“He that cometh from above is above all: he that is of the earth is of the earth and of the earth he speaketh: he that cometh from heaven is above all. What he hath seen and heard, of that he beareth witness. He that receiveth his witness hath set his seal to this that God is true. For he whom God sent speaketh the word of God: for he giveth not the Spirit by measure. The Father loved the Son, and hath given all things into his hand. He that believeth on the Son hath eternal life, but he that obeyeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him” (John 3:31-36).
These closing verses of John 3 began with an interview between Nicodemus and Jesus, which closes with v. 21. Then Jesus left Jerusalem and spent some time in Judaea where He preached and baptized many in the same region where John the baptizer was still at work. The success Jesus met apparently incited jealousy on the part of John’s disciples, which they conveyed to him (3:26). The magnanimous spirit of John is revealed as he told his disciples, “A man can receive nothing except it hath been given to him from heaven” (3:27). John’s comments on the part he played contrasted to the work of Jesus was, “He must increase but I must decrease” (3:30).
Then follows vv. 31-36 which concludes the comments cited above. Another subject will be discussed in John 4 which is evident from the narrative itself. But who spoke the words recorded in John 3:31-36 — John the baptizer or John the apostle? Three or four different persons can be identified in the verses. “He who is from above” and “he whom God sent speaketh the word of God” is a reference to Jesus (Jn. 3:31). “He who receives his witness hath set his seal to this, that God is true” is the believer who accepts the testimony of Jesus (Jn. 3:33). “He that believeth on the Son hath eternal life” are all obedient believers (Jn. 3:36). “He that obeyeth not the Son shall not see life” is every one who does not put his faith to work (Jn. 3:36). The person of the text of whom it is written “that is of the earth is of the earth, and of the earth he speaketh” (Jn. 3:31) is John the baptizer. But who spoke the words recorded in these verses, John the baptizer or John the apostle?
Opinions and commentaries differ. J.W. McGarvey, prominent teacher (regarded by many as one of the ripest scholars of the 19th century) and preacher of the last quarter of the 1800s, wrote a book entitled The Fourfold Gospel. It is a harmony of the four gospels which fittingly deserves a place in the library of any Bible student. It was McGarvey’s conviction that these words are the words of John the baptizer. Dan King, in his comments on the gospel of John (Truth Commentaries, 1998), admits that he is a “student” of McGarvey, but he differs from his “teacher.” Dan believes these words were comments of John the apostle.
While there is uncertainty as to whom these comments belong — John the baptizer or John the apostle — the text does indicate (as earlier noted) that the words “he that is of the earth is of the earth and of the earth he speaketh” refers to John the baptizer (Jn. 3:31), who contrasts Jesus from heaven and himself as from earth, just as the preceding verses are a contrast between him and Jesus: “He must increase, but I must decrease.” The contrast between John the baptizer and Jesus (as well as the blessings on the believer) will be examined more fully in a later article.