Saturday, February 8, 2014

The Brass Snake

The Brass Snake

God’s people were complaining again, blaspheming God and Moses, because water was scarce and they did not like eating Manna every meal. God was providing their needs, but God's provision did not suit them, so they complained. Num 21:5-9—The people spoke against God and Moses, "Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this miserable food."

The LORD sent fiery serpents among the people and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. So the people came to Moses and said, "We have sinned, because we have spoken against the LORD and you; intercede with the LORD, that He may remove the serpents from us." And Moses interceded for the people.

Then the LORD said to Moses, "Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a standard; and it shall come about, that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, he will live."

And Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on the standard; and it came about, that if a serpent bit any man, when he looked to the bronze serpent, he lived. (scriptures quoted from the New American Standard Updated)

Are you complaining about what is on your plate? Does God's way of doing things not meet the level of your approval? God does not like for His people to complain.  Speaking against God is dangerous.

1Co 10:5 Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness. 6 Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did.
7 Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, "The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play." (Aaron's golden calf)

8 We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day.

9 We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, 10 nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer.

11 Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. 
12 Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.

But He does provide salvation from the death penalty for sin when we look to Him.  The gospel is God's provision to produce faith in all who will heed the message. Rom 1:15 So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.  16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17  For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, "The righteous shall live by faith." 

The preaching of Jesus Christ, and Him crucified, seems foolish to many. Some think that salvation based on the shedding of blood is somehow out of place with modern thinking. But the scriptures are clear, that the believer’s salvation is purchased with the blood of Christ. As Paul wrote to Christians in Ephesus, Eph 1:5-8—“He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us.” ESV 

Thus a sinner does not contribute anything toward the purchase of our salvation. Salvation is freely provided in Jesus Christ. But some do not agree about how we get into Jesus Christ. Many people who follow a concept known as "Faith Only" (Sola Fide) deny that immersion in water has anything to do with the new birth into the kingdom of God. The reason used for arguing against water immersion being connected with the new birth is that salvation is a gift, not of works, so that we do not think we are earning our salvation. But submission to the commands of God is not about earning something, it is a demonstration of faith which is fidelity. 

Peter clearly shows that baptism is not just about immersion in water, but about faith, our submission to the command of God. 1Pe 3:21 Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him. ESV

An appeal to God for a good conscience?  A good conscience comes from doing what God commands. What if immersion in water is counted as faith, because it is the simple command of Jesus? What if being born of water and the Spirit includes immersion in water by faith in the command of Jesus? 

It is true that being immersed in water cannot remove sins, any more than looking at a brass snake can heal anyone from snake bite. But what would have happened if those Israelites, bitten by the serpents, refused to look up at the bronze serpent on the pole? What if they had stayed in their tent, praying for healing? Would they have been healed in their refusal to obey a simple command to look up at the bronze serpent? 

When they looked at the bronze serpent on the pole, they were healed of their snake bite. Jesus compared the lifting up of the brass snake with His crucifixion, John 3:14-15-"As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life.”

It was Jesus who said, Mark 16:15-16--"Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.”

Baptism, according to the record of scriptures, is immersion in water. It makes no more sense than looking up at a brass snake. But faith is completed in submission, and without submission there is no faith.

Stop arguing with Jesus by substituting man's ideas for what Jesus commanded. He did not command a sinner to pray a prayer to demonstrate faith, but He commanded repentance and immersion in water. It was Jesus who said, John 3:5--"Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.”

We do not have to understand, but we do have to submit, to demonstrate faith. Without submission to the simple command of Jesus, there is no faith.

Please review the recent debate at the Southern Baptist Convention over the "Sinner's Prayer."

God's people can have unity on the subject of baptism when we reject our reasoned arguments about "Sola Fide", and submit to the clear teaching of the scriptures.  Please reject the popular teaching about "Faith Only" and realize that faith includes submission to the commands of Jesus and the apostles.

See the reaction of believers to the first preaching of the Gospel. 
Act 2:36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified."

37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?"

38 And Peter said to them, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself."

40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, "Save yourselves from this crooked generation."

41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. 42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. ESV

As Paul wrote to the Christians in Galatia, Gal 3:23 Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. 24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise.

Repentance and baptism are the commands of Jesus and the Apostles, recorded by the Holy Spirit.  Repentance and baptism are part of faith, which is loyalty. Fidelity means loyalty, and refusal to honor and teach a direct commandment, recorded in scripture by the Holy Spirit, in no way demonstrates fidelity. There is no "sola fide" that brings salvation without looking at the Cross, with the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus pictured in baptism. Rom 6:1-4, 1 Cor 15:1-4.

Jesus Lifted Up

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