Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Atonement illustrated by Jesus


So far as I can find, Jesus used only one illustration from the Old Testament of His Atonement and its efficient, ultimate, saving extent.

That illustration is in Numbers 21 and is applied by Jesus in John 3:14, 15. It is the Brazen Serpent.

After the people were bitten by serpents, Moses was told to make a serpent of brass and put it upon a pole. "And it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live" (Numbers 21:8).

John 3:14, 15 -- "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."

The lifting up of the Brazen Serpent was available to each and every living person who had been bitten. But no one was healed unless the bitten person looked upon the Brazen Serpent.

The obvious parallel in this illustration apparently is that the death of Christ is available to each and every person, but it does not save unless the person believes.

The controversy between theological camps in regard to limited or unlimited Atonement might be resolved to everyone's satisfaction if this one illustration used by Jesus were taken more seriously. At least both camps would probably find agreement that, like the healing in Numbers 21 was for those who looked to the serpent, salvation by the death of Christ is experienced by those who respond to the message to "Look and live."

I would not debate for one minute about the extent of the Atonement, for the "bottom line" is simply this: "Whosever 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" (John 3:15, 16).

SPURGEON: "The remedy of the bitten Israelites was a bronze serpent. And the remedy for sinners is Christ crucified. . . . For remember the bronze serpent was lifted up that everyone in the camp who was bitten might live. And now Christ is lifted up to you that 'whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.' Sinner, the devil says you are shut out. Tell him that 'whosoever' shuts out none. Oh that precious word, 'whosoever'! . . . —'Whosoever.' I use broad words that I may take a broad range and sweep the whole universe of sinners through—whosoever looks to Christ shall live." -- C. H. Spurgeon, New Park Street Pulpit, Vol. 3, pages 367, 371)

Note to Wade Burleson; "The infant who dies in infancy" does believe, Wade . . . when he passes into the presence of Christ. Otherwise, you have a person saved in Heaven without faith in Christ.

"It seems most probable," says A. H. Strong, "that the work of regeneration may be performed by the Spirit in connection with the infant soul's first view of Christ in the other world" (Systematic Theology, page 663).

That may be regarded as speculative thinking on Strong's part, but it is far better than Wade's comment, "The infant who dies in infancy never believes."

If Wade merely has in mind the infant who does not believe before death, then does he agree that the infant becomes a believer in eternity, as Strong states? Or, does the infant remain in unbelief throughout eternity?

Comments: Do not use the combox, but --
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At Tuesday, March 03, 2009 10:23:00 PM, Blogger Bob L. Ross said...

ON JOHN 3:14, 15:

Comment received at

Bob, it seems to me the point to be learned from the Lord's reference to the serpent on the pole is not the extent of the atonement, though I believe in a general atonement, but the simplicity of obtaining eternal life: It comes to us by simply looking in faith to Christ for it.

BOB'S NOTE: I think that's right, and I don't find that the Lord ever focused on the extent of the Atonement as it is debated by the camps who make an issue of it.

At Thursday, March 05, 2009 11:01:00 PM, Blogger Bob L. Ross said...


Bob's note: This following was received at -- pilgrimpub@aol.com

I agree with you.
I am Calvinistic in theology, but am weary of these folks who are "eaten up"with nothing but their version of "Reformed theology.

Keep swatting these flies!


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