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.
JOHN 3: 31 ESV
31 Ὁ ἄνωθεν ἐρχόμενος ἐπάνω πάντων ἐστίν. ὁ ὢν ἐκ τῆς γῆς ἐκ τῆς γῆς ἐστιν καὶ ἐκ τῆς γῆς λαλεῖ· ὁ ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ ἐρχόμενος ἐπάνω πάντων ἐστίν·
JOHN 3: 31 SBLGNT
We remember that some of John’s followers had complained that people were leaving him to follow Jesus. They did not realize that this was the very thing that John most wanted; it was the purpose of his ministry to see people go to Jesus in faith. John was a divinely ordained minister and a true prophet of the Lord. However, Jesus is uniquely exalted even above a prophet such as John the Baptist. John explains: “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” (John 3:31).
John asserts that Jesus possesses a personal authority that is greater than that of anyone else. Unlike everyone else who taught about God, Jesus came into this world from heaven: “He who comes from heaven is above all.” This alludes to Jesus’ identity as the very Son of God—one of the most important truths that the Gospel of John was written to reveal. The opening words of this Gospel inform us that Jesus is one with God and is, therefore, the true revelation of God: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). John sums up the significance of Jesus’ coming: “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (1:14). Because of who he is, Jesus possesses an authority that no one else has.
This was something that people were about to experience as Jesus began his ministry. It was around this time that Jesus preached his famous Sermon on the Mount, after which, Matthew tells us, “crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he was teaching them as one who had authority” (Matt. 7:28–29). Jesus was not like the scholars of his time—and most other times—who mainly recited the opinions of others. Instead, he revealed the truth that he knew and had the authority to proclaim as One sent from heaven to earth for that purpose.
Jesus speaks of things he knows firsthand: “He bears witness to what he has seen and heard” (John 3:32). When we read Jesus’ teachings in the Bible, we are not dealing with mere speculation. That is what everyone else has to do, apart from direct inspiration from God. Nevertheless, Jesus, alone even among the true prophets, is an eyewitness of God and heaven. If you want to know about the army, it is best to talk to someone who has served in the ranks. If you want to know about a family, the best source is a family member. Likewise, “if we want information about God, we will get it only from the Son of God; and if we want information about heaven and heaven’s life, we will only get it from Him who comes from heaven.… Because Jesus alone knows God, he alone can give us the facts about God, and these facts are the Gospel.” This is why there is no better source of truth about God and salvation than Jesus Christ, who came into this world from heaven to reveal such truths to mankind.
This answers a common objection to the Christian faith. Some say, “What makes Jesus so different? Aren’t all religious leaders basically the same: Jesus, Buddha, Muhammad, or some other guru?” The answer is No. Jesus Christ alone is the very Son of God who came into this world with firsthand truth from heaven. No other religion even claims to have such a leader, but the New Testament explicitly teaches that Jesus is the Son of God who came from heaven with ultimate truth.
Not only is Jesus, a different kind of spiritual leader, but he also brings a different message. People ask, “Don’t all religions say basically the same thing?” The common opinion is that they do, but only because people have not seriously faced the message of Jesus Christ. This was John’s point in saying, “He who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks in an earthly way” (John 3:31). That is why, despite their distinctions, every false religion—be it Islam, Buddhism, Judaism, or Roman Catholicism—teaches that we come to God at least in part by being good. You will find this in the writings of Muhammad and Confucius, in the popes and the rabbis. We must somehow merit entry into heaven. However, Jesus and his apostles teach something entirely different. Nicodemus thought he was good, but Jesus told him, “You must be born again” (3:7). The only way for anyone to be saved, Jesus revealed, was for “the Son of man [to] be lifted up” (3:14), by which he referred to his own death on the cross. Jesus alone teaches that “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (3:16). Jesus taught that salvation is through faith, not by works.
This is not the kind of thing that men imagine; it is not of the earth but heaven. This produces an absolute antithesis between Christianity and every other religion. If Jesus is whom he says he is, then his message is the only true one and must be accepted to the exclusion of every other. If Jesus is not whom he says he is, then he is a monstrous fraud who must be utterly rejected. A Christian, therefore, is one who has seen the truth of Jesus in God’s Word and accepts him to the exclusion of every other saviour and Lord.
John reminds us that we all begin as those who are “of the earth” and, therefore, earthly in our thinking. When you start studying the Bible, you will find it contradicting many things you have always assumed. Since Jesus is the one person who can reveal the truth from heaven, we should hunger for his truth to escape the errors we have been trained as willing disciples eager to advance from earthly to heavenly thinking through Christ’s Word.