The Superiority of Christ’s Life
Text: John 3:31-36
As we said last week, the key verse in this section from v22-36 is v30. This passage is an important one. Since every Christian is saved to serve in some way, John exemplifies the spirit in which that should be done. As Christ’s public recognition increases, John’s is decreasing, which was vital if men were to behold the glory of the only begotten of the Father.
And this message, along with our study going through Philippians 2, is good preparation for the future of this church. If we all take the spirit of these passages to heart, this church WILL do well in coming days. And you may be thinking, why isn’t he starting other ministries already?
Well, there are a number of reasons, but to give just one, according to the NT practice, there’s a two step process to serving God. The first is a Total Submission to Christ the Head, and the second is a Mutual Submission to the Church body. I’ll deal with Church Membership probably in the Fall or thereabouts and explain it. I know in a day when everyone hates commitment, Church Membership seems unimportant. But if you can’t commit to the body, how can the oversight of church depend on your commitment to a ministry? It’s only once you’ve joined the body that you can properly serve the body.
And both these steps, total submission to Christ the Head and mutual submission to the Church body are important evidences of the humility required to serve.
John displays this humility in abundance. In spite of being privileged in lineage, prophetic in calling, and powerful in service, John never let any of his influence get to his head. And that ought not to be underestimated. Fame is intoxicating, and applause is addictive. He had every reason to think highly of himself in human terms, yet he says, “He must increase…”
When it comes to serving God, here’s something to remember: If recognition is the goal, you’ve put a price on your soul. Once you put a price on your soul, whatever that price is, you’ll be willing to sell your soul for that thing, and if it’s recognition, you’ll give up your dignity, morality, and convictions in order to get it.
At this stage, both John and Jesus are ministering in different places, but close enough that John’s disciples know what’s going on with Christ. The success of the Saviour’s ministry is then highlighted to John’s disciples by the approach of some Jewish religious leaders v25.
These Jewish leaders had their own purification rites and practices, but they knew John’s baptism was different. However, it seems that rather than cause a dispute between their own practices and John’s baptism, they start the dispute between the baptism of John and the disciples of Jesus. Did Jesus’ baptism supersede John’s? Was it more important? Why is it more people are going to Jesus to be baptised now than John? I think it was questions like these that gave rise to dispute about the diminishing success of John’s ministry and the increase of Christ’s.
v26-30 – John reminds them of his purpose, which is summarized in v30. Note: Num 11:26-29. They tried to get Moses to be selfish of the call to preach. Would to God the Spirit would raise up able preachers from this congregation.
Now the verses leading up to v30 show the decreasing of John. From v31-36 we have the increasing of Christ. It is a revelation of His preeminence that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, and that believing ye might have life through his name.
I. HIS SUPERIOR ORIGIN – v31
This is everywhere. “Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.” Matt 1:23 “And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.” Luke 1:35
“earth” – has no moral meaning, just from the earth. The contrast shows the reason we must be humble. Christ is not like us. He has a heavenly origin. Jn 6:33,38,50,51,58. Get it? John did. Does it remind you of anything?
“of the earth” – echoing v6. i.e. of the flesh. Everyone is like this except Christ. It is relating us, then, to the first Adam. We all participate in his nature by birth. We are fallen. We are lost. 1 Cor 15:47-49 – Two categories of people. We are either of one or both. Rom 5:17,19 – we’re born rebellious and we’re under God’s wrath because of it. But just as you share in Adam’s death, so you can share in Christ’s life.
So v31 is echoing v6. So Christ came to be the second Adam and deliver us from the consequences of being of the earth which we inherited from the first Adam. Christ did this to make us part of a new humanity with Christ as our Head.
II. HIS SUPERIOR KNOWLEDGE – v32
The gospel has revealed Him to be omniscient already (Jn 2:23-25). But, this text affirms that since He comes from heaven, He has a knowledge of things that earthly people do not have. No one could contribute anything to His understanding. While it says He grew in wisdom it was in the sense of being limited by human developmental growth, but by the time He is twelve He has a full awareness of His mission, and yet in His humiliation He also limited His use of His inherent omniscience. But while He could limit His omniscience, no one could add to His understanding. “I speak that which I have seen with my Father” John 8:38
So he is different to us. We need to be taught. We can’t learn anything heavenly without being taught. No preacher has inherent heavenly knowledge. He must seek for it in the pages of scripture. And even then, it’s a limited understanding.
Every so often I get encouragement from someone. I got a message from a young man this morning encouraging me. He was listening to one of the messages on John 2 and he said it made the passage come alive. And I tell you beloved, that’s one the best encouragements. Not for my sake, but for his sake. If the Bible comes alive to a person, you know what happens? Their spiritual life comes alive, too. If they see truth come alive they will seek the God of truth. It’s not about me, it’s about the hearer engaging with the truth. That’s what preaching is about. Getting sinners and saints to engage with God’s truth. That’s why you should keep your Bible’s open and engage with the text. It’ll change your life if God is with us.
“and no man receiveth his testimony” – John taught this in the prologue 1:11; Jesus said this to Nicodemus in 3:11, and now John the Baptist affirms it as well. Their teaching and what they believed was of the earth. They would receive the message from heaven.
III. HIS SUPERIOR WITNESS – v33-34a
To receive Christ is to affirm that God is true. To reject Christ, is to say God is a liar. If God is true, you must believe in Jesus Christ because God affirmed Jesus Christ at His baptism, “this is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased”. If you don’t believe in Jesus Christ then you imply that God is a liar.
The Jews tried to declare their belief in God while rejecting Christ, and Jesus wouldn’t let them away with it. John 8:42. Those who think the Jews or Muslims worship the same God as the Christian are badly mistaken. If you don’t have a right view of Jesus, you don’t worship God. If you don’t hear what Jesus says, you don’t hear what God says: John 8:47
“He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son.” 1 John 5:10
You cannot say God is true if you deny the greatest truth He ever revealed, even Christ.
IV. HIS SUPERIOR POWER – v34b
While John was filled with the Spirit from the womb, Christ was filled without measure. This shows you who to worship. This cannot be said about another.
V. HIS SUPERIOR AUTHORITY – v35
All the works of Creation and Providence i.e. everything made and everything ordained are for Jesus Christ. They all show the love the Father has for the Son. Eph 1:20-23
Close – So Christ is superior! And yet here is the amazing thing. You know what this superior One did before He instituted this feast we’re about to enjoy together?
This One superior in Origin, Knowledge, Witness, Power, and Authority, performed an act that was normally done by the lowest ranking slave in the household – He washed their feet. Symbolic of how far He stooped to give us cleaning from sin, so that guilty sinners like us could have communion with Him! What a wonder! I wonder have you received this cleansing? Are you saved? v36