John the Baptist could more correctly be called, John the Witness. From his conception, he testified of the Messiah. The angel announced that John would be filled with the Holy Spirit while he was still in the womb, and he would lead the sons of Israel back to the Lord their God.
He was the prophesied forerunner of the Lord, who would come in the spirit and power of Elijah. His father announced that John would be a prophet of the Most High and give God’s people a knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sin… and throughout his ministry, John gave testimony of the Person and work of Christ.
In the first few verses of John’s Gospel, we read that the Baptist came as a witness to testify about the Light so that all might believe in Him. He came to proclaim that the incarnate Word was made flesh and was dwelling among us. He spoke of the Light that came into the world to give light to the children of men and he testified that Jesus was the only begotten of the Father – full of grace and truth.
John made it very clear to the priests and Levites from Jerusalem that he was not the Christ, nor was he Elijah or the prophet about whom Moses spoke. Rather, he quoted Isaiah when he loudly proclaimed, “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘make straight the way of the LORD’.”
On two occasions, John testified of the Lamb of God. He pointed to Christ’s first advent as “the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world,” and also of His Second Coming, when he simply shouted, “Behold the Lamb of God!” – for Jesus is also the Lamb that sits upon the throne and Who has authority to open the seven seals of Revelation.
John identified Jesus as the anointed Messiah, equal with the Father. He proclaimed Him to be the eternal One Who came after him and yet existed before him. John also identified Jesus as the One sent to dispel spiritual darkness and Who came as the heavenly Lord of eternal Life. John knew he was not sufficiently worthy to even carry the sandals of the One about Whom he testified.
John came preaching a baptism of repentance, and he baptised in water. But he testified of the coming One Who was greater than he was, Who would baptise with the Holy Spirit for salvation to all who believe – and with the fire of judgement – for those who refuse His offer of salvation.
No prophet was greater than John the Baptist. The Man on Whom he saw the Spirit of God descending and remaining, would be the Lord’s anointed – and when the Spirit of God descended and rested on Christ at His baptism, John began to boldly testify that JESUS is the Son of the living God.
When we consider the many ways that John bore witness of Christ, we understand why he was compelled to write, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” Although John received great acclaim as God’s prophet, after 400 years of prophetic silence, John was under no illusion that Jesus must become increasingly important… while he was to become of less and less significance.
“He must increase, but I must decrease,” is a consequential statement that John made after Nicodemus had been given the gospel, “that God loved the world so much that He gave His only begotten Son to be the sacrifice for sin, and whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life, but he who does not believe is judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”
Both John and his loyal followers had to come to terms that Jesus, and not John, was the Man to follow. Had John not been loyal to the revelation he received, he could have enticed his followers to hold him in higher esteem than the Lord Jesus, but John knew the truth and he testified, “He must increase, but I must decrease.”
John had to resist the temptation to become great in the sight of his followers or to diminish the importance of Christ, and so ‘He must become more important, but I must become less important’, was his testimony. John’s disciples may not have wanted to accept this truth, but he insisted, ‘Jesus must increase in importance and influence, while I must decrease’. He testified to the truth, and he declared the truth. And John’s disciples had to hear the truth with their ears and believe the truth in their heart.
When Jesus is given His rightful place in our lives, we can be sure that we are in the will of God and serving His purpose in our lives. Wherever we are, whatever our role in the Body of Christ, and however vast or insignificant our ministry for our Lord may be – when Jesus is central in every area of life we are bound to say, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” When we can testify to this truth we may be sure that we are in the right place and in the centre of His purpose and plan for our life.
And we pray:
Heavenly Father, thank You for the life and ministry of John the Baptist who spent his life as a witness and testimony to the truth of the gospel of Christ – The Word made flesh and Light of the world. Thank You for the testimony of John the Baptist and his example of humility and grace, for despite being great in the eyes of men and a special minister of God, he was able to proclaim that Christ must increase while he must decrease. May I walk humbly before You all the days of my life be ready to testify that Jesus is The Saviour of the world and that HE must increase in importance and influence, while I must decrease. Thank You in Jesus’ name, AMEN.