The friend of the bridegroom, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice
John 3:22-4:3 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible
After these things Jesus and His disciples came into the land of Judea, and there He was spending time with them and baptizing. 23 John also was baptizing in Aenon near Salim, because there was much water there; and people were coming and were being baptized— 24 for John had not yet been thrown into prison.
25 Therefore there arose a discussion on the part of John’s disciples with a Jew about purification. 26 And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, He who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you have testified, behold, He is baptizing and all are coming to Him.” 27 John answered and said, “A man can receive nothing unless it has been given him from heaven. 28 You yourselves are my witnesses that I said, ‘I am not the Christ,’ but, ‘I have been sent ahead of Him.’29 He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. So this joy of mine has been made full. 30 He must increase, but I must decrease.
31 “He who comes from above is above all, he who is of the earth is from the earth and speaks of the earth. He who comes from heaven is above all. 32 What He has seen and heard, of that He testifies; and no one receives His testimony. 33 He who has received His testimony has set his seal to this, that God is true. 34 For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God; for He gives the Spirit without measure. 35 The Father loves the Son and has given all things into His hand. 36 He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”
4 Therefore when the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John 2 (although Jesus Himself was not baptizing, but His disciples were), 3 He left Judea and went away again into Galilee.
Today’s text says: There arose a discussion on the part of John’s disciples with a Jew about purification. And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, He who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you have testified, behold, He is baptizing and all are coming to Him.” John answered and said, “A man can receive nothing unless it has been given him from heaven. You yourselves are my witnesses that I said, ‘I am not the Christ,’ but, ‘I have been sent ahead of Him.’ He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. So this joy of mine has been made full. He must increase, but I must decrease. Unlike John, there are many ministers and ministries that seek their own increase. Success in the world is measured in quantity. Books have been written; seminars have been conducted and programs and processes developed, for the purpose of growing churches or ministries; increasing size and attendance and growing in assets. The result can be that people become members of a church or followers of a person, rather than becoming members and followers of Christ. It is not that these ministers and ministries are not doing good things, but we should never lose sight of what John says: He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. Jesus is the bridegroom and the church is His bride. He must increase, but everything and everyone else must decrease.
In order to attract more people, many today share a message of what they say Jesus would do and say if He were here today. But it is the bridegroom’s voice that we should rejoice to hear and speak. Hebrews 13:8 says: Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Like Jesus, the unrighteousness that is present in our culture and society has also not changed. Everything that our culture has embraced that is against the commandments of God, existed when Jesus was here on earth. We don’t need to speculate about what He would say. His words are recorded for us by those who heard His voice. Sin has not changed since Jesus days and neither has Jesus or the Father changed their minds about sin. In Matthew 24:4-5, Jesus speaking of the time of His return says: “See to it that no one misleads you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will mislead many.” The deception is that they come saying that Christ has a different message regarding sin than He did when He was here. In 2 Timothy 4:1-5, Paul charged Timothy to speak the truth saying: I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. It is more condusive to church growth to tickle the ears of our culture and to speak messages of grace without repentance; abundance and blessing without obedience, as opposed to preaching the word which also reproves, rebukes and exhorts. In Matthew 4:17, speaking of the beginning of Jesus ministry, it says: From that time Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Throughout His ministry, while Jesus lived a life of compassion and grace, His message was a message of repentance. In Matthew 5:17-20 Jesus says: “Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfil them. For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” We indeed live in the age of grace, but God’s grace given to us through the cross does not change how God views sin. God’s grace, Jesus sacrifice on the cross has not redeemed sin. By grace we are redeemed from sin. Jesus says that, without righteousness we will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
The voice of the bridegroom still calls out today, just as it did 2000 years ago, saying: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Like John, I rejoice greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. So this joy of mine has been made full. He must increase, but I must decrease.
Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come.
Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.’