He must increase, but I must decrease. – John 3:30

He must increase, but I must decrease. – John 3:30 (NKJV)

This scripture seems simple, right?  Well it is until you compare it with other versions (e.g., NIV, NLT).  In each of those versions they omit the ‘but’!  So I ask you, is ‘but’ that important?  Well, let’s look a little deeper.

First I ask you what must increase? Conversely, what must decrease?

I am of the flesh. A product of this world and as such I am filled with some really good things, but I am also filled with some undesirables.  Jesus indeed was a product of this world, but he possessed the holy spirit.  Why was Jesus so full of the holy spirit? Well, because he was not full of the worldly things, he was set apart; blameless and without defects.

So what must we increase?  The spirit (the holy ghost).. Faith.

So what must we decrease?  Our worldly ways (carnal nature).

Seems simple enough, right?  Well, if you read the New International Version (NIV), and I do on a daily basis.  You might miss the little word in the middle of the verse.  That little ‘but’!

What does that little ‘but’ do?  It adds a condition!  It declares that one happens first in order for the second to happen.  It places two verbs in some sort of a sequence, and this sequence is eternally important!

So, which comes first?  (if you just said chicken you and I are very similar).  Seriously though this simple ‘but’ tells us what the condition is, and therefore tells us which must come first.

We must decrease in the worldly ways, before we can increase in the spirit.  Now this may not be revolutionary to you, but for me; it changes everything!

For the past 10 years, I have been under the misunderstanding that if I continue to learn about Jesus and read the bible over and over that I will get there.  This entire time I was unwilling to put away or even say that my life was in need of change.

I have hit my threshold with the spirit, I can’t gain any more unless I am willing to put my sin behind me.  No matter how much I toil and ask God for favor and knowledge it is of no use….  I must decrease before God can increase.

Thanks to God for the understanding.  Thanks to you (my friend) for reading this, and now I ask you to pray for me.

Pray for decrease 😉


4 thoughts on “He must increase, but I must decrease. – John 3:30

  1. Matt…I’ll try this again =)

    First of all very insightful and a new way for me to look at this verse. Never seen it in this light… much appreciated for sharing your thoughts on this.

    With God there is such a mystery and balance that can cause our minds to spin and spin. I believe you are 100% correct in that we must do “our” part in decreasing to allow more of the Spirit. We can surly grief the Spirit with our actions. However, on the flip side we are unable to decrease outside of the Spirit’s work. I can’t put to death the misdeeds of the body in my own strength (even as a believer). Therefore, there is this tension between God’s hand and work in our lives and our responsibility….

    God is the author and perfecter of our faith. And the Church is a picture of complete diversity as it pertains to people’s measure of faith. Some believers are still on milk while others are mature and consuming meat. Is it possible the believes on milk are more susceptible and easily tempted to the carnal where the mature (although not perfect) have grown to where they are not so easily entangled? I believe so. If this is the case, I would argue first, that God has built their faith and they also did their part to “decrease” to get them where they are. Let’s face it…without faith we can do nothing and would probably dive head first “inward” to fulfill our carnal lusts.

    So there is a beautiful paradox that creates (for me) a desire and awe of Him. Similar arguments can be made for predestination. The classic calvinism & Arminianism debate. (Possible future blog post for you)

    Thanks for your thoughts and fresh insight on this verse. This reading and thought process has engaged my little mind to try to grasp the beautiful reality of the eternal. At the end of the day I think it best for us to learn humility and say you are God and I am not.

    Look forward to future posts.

  2. I agree with your thoughts. I too, believe that the spirit comes first, as opposed to the shedding of the carnal nature.

    I should’ve added that I have been struggling with shifting gears into the next level of faith. I feel that I have been bumping my head on the ceiling and then backsliding into the valley. The reason for my backslide is what I am struggling with.

    To take the verse out of context is that John (the baptist) was talking about the coming of Jesus. He must increase (Jesus), but I must decrease (John the baptist).

    Metaphorically, John the baptist was a holy man, but in order for God’s perfect work to be established even John had to submit to the lamb. The same is true with me. I, by no means; think I am as holy as John, but I am reassured that I am covered by the blood, and by faith am saved and therefore holy.

    But if I want to be an agent of God’s perfect work, I need to eliminate the carnal parts of my life that I have been holding on to so tightly.

    Thanks Kyle for your input. When I typed the blog, I had thought that someone would see this verse differently, and am really glad you chimed in.

    I am really happy that you typed it twice. I know how frustrating that can be to try and remember the content from before. You seem very intelligent, and a tech geek too! Looking forward to some witty tweets to read. 🙂

  3. I had an afterthought. I know that my comment and my original blog seem to contradict (which comes first). I am looking to shed light on that.

    I believe that everyone has a void in their soul that is waiting for the spirit to fill. So when accepting Jesus into their life they fill that void (Spirit comes first).

    But as the edification of Christ continues, this person can eat and eat of Christ’s knowledge, but without eliminating carnal urges (sin); they cannot be a true soldier in Christ.

    I am at that point. I have a sin I have struggled with since I was reborn. I have neglected to become involved with youth activities because I didn’t want to be a role model of Christianity. I used my own excuses to dismiss my readiness to abandon this part of my life. However, as I continue to want more of Christ and to do more of his work; I feel that I am climbing a mountain only to keep falling time and time again.

    If I want to climb to the peak of the mountain (to perform my purpose), I must shed some of the baggage.

    • I understand your struggle for I have been there myself and continue to battle a few areas that seem to be ongoing weaknesses (and probably will be my weaknesses for rest of my life). However, I would encourage you, in spite of your struggle, to get involved in ministries you feel a calling toward. I wouldn’t encourage you if you were not fighting and struggling to walk the paths of righteousness. There is a major difference.

      I say get involved for a few reasons:

      1. There may be another with your same struggle that you relate to and help and travel journey with
      2. Everyone in ministry “struggles” to some degree for no one is perfect. The evil one would have you and many other believers that “struggle” sidelined bc he knows they are threats

      Do you have a mentor or pastor that you can confess to and help keep you accountable? I took my issue to a few guys of my small group and they have really made a difference. It was the only way I could get out from under it and be free. My isolated and silent confessions never made a difference.

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