One of the reasons I haven’t been pulling my weight around here lately is that for the last quarter I’ve been teaching a Sunday School class. Which means that I’ve had more time (made more time!) for reading. Reading, of course, is just another name for “collecting quotes for blogging,” and now that my class is done, I will embark on a series of short posts based on some fantastic quotes.
First, let me back up, with a trick question: Who knows what verse this is: “That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life”?If you answered John 3:16, then you fell into my trap! That quote is part of John 3:16, but what verse that quote is, is the whole verse John 3:15 (KJV). Maybe it’s just me, but has that always been there? ESV drops the perish clause, but in the textus receptus, all 12 greek words in John 3:15 are repeated verbatim as the end of John 3:16. Thus, John 3:16 clearly exists for the purpose of further explaining the same thing that that John 3:15 is explaining, namely John 3:14!
And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
Seeing all of that together (not separated by a paragraph division or even an extrabiblical section heading) convinced me that the only way to properly understand 3:16 was to see it as Jesus intended, in analogue with Moses and the bronze serpent from Numbers 21. For my study, I had checked out from the church library A. W. Pink’s Exposition of the Gospel of John — what a treasure trove! Here is his cogent explanation of how Christ can be analagous to a serpent:
But how could a serpent fitly typify the Holy One of God? This is the very last thing of all we had supposed could, with any propriety, be a figure of Him. True, the “serpent” did not, could not, typify Him in His essential character, and perfect life. The brazen serpent only foreshadowed Christ as He was “lifted up.” The lifting up manifestly pointed to the Cross. What was the “serpent?” It was the reminder and emblem of the curse. It was through the agency of that old Serpent, the Devil, that our first parents were seduced, and brought under the curse of a Holy God. And on the cross, dear reader, the holy One of God, incarnate, was made a curse for us. We would not dare make such an assertion, did not Scripture itself expressly affirm it. In Galatians 3:13 we are told, “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us.” There was no flaw, then, in the type. The foreshadowing was perfect. A “serpent” was the only thing in all nature which could accurately prefigure the crucified Savior made a curse for us.
Now, in reading a little more Pink, I found that that boy likes to make him some lists! In particular, lists of 7. As far as I can tell, every single chapter begins by dividing the passage under consideration into 7 parts, and then within the chapters, he is constantly making points in groups of 7: “In John 3:16 there are seven things told us about God’s love.” In expositing “born again”, he offers 7 points about the new birth, and within the seventh point itself, 7 ways in which the Spirit is like the wind. And Pink also offers 7 points about the bronze serpent:
From what has been said, it will be evident that when God told Moses to make a serpent of brass, fix it upon a pole, and bid the bitten Israelites look on it and they should live, that He was preaching to them the Gospel of His grace. We would now point out seven things which these Israelites were not bidden to do.
Those seven things will be seven more posts, each of which will offer an analagous point about how we are to understand the gospel, and what it means to look to the cross.