John 3:22-28

22. After these things came Jesus, and his disciples, into the land of Judea, and there he remained with them and baptized. 23. And John also was baptizing in Enon, near Salim; because there were many waters there. They came therefore and were baptized. 24. For John was not yet cast into prison. 25. A question then arose between the disciples of John and the Jews about purifying. 26. And they came to John, and said to him, Rabbi, he who was with thee beyond Jordan, to whom thou gavest testimony, lo, he baptizeth, and all men come to him. 27. John answered and said, A man cannot receive any thing, unless it be given to him from heaven. 28. Yourselves are witnesses to me, that I said, I am not Christ, but was sent before him.


22. After these things came Jesus. It is probable that Christ, when the feast was past, came into that part of Judea which was in the vicinity of the town Enon, which was situated in the tribe of Manasseh. The Evangelist says that there were many waters there, and these were not so abundant in Judea. Now geographers tell us, that these two towns, Enon and Salim, were not far from the confluence of the river Jordan and the brook Jabbok; and they add that Scythopolis was near them. From these words, we may infer that John and Christ administered baptism by plunging the whole body beneath the water; though we ought not to give ourselves any great uneasiness about the outward rite, provided that it agree with the spiritual truth, and with the Lord's appointment and rule. So far as we are able to conjecture, the; vicinity of those places caused various reports to be circulated, and many discussions to arise, about the Law, about the worship of God, and about the condition of the Church, in consequence of two persons who administered baptism having arisen at the same time. For when the Evangelist says that Christ baptized, I refer this to the commencement of his ministry; namely, that he then began to exercise publicly the office which was appointed to him by the Father. And though Christ did this by his disciples, yet he is here named as the Author of the baptism, without mentioning his ministers, who did nothing but in his name and by his command. On this subject, we shall have something more to say in the beginning of the next Chapter.

25. A question then arose. Not without a good reason does the Evangelist relate that a question arose from the disciples of John; for just in proportion as they were ill-informed about doctrine, they are so much the more eager to enter into debate, as ignorance is always bold and presumptuous. If others had attacked them, they might have been excused; but when they themselves, though unfit to maintain the contest, voluntarily provoke the Jews, it is a rash and foolish proceeding. Now the words mean, that "the question was raised by them;" and not only were they to blame for taking up a matter which they did not understand, and speaking about it rashly and beyond the measure of their knowledge; but another fault -- not less than the former -- was, that they did not so much intend to maintain the lawfulness of Baptism as to defend the cause of their master, that his authority might remain unimpaired. In both respects, they deserved reproof, because, not understanding what was the real nature of Baptism, they expose the holy ordinance of God to ridicule, and because, by sinful ambition, they undertake to defend the cause of their master against Christ.

It is evident, therefore, that they were astonished and confounded by a single word, when it was represented to them that Christ also was baptizing; for while their attention was directed to the person of a man, and to outward appearance, 1 they gave themselves less concern about the doctrine. We are taught, by their example, into what mistakes those men fall who are actuated by a sinful desire to please men rather than by a zeal for God; and we are likewise reminded that the single object which we ought to have in view and to promote by all means is, that Christ alone may have the pre-eminence.

About purifying. The question was about purifying; for the Jews had various baptisms and washings 2 enjoined by the Law; and not satisfied with those which God had appointed, 3 they carefully observed many others which had been handed down from their ancestors. When they find that, in addition to so great a number and variety of purifyings, a new method of purifying is introduced by Christ and by John, they look upon it as absurd.

26. To whom thou gavest testimony. By this argument they endeavor either to make Christ inferior to John, or to show that John, by doing him honor, had laid him under obligations; for they reckon that John conferred a favor on Christ by adorning him with such honorable titles. As if it had not been the duty of John to make such a proclamation, or rather, as if it had not been John's highest dignity to be the herald of the Son of God. Nothing could have been more unreasonable than to make Christ inferior to John, because his testimony was highly favorable; for we know what John's testimony was. The expression which they use -- all men come to Christ -- is the language of envious persons, 4 and proceeds from sinful ambition; for they are afraid that the crowd will immediately forsake their master.

27. A man cannot receive any thing. Some refer these words to Christ, as if John accused the disciples of wicked presumption in opposition to God, by endeavoring to deprive Christ of what the Father had given to him. They suppose the meaning to be this: "That within so short a time he has risen to so great honor, is the work of God; and therefore it is in vain for you to attempt to degrade him whom God with his own hand has raised on high." Others think that it is an exclamation into which he indignantly breaks forth, because his disciples had hitherto made so little progress. And certainly it was excessively absurd that they should still endeavor to reduce to the rank of ordinary men him who, they had so often heard, was the Christ, that he might not rise above his own servants; and, therefore, John might justly have said that it is useless to spend time in instructing men, because they are dull and stupid, until they are renewed in mind.

But I rather agree with the opinion of those who explain it as applying to John, as asserting that it is not in his power, or in theirs, to make him great, because the measure of us all is to be what God intended us to be. For if even the Son of God took not that honour to himself, (Hebrews 5:4,) what man of the ordinary rank would venture to desire more than what the Lord has given him? This single thought, if it were duly impressed on the minds of us all, would be abundantly sufficient for restraining ambition; and were ambition corrected and destroyed, the plague of contentions would likewise be removed. How comes it then, that every man exalts himself more than is proper, but because we do not depend on the Lord, so as to be satisfied with the rank which he assigns to us?

28. You are witnesses to me. John expostulates with his disciples that they did not give credit to his statements. He had often warned them that he was not the Christ; and, therefore, it only remained that he should be a servant and subject to the Son of God along with others. And this passage is worthy of notice; for, by affirming that he is not the Christ, he reserves nothing for himself but to be subject to the head, and to serve in the Church as one of the rest, and not to be so highly exalted as to obscure the honor of the Head. He says that he was sent before, to prepare the way for Christ, as kings are wont to have heralds or forerunners.

1 "Et apparence exterieure."

2 "De baptesmes et lavemens."

3 "Que Dieu avoit instituez."

4 "C'est une parole de gens envieux."