John 3:29
The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom stands and listens for him, and is overjoyed to hear the bridegroom's voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete.
Sermons
Aenon Near to SalimC. Geikie, D. D.John 3:22-36
All Men May Come to ChristW. Bridge.John 3:22-36
Christ Attracts SinnersT. Watson.John 3:22-36
Christ Sufficient for AllBowden.John 3:22-36
Jesus and John and Their DisciplesBp. Ryle.John 3:22-36
John and JesusG. J. Brown, M. A.John 3:22-36
John First, Then JesusC. S. Robinson, D. D.John 3:22-36
John's Joy FulfilledW. Bridge.John 3:22-36
The Attractive Power of ChristBiblical TreasuryJohn 3:22-36
The Controversy About PurifyingA. Beith, D. D.John 3:22-36
The Masters and the DisciplesA. B. Grosart, D. D.John 3:22-36
The Ministry of JohnBp. Wordsworth.John 3:22-36
The Bridegroom's Friend True to the LastB. Thomas John 3:25-30
Christ the Bride- Groom Announced by ProphecyF. D. Maurice, M. A.John 3:29-30
Christ the BridegroomR. Besser, D. D.John 3:29-30
Christ the Bridegroom of the ChurchJ. Cumming, D. D.John 3:29-30
John's Joy At His Master's IncreaseJohn Stephens.John 3:29-30
The Bridegroom and Bride with Their RetinueJ. Stoughton, D. D., J. Clayton, jun.John 3:29-30
The Bridegroom and His FriendJ. Stoughton, D. D.John 3:29-30
The Bridegroom and the BrideJohn 3:29-30
The Friend of the BridegroomDixon's, Holy Land."John 3:29-30
The Friend of the BridegroomW. Austin.John 3:29-30
The Joy of the BrideAndrew Grey.John 3:29-30
The Love of Christ in Espousing the ChurchJ. Dyke.John 3:29-30
The Purpose of BeingW. Jones.John 3:29-30
The Royal EspousalsJohn 3:29-30


Notice -

I. THE DISCIPLES' COMPLAINT. It is the embodiment of a blind and angry zeal. And. as such:

1. It is ever disparaging in its language. "He that was with thee beyond Jordan." They address their own master as "Rabbi," but speak of Jesus as "he that was," etc., as if he had no name; and, if he had, it was not worth mentioning compared with their master's. The memory of angry zeal is very shaft, and its respect for supposed opponents or rivals is shorter still.

2. It is ever contradictory in its language. "To whom thou hast borne witness." This part of their complaint contradicts the whole; for, had they reflected a little, they would find that the present actions of Jesus were in perfect harmony with John's past testimony. Blind zeal is ever contradictory, contradicting truth, God, the ministry, and even itself.

3. It is ever inaccurate in its language. "Behold, the same baptizeth." This was virtually true, but literally false. It was a hearsay mistake of the Pharisees, which the evangelist had to correct. Neither cruel opposition nor angry zeal is over-careful about the niceties of truth and accuracy of statement. To hear a thing is quite enough for its purpose.

4. It is ever exaggerating in its language. "And all men come to him." Would this were true! He invited all, and they ought to come. Doubtless Jesus was more popular now than John. The popular flow was towards him; but that all men came to him was an exaggeration, as proved by the evangelist's statement, "And no man receiveth his testimony." Jealous zeal is ever exaggerating. It sees a crowd in a few, and sometimes only a few in a large crowd. There is a vast difference between its reports and those of calm and unbiased truth.

5. It is ever calculated to do much harm. It was calculated, in this instance, to prejudice John against Jesus, and create in his breast a spirit of jealousy and rivalry, especially if we consider the plausibility of the complaint.

(1) It is expressed in a plausible language add manner. He to whom thou barest witness has set up in opposition against thee. Behold, he baptizeth in the very place where thou used to baptize; and this, after all, is his treatment to thee for thy favour and friendship.

(2) It is made by warm friends. His old disciples, in an enthusiastic and kind spirit and from good motives. And this will go very far to influence most teachers.

(3) It is made in a very critical period. John's position was altogether unique and mysterious. His popularity was now on the wane, and he was but a man. And such a complaint made at such a period was calculated strongly to tempt him to doubt and melancholy, if not to a spirit of rivalry and jealousy. And what an incalculable harm would this be! It would be a source of joy to infidelity and atheism through ages, and most damaging to the gospel, if its first great herald gave way in the hour of temptation, proved unworthy of his mission, and unfaithful to his trust.

II. JOHN'S TRIUMPHANT DEFENCE. He stood firm as a rock and majestically calm in the sudden and sweeping storm. His character as the forerunner of the Messiah never shone more brightly titan on this occasion, and, being his last public testimony to Jesus, it reaches a glorious climax and a grand peroration. His defence reveals:

1. The spirituality of his private conceptions.

(1) He looks at heaven as the source of spiritual gifts. "A man can receive nothing," etc. This is the starting point of his noble defence. Before the breath of jealousy, the suggestions of rivalry, and the storms of strife, he goes up at once into his native air, the birthplace of his mission, the nursery of good and holy thoughts, and the source of spiritual power and influence.

(2) He looks at heaven as the only source of spiritual gifts. "A man can receive nothing," etc. You may get the same kind of article in different warehouses; but spiritual power is the gift of God, and of him alone. Divine commissions are issued only from the Divine throne, and spiritual endowments come only from on high; so that neither John nor Jesus could exercise any spiritual power but what he had received.

(3) From this standpoint all is harmonious. There is no room for pride or dejection, and the jealous complaint of the disciples is entirely swept away. John and Jesus were exactly what Heaven made them - John the herald and Jesus the coming Messiah. All things which proceed from heaven are harmonious; and if we want to see them in their harmony and beauty we must view them from above. If we wish to rise above the mists and storms of party jealousy and rivalry, we must ascend into the home of love, peace, and order, and look at things in the light of heaven. From this altitude there can be no rivalry between John and Jesus. All Divine agencies are harmonious. There can be no jealousy between the morning star and the blazing sun. Had John remained down, and viewed things from his disciples' standpoint, he would see and feel as they did. But, like an eagle, he flew up to the vicinity of the sun, the central light of the kingdom of heaven, and all was harmony.

2. The consistency of his public testimony with regard to the Messiah and himself.

(1) As to what he was not. "I am not the Christ." Such were the character, the popularity, and the circumstances of John that he was naturally suspected of being the Messiah. Consequently, much of his testimony was negative, and with all his might he iterated and reiterated, "I am not the Christ," etc.

(2) As to what he was. His forerunner. "I am sent before him." Twice he directly pointed him out, but as a rule he spoke of him in general, but characteristic, terms, that they might know him rather by his character and deeds.

(3) As to the evidence of his consistency. Such was the consistency of his testimony to the Messiah that he could most confidently appeal to his disciples, and even to the complaining ones, "Ye yourselves bear me witness," etc. "Even in your jealous complaint you bear me witness." The invariable uniformity of his testimony to Christ made him now strong in the hour of trial. One wrong step or wrong expression may lead to another. All the links make up the chain. One weak link affects the whole. It is a great source of strength to the preacher if he can summon his audience to bear witness to the consistency of his ministry. One part of life affects the other. John in the wilderness was a great help to John at AEnon. If we wish our public testimony to be consistent, let our private conceptions be spiritual and heavenly.

3. The reasons of his continued attachment.

(1) The relationship of Christ to believers. He is the Bridegroom; they are the bride. As such, the bride is his; "For he that hath the bride is the Bridegroom," and no one else. His claims are absolute, sacred, and indisputable. The bride is his.

(2) His own relationship to Christ. His friend. "The friend of the Bridegroom." As such, his duty was to set forth his excellences so as to win the heart of the bride. The Bridegroom was partly a stranger. He required a friend to introduce him. Such he found in John. He realized his position and duties. By his own superiority, and the plausible, but evil, suggestions of his disciples, he was tempted to take the place of the Bridegroom and win the bride's affections for himself; but he felt that in this he would not be a friend, but the meanest foe. He realized his relationship to Christ, and performed its obligations with increasing firmness and happiness. He had no higher ambition than to be the Bridegroom's friend.

4. The sources of his joy. "Rejoiceth greatly," and why?

(1) At a fuller recognition of Jesus. Before there was expectation, and therefore anxiety and doubt; but these are gone. He hears his voice - the first notes of his public ministry. He recognized him before by appearance, and pointed to him as the "Lamb of God;" but now recognizes him by his voice, and his voice filled the land with Divine music and his soul with ecstatic joy.

(2) At Jesus success. His success in winning the affections of the bride. The joy of having won the bride is the Bridegroom's, but his friend, standing by and hearing, shares it. The voice of the Bridegroom with the bride is joyous - the joy of mutual satisfaction and delight. There is no joy to be compared with that of triumphant and ardent love. Christian joy is common and contagious. The success of the Master produces joy in all the disciples. At the marriage of the Lamb all the good wish him joy, and are joyous with him, especially his friends and forerunners. Jesus is introduced to the soul; but a long time of anxiety often elapses between the introduction and success. When the success comes, what a joy!

(3) At the fulfilment of his own mission. When he heard the voice of the Bridegroom he heard the first victorious notes of his own mission; for his mission was to bring the Bridegroom and the bride together, and prepare for the Lord a ready people. He rejoiced that the great One he had heralded had come. He was often anxious and hesitating, but now joyous. If we herald Christ's coming faithfully, there will be no disappointment on his part; and, when come, every expectation will be more than filled and every want more than satisfied. John was joyous because his mission was fulfilled. The match was made between the King's Son and the captive daughter of Zion - between heaven and earth, between Jesus and believing souls; and it was a very happy one on both sides. The Bridegroom said of the bride, "As the lily among thorns, so is my love among the daughters," and the bride said. of him, "Thou art the Rose of Sharon, and the Lily," etc; and the bridegroom's friend, standing by, heareth, and rejoiceth greatly. What was intended to fill him with jealousy filled him with joy, and, being filled with holy joy, he had no room for anything else.

5. His thorough self-renunciation. "He must increase," etc.

(1) The necessity of this is recognized. John saw the "must" of the case. It was becoming and necessary - the natural course of things. He must increase personally, officially, representatively, and dispensationally. He must increase in his influence in the hearts of humanity, in the institutions of the world, and in the songs of the redeemed. And John must decrease officially. He had introduced the Bridegroom to the bride and, the bride to the Bridegroom, and his work was at an end.

(2) The necessity of this is willingly recognized. "He must," etc. It is one thing to see the necessity of an event, it is another to submit to it willingly. John not only saw the necessity and recognized the law of increase as the lot of Jesus and of decrease as his, but accepted its flat even with joy and delight. It is not only the logic of his head, but the language of his heart. "I am willing; I am glad. Let him ascend and shine; I joyously disappear that he may be manifested." A noble self-sacrifice of the friend, and a befitting introduction to the even nobler one of the Bridegroom.

LESSONS.

1. Every true minister is a forerunner of Christ, preparing souls to receive him. When Christ enters the soul by faith, the office of the forerunner is, to a great extent, at an end.

2. Ministers should not go between Jesus and believers. The friend of the Bridegroom should not attempt to take his place in the esteem and affections of the bride. This is the essence of the great apostasy. The friend should act as a friend all through, and nothing more.

3. There should be no jealousy or rivalry between, the disciple and the Master, nor between any of the disciples themselves. Their interests are identical, and their duty is to elevate Christ and bring humanity into living fellowship with him.

4. Ministers should avoid the temptations of declining years, waning popularity, and jealousy of a popular contemporary. All this should be kept down by a spirit absorbed in the sacred mission. Many can act on the stage with better grace than they can leave it. The last notes are often out of harmony with the tune of life. Let the end be a sunset like that of John, beautiful and glowing - a convincing proof of an earnest and a sincere life. - B.T.







He that hath the bride is the bridegroom, but the friend of the bridegroom... standeth and heareth.
I. THE PECULIAR TOUCHES IN THE BAPTIST'S PORTRAIT HERE EXHIBITED.

I. Elsewhere he appears like Elijah flashing in terrific flames of anger and rebuke in the sins of the age; another Moses with a stern countenance bearing the table of God's law. Here we find him, after he had baptized the Lord, shining with reflected rays such as streamed from the dove-like glory. It is an evangelical lustre which encircles him now. He is more apostle than prophet. His words are inspired with Christian faith.

2. In other passages he appears as an ascetic. He dwells in the desert. His disciples fast. He carries the burden of the Lord. Here he rejoices greatly, because of the Bridegroom's voice. The Man of Sorrows rejoiced in Spirit; so also did His forerunner here.

3. Elsewhere the Baptist is a popular preacher. People went in crowds, not merely to listen to, but to live with the great revivalist. In all such excitement there is a power of reaction upon the author of it. He gathers back in his own soul the influences which, torrent like, have been rushing out of him, but when the ebb comes and the congregations thin; when another and greater prophet eclipses the lesser, whose mission has been fulfilled, is not that an hour of trial? testing the purity an disinterestedness of him whose popularity is on the wane. John was paling before the brighter light, and some reminded him of the change going on. How noble was his conduct! What an example for ministers and all men!

II. THE REFERENCE OF THE TEXT TO CHRIST AND CHRISTIAN MINISTERS IN GENERAL.

1. The relation which Christ sustains to the Church. This imagery has been abused, but there is a precious truth in it which the evangelist loved to expound (Revelation 19:6-9). Christ's love to His people is pure, intense, everlasting, expressed in a covenant inviolable as the marriage bond. He gave Himself for them; all He is and has is made over to them, and the due response on their part is the consecration of their hearts and lives to Him.

2. The true minister of Christ is the friend of the Bridegroom. Christ's disciples are more than servants — servants lifted up into the sphere of friendship; and never does a preacher fulfil his office in a more beautiful way than when he feels that he is not only in service, but in fellowship — not only that he has an obligation but a privilege, "He standeth and heareth." The minister of the gospel is a listener and an echo. He catches voices from the other world, and repeats them — like Samuel "Speak Lord!" etc., like David, "Come all ye that fear God"; like the Cherubim bending over the ark to learn "things which the angels desire to look into"; like the angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach.

3. In reference to the Divine Bridegroom, the minister's motto should ever be, "He must increase, and I must decrease," words which testify to the growing glory of Christ and the disposition of faithful friends to lose themselves in Him.(1) Ministers must not preach themselves or seek to display their own powers and attainments. Self must be reduced to a minimum that He may be all in all.(2) They should seek to be forgotten, absorbed in Him, getting behind Him, "nor showing even the tip of one's little finger; "(3) and not only by speaking, but by living.

(J. Stoughton, D. D.)

I. HERE IS AN INTERESTING PORTRAITURE OF CHRIST AND HIS CHURCH AS THE GLORIOUS BRIDEGROOM AND HIS ILLUSTRIOUS BRIDE.

1. Christ is the Bridegroom (Psalm 45.).

2. The Church the Bride

(J. Stoughton, D. D.)

3. The union of the Bridegroom and the Bride. "He that hast." Which has reference to the fact that she is Christ's

(1)in the purpose of His good pleasure;

(2)By the price paid for her redemption;

(3)By the voluntary surrender of herself to Him for ever.

4. The entireness of the union.

II. A STRIKING REPRESENTATION OF A PART OF THE BRIDEGROOM'S RETINUE. John well deserved to be called the friend of Christ, in that he was wholly devoted to the interests of his Master. He represents the Christian ministry.

1. In its character. A minister should be the friend of Christ. Can those be such who deny His Divinity and outrage His laws?

2. In its duties. To "hear the Bridegroom's voice," receive His instructions, and carry them into execution.

3. Its pleasures. "He rejoiceth greatly." These pleasures are not those of literature, science, art, etc., but,

(1)in communion with Christ.

(2)Working for Christ.

(3)Reward by Christ.

(J. Clayton, jun.)

As such He is represented throughout the Scripture (Matthew 25.; Ephesians 5.; Song of Solomon, and Revelation in particular).

I. A BRIDEGROOM IS NOT SATISFIED WITH THE STATE IN WHICH HE IS, BUT DESIRES TO EXCHANGE IT AND BE MARRIED TO ANOTHER. SO the Lord of Glory was not satisfied to be alone. He was not complete until "the fulness of His body" was united to Him in everlasting and wedded love.

II. A BRIDEGROOM, IF A DUTIFUL AND AFFECTIONATE SON, CONSULTS CONFIDENTIALLY WITH HIS PARENTS. So the Son of God "came forth from the leather," "not to do His own will, but the will of Him that sent Him."

III. AN OBJECT OF AFFECTION IS NECESSARILY AND NATURALLY FIXED UPON BY THE BRIDEGROOM, WHOSE AFFECTIONS HE DESIRES TO WED TO HIMSELF. Christ fastened His love not on angels but on sinners (Deuteronomy 7.). The earthly bride. groom, however, fastens his affection on something that is attractive, and loves because there is something worthy of his love.

IV. WHEN THE BRIDEGROOM HAS FOUND THE OBJECT OF HIS AFFECTIONS HE NATURALLY VISITS HER, ARRAYS HIMSELF IN SUITABLE APPAREL, AND COURTS HER FELLOWSHIP AND SOCIETY. Christ came from the height of glory to woo His Bride.

V. WHEN A BRIDEGROOM GOES TO COURT HIS BRIDE, HE NATURALLY ASKS HER IF HER AFFECTIONS ARE DISENGAGED; and if they are engaged to one unworthy of her, warns her of the consequences. So Christ implores His Church to disengage herself from the world.

VI. THE BRIDEGROOM USES ARGUMENTS TO INDUCE THE BRIDE TO ACCEPT HIS OFFERS. So our Lord tells His bride of the dowry wherewith He will enrich her, and the heaven He will make her home.

VII. THE BRIDEGROOM WILL WAIT LONG BEFORE HE GIVES OVER. Christ stands at the door and knocks.

VIII. THE TRUE BRIDEGROOM SEEKS THE BRIDE NOT FOR HER PORTION, BUT HERSELF. This must be the case with Christ; for our very righteousness is but as filthy rags.

IX. IF REPULSED, THE BRIDEGROOM WILL USE VARIOUS PLANS AND MEANS TO INDUCE HIS DESIRED BRIDE TO COMPLY WITH HIS REQUEST.

1. He will employ friends, as Christ does His ministers.

2. He will send letters full of persuasive reasoning. Christ sends His gospels.

3. He will send love tokens. Christ has given us Baptism and the Lord's Supper.In conclusion: notice some points of difference between an earthly and the heavenly bridegroom.

1. In this world there is much of self to determine the choice of a man — to render life more happy, etc. But Christ was wholly disinterested.

2. In this world, when a bridegroom has found his bride, he cannot add one feature to her beauty or accomplishments; but Christ, when He takes His bride, adds to her all the glories of heaven, while He removes from her all traces of earth.

3. In this world the love of the bridegroom, who is most affectionate at first, may cool by years. Christ "having loved His own, loves them unto the end." Mark, then(1) The debt of gratitude we owe to Christ.(2) The great guilt and ingratitude of rejecting the offers of the heavenly bridegroom.

(J. Cumming, D. D.)

I. THE PRIVILEGE OF CHRIST. Christ, as is proper to Him, is the Head and Husband of the Church. A bride hath but one bridegroom; a wife but one husband (Ephesians 5:23; Colossians 1:18; Hosea 1:11). Christ has this right by virtue of redemption. As the Israelites had a right to marry their redeemed captives (Deuteronomy 21.), so Christ, having redeemed us from the law (Romans 7.), hath thereby a right to espouse us to Himself.

II. THE PRIVILEGE OF THE CHURCH. The union between Christ and the Church is not imaginary, but real (Genesis 2:23, 24, cf. Ephesians 5:30-32). And, therefore, as in marriage, to show the nearness of it, the name of the husband is given to the wife (Isaiah 4:1), so the name of Christ is given to the Church (1 Corinthians 12:12).

III. THE FURTHER OPENING OF THIS DOCTRINE.

1. How this contract and marriage is made up. By the mutual consent of both parties(1) Christ gives His consent.(a) By so securing our nature that there might be congruity and correspondence (Hebrews 2:11).(2) By giving us His Spirit, which is His love token (Ephesians 1:14; 1 John 3:24).(3) The Church gives her assent by faith; the hand whereby we wed and handfast ourselves to Him.

2. The dowry and jointure — "All things" (1 Corinthians 3:21-23; Ephesians 5:30; Romans 8:32). Whatsoever the husband hath the wife hath.(1) His own righteousness. We, who have no righteousness of our own, being married to Christ, shine with His beams (1 Corinthians 1:30; Ezekiel 16:8, 9 Revelation 19:7, 8).(2) The graces of sanctification (1 Corinthians 1:30; John 1:16; Ezekiel 16:9-13). Herein Christ goes beyond earthly bridegrooms, who cannot impart their beauty to their brides (Ezekiel 16:14).(3) Acceptance of our services (Isaiah 62:5).

(4)Comfort in our infirmities.

(5)Access to Christ.

(6)Heaven itself (Psalm 45:15; Revelation 21:9-11; Hosea 2:19).

3. The duties of the bride.

(1)Thankfulness to Christ for so great honour and love (1 Samuel 18:18: Psalm 45:10; Ezekiel 16:3).

(2)Constant and faithful love to cleave to Him with all our hearts.

(a)Forsaking Him not in any afflictions.

(b)Admitting no strange love.(3) Answerable carriage (1 Peter 3:3, 4).

(4)Longing for the marriage day (Revelation 22:17).

(5)Always preparing for the marriage.

IV. THE MINISTERS PRIVILEGE AND DUTY.

1. TO offer and persuade the marriage to the Church.

2. To fit and prepare the Church for Christ (2 Corinthians 11:2).

3. To hold fast the Church to Christ, being jealous over her for Christ's sake (2 Corinthians 11:2, 3).

4. If the Church break her marriage covenant, to labour to reduce her affections again to Christ (Jeremiah 3:1).

5. To rejoice to hear the bridegroom's voice, and to make way for Him.

(J. Dyke.)

I. THE SPOUSE IS CHRIST.

II. THE WEDLOCK IS FAITH.

III. THE PLACE OF THE WEDLOCK is the Church.

IV. THE PLEDGE of it remission of sins, and the fellowship of the Spirit.

V. THE CONSUMMATION — eternal life.

I. THE PARTIES SPOKEN OF.

1. The bride — the Church (Revelation 21:2; Hosea 2:19; Song of Solomon 4:9).(1) She is not wellborn, but of the fallen and guilty family of Adam.(2) Notrich. No tempting dowry does she bring. She owes ten thousand talents, and he who takes her must answer for all she owes.

2. The Bridegroom — Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 11:2; Matthew 25:1; Song of Solomon passim).(1) He is of exalted rank. A king's son: Prince of the kings of the earth: "Thy Maker is thy husband (Isaiah 62:5).(2) He is rich. "It hath pleased the Father that in Him Should all fulness dwell."

II. THE DOCTRINE concerning the parties spoken of — the bridegroom hath the bride.

1. By destination. In some countries brides are betrothed as children: in this case the bride was betrothed before she was born. Hence, the Son of God was glad when the earth was made. He rejoiced over the spot which was to be the birthplace of His spouse, to which He was to come in due time to seek her, and whisper the astonishing avowal, "I have loved thee with an everlasting love." This marriage, at any rate, was "made in heaven."

2. By His own choice. A bride by destination is not always the bridegroom's choice. King's sons are often obliged to marry against their choice. A bride by destination merely may, therefore, well have misgivings. But here is no constraint on the bridegroom, "The Lord hath chosen Zion."

3. By purchase. An eastern usage is for a bridegroom to pay a price for a bride, e.g., Jacob. So Christ purchased the Church. Like Jacob, He became a willing servant. The years of service for Rachel seemed unto Jacob but a few days for the love he had to her. So Christ, for the joy that was set before Him, endured the Cross. By the service of pain and death He bought His Church "with a price."

4. By preparation. Esther's preparation lasted a year. So with the Daughter of Zion. The grace of the Holy Spirit is the oil of myrrh, etc., by which she is purified, and becomes beautiful. This preparation is by the bridegroom as well as for Him. His the fountain that washes every stain, and the clothing of wrought gold. By Him she is sanctified that He may present her unto Himself a glorious Church.

5. By mutual contract. When the day of espousals, the day of conversion comes, it is a day of secret interchanges of love never to be forgotten. What are the stipulations?(1) On the bride's part: To renounce and reject all Christ's rivals, sin, the world, and the flesh, and to love Him with her undivided heart.(2) On the Bridegroom's part.

(a)He endows her with all He is and has.

(b)He engages to visit her, and it is no fault of His if He is not at her side at all times.

(c)He engages to provide for all her wants.

(d)He engages to defend her.

(e)He engages to take her home with Him for ever in the many mansions of His Father's house.

(Andrew Grey.)

No simile could have been more beautiful and true. In the drama of Syrian love and marriage, the friend of the bridegroom plays a conspicuous part, doing kindly, unselfish service; yet earning no other reward than that of feeling how much he has added to the happiness of a man whom he loves. Sometimes this friend of the bridegroom has to select the bride. At all times he has had to take the oaths of espousal, and to present the mohar, the bridal gift. For the virgin's year, separating the act of betrothal from that of the bringing home, he is the only messenger between youth and maid. With many a laugh and jest., with many a sign and token, he had to pass from the unknown husband to the unknown wife; watching over their common rights, and feeding with his praises their mutual love; for during that virgin's year, the husband, though he may possess much of a husband's power, and may even put his wife to death for wrongs against his bed, is never allowed to see her face. His married joy and sorrow come to him only through his chosen friend. Until the day of bringing home, when the veil of the bride is to be lifted up, and with a cry of rapture the husband is allowed to gaze into her eyes and kiss her on the mouth, the function of the bridegroom's friend knows no pause. Then the bridegroom's heart is glad, and the friend rejoices when he hears the bridegroom's voice.

(Dixon's "Holy Land.")

John was fitly called a friend to this Kingly Bridegroom for four reasons. First, ex castitate, for his chastity (See Proverbs 22:11). John was so " pure in heart," and "gracious in speech," that he had the love of the Bridegroom Christ, though, for the same cause, he felt the wrath of the adulterer Herod. Secondly, ex militudine morum. Likeness of manners makes friendship. They were so like, that they were often taken for one the other. They were both valde humiles, very humble (comp. Psalm 22:7, with St. John 1:23), yet a "worm" hath some substance; "a voice" is in a manner nothing. Thirdly, they were friends ex similitudine voluntatis, they both willed the same thing (comp. S. Mark 1:15, with St. Matthew 3:2, and St. Mark 10:19, with St. Luke 3:13, 14). Their faces looked one towards another (Exodus 25:20), and they embraced each other with their wings; and John (Angelus ante faciem) looked with joy on the face of the great Angel, embracing His doctrine, and agreeing with Him in all things. Fourthly, He was the Bridegroom's friend ex-officio, by his place: for as the Paranymphus (so the fathers call John) prepares the bride, with all fitting instruction and ornament, against her spouse come to marry her, so John came to instruct, adorn, and fit the Church for the receiving of her Living Spouse, Christ Jesus.

(W. Austin.)

Such a Bridegroom all the prophets had, in one form of speech or another, been discoursing of. They had proved that they were dealing in no metaphors — pouring out no Oriental rhapsodies; for their revelation of Him had been connected with the homeliest exhortations to domestic union and purity; they had affirmed the relation of the particular husband and wife to have its foundation in this higher relation; they had treated all branches of the marriage vow as indications and results of the adultery of the race to its unseen husband. And though the race meant in their minds Israel, the people whom God had chosen, and with whom He had made a covenant, yet their language was always too large for their limitations. When the King, who was to reign over the Gentiles, should be revealed as the glory of His people Israel, He would certainly be revealed as the Light to lighten all the nations; i.e, whensoever He appeared as the Christ of God, He would certainly appear as the Bridegroom of humanity.

(F. D. Maurice, M. A.)

As a man leaves his father and mother that he may join himself to his wife, so Christ surrenders His heavenly glory that He may become one flesh with His Church: He did it when He became flesh, and He does it still in the Lord's Supper, until He comes fully to satisfy the bride's longing for Him. Oh, what will it be when on that day the cry is made: "Behold, the Bridegroom cometh!"

(R. Besser, D. D.)

It magnifies the pure and endless love of Christ towards His Church, that He should so love us, as to make us His beloved spouse. Men marry commonly either for beauty, or person, or wealth, or parentage. Beauty often sways men's affections, where nought else. And where beauty and person are wanting, yet wealth and riches will mend all. Yet where all these are wanting, yet sometimes good manners, education, nature, and grace are means to make women gracious in men's eyes, and these are spokesmen to woo for them. All these, or some of these, commonly are the cement of men's affections. But, behold, Christ's love is pure love; we had nothing in us to move Him, or win or woo Him, neither person, parts, portion, beauty or grace in us to draw His affections (Hosea 2:19). His own mercy was our spokesman; His compassion of our woe wooed for us. Not our parentage (Ezekiel 16:3), not our wealth or credit (Ezekiel 16:5), not our beauty. See what goodly fair pieces we were (Ezekiel 16:6). In every one argument of loathing, and cause of distaste. He loved not us because we loved Him first, for we hated Him: not for our portion, for we were miserable, and poor, and naked (Revelation 3.). Not for our beauty (Revelation 3:17; Ezekiel 16:7).

(J. Dyke.)

1. Every man has his own life-work as truly as the Baptist had his.

2. The importance of knowing what this is is obvious.

3. This, moreover, is

(1)ascertainable — by Divine direction.

(2)Accomplishable — by Divine help.

(3)Blessed. By fulfilling the purpose of our being we shall realize —

I. THE JOY OF HAVING DONE SOME TRUE THING. Our sleep is more restful after a day of worthy toil. The man who works apart from the Divine plan does nothing satisfactory or satisfying. Our Master found work most joyous — "My meat is to do," etc.

II. THE JOY OF HAVING DONE OUR OWN WORK. There is blessedness in knowing that we are filling the place appointed by God, however lowly (Galatians 6:4).

III. THE JOY OF ANTICIPATING OUR REWARD. Much of this is reaped in this world, but most is "reserved in heaven" for those who are faithful on earth.

IV. THE JOY OF WITNESSING THE INFLUENCE OF OUR WORK, in the comfort of the sorrowful, the strengthening of the weak, the saving of the lost.

V. THE JOY OF HAVING DONE SOMETHING IN WORKING OUT THE PLAN OF GOD. That plan, the restoration of fallen humanity, seems far too magnificent for us to take any part in it. Yet this is, and will through eternity be, the Christian worker's joy.

(W. Jones.)

Envy is a pain and torment in the heart at the sight of superior excellence and happiness. It lamest dangerous. "For envy " our Master was delivered up. We find it among good people. The disciples of John were envious for their Master. We are to guard against this and subdue it, and are incited thereto by the noble example of the Baptist.

I. WHAT ARE WE TO UNDERSTAND WHEN JOHN SAYS, "HE MUST INCREASE."

1. That He would increase in the esteem and affection of all who knew Him.

2. That Be would increase in the number of His followers and the extent of His empire.

3. That the happiness of Christ's subjects would increase.

II. BY WHAT MEANS ARE THE INTERESTS OF CHRIST AND HIS KINGDOM PROMOTED.

1. By the diffusion of knowledge.

2. By the preaching of the gospel.

3. By the influences of the Holy Spirit.

III. HOW DO WE KNOW THAT HE MUST INCREASE?

1. Because of the natural tendency of religion itself.

2. Because of the zealous efforts of Christ's people.

3. Because the Lord has said it.

IV. How is THE PROSPECT OF THE INCREASE OF CHRIST'S KINGDOM A SOURCE OF JOY.

1. Satan does not rejoice, nor infidels, wicked men, nor even nominal professors. It affords true joy however to —

2. All who are become true converts of Christ.

3. All God's people.

4. All Christ's ministers.

5. The angels of God.

6. Jesus Himself.Conclusion:

1. A word to all enemies of Christ — you cannot oppose Christ with success, and without injury.

2. A word to the friends of Christ — how encouraging to know that we follow a Captain who shall not fail nor be discouraged.

3. A word to ministers —

(1)Young ministers — you must increase, safely, humbly, universally, unostentatiously.

(2)Fathers — you must decrease. Learn this lesson so as to profit by it, and be encouraged to know that our work will not fail when we do.

(John Stephens.)

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