He who comes from heaven is above all. Studying John 3:31-33

31 He who comes from above is above all. He who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks in an earthly way. He who comes from heaven is above all. 32 He bears witness to what he has seen and heard, yet no one receives his testimony. 33 Whoever receives his testimony sets his seal to this, that God is true.
-John 3:31-33

We’re continuing in the Gospel of John this morning.

Last week, we were looking at an interaction between John the Baptist and some of his followers. They’re seeing the early ministry of Jesus and he’s having more success than John the Baptist. We see in John’s response that he is humble to see what Jesus is doing. 

In all four gospels, John the Baptist is seen prior to the ministry of Christ. In the Gospel of John, John the Baptist is present in the opening prologue and he’s seen as a forerunner to Christ. The last place where John the Baptist appears in this gospel is in section of John 3:31-36. It’s noteworthy that there are a lot of similar themes in John 3:31-36 to what is found in the opening section of John’s Gospel.

The opening prologue of John’s Gospel tells us many realities about Jesus. That he was in the beginning, he was with God, he is God, he is God who came into the world, he brings the light of righteousness into the world, he makes God known, grace and truth come through him.

But that passage is also interrupted by telling us about John the Baptist. 

John 1:6-8:

6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light. 

We see from the outset that John has been sent by God, he’s not the light, he’s a witness to the light. 

And the opening prologue immediately follows into a section where John the Baptist is ministering and baptizing. He sees Jesus and witnesses to who the Lord is. 

Just to give a reminder. 

John 1:29-31. John sees Jesus and says: 

“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.”

In John’s Gospel, as the ministry of John the Baptist, the divinely sent forerunner comes to a close, it’s the end of a section in this book. And in that sense, it’s fitting that this section would make so many allusions to the opening prologue. 

Because we’re learning about Jesus in the opening prologue. It’s telling us the glorious truths about Jesus. But Jesus isn’t yet present in the story in the opening section. It is after the opening prologue where we’re actually seeing Jesus living out what has been said about him. 

John the Baptist comes onto the scene prior to Jesus’ ministry but here John’s ministry ends and we’re seeing that what he has borne witness to is true. 

I know I’m talking a lot about John the Baptist so far, but make no mistake. This section is ultimately about Jesus. 

As John fades from the story, this passage concludes with his words last week in 3:30: 

He must increase, but I must decrease.” 

In John 3:31, John the Baptist is speaking: 

He who comes from above is above all. He who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks in an earthly way. He who comes from heaven is above all.

The text says that Jesus comes from above and is above all. The end of this verse will also speak of Jesus and say that he who comes from heaven is above all. 

First thing I want to focus on is that word “above.” I think this will be helpful to understanding the passage. 

Jesus is above all yet he is contrasted against John the Baptist. “He who is of the earth belongs to the earth.” In a sense, John the Baptist is a representative for all of humanity in that line. 

A similar idea is expressed in Paul’s writings when he looks at the role of Adam as a representative for sinful humanity. 

1 Corinthians 15:47-49:

 47 The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. 48 As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. 49 Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven. 

So there is sinful humanity which has no hope. 

To be of the earth is to not posses the qualities that Jesus has. It’s to speak in an earthly way. It’s showing our imperfections. With as important of a ministry as John the Baptist had, he was still ultimately a fallen person. 

But the good news of the gospel is that Jesus is different. The earth is sinful and fallen. Humanity is incapable of redeeming itself. 

But Jesus comes into the world with a ministry which is from above. 

Verse 32:

 He bears witness to what he has seen and heard, yet no one receives his testimony.

The “he” in verse 32 is Jesus. Jesus bears witness to what he has seen and heard, yet no one receives his testimony. 

To what does Jesus bear witness? It’s to the heavenly truths as one who is above all. Jesus is the word who existed in the beginning. In a world where no one has seen God, Jesus is the one who makes God known. 

Again, referring back to the first chapter. John 1:18: 

No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known. 

And while Jesus came into the world to reveal the truth of heaven, that he is the light of the world who brings us to God through his life, death, and resurrection, the world has largely rejected this gospel. 

Again comparing this idea to the opening prologue. 

John 1:10-11: 

10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 

It is a hyperbole, an exaggeration of speech when John says that “no one receives his testimony.” 

Obviously there are people who receive Jesus’ testimony. We wouldn’t be here if not. But it’s a wonder that the whole world does not accept his testimony. 

God came to earth, he had a life full of miraculous activities, he died and rose, He comes in perfect fulfillment of the Old Testament. Yet many do not believe in him. You have several ancient non-Christian historians who write about him but there are those who deny if Jesus was ever even a real historical figure. 

It’s that the world wants to be blind to the righteousness of God. 

John 3:19-21, Jesus is speaking to Nicodemus: 

this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”

So we have those who do not receive the testimony of Jesus. We see that contrasted in the next verse of our passage. 

Verse 33:

Whoever receives his testimony sets his seal to this, that God is true.

Compare that to John 1:12: 

to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God

Whoever believes the testimony of Jesus, of his life, his teachings, his ministry, his identity as God and man, his role as the savior of the world, his death which was died for sinners, the life that he was raised to, whoever receives his testimony, whoever trusts in Jesus sets his seal that Jesus is the Lord and trusts in God and his promises.

Whoever receives his testimony sets his seal to this, that God is true.  To trust in Jesus is to trust in God. John calls that setting ones seal that God is true. Even today, official documents often times come with an affixed seal. 

If I were to try sell you some property and it was a handwritten note, that might seem a little..illegal to you. But when you own a home, or land, or a vehicle, you have official documents that have official seals from the state or the county on them. Same thing with documents like a birth certificate. There’s an official seal that comes on them. 

Well in the ancient world, official seals were also important on documents. The seal could be very telling as to who the sender was and what authority they had. This was especially significant in a time when a lot of people could not read. 

What this verse is saying is that the person who receives the testimony of Jesus, the one who believes in Jesus is staking their very soul on the truth of who Jesus is. 

This verse is really a packed theological statement. 

To trust in Jesus is to place your eternal security and hope in his gospel. Have you? Where’s your seal? 

Do you trust in yourself? In your goodness? And Jesus is there off to the side? 

Or is he the Lord of your life? Do you look to Jesus as the one who is above all and who came to be with us on earth so we could be with him in heaven? 

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