How Not to Look at the Snake, Part 6

Part 0Part 5

From A. W. Pink’s Exposition of the Gospel of John:

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.

6. They were told not to look at Moses. They had been looking to Moses, and urging him to cry to God on their behalf; and when God responded, He took their eyes from off Moses, and commanded them to look at the brazen serpent. Moses was the Law-giver, and how many today are looking to him for salvation. They are trusting in their own imperfect obedience to God’s commandments to take them to heaven. In other words, they are depending on their own works. But Scripture says emphatically, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us” (Titus 3:5). The Law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ, and Christ alone can save.

I don’t think I can add anything to this gem; how about you?

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32 Responses to How Not to Look at the Snake, Part 6

  1. Zrim says:

    Something about priests and personality’s comes to mind.

  2. RubeRad says:

    I can see what you’re talking about with “cult of personality”, but whaddya mean priests?

  3. Zrim says:


    Re priests, as in looking to an intercessor between us and the Intercessor.

  4. Renee says:

    Hi Rube,

    I have something to add.

    In reference to Works, God and Salvation.

    An excerpt from the gunman’s diary who shot and killed women at a PA health club.

    “Maybe soon, I will see God and Jesus. At least that is what I was told. Eternal life does NOT depend on works. If it did, we will all be in hell. Christ paid for EVERY sin, so how can I or you be judged BY GOD for a sin when the penalty was ALREADY paid. People judge but that does not matter. I was reading the Bible and The Integrity of God beginning yesterday. Because soon I will see them.”

    Hi Zrim.

  5. Zrim says:

    Hi yourself, Renee.

    I’ll make you a deal. I won’t employ Roeder in the case against moralized politics (aka “the culture of life”) if you don’t use Sodini in the case against Protestantism. I hope you’ll agree that we should both be able to make our points without slumming it.

  6. Renee says:


    But my point is this is what happens when Sola Fide and Sola Scriptura get into the wrong hands. He used the protestant argument against works and the actual protestant theology teaching to comfort and reassure himself of salvation after he commits premeditated murder and suicide.

    A Catholic can not do that. When a Catholic premeditates and then murders someone before committing suicide, they can not use Church teaching to justify that they are ‘saved’ and will see God.

    The Church teaches the opposite.

  7. Renee says:

    I have been thinking about Sodini’s statement above.
    You know Zrim, it is not “slumming it”. I realize that the man was not thinking rationally. But…the sad thing about his statement was that his belief that he will join God and Jesus after he commits murder is based upon statements he believes are truths that were told to him, by people whom he trusted.

    The man could very well have condemned his self to Hell based upon a misunderstanding of scripture be it his own or others and Protestant theology.

    How can one be sure that this does not happen over and over each day for some Protestants? Sure not every one is going to commit a heinous murder and suicide, but assurance of salvation without any personal responsibility on the part of the individual leaves room for jeopardizing ones salvation, like Sodini did. I said “did” because as a Catholic murder is a grave and mortal sin. Even so, I leave Sodini’s final destination for God to determine.

    It is scary and it is sad, for those he killed, for Protestant teaching and for him.

    I know there are Catholics who have committed heinous acts against others also tried to use scripture to justify their actions, but the truth remains never the less. That is that the Catholic Church teaches that are actions can determine whether we spend eternity with God or Satan. That murder is a mortal sin, and if we should die in the state of mortal sin, we very well could spend eternity in Hell.

    I do not think it would have changed anything for Sodini if he were Catholic or Protestant. He most likely would have still committed the crime, but if he were Catholic he would have had to consider very seriously the possibility he would spend eternity in Hell.

  8. Zrim says:


    It has been said that the only thing Calvinists take more seriously than sin is grace, which is to say that I certianly get your concerns over heinous sin, but when God says grace is free and super-abounds sin I take him at his word even if it means those I wouldn’t pardon reap the benefits of God. The thief next to Jesus comes to mind.

    I don’t know how to solve sensationalistic outliers like Sodini anymore than I can solve the conundrum of sin and grace co-existing. It might be better to not pry into mysteries than to cobble together doctrines to quell our shared discomforts, especially when those doctrines seem to question the grace of God.

  9. Renee says:

    I agree with most of what you said. As I stated above God ultimately decides where one will spend eternity. You mentioned the thief on the cross, I ask you what about Juda’s? He knew Christ, he followed Christ, he betrayed Christ with his actions, then he committed suicide.

    God gave us the commandments. I do not believe it is the commandments that Paul speaks of as no longer being necessary , so yes as a Catholic, I believe that thou shall not murder is a command from God himself that still stands and is a grave sin, and I believe that the act of murder would be considered a “work” against the law of God and unrepentant sin could separate me eternally from God and Jesus, but then I as a Catholic also believe that because of the sacrifice of the Son, that I may repent of my sin and resume being in a state of God’s Grace, and rest knowing that ultimately it is he who decides where I will spend eternity. But…I cannot commit a grave sin, with the intention of repenting afterward, this does not fool God!

    I do not know what took place between Sodini and God during his final moments. He may have repented his sin,or maybe not.

    But what I do know is that if he were Catholic, he would have to seriously consider that if he where to act on his intentions to deliberately murder innocent people, then there was a real possibility he would spend eternity in hell.

    Instead he spent his final moments of life looking forward to seeing and being with God and Jesus for eternity, but first he had to kill some innocent people.

  10. Renee says:

    Excerpt from :

    “Among those he blamed for his perceived troubles were his family and Tetelestai’s longtime pastor, Alan “Rick” Knapp, whose teachings he interpreted as assurance he would go to heaven even after committing murder.

    “This guy teaches (and convinced me) you can commit mass murder, then still go to heaven,” he wrote.

    Knapp, who left town Saturday to care for his critically ill father in Florida, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Friday that “the message of the word I preach never reflected such a thing.”

    Deacon Jack Rickard had invited Sodini to his home for dinner, but he never sensed his anger.

    “I never saw anything out of the ordinary with him. He had his idiosyncrasies, but who doesn’t?” Rickard said.

    Personally, though, Rickard believes Sodini is in heaven.

    “We believe in permanent security — once saved, always saved,” Rickard said. “He will be judged, but he will be in heaven. … He’ll be in heaven, but he won’t have any rewards because he did evil.”

  11. Zrim says:


    Again, I’m not sure it is profitable to speculate on extraordinary, even sensationalistic, examples. I think it may be enough to say that in the ordinary course of things repentance is what makes all the difference between those in a state of grace and those outside it. And in extraordinary circumstances, when repentance is impossible for one to demonstrate, it becomes impossible for the rest of us to speculate on things that are in the first place matters only of “confident assurance” and not “absolute certainty” anyway.

    You’ll have to excuse my relentless pull toward the ordinary. We Reformed are pretty bad at things like speculation and extraordinary, or at least we should be.

  12. Zrim says:


    As you know, we are not the “once saved, always saved” people. We’re the “perseverance of the saints” folks. And we don’t have seat at the Rome-Radical table, where extraordinary speculations and formulations to solve mystery seem to be the agreed upon modus operandi.

  13. RubeRad says:

    Late to my own party here, but that diary is pretty scary.

    First off, reading that diary, I don’t get any sense of repentance — only of being an unfortunate victim of the sins of others.

    Second, I can’t imagine a properly structured law/gospel — guilt-grace-gratitude — Reformed sermon, that would give any sane person the idea that they could get away with murder — literally. Of course, it is questionable whether this guy is sane; no doubt he he was highly skilled at hearing only what he wanted to hear, and blocking out anything contrary to his mania.

    Third, at the risk of a DeRegnisDuobus-length comment-war with Catholic e-pologists, how is the problem of cheap grace one of Protestants alone? How many Catholics in the world sin away heartily, because they see a quick trip to the confessional booth and a few Hail Marys and Our Fathers as a magical coverup?

  14. Renee says:


    You should go visit a Catholic Church during confessions, you would be surprised.

    The Catholic’s (in name only) whom you mention who sin whole heartily, are not in the confessional, why….because they agree with most Protestants that confession to a Priest is not necessary and that the sins they commit have already been Paid for by someone else along time ago so they confess them to God himself in their bedrooms or somewhere else alone just them and God. I know.I used to be one of them, and I know many like them. They are Protestants who go by the name of Catholic.

    Do not worry in regards to lengthly comment wars from me. At this point I am pretty sure we know where we each stand.

    It is not the “Sane” people I am concerned about, it is the “unstable or insane” people who hear the Protestant gospel of Salvation and works, and look forward to joining Christ just after they kill someone.

    When an insane Catholic decides to kill someone, he is NOT confident he will be joining the Lord afterward. If he is then well … is not really a Catholic is he?

  15. Zrim says:

    They [the hypocrites who have no sense of the seriousness of sin or the necessity of repentance] are Protestants who go by the name of Catholic.

    Now, I understand the impulse to blame a certain theological system for the the faults of actual persons, but instead of that I might suggest that sin is an equal-opportunity affliction and that hypocrisy is not a Protestant or Catholic monopoly. Sinners sin because they are sinners, not because they are/are not Protestants or Catholics.

    The question isn’t who has the most or worst bad guys, but rather which theological system is superior? We all know who will answer what, but it doesn’t help to suggest that one camp is more addled by hypocrites than the other.

  16. Renee says:


    You are right. We are all sinners, Catholic and Protestant.

    I was responding to “How many Catholics in the world sin away heartily, because they see a quick trip to the confessional booth and a few Hail Marys and Our Fathers as a magical coverup?”

    Most Catholics who would be found at the confessional are confessing venial sins more than mortal sins. Practicing Catholics are very much like practicing Protestants, they do not go out looking to purposely commit sins.

    Non-practicing Catholics [those who do not receive the Sacraments or attend Mass] become like Protestants in the sense that they become their own authority and whatever they do, it is between them and God, the Sacrament of Reconciliation is no longer necessary, or required.

    Catholics who commit mortal sins regularly do not frequent the sacrament of reconciliation. Pride prevents them from doing that, especially when there is an easier alternative [denying that the Sacrament is necessary at all] .

    Rube’s comment above is based upon assumption regarding Catholics, and the sacrament of reconciliation and not the sinfulness of men.

  17. Zrim says:

    Non-practicing Catholics [those who do not receive the Sacraments or attend Mass] become like Protestants in the sense that they become their own authority and whatever they do, it is between them and God, the Sacrament of Reconciliation is no longer necessary, or required.


    I greatly respect the effort to counter the idea that to be Catholic is to be nominal, under-devoted and unobservant, etc. But don’t you think the suggestion that to be Protestant is to be autonomous and unaccountable is just as disengenuous?

  18. Renee says:


    I do not want to turn this into a defense of Catholics or Catholicism and not to fault Protestants as a whole or individuals.

    My original point was that the statement of Sodini:

    ““Maybe soon, I will see God and Jesus. At least that is what I was told. Eternal life does NOT depend on works. If it did, we will all be in hell. Christ paid for EVERY sin, so how can I or you be judged BY GOD for a sin when the penalty was ALREADY paid. People judge but that does not matter. I was reading the Bible and The Integrity of God beginning yesterday. Because soon I will see them.”

    Would never be spoken by a Catholic practicing or not, on his way to the Sacrament of Confession .

  19. Renee says:

    “and not to fault Protestants as a whole or individuals.”

    SB “and I do not want to fault Protestants as whole or individuals.”

    Also….Special emphasis on ” on his way to the Sacrament of Confession”

    Rube, if you are there, I am finished. So much for comment wars…


  20. RubeRad says:

    “Dad Rod” Rosenbladt told a great story (joke? anecdote?) from Luther’s time on WHI. A thief had to face a judge for the crime of stealing the money-chest from seller of indulgences. He got off because he was able to produce for the Judge’s inspection an indulgence “for one future crime”. “In fact, when I bought the indulgence,” says the thief, “this was the very crime I had in mind!”

  21. Joe Brancaleone says:


    That statement could be construed by all sorts of folk who say read Romans 3-5 and ignore Romans 6-8 (as well as James 2, 1 John 1 and 2, etc). In other words, reading the teachings of the bible selectively for self justification.

    If anyone teaches others in such a way that Romans 6-8 and elsewhere is so ignored or seriously downplayed to make many (sane or not) think that salvation consists of mere legal justification without an accompanying inward transformation and spiritual union with Christ, that is not confessional Protestantism, that is not Christianity. It is a cursed ministry.

    However if one mentally unstable individual arrives at this sort of erroneous conclusion about grace and salvation, that is not enough information to reflect the ministry which he or she was under. Individuals are fully capable of selective hearing, and that is a matter of the heart. Paul’s anticipates his own teaching on justification to be misconstrued by some (Rom. 6:1, 3:8) Scripture twisting is nothing new in the world, and when it is done by someone that is not necessarily a gauge on how clearly the whole counsel of God has been proclaimed within a certain church or tradition.


  22. Joe Brancaleone says:

    That being said, IF that ministry is of the OSAS variety like the quote implies, that is a serious heresy that yes, can more easily lead to this sort of rotten fruit. It is borne out of an easy believism gospel that has nothing to do with confessional and classic evangelical Protestantism.

  23. RubeRad says:

    “Scripture twisting is nothing new in the world” That’s fer sure: 2 Pet 3:16-17:

    There are some things in [Paul’s epistles] that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability.

  24. Zrim says:


    I’d like to be able to say a Calvinist wouldn’t twist the gospel before coming to the Table. But we believe that the church has both wheat and tares.

    Anyway, speaking of your original point, I thought we had a deal?

  25. Renee says:

    Yes, we both Catholics and Calvinists have our share of wheat and tares.
    The communion table is not the same as the Sacrament of Confession.

    If a Catholic believed that no action which may contribute to their salvation was necessary from them personally to restore them in God’s grace or that all that was needed to obtain eternal salvation was to know that Christ died for our sins and that they must follow the correct interpretations of scripture, they most certainly would not be going to the Sacrament of Confession.

    What in the world would be the point. It would be like saying I refuse to believe food is necessary to sustain my life, just because someone says it is so, there is evidence from scripture to prove otherwise, therefore I will no longer eat food, while heading to the grocery store.

    I challenge any Protestant to stand outside of a Catholic Church as people are leaving confession and ask Catholics if they thought that going to confession was necessary and contributes to their salvation, or were they just going so that they could repent of Friday’s sins go out and commit the same sins on Saturday.

  26. RubeRad says:

    OK, I’ll stand outside the Catholic church and quiz people coming out of confession, and you stand outside a Reformed church and ask them whether they can go shoot up an aerobics class because Jesus already paid for their sins. I’m sure we’ll both be standing there for a very long time.

  27. RubeRad says:

    Thanks for the links, but even from the horse’s mouth indulgences sound ridiculous. They start off describing how sin has temporal consequences (like death, which no indulgence can prevent or delay), and with no logical justification, jump to the assertion that the church can absolve penance — which is not too surprising, because penance is just temporal consequences arbitrarily levied by the church to begin with!

    Good news, Renee, I have the power to clear you of that million dollar debt you never really owed me!

  28. Renee says:


    I will make a deal with you. I will try to convince the Catholic Church of your opinion that indulgences are “ridiculous”, if you speak to your camp about guarding Sola Fide from those who have not passed a psychiatric eval.


    A disclaimer probably would be in the best interest of this quote. Those with mental illnesses or vendetta’s could easily misunderstand and do works (killing) which could jeopardize their own salivation.

    “Be a sinner and sin boldly ; but more boldly still believe and rejoice in Christ, who is the conqueror of sin, death and the world. Sin is our lot here below. This life is not the abode of justice ; but * we expect, says Peter, a new heaven and a new earth wherein dwells justice. It is sufficient that by the riches of God s glory we acknowledge the Lamb who takes away the sins of the world ; sin cannot deprive us of him, even if in the same day we were to commit a thousand adulteries or a thousand murders.” – Martin Luther

  29. Todd says:

    Roman Catholics have been quoting this paragraph for years to discredit Luther, missing his point. For a better understanding of Luther’s point and rhetorical writing style you may want to check out the following:

  30. Renee says:


    I did read that page prior to posting the quote.

    I was pointing out that to someone who perhaps has mental issues or is just looking for self justification to commit murder without comprising their own salvation, may not have the resources or education to understand the proper context. Especially when you throw in the OSAS mentality.

    Sola Fide, can be easily misunderstood and used to justify sin, if someone wants it to.

  31. RubeRad says:

    Likewise, indulgences can be easily misunderstood and used to budget for sin, if someone wants them to. The question is not whether a doctrine can be or is often abused; the question is whether the doctrine is correct and biblical.

    As Martin Lloyd-Jones once pointed out, the risk of antinomianism is a mark of the proper preaching of the true gospel. Why else does Rom 6:1-2 exist, except that Paul expected his apostolic exposition of sola fide to cause just these misunderstandings?

    (Of course, the existence of Rom 6:1-2 is also a challenge and warning to preachers of the gospel, to ferret out and demolish such misunderstandings)

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