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27 John answered and said, “A man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven.


The dispute of 3:25-26 is the basis for John the Baptist’s speech in verses 27-30. John clearly set forth his conviction that Jesus was the Messiah. John’s disciples did not anticipate his outstanding answer.

27 John answered and said,

John the Baptist responded to his disciples who were concerned about his diminishing popularity in the light of Jesus’ rising popularity. John could have felt injured that he was losing his following.

A man can receive nothing [not one thing] unless it has been given to him from heaven.

John said that Jesus could not have the success He was having unless God granted it to Him. The Baptizer saw a principle that overrode the possibility of any rivalry between him and Christ. The principle is that he must submit to the Father’s authority without question.

John the prophet was not at all concerned about his loss of popularity with the people. He kept his focus in perspective—his mission was to introduce the Messiah. He saw the Father’s sovereign hand in placing Jesus on earth. People flocking to Jesus was the Father’s will.

“Heaven” refers to the authority of the One who abides there eternally. God called John to speak for Jesus as the Messiah. God had an eternal plan and John had no right to violate that plan.

John’s disciples wanted to elevate his status in Israel. However, he did not cave in to the temptation to receive a great reputation in Israel. His goal was to magnify Christ and His ministry.

John was not in ministry to draw men to himself; he was in it to draw men to Christ. The troublemakers had a hard time grasping this. The only thing they knew was to provoke John to jealousy of Christ. John’s response was that God appointed him to a role secondary to that of Christ.

What a wonderful attitude on the part of the Baptizer. His concern was not for himself or his ministry but the plan of God. He was willing to sacrifice his priorities, his ministry, and even his following to submit to the Father’s plan for Jesus the Lord.


All ministry is to be Christ centered and oriented to God’s plan


All levels of greatness must be explained in terms of the will of God. It is important to recognize that John the Baptist was last in the long line of Israel’s prophets (Lu 16:16). He accepted a subordinate role to Jesus. Jesus became the mediator of the new covenant (He 8:6; 12:24).

Good leadership does not accept credit that belongs to another. Since Christ’s ministry was authorized by the Father, He had a divine call. When men arrogate to themselves something that belongs to another, they take from him what belongs to him. This is true in ministry or career. All ministry is to be Christ centered and oriented to God’s plan. We can receive only what God gives us.

1 Co 4:7 For who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?

There is no place for jealousy in ministry. We need humility in ministry, just like John. It is easy for us to feel neglected, forgotten, and irrelevant if our ministry does not go as we think it should. The worst possible thing a friend could do to us, if we are thinking this way, is to sympathize with us in our self-pity. We do not need others to help us feel sorry for ourselves.