Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

John 3:30

He must increase, but I must decrease.
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - Humility;   John;   Thompson Chain Reference - John the Baptist;   The Topic Concordance - Jesus Christ;  
Dictionaries:
Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - John the baptist;   Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Baptize, Baptism;   John the Baptist;   Joy;   Charles Buck Theological Dictionary - Episcopacy;   Quakers;   Easton Bible Dictionary - Faith;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Jesus Christ;   John the Baptist;   Holman Bible Dictionary - John, the Gospel of;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Gospels;   John, Gospel of;   John, Theology of;   Mss;   Scribes;   Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament - Appreciation (of Christ);   Dates (2);   Growing;   Growth Increase ;   Humility;   John the Baptist;   Worldliness (2);   Morrish Bible Dictionary - 36 Ought Must;  
Encyclopedias:
Condensed Biblical Cyclopedia - John, the Baptize;   International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Baptism (Lutheran Doctrine);   Dayspring;   Increase;   John the Baptist;   John, Gospel of;  
Devotionals:
Every Day Light - Devotion for January 30;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

He must increase - His present success is but the beginning of a most glorious and universal spread of righteousness, peace, truth, and good will among men.

I must decrease - My baptism and teaching, as pointing out the coming Messiah, must cease; because the Messiah is now come, and has entered publicly on the work of his glorious ministry.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Bibliographical Information
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on John 3:30". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/john-3.html. 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

He must increase - his authority and influence among the people must grow. his doctrine shall continue to spread until it extends through all the earth.

I must decrease - “The purpose of my ministry is to point men to him. When that is done my work is done. I came not to form a party of my own, nor to set up a religion of my own; and my teaching must cease when he is fully established, as the light of the morning star fades away and is lost in the beams of the rising sun. This evinced John‘s humility and willingness to be esteemed as nothing if he could honor Christ. It shows us, also, that it is sufficient honor for man if he may be permitted to point sinners to the Lord Jesus Christ. No work is so honorable and joyful as the ministry of the gospel; none are so highly honored as those who are permitted to stand near the Son of God, lead perishing men to his cross. Compare Daniel 12:3.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on John 3:30". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/john-3.html. 1870.

The Biblical Illustrator

John 3:30

He must increase, but I must decrease.

I. JOHN’S MAGNANIMITY. His character was here put to the proof

1. For it is natural to envy the growing reputation of others, and to be jealous when it seems likely to trench upon our own. We speak, and justly, of this as littleness of mind; but it belongs to most, if not to all; and he wins a fine triumph who can be contented, provided that the cause of God be advanced. In God’s service, by its very nature, God’s glory, and not personal distinction and aggrandisement, is the thing aimed at; and there is therefore ground for expecting, if this end is reached, there will be gladness in all Christians, whoever may be the honoured agent. Alas, for the infirmity of human nature I

2. It is here that St. John’s character is displayed under its most striking aspect. We can admire him as he lives a severe life in the desert, and as he stands before Herod; but nowhere does he appear so transcendently great as here.

II. THE TRUTHS WHICH JOHN INTENDED TO CONVEY.

1. The temporary character of his own mission, and the enduring character of Christ’s. He well knew that he had not taught the truths that were to be revealed under the new dispensation; that his baptism had been but introductory; that the mortification of the flesh and the performance of certain duties which he had urged could not secure men from wrath; and that, consequently, unless he were to be followed by one charged with a clear message of mercy, his own would be fruitless and leave the world where he found it. And, therefore, it was far from his wish that he should not be displaced by Christ. It was his glory to feel that when the Sun of Righteousness, to which he had served as the morning star, should arise, he himself would decline and sink out of sight.

2. Personal religion: what it is, and how alone it can flourish. The Gospel is a system, constructed on purpose to abase the sinner and exalt the Saviour. The glories of Christ are discerned in the same degree as our own vileness and depravity. John’s confession is what every true Christian must say. The sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice, the cleansing power of His blood, the prevalence of His intercession--these must be increasingly recognized. Though He cannot become greater in Himself, He must become greater in our esteem.

3. The words are prophetic. He echoed the prediction of Isaiah: “Of the increase of His government, there shall be no end.” Here we launch on an ocean without a shore. (H. Melville, B. D.)

The servant and the Son

I. THE UNCONSCIOUS GREATNESS OF THE SERVANT.

1. His lofty contentment (John 3:27, cf. 1 Chronicles 29:14; Psalms 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; 1Co_12:6; James 1:17); specially significant with reference to individual success, in the world (Psalms 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; Mat_26:39) and by Paul (Acts 21:14).

2. His profound humility (verse 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. 1. as here.

3. His absolute unselfishness (John 1:29). 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 (verse 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 (verse 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. 1:3, 10; 1 Corinthians 8:6; Ephesians 3:9; Colossians 1:16-17; Hebrews 1:2); His property (verse 35); His subjects (Psalms 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:

4. His supreme Divinity, implied in what has already been said and in His Sonship.

5. His twofold work.

Lessons:

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.)

The increase of Christ

I. WHY DO WE, IN THE FACE OF UNBELIEF AND ADVERSE CRITICISM, ENDORSE THE ASSERTION THAT CHRIST MUST INCREASE?

1. Because this is the design of God the Father. He has commissioned His Son to destroy the works of the devil, and to fill the world with His glory Isaiah 9:7; Psalms 2:7-8; Philippians 2:10). Failure in this is impossible. For what Divine design has failed?

(1) When our first parents sinned, He promised a Deliverer. Let the manger, the cross, and the open tomb say whether He failed.

2. Because the forces employed are adequate.

3. The Holy Scriptures. Ask Mohammedanism why it fears the Bible? Because the Koran, when it comes in contact with it, loses its power. Ask Romanism. Because the power of priestcraft dies in its presence, and the chains of superstition are sundered. Is the Bible a power? Ask the fires in which its enemies have endeavored to burn it. While the writings of Porphyry, Julian, Hume, Voltaire, are lost or forgotten, where is the Bible? Wherever there is light. These, with their adjuncts, are adequate to the consummation of the text.

II. WHAT DOES THIS INCREASE MEAN?

1. Individual felicity. Examine the experience of all who have fully embraced Christ. With this increase the circle of those enjoying happiness will extend.

2. Social elevation. The increase of Christ subdues the savage in man’s breast, make marriage honourable, child-life happy, elevates woman, liberates the slave, provides refuges for the homeless, etc.

3. National advancement. Look at once famous empires, and compare them with the condition of countries in which Christ has increase.

III. HOW IS THIS INCREASE TO BE SECURED?

1. By individual effort and influence (John 1:40-51). One of the conditions of Christ’s increase in the heart is to contribute to His increase in the world.

2. By organised advance upon the strongholds of darkness. (A. B. Chambers, LL. B.)

John was one of God’s nobility. Christ was deeply impressed with his intellectual, moral, and even professional greatness. The commanding proof of this is his state of heart and his conduct relative to the Messiah. The popularity of Jesus perplexed and annoyed John’s disciples, but it made him profoundly glad. As a friend of the Bridegroom, the Bridegroom’s voice was to him the sweetest music.

I. “I MUST DECREASE.” John was not thinking of himself

1. As subject to the law of decay and death. We are all subject to that, good and bad; and in the article of temporal death there was no difference between John and Jesus.

2. As an immortal being. His path shone more and more unto the perfect day. We can put no limit to the growth of holy intelligencies.

3. As being held in lesser esteem in the future. He is thought as highly of now as he was then; and the Master passed upon him the highest eulogium, and this Christians accept.

4. But that his authority and influence as the forerunner, or a religious reformer, would of necessity be taken up and absorbed by the higher authority and influence of the Messiah. After Christ’s entrance, there was nothing for John but to point to him. “Behold the Lamb of God” now took the place of “Repent.” Christ’s rise was unavoidably John’s fall; and to no one was it clearer or more welcome than John. It would have been a serious thing for John as a sinner and as a forerunner had this not been the case. But his influence was only relatively lost as a river flowing into the sea.

II. “HE MUST INCREASE.” About this there is a glorious indefiniteness. John did not go into details as to the amount and manner. All he says is that it was a moral necessity.

1. When we take into account the marvellous progress already made, we can see that “Christ shall see the travail of his soul,” etc. The leaven must go working on. The issue of the great contest between Christ and Satan is not uncertain. “He must reign,” etc.

2. Some Christians cannot see this as they look on hindrances, corrupt institutions, depraved customs, false systems, inert and inconsistent Christians; but Christ must increase.

3. Not that God will ever compel men. All that the Gospel wants is a fair chance; and this it will eventually secure for itself.

4. The advance of Christianity is undoubted, although it has receded in certain places.

5. The real progress is much greater than the seeming progress. The atmosphere of certain countries has become impregnated with Christian elements, and their inhabitants cannot help breathing it.

6. Humanity needs Christ, and Christ is adapted to humanity. So much so, that the two must coalesce. A strong confirmation of the Baptist’s saying. (G. Cross.)

The increase of Christ

I. AN IRREFRAGABLE TRUTH.

1. That Christ must still increase would appear probable even though we had no express assurances of it.

2. But we have stronger grounds--the plain and unequivocal promises of God--and are therefore firmly persuaded. Listen to David (Psalms 22:27; Psa_72:8; Psa_27:11; Psa_86:9). To Isaiah (2:2, 40:5, 11:9). To Daniel (7:13, 14, 27). To Malachi (1:11). To John (Revelation 14:6; Rev_11:15).

3. Can these promises fail? If so; owing to what? Want of wisdom? Want of power? Want of faithfulness? (Numbers 23:19).

4. Resting, then, on the promises of a God omniscient, almighty, faithful, the Church may bid defiance to all her enemies (Isaiah 8:9-10).

II. AS A SOURCE OF CONSOLATION.

1. Can a man inflamed with love to God fail to be grieved as he views the idolatry of the heathen and the sins of nominal Christendom? His mind can find no rest but in the assurance of the increase of Christ.

2. This truth is no less effectual to heal those wounds which proceed from love to the Saviour as it contemplates His present wide-spread rejection.

3. The lover of mankind is comforted by the thought that the increase of Christ will exterminate the rampant miseries over which he groans.

III. A DIRECTORY OF DUTY.

1. We should pray earnestly.

2. Labour diligently.

3. Give liberally. (E. D. Griffin, D. D.)

The increase of Christ

I. THE ULTIMATE CONVERSION OF THE WORLD TO CHRIST IS A MATTER OF INDUBITABLE CERTAINTY.

1. Many things render this probable.

2. The prophecies render it certain.

II. THIS GREAT MORAL REVOLUTION WILL BE ACCOMPLISHED BY ORDINARY MEANS OF HUMAN INSTRUMENTALITY UNDER THE BLESSING OF THE DIVINE SPIRIT.

1. Not by miracles.

2. Not by a Millennial dispensation.

3. But by the preaching of the gospel.

III. AMONG THE MEANS MISSIONARY SOCIETIES HOLD A HIGH AND DISTINGUISHED PLACE--not excluding individual efforts. (J. A. James.)

Spiritual increase

I. This is true of CHRIST HIMSELF--take His miracles, e.g.

beginning with water turned into wine and culminating at the Resurrection.

II. This is true of His CHURCH. At first a few persons meeting in an upper room, now in millions and still there is room. Increase will be promoted by

1. Preaching.

2. A good example.

3. Prayer.

III. This is true of CHRISTIANS. We must grow in grace. (H. J. W. Buxton, M. A.)

Great workers must be content to die and be replaced by others

It is a humbling lesson to human vanity and tends to cheek the growth of self-importance to consider how well the world will go on when we are laid in the dust and no longer partake in the direction of its affairs. Leaves fall in autumn! trees are felled in the spring! but the next vernal season renews the foliage. Another age replaces the veteran oak removed by the axe or the tempest, and the forest still presents its broad expanse and deep shade to the eye of the traveller. So it is with the Church of God. Its members and its ministers die; but others are baptised for the dead and fill up their vacant seats in the spiritual house. (J. A. James.)

John here figures himself by the moon, whose light wanes and decreases when the month is drawing to a close, and when the morning light of the sun begins to break forth; and he figures Jesus Christ by the sun, which is to eclipse and destroy his brightness. John the Baptist, the witness of Jesus Christ, is justly figured by the moon, which is called the faithful witness in heaven; being the witness to the sun’s existence, and of his future coming, whereas it is not yet seen, because it shines by a borrowed light, and except for the sun’s existence and original light, it would not itself shine, and would be as nothing. So when, and as soon as the day begins to spring, the light of the moon fades and is invisible, and all eyes which were turned to it, and delighted in it, are now at once turned to the sun itself, as all men now came to Christ to be baptized, who before delighted and were satisfied to be baptized with John’s baptism. (S. R. Bosanquet.)

Opinions of self

Opinion of ourselves is like the casting of a shadow, which is always longest when the sun is at the greatest distance; but by the degrees that the sun approaches the shadow still shortens, and under the direct meridian light it becomes none at all; it is so with our opinion of ourselves: whilst the good influences of God are the greatest distance from us, it is then always that we conceive best of ourselves; but still, as God approaches, the conceit lessens; till such time as we receive the fuller measures of His graces; and then we become absolutely voided, pure nothing in our own conceit, and God appears to be (as really He is) “All in all.” (Dean Young.)

Self abnegation

Mr. Durham, a father of the Scottish Church was walking one Sabbath to his place of worship with a much admired young minister who was to officiate in one adjoining. Multitudes were thronging into the one, and only a few into the other. “Brother,” said he to his young friend, “you will have a crowded church to-day.” “Truly,” said the other, “they are greatly to blame who leave you and come to me. “Not so, dear brother,” replied Mr. Durham; “for a minister can receive no such honour and success in his ministry except it be given him from heaven. I rejoice that Christ is preached, and that His kingdom and interests are gaining ground, though my estimation in people’s hearts should decrease; for I am content to be anything, so that Christ may be all in all.” (W. Baxendale.)

The certain increase of the glory and kingdom of Jesus

I. IT IS PROPOSED TO CONSIDER THE NATURE OF THAT INCREASE, WHICH THE BAPTIST CONFIDENTLY EXPECTED SHOULD ATTEND HIS BLESSED LORD. l, It was announced, that “He must increase”; and, lo! in the midst of poverty and reproach, of apparent weakness, and of cruel sufferings, Jesus exhibited an increasing display of Godlike fortitude and resolution; of spotless purity and rectitude; of infinite zeal for His Father’s honour; and of the riches of grace and compassion for wretched ruined man.

2. On these transactions all the future increase of His kingdom absolutely depended. But now the purchase of redemption has been completed, what shall prevent the Saviour from receiving His full reward (John 12:23-24)?

3. Well, then, might John the Baptist affirm, “He must increase,” when he foresaw that His shameful death would be followed by so glorious a resurrection.

4. And how much more did the transactions of Pentecost justify this blessed prediction.

II. LET ME PROCEED TO LAY BEFORE YOU SOME CONSIDERATIONS WHICH MAY CONFIRM OUR FAITH IN THE ASSURED EXPECTATION THAT HE MUST INCREASE.

1. Because He is the Son of God, in the highest and most absolute sense, and therefore heir of all things.

2. We are persuaded, therefore, that He must increase, because He hath all power to overcome every enemy that opposeth His blessed reign.

3. He must increase, for the decrees of heaven ascertain the great event.

4. A great part of Scripture consists of promises of the increase of the Messiah’s kingdom, and it is evident that the season of their chief accomplishment is yet future (see Isaiah 40:1-31; Isa_60:1-22.).

5. We conclude that Jesus must increase, since this world and all others were “made by Him, and for Him.” (J. Ryland, D. D.)

Christ’s increase, and our decrease

I. “HE MUST INCREASE.” In one sense the words do not apply. The Saviour is God, very God of very God, and there can be no increase to that which is already infinite. He is also perfect man, without spot or imperfection, but it was in His office of Mediator, and in the glories of His mediatorial kingdom, that the Saviour was capable of increase. The greatness and glory of His work was to be manifested; the love which promoted, and the wisdom which carried out, the wondrous plan of salvation, were to be revealed, and fresh conquests to be achieved. Through faith in a crucified, yet risen and ascended Saviour, His people also shall prevail, yea, and be made more than conquerors through Him that loved them; and then as one nation after another has been brought into professed subjection to Christ, and as soul after soul has been rescued from Satan and brought into the glorious liberty of the children of God, we see the fulfilment of the words, “He must increase.”

II. “I MUST DECREASE.” We have already noticed, that in a high and important sense, the increase of Christ is the increase of His people--they are concerned in the triumphs of His grace, and are to share His glory. But there is also a sense in which the believer in Christ, who is rejoicing in his Lord, and in the full salvation he has secured, can join in these words of the Baptist, “I must decrease.” Yes, there is the carnal self, that which is of the earth, earthy--the old man, the old nature--which still retains so much of power, even in the regene rate, that which the believer desires daily to crucify, the flesh with its affections and lusts. All this is to decrease, and finally--although not entirely until he has put off the body of this death--to disappear. Surely we greatly need to decrease in self-esteem, in pride,in carnality, in all that tends to hinder us in our Christian life, and bring dishonour on our Christian profession. We are to decrease in having self as the all-engrossing object. New hopes and desires are to have fuller power over us; the great motive of the love of Christ is to have its place, constraining, compelling, drawing. Opportunities of usefulness, and of actively working for God, may also be diminished, and in failing strength and energies the Christian reads the words, “I must decrease.” The work of Christ, indeed, will not suffer. (J. H. Holford, M. A.)

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "John 3:30". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tbi/john-3.html. 1905-1909. New York.

Coffman Commentaries on the Bible

He must increase, but I must decrease.

The parallel ministries of Jesus and John, both with the design of baptizing multitudes preparatory to the coming kingdom, existed as a transitional device, and without any heavenly intention of promulgating two distinct systems. In God's providence, John would shortly be cast into prison and lose his life to the sword of Herod, an event that would make it easier for John's disciples to follow Christ.

Copyright Statement
Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on John 3:30". "Coffman Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/john-3.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

He must increase,.... Not in stature of body, or in wisdom and understanding of mind, as man, he being come to maturity in these things already; but in fame, credit, and reputation among men; as he afterwards did in the land of Judea, by reason of his miracles and doctrines; and after that among the Gentiles, through the publication of his Gospel; and will more and more in the latter day, when he, and he alone, shall be exalted: and he must increase in the ministry of his word, which was published by him, and his disciples, throughout all the cities of Israel; and which, after his resurrection and ascension, grew and increased mightily, notwithstanding the opposition made unto it both by their civil and ecclesiastical rulers; and which, by the means of his apostles, was spread throughout the Gentile world, and will hereafter cover the earth, as the waters do the sea: and also in his kingdom and interest, which at first were very small, like a grain of mustard seed, or like a little stone cut out of the mountain without hands; but in process of time grew exceedingly, and will, ere long, till the face of the whole earth; for the kingdoms of this world will become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and his dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the river to the ends of the earth; and of the increase of it there shall be no end. And so likewise in the number of his followers, which at first were but few in Judea, but afterwards greatly increased, and especially among the Gentiles; and will be very numerous in the latter day glory, when the nation of the Jews will be born at once, and the fulness and forces of the Gentiles are brought in:

but I must decrease; as he did in his esteem among the people; see John 5:3; and in his work and office, which were now come to an end, Christ, whose forerunner he was, being come; and quickly after this he was put into prison, and there put to death.

Copyright Statement
The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on John 3:30". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/john-3.html. 1999.

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

Must (δειdei). It has to be (see John 3:14). He is to go on growing (present active infinitive αυχανεινauxanein) while I go on decreasing (present passive infinitive ελαττουσταιelattousthai from comparative ελαττωνelattōn less). These are the last words that we have from John till the despondent message from the dungeon in Machaerus whether Jesus is after all the Messiah (Matthew 11:2; Luke 7:19). He went on to imprisonment, suspense, martyrdom, while Jesus grew in popular favour till he had his via dolorosa. “These last words of St. John are the fulness of religious sacrifice and fitly close his work” (Westcott).

Copyright Statement
The Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament. Copyright Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman Press (Southern Baptist Sunday School Board)
Bibliographical Information
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on John 3:30". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rwp/john-3.html. Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

He must increase, but I must decrease.

He must increase, but I must decrease — So they who are now, like John, burning and shining lights, must (if not suddenly eclipsed) like him gradually decrease, while others are increasing about them; as they in their turns grew up, amidst the decays of the former generation. Let us know how to set, as well as how to rise; and let it comfort our declining days to trace, in those who are likely to succeed us in our work, the openings of yet greater usefulness.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
Bibliographical Information
Wesley, John. "Commentary on John 3:30". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wen/john-3.html. 1765.

The Fourfold Gospel

He must increase, but I must decrease1.

  1. He must increase, but I must decrease. Noble words! "He must increase"--because the divine law has ordered it, and prophecy has foretold it (Isaiah 52:13), and because the very divinity of his nature absolutely requires it. "I must decrease"--in popularity, in power, in following. The Christian minister finds the increase of his work the same as the increase of Christ's kingdom; but with the Baptist the case was different. He was a Jewish prophet, and as the power of the New Dispensation, under Christ, gained headway, the Old Dispensation, of which he was a part, waxed old, and was ready to vanish away.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website. These files were made available by Mr. Ernie Stefanik. First published online in 1996 at The Restoration Movement Pages.
Bibliographical Information
J. W. McGarvey and Philip Y. Pendleton. "Commentary on John 3:30". "The Fourfold Gospel". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tfg/john-3.html. Standard Publishing Company, Cincinnati, Ohio. 1914.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

Ему должно расти. Иоанн идет дальше. Прежде Господь вознес его к наивысшему достоинству, но теперь он говорит, что все это было лишь на время и должно прекратиться с восходом солнца праведности. Посему он отвергает не только пустую честь, которую люди по ошибке ему приписывали. Он предостерегает, чтобы даже та законная честь, которой наделил его Господь, не затмила сияние славы Христовой. По этой причине Иоанн говорит, что до сих пор считался верховным пророком, но был возвышен до столь высокого положения лишь на время, доколе не пришел Христос, Которому он и передал свой светильник. Кроме того, Иоанн свидетельствует, что не тревожится о своем умалении, лишь бы Христос наполнил сиянием Своим весь мир. И в этом Иоанну должны подражать все пастыри Церкви. Вознося Христа, они должны подставлять Ему свои плечи и склоненные головы.

 

 

 

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Bibliographical Information
Calvin, John. "Commentary on John 3:30". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/john-3.html. 1840-57.

Frédéric Louis Godet - Commentary on Selected Books

Ver. 30. "He must increase, but I must decrease." Here is the expression which forms the connecting link between the two parts of the discourse, announcing the second and summing up the first. The friend of the bridegroom had, at the beginning of the relation, the principal part; it was he alone who appeared. But, in proportion as the relation develops itself, his part diminishes he must disappear and leave the bridegroom to become the sole person. This is the position of John the Baptist; he accepts it, and desires no other. No one could have invented this admirable saying, a permanent motto of every true servant of Christ.

At this point, Bengel, Tholuck, Olshausen and others, make the discourse of the Baptist end, and the reflections of the evangelist begin. They rest principally on the Johannean character of the style in what follows, and on the reproduction of certain thoughts of the conversation with Nicodemus (see, especially, John 3:31-32). To pronounce a decision, we must study the discourse even to the end. But, in itself, it would be scarcely natural that the words of John 3:30, he must increase, should not be developed in what follows, as the other words, and I must decrease, have been in what precedes.

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Godet, Frédéric Louis. "Commentary on John 3:30". "Frédéric Louis Godet - Commentary on Selected Books". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gsc/john-3.html.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

30 He must increase, but I must decrease.

Ver. 30. He must increase, but, &c.] And this was John’s great joy. That man hath true light that can be content to be outshined by others; and nothing will more try a man’s grace than questions of emulation. Ezekiel can commend Daniel his contemporary, matching him with Noah and Job for his power in prayer, Ezekiel 14:14. And Peter highly praiseth Paul’s epistles, though he had been publicly reproved by him at Antioch, 2 Peter 3:15; Galatians 2:11. Yes., Plato called Aristotle αναγνωστην and νουν, the intelligent reader. And Aristotle is said to have set up an altar in honour of Plato, with this inscription, -

" Nulla ferent talem secla futura virum."

But Luther sbowed himself so much discontented at the reformation wrought at Wittenberg in his absence, by Carolostadius, because it was done without him, that he doubted not to approve those things, that till then he had disapproved, and to disapprove what before he had approved of. So hard it is for a man willingly and gladly to see his equals lifted over his head in worth and opinion. Self-love makes men unreasonable, and ever teacheth them to turn the glass to see themselves bigger, others lesser, than they are.

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Trapp, John. "Commentary on John 3:30". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/john-3.html. 1865-1868.

Sermon Bible Commentary

John 3:30

Look at these words—

I. As the language of true nobility of character. Is it not refreshing to come across a really great man, a man who has too much of Christ within him ever to be ignoble? John's language here is not the language of sullen acquiescence. It does not need any grace to talk in that strain. It is not—"Well, He must increase, and I must decrease; and I cannot help it." No, it is the language of joy, "This my joy, therefore, is fulfilled." It is the lack of this spirit which gives rise to so many splits in our churches. It is the want of this great-heartedness which takes away the power for testimony, and causes that wretched smallness of soul which cannot rejoice in the success, or the greater success, of another.

II. As the language of prophetic utterance, "He must increase—on and on and ever increasing—and I must decrease." John was the last of the prophets who foretold the coming of the kingdom of Christ. He was the forerunner, the herald of Christ, and now that the Messiah had come forth to found His kingdom, John's mission was fulfilled. This is his last sermon. He cried, "Behold the Lamb of God!"

III. As the language of a believer's heart. We commence life with all of self and none of Christ. It is the "I" in our aims, in our thoughts, in our conversation, in our actions, it is self we worship, self we admire, self we seek, and self we serve. But in the day of conversion Jesus Christ comes into the heart, and then there is Christ and "I" within the same breast. There is a new nature, and there is an old. It is the house of David waxing stronger and stronger, while the house of Saul waxes weaker and weaker. If I am being sanctified, Christ will occupy more and more of my thinking power. Thoughts concerning Christ and His kingdom will flow with ever-increasing volume through the channel of my mind. As Christ increases self must decrease.

A. G. Brown, Penny Pulpit, new series, No. 1,065.

This text contains a great principle—the principle on which God governs His children, always and everywhere. God's manifest purpose is, to keep His children humble, to make our Saviour everything and ourselves nothing. We are empty; in Him dwells all fulness. We are weak, in Him is Almighty strength. We can bring to Him only our guilt, our cares, our sorrows, our poor unworthy selves. In Him is everything—grace and peace and hope and life, wisdom and sanctification and complete redemption. And it is a great and happy Christian attainment, if we can with our whole heart assent to this. We have in these words—

I. The way to be saved. You know how natural it is for us all to think that we can do something or suffer something that may recommend us to God; that may make some amends for our sin against Him. We must decrease from that; that would be saving ourselves. We must learn and feel in our heart, that we can do nothing to make amends to the law we have broken; that we must be forgiven, if forgiven at all, of God's free grace, and for our Redeemer's sake. We must decrease, as regards our merit before God, and as regards our estimate of our merit and ourselves before God to nothing; and our Saviour must increase till He is felt to be all in all.

II. The rule of a holy and happy life. Here is the secret of great usefulness. Here is the thing that will keep us kindly, unenvious, and unsoured in spirit; to utterly cast our self-seeking, self-assertion, self-conceit, to quite forget ourselves and our own importance and advancement, and with a single heart to think of our God and Saviour, and of the advancement of His glory in the saving and comforting of souls. Just in proportion to the degree in which you cease to think of self, and with a single eye make your Master's glory your great end, will be the good you will do. There is nothing that goes home to the hearts of people you try to influence for good, like the conviction that you are not thinking of yourself at all; but that you are thinking of them, and of Christ's glory in their advantage and blessing here and hereafter. It is not the fussy person trying to do good, but with much self-consciousness and self-conceit mingling with all his doings—it is not that man who will do most good. It is rather the humbler servant whose whole life says, "Now I am not working for effect; I don't care what you think of me; I am aiming at your good and Christ's glory only." For that humble servant, without perhaps ever thinking of it, has caught the sublime spirit of one concerning whom his Saviour said that a greater was never born of woman; and whose words about his Saviour were these, spoken ungrudgingly and with all his heart: "He must increase; but I must decrease."

A. K. H. B., Graver Thoughts of a Country Parson, 2nd series, p. 36.


Let us try to enter into the spirit of that deep and affectionate loyalty to our Lord, which is everywhere to be seen in the Holy Baptist's character. I mean his not thinking of himself, but of his Master; giving up everything to His glory; rejoicing, as he went on, to find that Jesus Christ every day was showing Himself more and more glorious above him, and throwing him quite into the shade. His "burning and shining light" was to be put out and disappear, like a star, when the sun arises. And he is glad and thankful to have it so; like Jonathan, who truly rejoiced in seeing David by degrees mounting up to the kingdom which, according to earthly ways of thinking, Jonathan might have looked for himself.

I. This loyal and self-devoted feeling St. John here expresses in words; but his whole life and conduct before had expressed it, to a considerate mind, quite as clearly. All his doctrine ran upon this; that neither his preaching nor his baptism was anything at all in itself, but only to prepare the way for the perfect Gospel, the spiritual Baptism, which Jesus Christ should set up afterwards. It may seem suitable to this dutiful temper of mind, that St. John, when the people asked him what they should do, referred them always to the plainest and simplest duties, the very thing, as it were, which came next in each man's way. In every instance the advice which he gives was as plain and simple as could be, not at all leading them to think of him, nor of any particular wisdom or goodness that was in him, but only to glorify God in their stations by sincere obedience. So again, the Baptist never shrank from showing people the severe side of the truth. "The wrath to come," "the unquenchable fire," "the axe laid to the root of the tree,"—these are the things of which he continually kept putting people in mind; but these are not the subjects on which he would have delighted to dwell, had he desired to please and attract his hearers, or to obtain personal influence and authority with them. But in this respect, as in all others, the Forerunner of Christ was like His Apostles after Him: he preached not himself, but Christ Jesus the Lord.

II. Finally, in the last of his trials, his imprisonment through the malice of Herodias, we find him still of the same mind, still careful to turn all, as well as he could, to the preparing of Christ's way; still anxious to put himself down and exalt his Master and Saviour. For this purpose, having heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples with the question: "Art thou He that should come, or do we look for another?" He could not be ignorant who Jesus was, after what he had seen at His Baptism; but no doubt his intention was, to show his disciples the truth concerning Him. Thus he died, as he had lived, pointing out Jesus to men. Now there is one point in particular which we may well learn this day, from considering John the Baptist's character; namely, that in such measure as we are duly preparing to meet Christ when He comes to be our Judge, in the same measure we shall be still practising to humble ourselves more and more—to think less of what we do or have done, and more of Him and His unspeakable mercies. We shall no longer anxiously and grudgingly count the minutes, the hours which we spend on serving Christ in His Church, but every little time we can win for that holy employment, away from the world, we shall reckon it clear gain. The more we can give, the more yet shall we contrive to spare; every step in any kind of holiness will be to us like a step upwards on a high mountain, revealing to our sight fresh blessings and fresh duties beyond what we had ever dreamed of, until the last and most blessed step of all shall land us in the Paradise of God.

Plain Sermons by Contributors to "Tracts for the Times," vol. vi., p. 129.


References: John 3:30.—F. D. Maurice, The Gospel of St. John, p. 101; J. A. Hessey, Church of England Pulpit, vol. vi., p. 8; H. M. Butler, Harrow Sermons, p. 202; Preacher's Monthly, vol. iv., p. 301; J. Keble, Sermons for Saints' Days, p. 268; J. E. Vaux, Sermon Notes, 4th series, p. 84; Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xvii., No. 102. John 3:31-36.—Homilist, 3rd series, vol. x., p. 143. John 3—Homiletic Magazine, vol. xii., p. 109; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. i., p. 239.



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Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on John 3:30". "Sermon Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/sbc/john-3.html.

Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary

30.] ἐλαττοῦσθαι,— ὡς ἡλίου ἀνατείλαντος ἑωσφόρον. Euthym(56) See note on Matthew 11:2 ff.

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Alford, Henry. "Commentary on John 3:30". Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hac/john-3.html. 1863-1878.

Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament

John 3:30. αὐξάνειν· ἐλαττοῦσθαι, increase: be diminished) so that all are to come hereafter, not to me, but to Him: Joshua 4:14, “The Lord magnified Joshua in the sight of all Israel; and they feared him, as they feared Moses.” גִדַּל, ηὔξησς κύριος τὸν ἰησοῦν ἐνάντιον παντὸς γένους ἰσραήλ. Not even death was about to hinder the increase of Christ; for which reason the Evangelists speak concerning His death far otherwise than they speak concerning the death of John.

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Bengel, Johann Albrecht. "Commentary on John 3:30". Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jab/john-3.html. 1897.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

He must increase, in honour, and dignity, and reputation in the world; he is the rising sun, (to give you notice of which I was but as the morning star), he must shine every day more and more.

But I must decrease; God hath indeed used me as a prophet, yea, more than a prophet, not to foretell Christ alone, but to point him to you. I have had my time, and finished my course, and God hath given me a reputation proportioned to the work he gave me to do, and to the time in which I was to work; but I must every day decay, and grow less and less, as Christ increaseth and groweth more and more.

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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on John 3:30". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/john-3.html. 1685.

Justin Edwards' Family Bible New Testament

He; Christ.

Must increase; in influence and honor. It is a high spiritual attainment to be willing that others should excel us in usefulness and honor.

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Edwards, Justin. "Commentary on John 3:30". "Family Bible New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/fam/john-3.html. American Tract Society. 1851.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

30.He’ increase’ decrease—In view of his own subordinate and transient office, John appropriates the thought of 2 Samuel 3:1: “David waxed stronger and stronger, and the house of Saul waxed weaker and weaker.”

At this point the Baptist’s comparison of Jesus with himself ceases. His remaining words leave himself and describe Jesus alone. The words are so much in the Evangelist’s own style of expression, that we may readily concede that the Baptist’s thoughts are freely reported in the Evangelist’s own language. See remarks on page 228.

 

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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on John 3:30". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/john-3.html. 1874-1909.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

This classic expression of humility arose out of John"s perception of and acceptance of His God-given role as Messiah"s forerunner. Far from discouraging people from following Jesus, as his disciples implied he should, John would continue to promote Him. He viewed this as God"s will and therefore said it "must" be so. Would that all of us who are God"s servants would view Jesus" position and our own similarly. Submission to God"s will and the exaltation of Jesus, not prominence in His service, should bring joy to His servants.

Unfortunately some of John"s disciples continued to follow him rather than taking their rabbi"s advice to follow Jesus (cf. Acts 18:24-26; Acts 19:1-7).

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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on John 3:30". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/john-3.html. 2012.

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament

John 3:30. He must increase, but I must decrease. What the disciples now see is but the beginning of a process that must continue. The necessity spoken of here is another statement of the heavenly gift of John 3:27. John must become less and less, whilst the glory of his Lord will increase without limit or end; and thus his ‘decreasing’ is not the failure but the accomplishment of his work.

It is quite impossible to read carefully the following verses without perceiving that they bear a remarkable resemblance to the early part of the chapter, and that the general style and language are those of the Evangelist himself. In John 3:31 we read of Him ‘that cometh out of heaven;’ in John 3:13 of Him ‘that came down out of heaven.’ That He who is from heaven beareth witness of what He hath seen, and that His witness is not received, we read both in John 3:32 and in John 3:11. The 35th verse might perhaps seem to contain Christ’s own words, but not such as the Baptist would be likely to employ. So also in John 3:36 all the terms used, ‘he that believeth in,’ ‘the Son’ (standing absolutely), ‘eternal life,’ ‘hath eternal life,’ remind us of the language of the Evangelist himself and of Christ’s discourses as related in this Gospel, especially in this chapter (John 3:15-17), but it is hardly possible to suppose them used by John the Baptist. Those writers who cannot admit that there is a break after John 3:30 are constrained to confess that the Baptist’s subsequent words are expressed in the Evangelist’s own language and style. It is a far simpler and more probable theory that the Evangelist (as in John 1:16 and John 3:16—see notes there) passes from his narrative into a meditation which it suggests, gathering together the main thoughts of the two sections which precede.

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Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on John 3:30". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/scn/john-3.html. 1879-90.

The Expositor's Greek Testament

John 3:30. , . Paley translates, “it is for Him to go on growing and for me to be ever getting less,” and adds, “the language seems to be solar”. In the Church Calendar, no doubt, John the Baptist’s day is Midsummer Day, while our Lord’s “natalitia” is midwinter, but scarcely founded on solar considerations of the day’s increase after Christmas and decrease after 24th June. Rather John is the morning star “fidelis Lucifer” whose light is eclipsed in that of the rising sun (cf. Bernard’s “Lucet ergo Johannes, tanto verius quanto minus appetit lucere,” and Euthyrnius, ). If the style of the following verses is any clue to their authorship we must ascribe them to the evangelist. Besides, some of the expressions are out of place in the Baptist’s lips: e.g., could scarcely have been said at the very time when crowds were flocking to Him. The precise point in the Baptist’s language to which the evangelist attaches this commentary or expansion [“theils erklärende, theils erweiternde Reflexion,” Lücke] is his affirmation of the Messiah’s superiority to himself. To this John adds (John 3:31): He is superior not only to the Baptist but to all, , the reason being that He comes from above, ; which is the equivalent of in the latter part of the verse. These expressions are contrasted with , the ordinary earthly origin of men, and they refer Christ’s origin to a higher and unique source: unique because the result of this origin is that He is supreme over all, . His origin is superior to that of all, therefore His supremacy is universal (cf.John 3:13). The results of origin, whether earthly or heavenly, are traced out in a twofold direction: in the kind of life lived and in the words spoken. On the one hand . The first expresses origin: the second moral connection, as in John 18:37, John 15:19: he whose origin is earthly is an earthly person, his life rises no higher than its source, his interests and associations are of earth. Another result is given in the words , from the earth his ideas and his utterance of them spring. A man’s talk and teaching cannot rise above their source. So far as experimental knowledge goes he is circumscribed by his origin. In contrast to persons of earthly origin stands ; . is added that not only his origin but his transition to his present condition may be indicated. His origin in like manner determines both his moral relationships and his teaching. The one is given in . He lives in a higher region than all others and is not limited by earthly conditions.

 

 

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Nicol, W. Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on John 3:30". The Expositor's Greek Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/egt/john-3.html. 1897-1910.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

He (Christ) must increase, not in virtue and perfection, with which he is replenished, but in the opinion of the world, when they begin to know him, and believe in him: and in like manner, I must be diminished, when they know how much he is above me. (Witham)

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Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on John 3:30". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/john-3.html. 1859.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

He must increase, but I must decrease.

He must increase, but I must decrease: - q.d., 'I do my heaven-prescribed work, and that is enough for me. Would you have me mount into my Master's place? Said I not unto you, I am not the Christ? The Bride is not mine, why should the people stay with me? Mine it is to point the burdened to the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world, to tell them there is balm in Gilead, and a Physician there. And shall I grudge to see them, in obedience to the call, flying as a cloud, and as doves to their windows? Whose is the Bride but the Bridgegroom's? Enough for me to be the Bridegroom's Friend, sent by Him to negotiate the match, privileged to bring together the Saviour and those he is come to seek and to save, and rejoicing with joy unspeakable, if I may but "stand and hear the Bridegroom's voice," witnessing the blessed espousals. Say ye, then, they go from me to Him? Ye bring me glad tidings of great joy. He must increase, but I must decrease; this, my joy, therefore, is fulfilled.'

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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on John 3:30". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/john-3.html. 1871-8.

The Bible Study New Testament

30. He must become more important. Jesus was doing a work that no human being could do! John the Baptist was a Jewish prophet, and would not share in the Kingdom of God on earth (see Matthew 11:11 and note there). We are sad to see John “fade out of the picture,” yet he did not lose anything God had promised him!

 

 

 

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Ice, Rhoderick D. "Commentary on John 3:30". "The Bible Study New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ice/john-3.html. College Press, Joplin, MO. 1974.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(30) He must increase, but I must decrease.—The office of the paranymph ceases to exist when the marriage is accomplished. It must be so. So too in the interpretation. His own work was well-nigh done, but he is filled with the joy of having done his work, not with disappointment that it pales before the brightness of the work which is to follow. This is the text of the Forerunner’s life. Well will it be for those followers of Christ whose lives shall be sermons on it!

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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on John 3:30". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/john-3.html. 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

He must increase, but I must decrease.
must increase
Psalms 72:17-19; Isaiah 9:7; 53:2,3,12; Daniel 2:34,35,44,45; Matthew 13:31-33; Revelation 11:15
but
Acts 13:36,37; 1 Corinthians 3:5; 2 Corinthians 3:7-11; Colossians 1:18; Hebrews 3:2-6
Reciprocal: 1 Chronicles 22:5 - David prepared;  Matthew 11:11 - he that;  Matthew 22:2 - which

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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on John 3:30". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/john-3.html.

Ernst Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms

Ver. 30. "He must increase, but I decrease."

The more the glory of Christ was revealed, the more also the inferiority of John. This was not, however, to him, as to his disciples (Berleb. Bibel: "This becoming of less account oppressed them, foe they thought it might involve them also. Such lofty notions lodge in our minds"), a cause of sorrow, but of joy; for his Saviour's honour was to him of much greater importance than his own. As to the expression, compare 2 Samuel 3:1, "But the house of David waxed stronger and stronger, and the house of Saul waxed weaker and weaker." The must is founded on the Divine counsel, as revealed in the prophecies of the Old Testament. Cf. remarks on John 3:14. The Baptist has especially Isaiah 52:13 in view: "Behold, My servant shall—be exalted and extolled, and be very high."

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Hengstenberg, Ernst. "Commentary on John 3:30". Ernst Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/heg/john-3.html.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

30.He must increase. John the Baptist proceeds farther; for, having formerly been raised by the Lord to the highest dignity, he shows that this was only for a time, but now that the Sun of Righteousness, (Malachi 4:2) has arisen, he must give way; and, therefore, he not only scatters and drives away the empty fumes of honor which had been rashly and ignorantly heaped upon him by men, but also is exceedingly careful that the true and lawful honor which the Lord had bestowed on him may not obscure the glory of Christ. Accordingly, he tells us that the reason why he had been hitherto accounted a great Prophet was, that for a time only he was placed in so lofty a station, until Christ came, to whom he must surrender his office. In the meantime, he declares that he will most willingly endure to be reduced to nothing, provided that Christ occupy and fill the whole world with his rays; and this zeal of John all pastors of the Church ought to imitate by stooping with the head and shoulders to elevate Christ.

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Calvin, John. "Commentary on John 3:30". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/john-3.html. 1840-57.