22 ¶ After these things came Jesus and his disciples into the land of Judaea; and there he tarried with them, and baptized. 23 And John also was baptizing in Aenon near to Salim, because there was much water there: and they came, and were baptized. 24 For John was not yet cast into prison. 25 Then there arose a question between some of John’s disciples and the Jews about purifying. 26 And they came unto John, and said unto him, Rabbi, he that was with thee beyond Jordan, to whom thou barest witness, behold, the same baptizeth, and all men come to him. 27 John answered and said, A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven. 28 Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before him. 29 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: this my joy therefore is fulfilled. 30 He must increase, but I must decrease. 31 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. 32 He that hath received his testimony hath set to his seal that God is true. 34 For he whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God: for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him. 35 The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand. 36 He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.
John’s disciples and Jesus’ disciples are baptizing people in the same vicinity. We learn in the next chapter that this is a collective or group reference as Jesus Himself is not doing the baptizing but it is under His authority.
Verse 27 is confirmed by Jesus in different ways. In talking to his disciples;
John 15:5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.
And in talking to Pilate;
John 19:11 Jesus answered, Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above: therefore he that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin.
By reading the Bible literally we find the limitations of man’s free will and what he can actually accomplish and from where an action comes. We can allow God or we can allow darkness to work through us but, in spite of what we think, once we have chosen a path, we have little control over what we will face and we make those choices several times a day, even several times an hour in response to the consequences from previous decisions.
Luke 17:1 Then said he unto the disciples, It is impossible but that offences will come: but woe unto him, through whom they come!
John confirmed to his own disciples that he was not the bridegroom, who is Christ, with the church as His bride, but he is the friend of the bridegroom who has announced Him. John acknowledges that his time is short and Jesus, coming from heaven, will replace him who is of the earth. This is a clear prophetic reference to how the promises to the Jews under the Law were earthly promises while the promises that will be given to the bride of Christ are heavenly. The Jewish kingdom under the Law was promised land, peace, military power, and dominance if they obeyed, with the blessings of a successful life and conquest of their physical enemies. The Christian is not promised these same types of things for the weapons of our warfare are not physical (2Corinthians 10:4). The misunderstanding of this has caused great evil in the history of Christianity as Christians tried to replace the Jews rather than move beyond them. Christianity, seeking earthly power and possessions, was the vehicle by which great oppression and violence was done, against the clear doctrines of Christ and Paul, His minister to the Gentile (non-Jewish) world (Romans 15:16). John Wyclif warned in his On The Truth of the Holy Scripture back in the 1300’s that, “all human evil arises from a failure to venerate and understand Scripture correctly.” (7)
John said that Jesus speaks the very words of God and we would do well to listen to what He says, rightly dividing the words as we see the difference between what He says to beard-wearing, pork-abstaining, Sabbath-observing, Temple-going Jews before His resurrection and what He says through His ministers after His resurrection. As His mother said earlier to the servants at a wedding;
“Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it.”
The person who believes on Christ is promised everlasting life.The person who does not believe that Jesus came from God and is, in fact, God, has God’s wrath abiding on him.
1John 2:22 Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son.
(7) John Wyclif, On The Truth of the Holy Scripture, transl. by Christopher Levy (1377 repr. Kalamazoo, MI: Medieval Institute Publications, 2001), 138.