The Bronze Serpent Explained: A Monergist View of Divine Healing

And the LORD said unto Moses, “Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live. And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived.” (Numbers 21:8-9)

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. (John 3:14-15)

[Scene: The border of Canaan near the land of Midian, two Israelite men from the tribes led by Moses and a silent young woman all stand at a high point and look out over the promised land]

Zimri: Ah, finally on the border of the promised land!

Carmi: Yes, we’ve come a long ways.

Zimri: Now we get to enjoy the good part. Been quite a journey here, hasn’t it?

Carmi: Indeed. We’ve known nothing but the desert our whole lives.

Zimri: Yeah, that was was pretty dangerous too, but God’s been faithful to deliver us, even when we failed Him. Remember that time we all complained so much against Moses that God sent those vipers into the camp?

Carmi: All too well…

Zimri: But even then God’s mercy was amazing; when Moses put up that bronze serpent, all we had to do was look at it and God cured us. It was awesome, all God asked was that I look up and acknowledge my need for His help, and He healed me.

Carmi: But, what you are in effect saying is that you cured yourself.

Zimri: Cured myself? What are you talking about?

Carmi: I’m saying that you hold a man-centered view of divine healing, and lack vital understanding as to how God cured us.

Zimri: Vital understanding?

Carmi: Yes, when God delivered those He wished to from the serpents, He did so all of His own power, with no inherent cooperation from those bitten. This important teaching is commonly called the doctrine of snakes.

Zimri: You lost me. How did I cure myself?

Carmi: Looking up at the snake, in your beliefs, is something you did, and therefore you caused your own cure.

Zimri: That seems to be a bit of a stretch. God was the one who gave the cure, and commanded Moses to put up the bronze serpent, all he told us to do was look at it and-

Carmi: But looking at it was a work, it was something that you did.

Zimri: Wait, now looking is work? Remind me not to wake up on the Sabbath.

Carmi: Since it was you who effected the condition, it was in essence you who effected the cure.

Zimri: So you’re saying God just gave us the power to cure ourselves or something?

Carmi: Oh no, not at all. God had to revive you before you could look up at the snake at all.

Zimri: Revive me?

Carmi: Yes, you were actually already dead from your snake bite.

Zimri: Dead, like hyperbole ‘dead?’ Like a Genesis 20:3 ‘dead man?’

Carmi: No, literally dead.

Zimri: Like, “I am dead Horatio” dead?

Carmi: No, dead as in ‘physically decomposing’ dead, and therefore totally powerless to do anything but be a corpse.

Zimri: Uh, I don’t recall this.

Carmi: Of course not, you were dead at the time.

Zimri: Oh right, right.

Carmi: And because you were already dead from your snake bite, you weren’t capable of looking up at the snake, so you had to be brought back to life to do so.

Zimri: Well, I was certainly pretty delirious and weakened from the venom, so I have no problem buying that it was God who gave me strength to look up….

Carmi: No, no, God didn’t merely give you strength to look at the snake, He irresistibly changed you so you would both be capable and irresistibly drawn to look up at the snake.

Zimri: Changed me?

Carmi: By reviving you of course.

Zimri: Ah.

Carmi: It’s called the ‘irresistible snake.’ So you were literally dead and helpless, but God brought you back to life so you would be able and willing to look at the snake. See, it’s written right here, “…and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived.”

Zimri: Um, isn’t that saying that the people who looked at the bronze serpent survived?

Carmi: No, it’s saying that those who lived, or rather were brought to life, looked on the bronze serpent.

Zimri: That sounds a bit backwards. It seems that our living was contingent on looking at the bronze serpent, and I distinctly recall feeling the effects of the poison subside when I looked at it, not before.

Carmi: Your mistake is a common one, but your being revived, cured, and looking at the serpent all happened at the same instant in time, it’s simply a logical necessity that your being revived came first. You have to study and think about it real hard for a long, long, long time before arriving at this important truth.

Zimri: I’m sure you do.

Carmi: Of course you being a Phinehasite wouldn’t understand it.

Zimri: A what?

Carmi: A Phinehasite. Followers of the beliefs of Phinehas, you know, Aaron’s grandkid – the priest.

Zimri: Oh, him.

Carmi: He holds to the heretical view that those bitten by the snakes weren’t yet completely, physically dead, but merely had the sentence of death working in them. Phinehas is under the delusion that he wasn’t irresistibly compelled to obey by being literally resurrected, but thinks that he somehow just ‘cooperated’ with God in performing the impossibly difficult task of looking up at the snake so that he could be healed! And since he believes that he had to make some kind of decision to look up (obviously a work meritorious beyond imagining), he is therefore robbing God of the glory in healing him! So anyone who believes that free will plays any role in divine healing is a Phinehasite.

Zimri: I barely know Phinehas, much less studied anything he wrote or said.

Carmi: Doesn’t matter, you still fall into that category. If you don’t believe in totally monergistic divine healing, then you’re automatically a Phinehasite of some kind. Of course, Phinehasism is really just semi-Nimrodism, and everyone knows that the Phinehasism eventually leads to either spirit channeling or sun worship, as that’s really what consistent Phinehasism amounts to….

Zimri: And I have no idea what you’re talking about.

Carmi: Hopefully God will reveal it to you and save you from your Phinehasite blindness. In fact, here’s a list of scrolls I recommend you read on the subject that will give you a better understanding of monergist divine healing and the Phinehasite error.

Zimri: So if God actually revived us so we could look at the serpent, then why did some people stay dead from the snake bites?

Carmi: Because God didn’t want everyone to look at the snake. God only intended that certain people look at it.

Zimri: Really? I didn’t get that indication at all.

Carmi: God’s ways are very mysterious.

Zimri: Yeah, but Moses invited anyone who was bitten to look at it.

Carmi: Yes, that was the ‘outward hiss’ but not the ‘effectual hiss.’

Zimri: The what?

Carmi: God only wanted certain people to be cured, so He made only a limited amount of antivenin,

Zimri: I wasn’t told this.

Carmi: -then He chose certain people to be cured and let the rest die.

Zimri: Ah, so He chose them because He knew they’d hear and respond?

Carmi: No, He chose them from eternity past based on nothing whatsoever about them, then after they died from the snake bites, He revived the ones He chose so that they would both have the innate desire and the irresistible unction to perform the action of looking up at the bronze serpent, thereby receiving a dose of the limited supply of antivenin that He’d prepared beforehand.

Zimri: Where exactly are you getting all this?

Carmi: I…it’s…it’s so elementary, even a child could see it.

Zimri: But, didn’t He say that anyone who was bitten could look and be cured?

Carmi: Oh He did, but that was God’s “I don’t really mean this, I just say stuff like this to relate to people” will talking. In God’s “super-duper-secret really, really I actually mean this” will, He didn’t really want everyone who was bitten to look at it, and hence wouldn’t revive them, which is why the antivenin was limited.

Zimri: ….This seems like a somewhat overly complicated system of beliefs.

Carmi: Well it has to be true, otherwise you must logically have cured yourself.

Zimri: Hmmmm…I see. So since the antivenin is limited, then what if I get bitten by another viper? Could God not cure me?

Carmi: That’s the best part. The fact that you were cured of your snake bite guarantees that you will make it into the promised land.

Zimri: Really?

Carmi: Yes, it’s like a divine seal of approval. To those who have been chosen and cured, God has unconditionally chosen to provide final entrance into the new land.

Zimri: I seem to recall Him listing some stuff we’d better not do, as well as what would happen if we disobeyed….

Carmi: Oh that’s just something God’s “I don’t mean this” will says to goad you into living right. It’s all up to His sovereign “super-duper-secret” will really.

Zimri: Hey, that kind of makes sense. I mean, He wouldn’t have cured us if He’d wanted us to die in the desert.

Carmi: Exactly. While being brought to life again will certainly make you want to avoid future snake bites, there’s no actual chance for you to fall short of entering, even should you run across every viper this side of the Jordan. You can rest in complete assurance that you will make it through.

Zimri: Oh wait, but I’m pretty sure I’ve seen a few of the people die who had previously been cured.

Carmi: They were never really cured. The belief that they were actually cured stems not from objective observation, but the influence of biased Phinehasite teachings.

Zimri: But they were, you know, walking around with no apparent problems.

Carmi: God provided them with a temporary means to give the illusion that they were alive and had been cured, so that we and even they thought that they were, but the fact that they have failed to make it to the promised land demonstrates that they were never truly cured.

Zimri: How could they think they were cured, or even move around at all if they were already dead?

Carmi: That- …That’s a mystery.

Zimri: So if someone might be walking around like they’re perfectly healthy, but in reality still be poisoned, and dead no less, then isn’t it possible that you or I might not really be cured as well?

Carmi: Technically, yes, but unlikely; and if you aren’t truly cured there’s nothing you can do about it anyway, so you really shouldn’t waste time troubling yourself about such things.

Zimri: Wow, that’s a relief. I was kind of worried about bringing this Midianite chick back to camp with me. If I didn’t know for sure that God was going to preserve me, I’d be scared of what Phinehas might try and do.

Carmi: I for one find it highly doubtful that he was ever cured in the first place.

Zimri: You’re definitely right on that one. He is so man-centered. Come on Cozbi, let’s get to the camp. I’ll show you the Tabernacle.

44 thoughts on “The Bronze Serpent Explained: A Monergist View of Divine Healing

  1. That was hilarious!! You should publish that. It’s amazing how when you just transfer the ideas and concepts to another similar situation how ridiculous it sounds. Good stuff.

    Bryan L

  2. Thanks for the satire JC, on the serious side, I believe that the Numbers 23 story is very important when it comes to our view of the atonement. In John 3 just before the famous statements about how God loves the World, Jesus himself references the Numbers 23 story. The parallels between Numbers 23 and John 3 are crucial. In both situations, God is the one who provides the way of escape/salvation. In both situations, God provides the salvation to all who are involved, though all are not believers (in Israel, not all were believers, though the snake was provided for them all; in the church age, Jesus is given for the world and not all of the world ends up believing). In both situations, the salvation offered is applied to, only those who trust or have faith in God’s provision. In both situations the salvation offered is sufficient for all but efficient only for those who believe. In both situations, while the human persons have faith, it is God’s power alone not their faith that saves them (a person looked up in faith at the snake on the pole, after they had been bitten by the deadly snake, and his looking up is not what healed him, but the power of God healed him; a person looking up in faith at Jesus on the cross, after having been bitten by sin, the faith is not what grounds his salvation but the works of Jesus in his behalf is what actually saves him). In both situations, it is God’s intention to save all, though only those who respond in faith are actually saved. In both situations, those who do not have faith, cannot blame God for their lack of opportunity or faith (God offered the snake to all of them, and Jesus to the world). Numbers 23 teaches the important distinction between the provision of salvation and the application of salvation only to those who trust. And as Jesus himself cites the passage, it shows that this is in fact God’s view of how salvation works (it is provided for all but only applied to those who trust). Understanding these passages also shows how and why universalism is false (though the provision is for all, the application is only to those who trust).


  3. Glad you guys like it. I agree with you 100% about the parallel with Jesus’ words Robert. It takes some rather bizarre theological thinking to transform the simple message of “God sent His Son so that anyone can be saved” into “God only sent His Son so that only certain ones can be saved while all others are unconditionally condemned.”

  4. I don’t usually respond to people who post anonymously, but in this case I believe it is a good question. Anonymous asked: “I wonder if there were any Israelite [s] that did not look upon the serpent?”

    First of all, the text of Numbers 21 does not say who did and who did not look up at the snake on the pole. Second the text does state clear principles which included that those who **did** look up would be saved (with the implication that those who did not look up would not be saved); that it was God who was making this provision of salvation; etc. Third, if we look at the history and experiences of Israel in the Old Testament, there never seems to be an instance in which they were all believers and living out their faith appropriately. Instead of this picture of all being saved, the frequent picture was that many, sometimes most were in disobedience and rebellion against the Lord. Sometimes it even seemed as if none were saved except for a small remnant (e.g., in Judges “everyone was doing what was right in his own eyes”, in Jeremiah’s time he preached but seemed to have no positive responses, etc. etc.). The apostle Paul speaking of Israel in Romans 9 says: “But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel; neither are they all children because they are Abraham’s descendants, but THROUGH ISAAC YOUR DESCENDANTS WILL BE NAMED.” That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants.” (Romans 9:6-8). The apostle Paul as did the prophets speaks of not all of the Israelites being saved persons, that usually only a remnant was actually saved with most being nonbelievers.

    With these things in mind, is it possible that they **all** looked up and were saved in Numbers 21? Yes it is possible. And the text does not say one way or another. On the other hand, looking at the overall picture of the Old Testament, it seems probable that some did not look up and were not saved. Whether or not they all looked up or not in Numbers 21 is not the critical issue. The real issue which is present in Numbers 21 and throughout scripture (both Old and New Testaments) is that God’s way, his standard operating procedure is to provide a salvation that is sufficient for all and yet efficient only for those who trust Him (whether it was a snake on the pole in Numbers 21 or Jesus on the cross in the New Testament era). If all trusted him in Numbers 21, that universal faith among the Israelites was short lived as other passages that occur after the Numbers 21 events (e.g., Numbers 25:1-3), clearly show not all of them were saved.


  5. Hello JC,
    “Glad you guys like it. I agree with you 100% about the parallel with Jesus’ words Robert.”
    Glad to hear that you appreciate the point.

    “It takes some rather bizarre theological thinking to transform the simple message of “God sent His Son so that anyone can be saved” into “God only sent His Son so that only certain ones can be saved while all others are unconditionally condemned.”

    Actually it not bizarre theological thinking. The thinking of the determinists is quite logical: they assume that all events are predetermined by God, they then read in this assumption and “interpret” [actually reinterpret] scripture so that the bible fits their preferred determinism. It is all quite logical if you grant them their assumption or if you believe in that guiding and controlling assumption. The truth is, however, that this assumption is false and the bible actually contradicts this assumption because it presents the reality of choice/free will in numerous places. With most erroneous views, their view makes sense if you accept and/or grant their mistaken presuppositions/assumptions. The problem with these false views is that their controlling assumptions are wrong and so the whole system is off and their “interpretation” of scripture becomes skewed.


  6. Josh,

    If you’re going to continue posting hilarious stuff, I am going to have wait to read it when I get back to the dorm instead of in the Library! I about peeed myself! (Can I say peeed?)

    Seriously, I think God is calling you to be the first Theological Comedian LOL.

    Even the little dig on OSAS was very clever! Kudos.

    On a more serious note: While in mid-laugh, the seriousness of what was communicated hit me more than it has in any theological treatise I’ve read in a text book.

    Awesome post.


  7. ” . . . but that was God’s ‘I don’t really mean this, I just say stuff like this to relate to people’ will talking. In God’s ‘super-duper-secret really, really I actually mean this’ will . . .”

    I AM STILL LAUGHING ! ! ! ! ! ! Oh . . . I have tears in my eyes.


  8. This was great, JC! Too funny!

    I like the whole thing, but this one really resonated with me. I can remember my reaction when I was first exposed to the “Doctrines of Grace.”

    Zimri: Cured myself? What are you talking about?

    I thought this was pretty funny, too.

    Carmi: Yes, when God delivered those He wished to from the serpents, He did so all of His own power, with no inherent cooperation from those bitten. This important teaching is commonly called the doctrine of snakes.

    I also liked the ones that Billy mentioned.

  9. Ah yes, another wonderful example of clear and concise exegis by an Arminian. Who needs to seriously study the word of God when we can use our own mad reasoning skillz to say what the Bible means. You must be a Professor or something with all of this groundbreaking work you have put on display here.

    I am just glad that Robert will not respond to this since I am anonymous.

  10. Anonymous,

    Robert may not respond, but I will.

    You obviously have little sense of humor, which is too bad. Lighten up, dude; we have certainly read such humor tactics about Arminianism on Calvinist blogs (and even worse: see

    Anyway, there is theology in that humorous bit. Tell us your take on John 3.14-15 and the Numbers event. We don’t mind.



  11. Before this turns into another debate where nothing gets accomplished might I ask for some guidance on this? Since no one said NO I will assume that I can ask 🙂

    I wonder if this is referencing the cross? It looks like this would not be speaking of the cross when we look at the OT reference, so what would it be talking about? Maybe the Gospel being preached to all? What say any of you? Yes, even you anonymous can state your opinion on this 🙂


  12. Magnus,

    Since Jesus referenced the Numb. incident and made the comparison to what happened back then as to what happens now, the Numb. passage can be used to refer to the Message of the Cross.

    Jesus said, “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, THAT EVERYONE WHO BELIEVES MAY HAVE ETERNAL LIFE in him” (John 3.14-15). In the same way that “anyone who is bitten can look on it [the snake] and live” (Num. 21.8), so anyone who will look to Jesus and believe in Him may “live” (eternally in heaven with Him).

    Were the Israelites thinking of the future Cross? Absolutely not. Were they thinking of the future suffering Messiah? Absolutely not. They wanted to be healed and God told them how to be healed. It’s the fact that Jesus used this reference to make His point that Josh is highlighting: Look to Jesus and be saved. That is the simiple gospel.

    But the simple gospel is distorted, we believe, by the Calvinist’s notion that God must have elected whom He was going to save; which utterly dismantles the simple gospel message and especially Jesus’ use of the Numbers incident.

    Short and sweet. Time is having its way with me!


  13. Billy,

    Thanks for that, but I have no beef with saying that one has to believe in Jesus in order to be saved. I was just wondering if this is talking about the cross per se rather than just the Gospel that we are to preach everywhere and to everyone. We are to put the Gospel on display for all to see so that they can have life.

    It seems that you agree that the people in OT and Nicodemus would not view this with the cross in mind and since Jesus was talking to him and using this OT text it makes me think that maybe Jesus was not referencing the cross here, but I could be wrong. I will see what I can learn about this, thanks again for your view.


  14. Magnus wrote:

    ”I wonder if this is referencing the cross? It looks like this would not be speaking of the cross when we look at the OT reference, so what would it be talking about? Maybe the Gospel being preached to all? What say any of you?”

    And also:

    “It seems that you agree that the people in OT and Nicodemus would not view this with the cross in mind and since Jesus was talking to him and using this OT text it makes me think that maybe Jesus was not referencing the cross here, but I could be wrong. I will see what I can learn about this, thanks again for your view.”

    Magnus this idea that “maybe Jesus was not referencing the cross here” is mistaken. Jesus in the context of talking about how the Father offers His Son/Jesus to the world (v. 16) ties in the Numbers 21 story with his lifting up which we **know** to be referring to the crucifixion. Jesus refers to his being “lifted up” in Jn. 3:14. This refers to his crucifixion, which in the gospel of John is referred to by this “lifting up” language. In a parallel passage, John 12, Jesus says in verse 32: “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.” John then adds the editorial/explanatory comment: “But he was saying this to indicate the kind of death by which He was to die.” So the “lifting up” refers to the crucifixion. And if Jesus himself speaks of the “lifting up” in Jn. 3:14 then Jesus himself is tying in, comparing the Numbers 21 events and his crucifixion.

    It is significant that Jesus says in v. 32 that this lifting up/his crucifixion would be the means by which he “will draw all men to Myself.” In John 16 Jesus says that when the Holy Spirit comes he will “convict the world concerning sin, and righteousness, and judgment: concerning sin because they do not believe in Me; and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you no longer behold Me; and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged.”

    So in Jn. 3:14-16 Jesus is said to be given by the Father for the world, by his “lifting up”/crucifixion; in Jn. 12:32 the crucifixion of Jesus is the means by which all men are drawn; and Jn. 16:8-11 speaks of how the Spirit convicts the world (so the trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all involved in the work of redemption and this work is aimed at the world, a group that includes some who will eventually believe and others who will never end up believing).


  15. Robert,

    Before we get too far in this and go off on other tangents let me ask you one question was the bronze serpent crucified?


  16. Magnus, Billy has already suggested that the folks in the Old Testament era would not necessarily have thought of the bronze serpent as pointing to Jesus’ crucifixion. But most of them also would not have seen the OT sacrificial system as pointing to Jesus either (e.g. they would not have seen the two scape goats as pointing to Jesus either; or the Passover lamb signifying Jesus either). We can learn a lot about the work of Christ from the OT shadows and types. An interpretive principle is that revelation is progressive. So this means by time the NT writers write their gospels and epistles more revelation and light has been given. Jesus himself ties in the Numbers 21 story with his crucifixion in John 3. I spent some time showing the connection and discussing biblical texts, and you said nothing in response to what I presented.

    Magnus now you ask: “Before we get too far in this and go off on other tangents let me ask you one question was the bronze serpent crucified?”

    This is an odd question Magnus as I believe that you already know the answer to your own question. Can an inanimate object, say a bronze serpent, or a rock, or a silver chain be crucified? Not if crucifixion involves human persons. Is your question some sort of rhetorical question Magnus? Are you suggesting as an argument that since the bronze serpent was not literally crucified, therefore, the bronze serpent events have no connection with the crucifixion of Jesus? The scape goats were not literally crucified nor was the Passover lamb literally crucified so does that mean that they have no connection with the crucifixion of Jesus? No connection with the crucifixion of Jesus even as types?


  17. Robert,

    I am sorry that you think that I have slighted you or slighted what you wrote, but no offense was meant. I agree with most of what you wrote, but I do not feel that your view fits in with the text when I look at it in context. I also think that you went off the track a bit by immediately leaving this text and jumping to other texts that define themselves rather well as you rightly stated. If we look at what lifted up means in context then I can not see it meaning crucifixion here, of course I am not as learned as you nor have I any education in this. What I do have though is the belief that God made it simple enough for even an ignoramus, such that I am, to understand. That said when I read this text in context what I see is that the bronze serpent was lifted up or raised up for all to see. I would take that then to mean that Jesus was saying that He must be lifted up or raised up for all to see as well. Now if the bronze serpent had to be lifted so that all who were bitten may see and be cured, then so must the Son of Man be lifted up that whosoever believes in Him will be saved. So being the ignoramus that I am I ask myself how can the Son of Man be lifted up for ALL to see and that if they then believed that they would be saved, I come up with the preaching of the Gospel. What I understand Jesus to be saying here is that He must be lifted/raised up for all to see and this is accomplished by the preaching of the Gospel. I take it to be simple perhaps, but you have not shown that my view is in error on this. Just as the Israelite’s had to look upon the serpent to be healed, so too must we who believe look upon Jesus for our salvation and we learn and see how by the preaching/teaching of the Gospel.

    I thank you for your view and will think and pray to see if perhaps I am wrong and I need to see it in your light. I also want to make sure that there is no animosity between the two of us, so I humbly ask that if I did offend or anger you that you forgive me for that was not my intent. This is one problem that seems common among the internet and blogs, I fear that many times people will take what is written and try to read too much into what another has typed. It is for this very reason that I let people immediately know that I am a rather dull bulb and a poor communicator.


  18. Magnus,

    I was wondering if that was where you were going. You take the “lifting up” as a proclamation of the Gospel; a sort of “magnifying” Jesus to capture people’s attention so that they can believe in Him. Gotcha.

    Perhaps Robert thought you were challenging his view a bit when you wrote, “was the bronze serpent crucified?” I was a bit puzzled by that question myself! Actually, technically, the bronze serpent WOULD have been crucified in the sense of being fastened to the stake. But I’m just being silly.

    I do see your point about the Gospel and the “lifting up,” though. The issue I would take with that (though I don’t immediately see any danger in holding that view) is that Jesus said, “JUST AS Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness . . .” Moses did not proclaim a message about the serpent so that they could believe and be healed, but he actually fastened a bronze serpent on a pole and lifted it up from the earth.

    Jesus said, In the same way, “so the Son of Man must be lifted up.” But that’s my two cents worth, and today it’s half price!

    See ya man!


  19. Billy,

    Thanks for that and I see what you mean by my question. You know me though; I am a one thought pony. Wants I get an idea or verse I refuse to let it go until I understand it. By me asking that question it was just me stubbornly not wanting to leave the verse in question. Again, no offense was meant.

    As for Moses not proclaiming the gospel of the bronze snake 🙂 I do think that he must have said something like ‘God has provided a cure for all of you that have been bitten by the snakes, He has commanded me to raise up this bronze serpent on a pole that all of you can see and if you just look at it you will be cured.’ Now I will take your two cents that are half price today and I will owe you some change for giving you mine.

  20. Hello Magnus,

    ”I am sorry that you think that I have slighted you or slighted what you wrote, but no offense was meant.”

    I did not feel slighted by anything that you have written, and have not taken offense.

    “If we look at what lifted up means in context then I can not see it meaning crucifixion here,”

    I am not suggesting that the words “And Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on the standard” in Numbers 21:9 mean “to be crucified.” I do suggest that when Jesus speaks of being lifted up in John 3 he is speaking of his crucifixion (compare with John 12:32ff). And I believe that Numbers 21 and John 3 have some important parallels that need to be carefully considered.

    “What I understand Jesus to be saying here is that He must be lifted/raised up for all to see and this is accomplished by the preaching of the Gospel.”

    I agree with you that the preaching of the gospel will focus upon the crucifixion of Jesus/his lifting up. One of the ways you can tell the Holy Spirit is at work is that He is always about magnifying and lifting up Jesus, showing that Jesus is worthy of praise and worship. The Holy Spirit is the “shy member” of the trinity and he loves to exalt Jesus.

    Magnus do you believe that since this lifting up of Jesus is as you say “for all to see”, that God wants everyone to be saved?

    ”I also want to make sure that there is no animosity between the two of us, so I humbly ask that if I did offend or anger you that you forgive me for that was not my intent.”

    Thanks for the clarification Magnus, I was not offended by anything you wrote.

    “This is one problem that seems common among the internet and blogs, I fear that many times people will take what is written and try to read too much into what another has typed.”

    Unfortunately sometimes professing Christians do not discuss things with other Christians in an appropriate way. Thanks for your clarifications Magnus I appreciate your doing this.


  21. Robert,

    Yes I believe that God wants everyone to be saved and that is why we are to preach and tell all the Good News.

    I understand that you do not think that the serpent that Moses lifted up was meant as crucifixion, I agree with you on that. What I think we disagree about is that when Jesus says that so must he be lifted up I do not take him to be talking about crucifixion here either. I do agree that in chapter 12 Jesus does reference his crucifixion, but I know that for certain for the Gospel writer leaves no doubt here. If the lifting up of chapter 12 verse 32 is the same as the lifting up of chapter 3 verse 14 then it makes no sense too me why John made the distinction that he did in chapter 12 and why he did not do it in chapter 3. Anyways, it seems that we both agree that we are to preach and proclaim Jesus to everyone because God wants all to be saved.


  22. Great post! I could see how this could have turned as nasty as the calvinist version, but I think you were fair.. of course, im an arminian so that doesnt mean much hehe.

    Also, I just wanted to thank you for that nifty list of links on your blog. I’ve read all the recommended books you have except for Redemption Redeemed and Quest for Truth, so I decided to buy Quest for Truth. I am looking through the book and I must say that this has got to be one of the definitive counter argument (and positive argument for Arminianism) for Calvinism. I like the fact that Forlines deals with contemporary popular Calvinists.

  23. You guys apologizing all the time! That really makes me sick! I better look up to the bronze serpent so that I might be healed.

    I think the bronze serpent only relates to the healing of the sick and not to salvation.
    The Israelites were saved, when they came through the red sea and Moses lifted up the serpent because of their disobedience so that they might be healed and live.
    So then, Carmi barked up the wrong tree and Zimri not far behind.

  24. omakase,

    Glad you like the book list. I need to update it soon with a few more books.

    I love Forline’s book because of the interactive writing style he uses as well as the strong focus on exegesis.

    I think Forline’s makes a strong case that election is primarily individual according to foreknowledge. I personally lean more towards the Robert Shank “primarily corporate” view, but I think Forline’s demonatrates sound Biblical reasons to adapt the primarily individual view. Jack Cottrell argues forcefully for the same individual view in Grace Unlimited. He also makes some strong points, but I think he largely misunderstands the corporate view. I was, however, disappointed in the way that Cottrell deliberately conflated election and predestination in his essay. I find the distinction made by Shank in Elect in the Son to be far more satisfying Biblically.

    Anyway, all that to say I am glad you are reading the books and that I am a big fan of The Quest for Truth as well.

    God Bless,

  25. Ben, in your opinion, is Book of Romans the best on explaining Romans 9, or is there another book on your list that does a better job?

    I’m reading all the Romans 9 entries and comments over at Billy’s and that has been a real help, but I’d like to have something in my hands as a resource in my own library.

  26. Dawn,

    I just updated the book list and added several more on Romans. Some of them I have not read yet but come highly recommended. I have Picirilli’s and like it. I also have Witherington’s and like it very much so far, but have not finished it.

    I would also highly recommend The Weslyan Heritage Collection CD-ROM which is an amazing resource. It has several commentaries from early Methodist writers and tons on Romans. Go to the site and read what is on the CD, you will be amazed.

    My only gripe is that the editing is poor in some areas (lots of spelling errors- yes, I do notice spelling errors though I am not a very good speller), but overall an invaluable resource. Hope that helps.

  27. Paul G.,

    It seems that your post shed a little more light unto my feeble little mind when you pointed out that the looking upon the serpent was not unto salvation… hmmm

    I will have to think on that awhile and see if perhaps I can grasp it a little more.

    While I have seen your comments before and while on most things it appears I am in complete disagreement with you on, perhaps you have stumbled upon something here. Thank you.


  28. Magnus,

    I am not sure what you are trying to grasp here. No one is disputing that Num. 21 has reference to healing and not salvation. That is why the post is titled “The Bronze Serpent Explained: A Monergist View of Divine Healing”. There is, however, an important correlation between aspects of the Num. 21 story and the atonement. Jesus uses this story to help Nicodemus understand how one makes the transition into the Kingdom of God. Nicodemus was under the false impression that, being a Jew, this transition would be automatic and unconditional. Jesus wants him to see that the transition into God’s Kingdom is conditional based on whether or not the sinner apprehends Christ and His atoning work by faith.

    For this reason the reference to Num 21 is very relevant. Just as the snake was made a provision for all, only those who looked to the snake in obedience to Moses benefit from God’s healing. In the same way Christ’s sacrifice is made for all and only those who look to Him and His atoning work in faith will benefit from that atonement and the salvation that comes from it. This description leads right into John 3:16 where Jesus says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son [as an atoning sacrifice], that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” The giving of the Son must have reference to giving His life as a means of atonement. Therefore, it is not a stretch to think that the “lifted up” in John 3 has reference to the cross just as in John 12.

    We must also remember that the account in John 3 may not be exhaustive. He may not have recorded all that was said. John knew when writing his gospel that he would bring more clarity to things as he wrote. That does not mean that Jesus did not fully explain Himself to Nicodemus, or that Nicodemus could not have understood what “lifted up” meant. In fact, in John 12 the Jews seem to fully understand that Jesus is speaking of dying when he says “lifted up” because they respond with, “We heard that the Christ is to remain forever; and how can you say ‘The Son of Man must be lifted up?’”

    The point is that Jesus makes a correlation between looking to the snake and believing in Him. That was the common ground that JC was using in his parody to demonstrate that this correlation renders the monergistic view of salvation ridiculous. If I am not grasping the source of your confusion then I apologize.

    God Bless,

  29. Paul G,

    I think the bronze serpent only relates to the healing of the sick and not to salvation.

    That’s kind of obvious from a simple reading of the passage Paul. What the satire is pointing out is the mistaken reasoning monergists often employ to make their case, e.g. if man has anything to do with or fulfills any condition to [some divine work that God does], then man must somehow get some of the credit for doing part of it himself. I deemed the bronze serpent was a particularly good example since it is analogous (in saving physical life) to Christ’s being lifted up (to give eternal life).

  30. Ben,

    It seems that I would be in the same boat that Nicodemus was in if I followed your thought process. Let me explain, if Jesus was saying that Nicodemus needed to grasp the atoning work that would be accomplished by His crucifixion then I could see why his puzzler was not solved.

    No one at that time or before viewed the bronze serpent as alluding to atonement or crucifixion. So how could Nicodemus see it as such? He would have to know that Jesus was going to be crucified and that this would be for the atoning of His people. No offense, but that makes no sense when looking at the context. I will stick to what I have been saying from the beginning here and that is that this is not about crucifixion or anything like that it is about lifting/elevating Jesus and that He is to be preached and believed if one wants to enter the kingdom of God. Just as Nicodemus’s ancestors had to look to the bronze serpent in order to be healed so too must he look to Jesus and believe in order to see the kingdom of God.


  31. BTW, if the purpose of this parody is to show that the monergistic view of salvation is ridiculous then why go with a text that does not reference salvation? It seems that all parties agree that Numbers 21 is not talking about eternal salvation so why use it to try and disprove the monergistic view of salvation? Oh well, that is probably way over my head anyway.


  32. Hello JC,

    You wrote:

    “What the satire is pointing out is the mistaken reasoning monergists often employ to make their case, e.g. if man has anything to do with or fulfills any condition to [some divine work that God does], then man must somehow get some of the credit for doing part of it himself.”

    For me this obsession of monergists/determinists to argue that if we **do** anything then salvation is by works or merited by us, or achieved by us, etc. etc. is very sad. In my opinion, their whole misguided reasoning on this point, and attempts to argue that the non-calvinist view amounts to salvation by works is completely refuted by Romans 3:27-28: “Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith. For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from the works of the Law.”

    The apostle Paul says here that saving faith, the kind of faith that is involved in salvation of persons **excludes boasting** and is **not a work**. Yet determinists continue and repeatedly argue that if we respond in faith to the gospel message (without having first been regenerated) then we saved ourselves, did something to boast about. But that is not what the bible teaches: it does not teach that if we do any action at all, then we saved ourselves. If this were true, then faith itself would be a work that earns salvation. But to argue that faith is a work or earns salvation is to completely ignore what Romans 3:27-28 explicitly teaches. If a beggar is given something by the kindness and mercy of a stranger we do not then argue that the beggar earned or merited the gift. Gifts are not earned nor are they merited. And yet the determinists continue over and over to argue that if a faith response to the gospel is involved, and this faith is an action we do, then we saved ourselves or merited salvation. I do a lot of evangelism and those who seem to have properly responded by faith to the gospel message always seem to be humble about it (i.e., they recognize that they do not deserve salvation, did not earn it, could not earn it, that it is a gift, that it is God’s grace towards them, etc. etc., they are never boastful about it).


  33. Magnus,

    If you can figure out why Nathan told David the story he that did in 2 Samuel 12 when David’s sin had nothing to do with livestock, you may find the answer to that question.

  34. J.C.

    I can understand the story in II Samuel 12:1-15, but fail to see the relevance to my remark to Ben. Again, I know that this is because my simple mind can not grasp such things and I am thankful that I will lose no sleep over not seeing the connection. The little that I do know would lead me to believe that in order for me to grasp this truth that you have directed me too that I must see John chapter 3 to be talking of crucifixion and atonement and as I have stated I do not see it. I am content with the view that I have and do not see an egregious error in holding it, if you believe otherwise than please let me know.

    On another note, I would like to thank you for this post. While I know that your main goal was probably to have a little fun I am grateful that it gave me an opportunity to learn and grow in studying His Word.


  35. Magnus,

    I wasn’t addressing your remark to Ben, but your question BTW, if the purpose of this parody is to show that the monergistic view of salvation is ridiculous then why go with a text that does not reference salvation?

    I wasn’t showing the incorrectness of the monergist view of salvation directly, but that of the reasoning they employ to justify such views by applying that line of reasoning to a parallel.

  36. Magnus,

    I agree that the issue with the cross may not be so important to the meaning of the text. I personally believe that Christ is referencing the cross for the reasons I stated. Again, I would be surprised if John gave us every detail and word of the encounter between Nicodemus and Jesus, so it doesn’t bother me that it may not be as explicit as in John 12. I do wonder how the Jews of John 12 understood that “lifted up” had reference to Christ’s death, and a leading Jew like Nicodemus couldn’t figure it out. There is also no indication in the text that Nicodemus didn’t understand what was Jesus was referring to, though he may have taken it metaphorically as did the Lord’s disciples.

    You have to understand that the source of Nicodemus initial confusion was that Jesus was telling him that a change needed to take place in him to be able to enter the Kingdom. Nicodemus couldn’t grasp this because he was a law biding Jew. He thought the Messianic Kingdom was guaranteed to him for that reason. When Jesus began speaking about “believing” in Him, I am sure that this was strange as well for Nicodemus. What did he need to believe? If Jesus was the Messiah, He would establish His Kingdom and the Jews would automatically come under His eternal rule. Why should faith factor into that?

    I think the reference to the snake and being lifted up as well as Jesus being “given” so that whoever believes in Him may have eternal life was for the sake of helping Nicodemus understand that Jesus’ mission and purpose as Messiah was not what He expected.In the end, it does not matter if Nicodemus understood at that time. He most likely understood later when he helped bury Jesus and learned of the resurrection.

    It may not matter if Jesus is speaking specifically of the cross; though I think it makes better sense as to why Nicodemus should be called on to believe in Christ. The important spiritual parallels remain. Just as the Israelites, who were dying from snake venom, looked to the snake for healing, sinners who are dying in sin must look to Christ for spiritual healing and new life. Without this new life they cannot make the transition into God’s Kingdom (even if they are a law biding Jew). That is the main point, and one on which we all seem to agree. I should also point out that most commentators I have read on these “lifted up” passages see both senses, i.e. being lifted up on the cross, and being exalted. Some also see reference to the ascension as well.For more on this you might want to read my post on John 3:3, 6 if you haven’t already.

    Does Jesus Teach That Regeneration Precedes Faith in John 3:3, 6?

  37. Magnus wrote:

    “The little that I do know would lead me to believe that in order for me to grasp this truth that you have directed me too that I must see John chapter 3 to be talking of crucifixion and atonement and as I have stated I do not see it.”

    I am really wondering why you do not see that Jesus is talking about his crucifixion in John 3 (especially verse 14 “as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up”)? It has already been pointed out to you that in John 12:32ff Jesus makes it clear that the “lifting up” refers to his death on the cross (the apostle John even adds an editorial comment in 12:33 making it certain that Jesus is referring to his crucifixion). If we look at Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus another indicator is that previous to 3:14 Jesus had been talking about the necessity for being “born again” or converted. We might ask: and if a person is converted and saved, what is the grounds or basis of his salvation? The basis or grounds of salvation is the work of Jesus on the cross. So Jesus is talking about conversion in the early part of John 3. He then brings up the Numbers 21 story to make the point about how faith comes into play (the person must have faith in God’s saving provision, whether it was a snake on a pole in Numbers 21 or a crucified Savior on a cross). Jesus then says the reason this lifting up of himself was to occur (v. 14) was “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son.” Well in what way did the Father give the Son? He sent Jesus to the earth with the goal of dying on the cross for people. In v. 17 it says that “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world but that the world should be saved through Him.” Jesus **will** come to judge the world (cf. Matt. 25:31-46) at his second coming. But the first coming of Jesus was primarily for what purpose? To die on the cross. So the giving of the Son by the Father appears to be connected with the crucifixion of Jesus. So Jesus being lifted up, being given, are different ways of referring to the same reality: that Jesus would be crucified.


    PS – I hope this is acceptable, on this blog (I do not know if there is a limit to length of posts here and I want to follow the blog rules whatever they may be; so tell me if this is OK, if not, I will not do this again), but here is a sermon by C. H. Spurgeon on this theme of the lifting up of Jesus referring to his crucifixion.

    Magnus tell us if this helps you see it a bit more clearly:

    Christ Lifted Up
    July 5, 1857

    “I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.”- John 12:32
    It was on an extraordinary occasion when the Savior uttered these words. It was the crisis of the world. We very often speak of the “present crisis of the world,” and it is very common for persons of every period to believe their own age to be the crisis and turning point of the whole world’s history. They correctly imagine that very much of the future depends upon their present exertions; but they wrongly stretch the thought, and imagine that the period of their existence is the very hinge of the history of the world: that it is the crisis.
    Now, however it may be correct, in a modified sense, that every period of time is in some sense a crisis, yet there never was a time which could be truly called a crisis, in comparison with the time when our Savior spoke. In the 31st verse, immediately preceding my text, we find in the English translation, “Now is the time for judgment on this world” but we find in the Greek, “Now is the crisis of this world.” The world had come to a solemn crisis: now was the great turning point of all the world’s history. Should Christ die, or should he not? If he would refuse the bitter cup of agony, the world is doomed, if he would continue onward, do battle with the powers of death and hell! and come off a victor, then the world is blessed, and her future will be glorious. Will he succumb? Then is the world crushed and ruined beneath the trail of the old serpent. Will he conquer? Will he “lead captives in his train and give gifts to men?” Then this world will yet see times when there will be “a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness will dwell.” “Now is the crisis of this world!” “The crisis,” Jesus says, “is two-fold. Dealing with Satan and men. I will tell you the result of it. ‘The prince of this world be driven out.’ Do not fear that hell will conquer. I will cast him out; and, on the other hand do not doubt that I will be victorious over the hearts of men. ‘I, when I am lifted up, will draw all men to myself.'” Remembering the occasion upon which these words were uttered, we will now proceed to a discussion of them.
    We have three things to notice:
    1. Christ crucified, Christ’s glory. He calls it a lifting him up.
    2. Christ crucified, the minister’s theme. It is the minister’s business to lift Christ up in the gospel.

    3. Christ crucified, the heart’s attraction. “I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.”
    His own glory-the minister’s theme-the heart’s attraction.
    He uses the word “lifted up” to express the manner of his death. “I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself. He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.” But notice the choice of the word to express his death. He does not say, I, when I am crucified, I, when I am hung on the tree; no, but “I, when I am lifted up:” and in the Greek there is the meaning of exaltation. “I, when I am exalted-I , when I am lifted up on high.” He took the outward and visible fashion of the cross, it being a lifting of him up, to be the type and symbol of the glory with which the cross would give to him. “I, when I am lifted up.”
    Now, the cross of Christ is Christ’s glory.
    We will show you how. Man seeks to win his glory by the slaughter of others-Christ by the slaughter of himself: men seek to get crowns of gold-he sought a crown of thorns: men think that glory lies in being exalted over others-Christ thought that his glory lies in becoming “a worm, and not a man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people.” He stooped when he conquered; and he counted that the glory lay as much in the stooping as in the conquest.
    Christ was first glorified on the cross, because love is always glorious.
    If I might prefer any glory, I should ask to be beloved by men. Surely, the greatest glory that a man can have among his fellows is not that of mere admiration, when the throngs stare at him as he passes through the street, riding in his triumph; no the greatest fame, the greatest glory of a patriot is the love of his country-to feel that men and women, young and old, are prepared to fall at his feet in love, to give up all they have to serve him who has served them. Now, Christ won more love by the cross than he ever won elsewhere. O Lord Jesus, you never would have been so much loved, if you had sat in heaven forever, as you are loved now since you have stooped to death. No cherubim, or seraphim, or angels dressed in light, could ever have loved with hearts so warm as your redeemed above, or even your redeemed below. You won more abundant love by the nail than by your scepter. Your open side brought you the fullness of love, for your people love you with all their hearts. Christ won glory by his cross. He was never so lifted up as when he was cast down; and the Christian will bear witness, that though he loves his Master for all that He has done, yet nothing moves his heart to rapture and passion of love, like the story of the crucifixion and the agonies of Calvary.
    Again: Christ at the cross won a great deal of glory by fortitude.
    The cross was a trial of Christ’s fortitude and strength, and it was a garden in which his glory was planted. The laurels of his crown were sown in a soil that was saturated with his own blood. Sometimes the ambitious soldier pants for battle, because in days of peace he cannot distinguish himself. “Here I sit,” he says, “and my sword rusts in my scabbard, and I win no glory; let me rush to the cannon’s mouth; though some call honor a faded trinket, it may be so, yet I am a soldier, and I want it” and he pants for the encounter that he may win glory. Now, in an infinitely higher sense than that poor glory which the soldier gets, Christ looked upon the cross as being his way to honor. “Oh!” he said, “now will be the time of my endurance: I have suffered much, but I will suffer more, and then will the world see what a strong heart of love I have; how patient is the Lamb, how mighty to endure.” Christ would have had such joyous songs of praise and such songs of honor, if he would have avoided the conflict, and the battle, and the agony. We might have blessed him for what he is and for what he wished to do; we might have loved him for the very longings of his heart but we could never have praised him for his strong endurance, for his intrepid spirit, for his unconquerable love, if we had not seen him put to the severe test of crucifixion and the agonies of that awful day. Christ did win the glory by his being crucified.
    Again: Christ looked upon his crucifixion as the completion of all his work, and therefore he looked upon it as an exaltation.
    The completion of an enterprise is the harvest of its honor. Though thousands have perished in the arctic regions, and have obtained fame for their intrepid conduct, yet, my friends, the man who finally discovers the passage is the one honored most of all; and though we will forever remember those bold men who pushed their way through winter in all its might, and dared the perils of the deep, yet the man who accomplishes the deed wins more than his share of the glory. Surely the accomplishment of an enterprise is just the point where the honor hangs. And, my listeners, Christ longed for the cross, because he looked for it as the goal of all his exertions. It was to be the place upon which he could say, “It is finished.” He could never say “It is finished” on his throne: but on his cross he cried it out. He preferred the sufferings of Calvary to the honors of the multitude who crowded around him; for, preach as he might, and bless them as he might, and heal them as he might, still his work was not finished. He was restricted; he had a baptism to be baptized with, and he was restricted until it was accomplished. “But,” he said, “now I pant for my cross, for it is the crowning achievement of my labor. I long for my sufferings, because they will be the completion of my great work of grace.” Brethren, it is the end that brings the honor; it is the victory that crowns the warrior rather than the battle. And so Christ longed for this, his death, that he might see the completion of his labor. “Yes,” he said, “I am crucified, I am exalted, and I am lifted up.”
    And, once again, Christ looked upon his crucifixion with the eye of firm faith as the hour of triumph.
    His disciples thought that the cross would be a degradation; Christ looked through the outward and visible, and beheld the spiritual. “The cross,” Jesus said, “the gallows of my doom may seem to be cursed with shame, and the world will stand around and hiss at the crucified; my name will be forever dishonored, by the world, as one who died upon the cross of shame; and critics and scoffers may forever throw this in the teeth of my friends that I died with criminals; but I do not look not at the cross as they do. I know its disgrace, but I do not despise the shame-I am prepared to endure it all. I look upon the cross as the gate of triumph, as the portal of victory. Oh, let me tell you what I will see upon the cross?-just when my eyes are swimming with the last tear, and when my heart is throbbing with its last beat; just when my body is torn with its last pain of anguish, then my eyes will see the head of the dragon broken, it will see hell’s towers dismantled and its castle fallen. My eyes will see my elect ones eternally saved, I will see the prisoners of sin and death ransomed and coming from their prisons. In that last moment of my doom, when my mouth is just preparing for its last cry of ‘It is finished;’ I will see the year of my redeemed come, I will shout my triumph of the delivery of all my beloved! Yes, and I will see then, the world, my own earth conquered, and usurpers all dethroned, and I will see in a vision the glories of the last days, when I will sit upon the throne of my father David and judge the earth, attended with the pomp of angels and the shouts of my beloved!”
    Yes, my brothers and sisters, Christ saw in his cross the victories of it, and therefore he panted and longed for it as being the place of victory and the means of conquest. “I,” said Jesus, “if I am lifted up, if I am exalted,” he puts his crucifixion as being his glory. This is the first point of our text.
    II. But, now, secondly, CHRIST HAS ANOTHER LIFTING UP, not disgraceful, but truly honorable; there is a lifting of him upon the pole of the gospel, in the preaching of the Word.
    Christ Jesus is to be lifted up every day; for that purpose he came into the world: “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert,” even so Jesus might by the preaching of the truth be lifted up, “that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
    Christ is THE MINISTER’S GREAT THEME, in opposition to a thousand other things which most men choose. I would prefer that the most prominent feature in my ministry should be the preaching of Christ Jesus.
    Christ should be most prominent, not hell and damnation.
    God’s ministers must preach God’s terrors as well as God’s mercies; we are to preach the thunder of God’s law. If men will sin, we are to tell them that they must be punished for it. If they will transgress, woe to the preacher who is ashamed to say, “The Lord will come and punish.” We would be unfaithful to the solemn charge which God has given us if we were to wickedly stifle all the threats of God’s word. Does God say, “The wicked will be thrown into hell, with all the nations that forget God?” It is our business to say so. Did the loving Savior talk of the pit that burns, of the worm that never dies, and of the fire that can never be extinguished? It is ours responsibility to speak as he spoke, and not to minimize the threat. You do not show mercy to men by hiding their doom.
    But, my brethren, terrors never ought to be the prominent feature of a minister’s preaching. Many great old preachers thought they would do a great deal of good by preaching like this. I do not believe it. Some souls are awakened and terrified by such preaching; they however, are but few. Sometimes, the solemn and sacred mysteries of eternal wrath must be preached, but more often let us preach the wondrous love of God. There are more souls won by wooing than by threatening. It is not hell, but Christ, we desire to preach. O sinners, we are not afraid to tell you of your doom, but we do not choose to be forever dwelling on that mournful theme. We would rather love to tell you of Christ, and him crucified. We want to have our preaching full of the frankincense of the merits of Christ than of the smoke, and fire, and terrors of Mount Sinai, we have not come to Mount Sinai, but to Mount Zion-where milder words declare the will of God, and rivers of salvation are abundantly flowing.
    Again, the theme of a minister should be Christ Jesus in opposition to mere doctrine.
    Some of my good brethren are always preaching doctrine. Well, they are right in doing so, but I would not care myself to have as the characteristic of my preaching, doctrine only. I would rather have it said, “He preached mostly upon the person of Christ, and seemed most pleased when he began to tell about the atonement and the sacrifice. He was not ashamed of the doctrines, he was not afraid to declare the coming wrath, but he seemed as if he preached the wrath with tears in his eyes, and the doctrine solemnly as God’s own word; but when he preached of Jesus his tongue was set free, and his heart was at liberty.”
    Brethren, there are some men who preach only doctrine, and they end up damaging God’s church rather than bringing it a blessing. I know of men who have set themselves up as umpires over all spirits. They are the men. Wisdom will die with them. If they were taken away the great standard of truth would be removed. We do not wonder that they hate the Pope, two of a trade never agree, for they are far more of a Pope than he, they consider themselves infallible. I am afraid that very much of the soundness of this age, is but a mere sound, and is not real; it does not enter into the center of the heart, nor affect the person. Brethren, we would rather preach Christ than election. We love election, we love predestination, we love the great doctrines of God’s word, but we would rather preach Christ than preach these. We desire to put Christ over the head of the doctrine, we make the doctrine the throne for Christ to sit on, but we dare not put Christ at the bottom, and then press him down, and overload him with the doctrines of his own word.
    Again, the minister ought to preach Christ in opposition to mere morality.
    How many ministers in London could preach as well out of Shakespeare as out the Bible, for all they want is a moral saying. These ministers never thinks of mentioning regeneration. They sometimes talks of moral renovation. They do not think of talking about perseverance by grace. No, continuance in doing good is his perpetual cry. They do not think of preaching “believe and be saved.” No; their continual exhortation is, “Good Christian people, say your prayers, and behave well, and by these means you will enter the kingdom of heaven.” The sum and substance of their gospel is that we can do very well without Christ, that although certainly there is a little wrong in us, yet if we just mend our ways in some little degree, that old text, “except a man be born again,” need not trouble us.
    If you want to be become drunkards, if you want to be become dishonest, if you want to be taught every vice in the world, go and hear a moral preacher. These gentlemen, in their attempts to reform and make people moral, are the very men that lead the people away from morality. Listen to the testimony of that holy minister Lavington, “We have long been attempting to reform the nation by moral preaching. With what effect! None. On the contrary, we have skillfully preached the people into downright infidelity. We must change our voice; we must preach Christ and him crucified; nothing but the gospel is the power of God unto salvation.”
    And yet one more remark. The minister ought to preach Christ in opposition to some who think they ought to preach knowledge.
    God forbid we should ever preach against knowledge. The more of it a man can get, the better for him; and the better for his listeners if he has grace enough to use it well, but there are some who have so much of knowledge, that if in the course of their readings they find a very hard word, out comes the pencil: they jot it down, to be glorified in the next Sunday morning’s sermon. Do they find some outlandish German expression, which, if pulled to pieces, would mean nothing, but which looks as if it must be something wonderful, that must always come out, even at the expense of the gospel. You ought to pray to God that they may never be allowed to read anything but their Bibles all week long, because then you might hear something you could understand: but this would not suit him, if he could be understood, he would not be a great preacher, for a great preacher, according to the opinion of some, is a man who is called intellectual-that is to say, a man who knows more about the Bible than the Bible knows about itself, a man who can explain all mysteries by mere intellect, who laughs at zeal or passion, or the influence of God’s Spirit as being nothing but mere fanaticism. Intellect with him is everything. You sit and hear him, you go out, “Dear me, what a remarkable man he is. I suppose he made something out of the text, but I did not know what it was. He seemed to me to be in a fog himself, although I admit it was an extremely luminous haze.” Then people will go again to hear him, because they say he is such a clever man. The only reason is because they cannot understand him.
    The other day I was reading a book that was giving advice to ministers, I found it stated, and very seriously too, by some good old tutor of a college, “Always have one part of your sermon which the common people cannot comprehend, because in that way you will have a name for knowledge, and what you say that they can understand, will impress them even more, for by putting in a sentence or two which is incomprehensible, you at once strike their minds as being a superior man, and they believe in the weight and the authority of your knowledge, and therefore, give credence to the rest which they can comprehend.”
    Now, I contend that is all wrong. Christ does not want us to preach knowledge, but to preach the Word of God in the simplest possible manner. Why, if I could only get the highly refined and educated to listen to me, by preaching to them so that they alone could understand me, well I wouldn’t do it. I desire to preach so that the maidservant can understand, that the common laborer can understand, that the poor and illiterate may eagerly listen and gladly receive the word. And note this, there never will be much good come to the ministry until it is simplified, until our brethren learn one language, which they do not seem to know. Latin, Greek, French, Hebrew, and twenty other languages they know. There is one I would recommend to their very serious study-it is called Anglo-Saxon. If they would just try and learn that, it is astonishing what a mighty language they would find it to move the hearts of men. Saxon before every language in the world. When every other has died out for lack of power, Saxon will live, and triumph with its iron tongue, and its voice of steel. We must have the common, plain language in which to address the people. And note this, we must have Christ lifted up, Christ crucified, without the trinkets and trivialities of knowledge, without the trappings of attempted eloquence or rhetoric. If Christ Jesus is seriously preached he will draw all men to himself.
    If Christ is preached, fully held up, simply proclaimed to the people, the effect will be, he will draw all men to himself. Now, I will show the attracting power of Christ in various ways. Christ draws like a trumpet attracting men to hear the proclamation. Christ draws like a net bringing men out of the sea of sin. Christ draws, also, with bonds of love. And in the next place, Christ attracts like a banner, bringing all the soldiers around him, and, in the last place, Christ draws like a chariot. “I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.”
    First, I said that Christ draws as a trumpet.
    Men have often sounded a trumpet to attract an audience to the reading of a proclamation. The people come from their houses at the well-known sound, to listen to what they are to know. Now, my brethren, part of the attractive power of the gospel lies in attracting people to hear it. You cannot expect people to be blessed by the preaching of the gospel if they do not hear it. One part of the battle is to get them to listen to its sound. Now, the question is asked in these times, “How are we to get the working-classes to listen to the word?” The answer is, Christ is his own attraction, Christ is the only trumpet that you need to trumpet Christ. Preach the gospel, and the congregation will come by themselves. The only infallible way of getting a good congregation, is to do this. “Oh!” said a liberal and false preacher once, to a good Christian minister, “I cannot figure it out; my church is always empty, and yours is always crammed full. And yet I am sure that my sermon are more rational in doctrine than yours, and you are not by any means so talented a preacher as I am” “Well,” said the other “I will tell you the reason why your church is empty, and mine is full. The people have a conscience, and that conscience tells them that what I preach is true and that what you preach is false, so they will not listen to you.”
    Brethren, you can look through the history of Christianity ever since the beginning of the days of Protestantism, and I will dare to say, without fear of contradiction, that you will almost in every case find that the men who have attracted the greatest mass of people to hear them, have been men who were the most evangelical-who preached the most about Christ and him crucified. What was there in Whitfield to attract an audience, except the simple gospel preached with a fervent passion. Oh, It was not his ability to preach, but the gospel that drew the people.
    There is a something about the truth that always makes it popular. For if you tell me that if a man preaches the truth, that his church will be empty, well, Sir, I defy you to prove that. Christ preached his own truth, and the common people gladly listened to him, and the multitude flocked to listen to him. My good fellow minister, have you got an empty church? Do you want to fill it? I will give you a good receipe, and if you will follow it, you will, in all probability, have your church full to the doors. Burn all your manuscripts, that is No. 1. Give up your notes, that is No. 2. Read your Bible and preach it as you find it in the simplicity of its language. And give up all your hard to understand English phrases. Begin to tell the people what you have felt in your own heart, and beg the Holy Spirit to make your heart as hot as a furnace for zeal. Then go out and talk to the people. Speak to them like their brother. Be a man among men. Tell them what you have felt and what you know, and tell it energetically with a good, bold face; and, my dear friend, I do not care who you are, you will get a congregation. But if you say, “Now, to get a congregation, I must first buy an organ.” That will not serve you a bit. “But we must have a good choir.” I would not care to have a congregation that comes through a good choir. “No,” says another, “but I really must alter my style of preaching a little.” My dear friend, it is not the style of preaching, it is the style of feeling. People sometimes begin to mimic other preachers, because they are successful. Why, the worst preachers are those who mimic others, whom they look upon as standards preach naturally. Preach out of your hearts just what you feel to be true, and the old soul-stirring words of the gospel will soon draw a congregation. “Where the body is, there the eagles will be gathered together.”
    But if it ended there, what good was it? If the congregation came and listened to the sound, and then went away unsaved, what was the use it? But in the next place,
    Christ acts as a net to draw men to himself.
    The gospel ministry is, in God’s Word, compared to the fishing industry; God’s ministers are the fishermen, they go to catch souls, as fishermen go to catch fish. How will souls be caught? They will be caught by preaching Christ. Just preach a sermon that is full of Christ, and throw it to your congregation, as you throw a net into the sea-you needn’t look where they are, nor try to fit your sermon to different cases; but, throw it in, and as sure as God’s Word is what it is, “it will not return to him empty, but will accomplish what he desires and achieve the purpose for which he sent it.”
    The gospel has never been unsuccessful, when it was preached with the demonstration of the Spirit and of power. It is not fine speeches made at the death of princes, or the movements of politics which will save souls. If we wish to have sinners saved and to have our churches increased in number; if we desire the spread God’s kingdom, the only thing which we can hope to accomplish the end, is the lifting up of Christ; for, “I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.”
    In the next place, Christ Jesus draws just like the ropes of love.
    After men are saved, they are still apt to go astray; they need a rope to reach all the way from the sinner to heaven; and it needs to have a hand pulling at him all the way. Now, Christ Jesus is the hand of love that draws the saint to heaven. O child of God, you would go astray again if Jesus did not hold you tightly; it he did not draw you to himself you would still, still wander. Christian people are like our earth. Our world has two forces, it has one tendency to run off at a tangent from its orbit; but the sun draws it by a centripetal power and attracts it to itself, and so between the two forces it is kept in a perpetual circle. Oh! Christian, you will never walk rightly, and keep in the orbit of truth, if it were not for the influence of Christ perpetually attracting you to the center. You feel it, and if you do not always feel it, it is still there-you feel an attraction between your heart and Christ, and Christ is perpetually drawing you to himself, to his likeness, to his character, to his love, to his bosom, and in that way you are kept from your natural tendency to fly off and to be lost in the wide fields of sin. Bless God, that Christ lifted up draws all his people to him in that fashion.
    And now, in the next place Christ Jesus is the center of attraction; even as a banner is the center of gathering.
    We want unity in these days; we are now crying out, “away with sectarianism.” O for unity! there are some of us who truly pant after it. We do not talk about an evangelical alliance; alliances are made between men of different countries. We believe that the phrase “Evangelical Alliance” is a faulty one-it should be “Evangelical Union”-knit together in Union. Why! I am not in alliance with a brother of the Church of England; I would not be in alliance with him if he was truly a good man! I would be in union with him, I would love him with all my heart, but I would not make a mere alliance with him. He never was my enemy, he never will be; and, therefore, it is not an alliance I want with him-it is a union. And so it is with all God’s people, they do not care about alliances; they love real union and communion with one another. Now, what is the right way to bring all the churches to union? “We must revise the prayer book,” says one. You may revise it, and revise it as long as ever you like, you will never bring some of us to agree to it, for we hate Prayer Books as such, however near perfection. “Well then, we must revise the doctrines, so that they may satisfy everyone.” You cannot; that is impossible. “Well then, we must revise the disciplines.” Yes, do that. And then after that, the mass of us will stand as distant as ever. “No,” says another, “The answer lies in each of us making mutual concessions.” No, that won’t do, for if we have to make mutual concessions, who can guarantee that I won’t have to concede a part of what I believe to be true? And that I cannot do, nor can my brother on the opposite side.
    The only standard of union that can ever be lifted up in England, is the cross of Christ. As soon as we will begin to preach Christ and him crucified, we will be all one. We can fight anywhere except at the foot of the cross-for it is there that the order goes out, “put away your swords;” and those that were bitter combatants before, come and prostrate themselves there, and say, “You dear Redeemer, you have melted us into one.” Oh! my brethren, let us all preach the mighty gospel, and there will be union. The only means of unity we will ever get will be all of us preaching Christ crucified; when that is done, when every minister’s heart is in the right place, full of anxiety for souls-when every minister feels that, no matter what he is called-all he wants to do is to glorify God and win souls to Jesus, then, my dear friends, we can maintain our denominational distinctions, but the bigotry and division will have ceased and schism will no longer be known. I anxiously pray for that day, may God send it in his own time. As far as I am concerned there is my hand for every minister of God in creation, and my heart with it, I love all them that love the Lord Jesus Christ. And I feel persuaded that the nearer that all of us come to the one point of putting Christ first, Christ last, Christ middle, and Christ without end-the nearer we will come to the unity of the one Church of the Living Christ in the bond of holy permanence.
    And now I close by noticing the last sweet thought-“I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.” Then Christ Jesus will draw all his people to heaven; he says he will draw them to himself. He is in heaven;
    Then Christ is the chariot in which souls are drawn to heaven.
    The people of the Lord are on their way to heaven, they are carried in everlasting arms; and those arms are the arms of Christ. Christ is carrying them up to his own house, to his own throne; and in time his prayer-“Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am,” will be completely fulfilled. And it is being fulfill even now, for he is drawing his children in the chariot of the covenant of grace unto himself. Oh! blessed be God, the cross is the plank on which we swim to heaven; the cross is the great covenant transport which will weather out the storms, and reach its desired haven. This is the chariot, its pillars are made of pure gold, and the bottom of it of silver, it is lined with the purple of the atonement of our Lord Jesus Christ.
    And now, poor sinner, I pray to God that God Christ would pardon you. Sinner, remember his death on Calvary, remember his agonies and bloody sweat-all this he did for you; if you feel yourself to be a sinner. Doesn’t this draw you to him?
    “Though you are guilty he is good,
    He’ll wash your soul in Jesus’ blood.”
    You have rebelled against him, and revolted, but he says, “Return, faithless people; I will cure you of backsliding.” Won’t his love draw you? I pray that both his blood and his love may have their power and influence, that you may be drawn to Christ now, and in the end be drawn to heaven. May God give a blessing for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

  38. Robert,

    I don’t have any written rules for comments, though I should probably formulate some. I do think that in the future it would be better to just leave a link instead of posting something as long as that. Don’t sweat it this time though. It has been nice to get your input.


  39. Hi Ben,

    “I don’t have any written rules for comments, though I should probably formulate some. I do think that in the future it would be better to just leave a link instead of posting something as long as that. Don’t sweat it this time though. It has been nice to get your input.”

    Some rules would probably be helpful. I did not have a link, only a copy of the sermon, sent to me. I will not be leaving anything else that long again, thank you for your understanding and patience. I hope you have appreciated my input, I appreciate your blog and being able to contribute something positive to it.


  40. Pingback: Traduções Crédulas: A Serpente de Bronze Explicada: Uma Visão Monergista da Cura Divina | credulo

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