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John 3:22-36 Study Guide: He Must Increase, I Must Decrease

Community Group Study Guide — I Must Decrease
John 3:22-36

Main idea:
John the baptist’s role was to point to Christ as Jesus increased and John decreased. Humility happens when we know who God is and who we are in relationship to God. 

Study Information:
John 3:22-36
Our passage opens up with a focus on John the baptist and his ministry in the Judean countryside. John and his disciples had moved their baptism location to a place with more water to accommodate the growing number of people who were coming out to express their sin and need for the coming Messiah. But during this time there was an internal dispute among John’s followers about what they were doing and how Jesus fit into it. Specifically they were debating the purification rituals of the Jews (note the connection to John 2:6). God had set up a system to purify his people which was given by God to enable the Jews to enter his presence after defiling themselves with times of direct sin or uncleanliness like coming into contact with disease and death which are also marks of the fall and sin’s presence in the world. Likewise John’s baptism pointed to a need to be cleansed of sin and find salvation in God. The disciples of John were somewhat jealous of Jesus because he was baptizing people and more people were going to him than to John. John does not give into this pseudo rivalry they were trying to create but once again tells us that he knows that his role is to point to Jesus.  

John’s response was that both the purification and the baptism he was doing found their fulfillment in Jesus who brought new relationship between God and his people and that as Jesus increases, John must decrease. 

This text of scripture is a great example of humility and how knowing God and who we are in relationship to God leads towards humility. John was an important part of God’s plan in how he pointed to Christ, but he was not the center of God’s redemptive mission.

John uses the image of a wedding to communicate who he is in relationship to Jesus. The friend of the groom rejoices in the wedding day for the groom and that day has come for Jesus as he inaugurated his kingdom through his ministry. John is saying that he is like the best man at the wedding who gives his speech and points to the glory of the groom on their wedding day. There is no rivalry between these two, only joy as John experiences his role in God’s redemptive plan. It would be inappropriate for the best man to overshadow the groom at his wedding. He plays an important role to ensure that things go smoothly, he offers a toast and cares for the ring but the wedding is not about the best man. John knows and realizes his point is to point people to Jesus and to take joy in what God is doing through Christ.

We learn a lot about Jesus here as John testifies that he is the groom, the one from above, the Christ, the one who God has set his seal on, who gives the Spirit without measure, who has all things in his hands given from the Father and who gives eternal life for all who believe (see John 3:29-36). 

The people of God get out of step when they forget who God is and how they are in relationship to God. John the baptist’s ministry found its fulfillment in Christ. As they baptized to express repentance for sin, the one who forgave sin had arrived. We are not central to God’s plan of salvation, but we do benefit from what God is doing in Christ and can find hope and joy in him. We grow in humility as we experience the greatness of Jesus and John’s response that “he must increase, I must decrease” is a reminder for all of us that it is all about Jesus.

At your community group:

Take 15-20 minutes to share about how God has been at work in your life, prayer concerns and pray for one another.

How did God speak to you through the scripture and the sermon this week? 

Discussion Questions:
What were the disciples of John the Baptist debating and why would they try to create a rivalry between John and Christ?

What is the role of a best man at a wedding and why is that a good analogy for how John relates to Jesus?

Who is Jesus based solely on this text of scripture?

How does knowing who God is and who we are in relationship to God lead to greater humility?

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