The Increase Of Christ, VIA, The Church
Elder Oscar B.  Mink
Pastor - Sovereign Grace Baptist Church
Texarkana , Texas
    "He must increase ..." John 3:30
    The words of the text are the words of John the Baptist, and were occasioned by the complaining of his disciples. John's disciples were grieved because the multitudes were being drawn to Christ, and as a result their own company was diminishing. We read their complaint, ". . .He that was with thee beyond Jordan, to whom thou barest witness, behold, the same baptizeth, and all men come to him," (John 3:26).  John gave no validity to his disciples complaint, but owns his subordination to Christ, and takes great satisfaction in the advancement and success of Christ's cause in the world.  John answers his disciples with the words of our text, "He must increase, but I must decrease." John counted it honor enough  to be "the friend of the Bridegroom," and to be the Divine instrument in making ready a bride for Him.
    In the verse preceding our text John expresses his joy over the success of the match which he had been sent of God into the world to promote, "He that hath the bride is the bridegroom:  but the friend of the  bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom's voice:  this my joy therefore is fulfilled," (Vs. 29).
Our text, "He must increase," is a prophecy paralleling the prophetic words of Matthew 16:18 where Christ says, "I will build My church. . .," which words are rightly interpreted, "I will edify, improve, and enlarge My church."  This prophecy had not been long uttered when we see its early fruition, "The Lord added to the church daily  the saved. (Greek Acts 2:47). This "adding" to the church took place on the day of Pentecost.  So it is, the church must have been already in existence, otherwise, how could they have been "added" to it on that day?
    1.  No man living or dead, has ever had an invisible bride or wife.  Therefore, the "bride" John refers to as being with Christ the "bridegroom" was visible, and has continued to be visible every day since the espousal was made in Judea.
    2.  Christ is eternal, infinitely perfect, immutable and cannot experience more or less.
    Viewing our text "He must increase," in light of the second axiom, what does the term "increase" mean?
    First, let us consider the text negatively.  It is not to be understood to mean an increase of Christ's essential glory, for this is impossible.  Christ is God manifest in the flesh, and in Him is neither variableness or shadow of turning. "I am the Lord, I change not. . ." (Mal. 3:6), (Viz. Heb. 13:8). Neither does the text mean that the "increase" of Christ's church is to be constant or the same in every century.  History proves that this is not the meaning of the text, for the New Testament  church has, on many an occasion, experienced diminution.  Under persecution of the Roman emperors and Roman popes the Bride of Christ was greatly diminished, but never eradicated. Although more scarce at one time than at another, the church has always, since its institution, been visibly on the earth.
    Christ did not say the church was irreducible, but that it was eradicable (Mt. 16:18).  Great defections for sure, but always the visible, effectual Bride on the earth throughout the age.
    It does not mean that Christ's church would grow in external splendour, earthly power, or material wealth.  No, Christ told the church it would be persecuted, (John 15:20).  And when the church Christ instituted during the days of His incarnation on earth was about thirty years old it was referred to as, ". the  poor saints which are at Jerusalem." (Rom. 15:26).
    Now, let us consider the text positively.  The "Increase of Christ" is inseparably connected to the church.  "He that hath the bride is the bridegroom. ... He must increase."
    1. Positively, "increase  is realized by the transmission and spreading of gospel light through the world.  Christ gave the commission to evangelize the world to His church prior to Pentecost (Mt. 28: 18-20).  And He said to this same church at a later time, and in a different place prior to Pentecost, .Ye shall be  witness unto Me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth," (Acts 1:8).
    Two facts are apparent to the honest Bible student regarding the commission.
    First, Christ gave the commission to evangelize the world to His church exclusively.  Christ in giving the commission spoke to the immediate church, and of the church prospect.  God  gave the Law to Israel exclusively.  No other nation was so favored by God.  Only Israel had true ordinances, and only with Israel did the Shekinah  glory dwell.  During the dispensation of the law others than Israelites were saved.  But those saved were beholden to Israel for the truth whereby they came to know the true God.  Israel was God's  evangelistic institution, and in Israel only was His name great and in Zion alone was the seat of His glory, (Psa. 76:1-2).  The New Testament church is the true anti-type of Old Testament Israel.  Paul says to the local visible church at Corinth, "Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples (Gr. Tupoi, meaning "types"):  and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come," (I Cor. 10:11).  As in ancient times when God restricted His institutional glory to Israel, and gave only to Israel the Law and true ordinances, He has in this age elected the New Testament church wherein to make His name great and with the church alone does His institutional glory dwell.  Eph. 3:21 "Unto Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end.  A-men."  I Tim. 3:15 ". . .The church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth."  I would be remiss, if not dishonest not to say I believe the Sovereign Grace New Testament Missionary Baptist churches are the only true churches of Christ.  Before anyone cries, "Bigot!" let them do some research and some private investigation and they will find to their surprise a number of other denominations making the same claim for themselves.  And all other denominations which are not so absolute in this contention, yet, hold that their particular group is more perfect in degree than all others.
    Secondly, seeing that Christ gave The Commission to the churches which are today connotated Sovereign Grace Missionary Baptists, and to them alone, we are forced to conclude that all others are not merely counterfeits, but unbiased analysis reveals them to be the antithesis of the true churches. However, we do not agree with those Baptists which teach all the saved on the earth during the present age are Baptists.  While no one can be a Baptist without being saved, being saved makes no one a Baptist.
    Regeneration AND Scriptural baptism make one a Baptist, and there is much more implied in the term "Scriptural baptism" than what the majority which designate themselves Baptists are aware of.
    We restate, the "increase" which John says Christ shall realize, is realized in part by the propagation of the gospel by His church.  "And the word of God increased. . ." (Acts 6:7).
    The text, "He must increase," obviously clearly  states that there will be an increase of the number of Christ's subjects and  followers.  Or, in other words, all that the Father gave to the Son in the covenant of redemption will come to Him, own their subjection to Him, and  manifest their election and make it sure.  Now, what is it that will bring about this glorious increase to Christ?  It is an irrefutable fact that Christ baptized the church as an institution in the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost and that by virtue of this baptism the church was energized and authorized to break the hitherto Judean boundaries with  the gospel of Christ, (Mt. 28:18, Lk. 24:49, Acts 1:8).  It has already been affirmed that the Lord's churches are apostolic in doctrine and character, and are today Baptist in name.  And to these churches alone was the gospel commission given.  Now, to answer the question, what is it that will bring about the adding of Christ's subjects to Him?  It will be the preaching of the gospel by the church under the ministration of the Spirit.  God is sovereign, and can work with means, or independent of means, but in infinite wisdom it pleased the Lord  to design the gospel as a means of calling out His elect. When the Lord through the Holy Spirit gives testimony to the preaching of His word, then the  gospel becomes the Spirit's sword with which He pierces the conscience of the elect, granting them repentance and faith, and causes them in astonishment and trembling to cry out, "Lord what wilt Thou have me to do?" (Acts 7:58, 9:6).
    Man is shut up to the Holy Spirit for every revelation of the gospel.  Therefore, every revelation of the gospel is supernatural.  It is as easy for the Holy Spirit to use the gospel in His quickening of the elect, as it is for Him to use it in sanctifying the elect after they are saved.  We will not resort to  vain reasoning and circumscribe the power of the Holy Spirit by setting up chronological barriers before Him.  Man, in order to arrive at the number five,  must start with the number one and go through two, three and four.  The same is true with the days of the week.  To reach Sunday, man must go through the other six days of the week.  Not so, with God.  With God there is only the eternal NOW.
    Therefore, hearing the preached word, repenting and believing all are simultaneously realized by the subject of elective grace and are eternal  and inseparable blessings, never to be revoked. Man's reasoning is limited, and  stops short of comprehending fully the natural birth (Eccl.. 11:5), and he knows infinitely less about the spiritual birth.  But we do know God uses His word in producing the new birth   "Of His own will begat he us with the word of truth," (James 1:18)   See also I Pet. 1:23 where it says, "Born again. . . by the word," Vs. 25 of the same chapter declares that word to be the preached gospel.  So the preacher of the gospel would not be looked upon by some as co-author with God in regeneration, Paul said, "I have planted, Apollos watered, but God  gave the increase," (I Cor. 3:6). Thus, by means of gospel proclamation by  the church the "increase" John the Baptist refers to in our text is realized by Christ.  He that at the beginning illumined this earth with solar light by saying, "Let there be light," is in the intense spiritual darkness of this  hour saying, through the medium of the gospel, "Let there be life."
    2. Positively, "He must increase."  This increase is, in part, realized by the  Lord furnishing the church with "able ministers of the New Testament," (II Cor. 3:6),  The Lord being absolutely sovereign, and the commission to the church, age-long and world-wide, it naturally follows that the' Lord would supply His church with every necessary means to achieve the ends assigned the church.
    Eph. 4:11-12 "And He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ."
    God will raise up, call (Gal. 1:15), and qualify men for the work.  They will be men willing to suffer the reproaches of Christ, and will be humbled by the fact God has made them positionally eminent instruments in the church, whereby His glory is displayed to the world.  In witness to the word of God they will be, "burning and shining lights," and their courage and zeal is of such nature they are willing to become physical torches, "burning and shining" at the enemy's stake. They prefer the good of the church over every other  interest and joy, and are sound and steadfast in doctrine. They heed the word of their Head, and are "no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind and doctrine. .  ." (Eph. 1:14). They will "increase in the knowledge of God," and will not be switching from doctrine to doctrine.  We are living in an era when doctrinal stations are switched back and forth as often as  a drunk man changes sides of the street in his effort to walk.
    Many claiming to be Baptists have touched all the doctrinal bases in their switching.  They have changed in their doctrinal view from Arminianism to Sovereign Grace Missionary Baptist, then to Progressive Primitive, then on to Hyper-Hardshell, and then back again to Arminianism.  "Growing in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. . .", does not necessarily demand a switching of doctrines.  The primary meaning is; to perfect the doctrine which the Holy Spirit has germinally planted, thereby "Making straight paths for your feet," (II Pet. 3:18, Heb. 12:13).  Many, without due regard for begetting prejudices, and under the influence of a schismatic spirit, have run unsent into many hurtful errors.  But those upon whom the Lord hath laid the responsibility of the spiritual health of the church, the same being animated by a desire to glorify God in the church will wait patiently upon the Lord for enlightenment, and make sure that their doctrinal "faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God, " (I Cor. 2:5).  Those able ministers whom the Lord gives to the churches are cheerfully content to spend and be spent for their charges, for they know it is through the church that Christ is increased.
(The Sovereign Grace Advocate August, 1976)

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