How Not to Look at the Snake, Part 0

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 Johnwhat 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.

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14 Responses to How Not to Look at the Snake, Part 0

  1. Rick says:

    Looking forward to the follow-up posts. Pink follows John’s device of groupings things in 7 I take it.

  2. RubeRad says:

    “In connection with the spiritual arithmetic of the Bible we have been deeply impressed with the constantly recurring seven in the Gospel of John.”

    Is this something people know about? I’d never heard.

  3. Rick says:

    John selected 7 miracle signs to hightlight and explain in his Gospel. His use of 7 is more clear to the (English) reader in the book of Revelation: Churches, Seals, Bowls, Thunders, etc. The book itself is divided into 7 sections, Multiples of 7, and half of 7 (3 and 1/2).

  4. RubeRad says:

    That may be, but I think Pink went above and beyond. For instance, after dividing John into seventy passages, he divides each and every passage into seven parts. And not just structurally, here are his seven ways the Spirit is like the wind: irresponsible, irresistable, irregular, invisible, inscrutable, indispensible, invigorating. Seems like Pink’s the kind of guy that will have 7 points in every sermon, or die trying. Funny thing is, he has study questions at the end of each chapter, and those don’t always have 7, but sometimes 6 or 5. Seems like that would be the easiest to arbitrarily beef up to 7, because you can always ask another question or two.

  5. Rick says:

    Irresponsible? Perhaps he should have died trying on that one.

    Pink is good. Never considered him for help on John. For such a glorious Gospel there really aren’t too many commentaries on it that stand out.

  6. RubeRad says:

    Yes, he explains that by “irresponsible”, he means sovereign, i.e. not responsible to another authority. But that is an example I think of how his penchant for seven-ness (and sometimes for alliteration or other mnemonics) shows itself to be forced.

    As for how I found it, I just went into the church library, there were 3 or 4 commentaries on John, and Pink was the name I recognized. A friend at church tells me he also has a great commentary on Hebrews (also online), and a quick scan shows that he did not seem to be so bound to 7-ness or listmaking in that one.

  7. Chunck says:

    Ian Murray wrote a brief biography of Arthur Pink and criticized his commentary on John because the exegesis leaned too much on his Plymouth Brethren background. Personally, I thought the PB’s heavy typology was the most redeeming part of the book. Anyhow, Murray did his level best to cast Pink in a good light, which was tantamount to shoving a square peg into a round hole because Pink was about as friendly as sandpaper on an open flesh wound. In fact, despite his efforts otherwise, Murray convinced me that the best thing ever said about Pink was “Out of print.”

  8. RubeRad says:

    If he didn’t like him so much, why did Murray write a biography? Anyways, I have only read about 10 pages of Pink, and those ten pages I loved to death. I assume I would appreciate most of the rest of it as well (although wasn’t Pink also a baptist?)

  9. Chunck says:

    Murray cared lots for Pink, which was why he wrote the bio. The only criticism I remember was for the John commentary because of its non-Reformed exegesis. But Murray rubbed me the wrong way every time he bent over backwards to cut Pink slack at points where Pink deserved criticism. Whenever I read Pink’s later stuff, he reminds me why every church he ever ministered in tossed him out.

  10. Pingback: How Not to Look at the Snake, Part 2 « The Confessional Outhouse

  11. Pingback: How Not to Look at the Snake, Part 5 « The Confessional Outhouse

  12. Pingback: How Not to Look at the Snake, Part 6 « The Confessional Outhouse

  13. Pingback: How Not to Look at the Snake, Part 7 « The Confessional Outhouse

  14. Pingback: Pink Times Seven « The Confessional Outhouse

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