He himself had been only a voice, a cry in the wilderness. Now with joy he accepted silence and obscurity, that the eyes of all might be turned to the Light of life.
“Those who are true to their calling as messengers for God will not seek honor for themselves. Love for self will be swallowed up in love for Christ. No rivalry will mar the precious cause of the gospel. They will recognize that it is their work to proclaim, as did John the Baptist, ‘Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world’ (John 1:29). They will lift up Jesus, and with Him humanity will be lifted up. ‘Thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones’ (Isaiah 57:15).” The Desire of Ages, 179, 180.
3 THE GIFT OF THE SPIRIT
How did the majority of the people react to Christ’s message? John 3:32.
Note: “The disciples of John had declared that all men were coming to Christ; but with clearer insight, John said, ‘No man receiveth His witness;’ so few were ready to accept Him as the Saviour from sin. But ‘he that hath received His witness hath set his seal to this, that God is true’ (John 3:32, 33, R.V.). ‘He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life.’ No need of disputation as to whether Christ’s baptism or John’s purified from sin. It is the grace of Christ that gives life to the soul. Apart from Christ, baptism, like any other service, is a worthless form. ‘He that believeth not the Son shall not see life’ (John 3:36).” The Desire of Ages, 181.
To whom is the gift of the Holy Spirit bestowed? John 3:34.
Note: “The soul of the prophet, emptied of self, was filled with the light of the divine. As he witnessed to the Saviour’s glory, his words were almost a counterpart of those that Christ Himself had spoken in His interview with Nicodemus. John said, ‘He that cometh from above is above all: he that is of the earth is earthly, and speaketh of the earth: He that cometh from heaven is above all. … For He whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God: for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto Him.’ Christ could say, ‘I seek not Mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent Me’ (John 5:30). To Him it is declared, ‘Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even Thy God, hath anointed Thee with the oil of gladness above Thy fellows’ (Hebrews 1:9). The Father ‘giveth not the Spirit by measure unto Him.’
“So with the followers of Christ. We can receive of heaven’s light only as we are willing to be emptied of self. We cannot discern the character of God, or accept Christ by faith, unless we consent to the bringing into captivity of every thought to the obedience of Christ. To all who do this the Holy Spirit is given without measure. In Christ ‘dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily, and in Him ye are made full’ (Colossians 2:9, 10, RV).” The Desire of Ages, 180, 181.
“The talents that Christ entrusts to His church represent especially the gifts and blessings imparted by the Holy Spirit. … All men do not receive the same gifts, but to every servant of the Master some gift of the Spirit is promised.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 327.
4 THE VALUE OF BAPTISM
What value does baptism have without the grace of Christ? John 3:36, last part.
On the other hand, when is baptism of real value? John 3:36, first part.
Note: “Christ has made baptism the sign of entrance to His spiritual kingdom. He has made this a positive condition with which all must comply who wish to be acknowledged as under the authority of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Before man can find a home in the church, before passing the threshold of God’s spiritual kingdom, he is to receive the impress of the divine name, ‘The Lord our Righteousness’ (Jeremiah 23:6).” Testimonies, vol. 6, 91. [Emphasis author’s.]
“The vows which we take upon ourselves in baptism embrace much. In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit we are buried in the likeness of Christ’s death and raised in the likeness of His resurrection, and we are to live a new life. Our life is to be bound up with the life of Christ. Henceforth the believer is to bear in mind that he is dedicated to God, to Christ, and to the Holy Spirit. He is to make all worldly considerations secondary to this new relation. Publicly he has declared that he will no longer live in pride and self-indulgence. …
“The obligations in the spiritual agreement entered into at baptism are mutual. As human beings act their part with wholehearted obedience, they have a right to pray: ‘Let it be known, Lord, that Thou art God in Israel.’ The fact that you have been baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit is an assurance that, if you will claim Their help, these powers will help you in every emergency. The Lord will hear and answer the prayers of His sincere followers who wear Christ’s yoke and learn in His school His meekness and lowliness.
“ ‘If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God’ (Colossians 3:1–3).
“ ‘Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long-suffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness’ (verses 12–14).” Ibid., 98, 99.
5 A WISE METHOD
Upon realizing that the Pharisees were trying to create a crisis between John and Himself, what did Jesus do? John 4:1–3.
Note: “Jesus knew that they would spare no effort to create a division between His own disciples and those of John. He knew that the storm was gathering which would sweep away one of the greatest prophets ever given to the world. Wishing to avoid all occasion for misunderstanding or dissension, He quietly ceased His labors, and withdrew to Galilee. We also, while loyal to truth, should try to avoid all that may lead to discord and misapprehension. For whenever these arise, they result in the loss of souls. Whenever circumstances occur that threaten to cause division, we should follow the example of Jesus and of John the Baptist.” The Desire of Ages, 181.
What attitude did John take to defuse the crisis? John 3:30.
Note: “John had been called to lead out as a reformer. Because of this, his disciples were in danger of fixing their attention upon him, feeling that the success of the work depended upon his labors, and losing sight of the fact that he was only an instrument through which God had wrought. But the work of John was not sufficient to lay the foundation of the Christian church. When he had fulfilled his mission, another work was to be done, which his testimony could not accomplish. His disciples did not understand this. When they saw Christ coming in to take the work, they were jealous and dissatisfied.
“The same dangers still exist. God calls a man to do a certain work; and when he has carried it as far as he is qualified to take it, the Lord brings in others, to carry it still farther. But, like John’s disciples, many feel that the success of the work depends on the first laborer. Attention is fixed upon the human instead of the divine, jealousy comes in, and the work of God is marred. The one thus unduly honored is tempted to cherish self-confidence. He does not realize his dependence on God. The people are taught to rely on man for guidance, and thus they fall into error, and are led away from God.
“The work of God is not to bear the image and superscription of man. From time to time the Lord will bring in different agencies, through whom His purpose can best be accomplished. Happy are they who are willing for self to be humbled, saying with John the Baptist, ‘He must increase, but I must decrease’ (John 3:30).” The Desire of Ages, 181, 182.
PERSONAL REVIEW QUESTIONS
1 Why did John’s disciples become jealous of Christ’s work?
2 What did John declare to his disciples?
3 For what purpose is the gift of the Holy Spirit granted?
4 How does baptism fulfill its true objective?
5 What did Jesus and John do when they realized the danger of a crisis between their respective disciples?
Copyright © 2004 Reformation Herald Publishing Association, 5240 Hollins Road, Roanoke, Virginia. Reprinted by permission.