Why Did John The Baptist Say ‘I Must Decrease’?
Perhaps you’ve bought into the idea that you, the born-again believer, need to keep decreasing so Jesus can increase. This teaching comes from a single verse in John 3:30 when Jesus is just beginning His ministry, and John is fulfilling prophesy as he prepares the way for a NEW Priest with a NEW message.
He must become greater; I must become less – NIV
He must increase, but I must decrease – NASB
Paul, James, Peter, Timothy….not one of these men of God ever spoke of a need to decrease. In fact, aside from John the Baptist saying it, the word ‘decrease’ is not mentioned in the entire new testament.
So then, why did John say he needed to decrease?
As this story unfolds, I see a couple of solid reasons that John would make this statement.
Many of the Jewish people want to know what right John has to baptize people, and they are asking him if he’s the Messiah, Elijah, or a Prophet. I think the context is really about John’s MESSAGE decreasing (not him personally) so that Jesus’s message could increase.
John’s purpose was to make straight the way of the Lord, and once that was complete, he naturally would step aside so this NEW message of grace could be brought in by Jesus.
John 1:19-21 This is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent to him priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” 20 And he confessed and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” 21 They asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” And he *said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.”
In fact, just before John says he must decrease, he again says in John 3:28 ‘you yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Messiah but am sent ahead of him.’
What this teaching of ‘I must decrease’ implies is that we are both evil and good at the same time. The idea would be that you are born again in the newness of Christ, but at the same time, you are an evil person. But if you’re born of Christ, then we must ask ourselves ‘does God give birth to evil’? And what about that part of you that died and was buried with Christ? Did God only kill off half of you?
Don’t confuse avoiding sin with a need for the new you to decrease. They are not the same. We are tempted in many ways, and as James said ‘we all stumble in many ways’.
As a believer, you are a new creation, and each day, as you renew and transform your mind, you also GROW in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior. Do you see it? The NEW YOU has the Spirit God dwelling inside of you, and God wants you to INCREASE in your new identity. Does that mean the old you must decrease so the new can increase? No….because the old you has died and has been buried with Christ. It’s not coming back.
It all comes down to this – If our old Spiritual self still lives, then yes, we might need to decrease. But do you believe you were born again? Do you believe you have a new Spirit? Do you believe you are a new creation? If so, then wouldn’t you need to increase in your new identity rather than decrease it? The old you has already been decreased as far as it can go.
John Was Great – But Will Be Greater
No doubt, John was the greatest of his time. But, he, and everyone before Jesus, lacked something that you and I have today. He did not have the Holy Spirit living inside of him. What we have today is far greater.
Matthew 11:11 ‘Truly I say to you, among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist! Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.
Hebrews 11:39-40 ‘And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, 40 because God had provided something BETTER for us, so that apart from us they would not be made perfect.’
Some Will Say, But I Still Sin, so Shouldn’t I Decrease.
What we miss is that ‘we’ are not the source of our sin. We are new. We are holy. We are royal Priesthoods. We are righteous.
I know, I know, you’re thinking how can we be so perfect if we still sin? So, let me help you to think differently. You must first realize that all your struggles with sin is coming from an EXTERNAL source – not an INTERNAL one.
Imagine two scenarios and decide which one makes more sense.
Scenario 1: God has paid for your sins, but he didn’t make you a new creation with new desires. Instead, you are the same dirty sinner you were before salvation. Aside from being saved, there’s nothing new about you. Now imagine God asking you to stop sinning. There are dozens of verses that call us to avoid sin, but how could we do that if we had not been transformed? That might even be borderline cruel. You literally would not have the ability to stop sinning if you were not spiritually reborn in Christ.
Scenario 2: God has paid for your sins, but He also took care of your future living needs as well. He crucified the old you. The old is gone and the new is here. He has given you a new heart with new desires. Though tempted in many ways, the new you is only pleased when you walk in the Spirit. The new you is never fulfilled by sin. Sure, you might try (and we all do), but sin will never work for you.
The bottom line, yes you still sin. But you can say no because you’re not saying no to your desires. You’re saying no to ‘its desires’ and ‘its lusts.
Romans 6:12 ‘Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey ITS lusts’
You are dead to sin, but sin is still very much alive.
Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus – Romans 6:11
Author: Mike Cynar
Mike Cynar grew up in church and observed that countless people would go to church and then just stop. The church always referred to them as ‘fake Christians’ or ‘backsliders’ but Mike discovered the problem was deeper. The problem was the church message. The message was 90% behavior improvement and how bad you are, with a pinch of who you are in Christ, It was like every sermon was being preached to the church of Corinth. It’s in the Baptist church, Catholic, Pentecost, and most every other church. After discovering the true gospel message and how we are made right with God because of what ‘Jesus did’ (not what ‘we do’) Mike set out to free believers from behavior improvement programs and bring them back to Jesus. The Result – Jesus Without Religion was launched.