John 3:14 Commentary - Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New TestamentChrist having instructed Nicodemus in the doctrine of regeneration in the former verses, here he instructs him in the death of the Messiah, and in the necessity of faith in his death. The Son of man must be lifted up; that is, upon the cross, and die; that whosover believeth in him should not perish.
Observe here, 1. An Old Testament type which our Saviour refers to, and that is, the brazen serpent in the wilderness, the history of which is recorded, Num 21:8-9.
Observe, 2. The antitype, or the substance of what that type did shadow forth: the brazen serpent's lifting up upon the pole, prefiguring Christ's exaltation or lifting up upon the cross. So must the Son of man be lifted up.
Learn hence, That the Lord Jesus Christ is of the same use and office to a sin-stung soul, which the brazen serpent was of old to a serpent-stung Israelite.
Here observe, 1. Wherein the brazen serpent and Christ do agree.
And, 2. Wherein they differ. They agree thus: In the occasion of their institution; they were both apppointed for cure and healing.
Were they serpent-stung? we are sin-stung; devil--bitten. Was the sting of the fiery serpent inflaming? Was it spreading? Was it killing?
So is sin, which is the venom and poison of the old serpent. They agree in this; that they both must be lifted up before cure could be obtained; the brazen serpent upon the pole, Christ upon the cross.
They both must be looked unto before cure could be obtained; the looking up of the Israelites was as necessary unto healing, as the lifting up of the serpent.
Faith is as necessary to salvation as the death of Christ. The one renders God reconcilable unto sinners, the other renders him actually reconciled.
Again, did the brazen serpent heal all that looked upon it, and looked up unto it, though all had not eyes alike, some with a weak, others with a stronger eye? In like manner doth Christ justify and save all, that with a sincere faith, though weak, do rely upon him for salvation; Whosoever believeth in him shall not perish.
Further, the brazen serpemt was effectual for Israel's cure after many stingings; If after they were healed they were stung afresh, and did look up to it, they were healed by it. Thus the merit of Christ's death is not only effectual for our cure and healing at our first conversion, but after involuntary relapses and backslidings, if by faith we have recourse to the blood of Christ, we shall find it efficacious for our further benefit and future healing.
In a word, as the brazen serpent was effectual for Israel's cure after many stingings; If after they were healed they were stung afresh, and did look up to it, they were healed by it. Thus the merit of Christ's death is not only effectual for our cure and healing at our first conversion, but after involuntary relapses and backslidings, if by faith we have recourse to the blood of Christ, we shall find it efficacious for our further benefit and future healing.
In a word, as the brazen serpent had the likeness of a serpent, the form, the figure, the name, the colour of the serpent, but nothing of the venom and poison of the serpent in it; so Christ did take upon him our nature; but sin, the venom and poison of our nature, he had nothing to do with: though Christ loved souls with an invincible and insuperable love, yet he would not sin to save a soul. This was the similtude and resemblance between Christ and the brazen serpent.
The disparity or dissimiltude follows: The brazens serpent had no power in itself, or of itself, to heal and cure: but Christ has a power inherent in himself, for the curing and healing of all that do believe in him.
Again, The brazen serpent cured only one particular nation and people, Jews only; Christ is for the healing of all nations, and his salvation is to the end of the earth.
Farther, The brazen serpent cured only one particular disease; namely, the stinging of the fiery serpents; had a person been sick of the plague, or leprosy, he might have died for all the brazen serpent: but Christ pardons all the iniquities, and heals all the diseases, of his people, Psa 103:3
Yet again, Though the brazen serpent healed all that looked up unto it, yet it gave an eye to none to look up unto it; whereas Christ doth not only heal them that look up to him, but bestows the eye of faith upon them, to enable them to look unto him that they may be saved.
In a word, the brazen serpent did not always retain its healing virtue, but in time lost it and was itself destroyed, 2Ki 18:4 But now the healing virtue and efficacy of Christ's blood is eternal.
All believers have and shall experience the healing power of our Redeemer's death to the end of the world.
Lastly, The Israelites that were cured by looking up to the brazen serpent, died afterwards; some distemper or other soon carried them to their graves; but the soul of the believer that is healed by Christ shall never die more: Whosoever believeth in him, shall not perish, but have everlasting life.
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Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament
William Burkitt (1650 - 1703) was a Church of England clergyman, bible expositor, and devotional writer.
Volume 1: Matthew - John, was published in 1700.
Volume 2: Acts - Revelation was published 1703.