What is the significance of the illustration Jesus used in John 3:14? Num. 21:4-9.
As the Israelites were traveling toward the Promised Land, they were attacked by venomous snakes. Many people died, and many more were dying. God commanded Moses to make a snake of bronze and place it on a pole. Whoever looked to the snake was heated, not because there was any virtue in the snake, but because looking to it demonstrated faith in God and in the Messiah, who was to suffer for sin. The snake was a symbol of the sin borne by Christ (I Peter 2:24).
Life and healing were counted, reckoned, and imputed to those who looked to the uplifted serpent. Life and healing came from God in response to the faith of those who looked. They were healed and reconciled to God by virtue of the merits of Christ, the coming Savior.
"When we trust God fully, when we rely upon the merits of Jesus as a sin-pardoning Saviour, we shall receive all the help that we can desire. Let none look to self, as though they had power to save themselves. Jesus died for us because we were helpless to do this. In Him is our hope, our justification, our righteousness. When we see our sinfulness, we should not despond, and fear that we have no Saviour, or that He has no thoughts of mercy toward us. At this very time He is inviting us to come to Him in our helplessness, and be saved." -Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 431.
What relationship is there between the story of the bronze serpent and Paul's message in Romans, chapter 4?
1. Life from God was imputed to the dying Israelites who looked. Life from God (the merits of Christ's righteousness) is imputed to us when we believe (Rom. 4:3-8, 22-25).
2. Life from God had a tangible effect on the Israelites who looked; they were physically and spiritually healed. The imputation of Christ's righteousness to the one who believes is a spiritually transforming experience, not only a legal accounting. This imputation is identified as forgiveness (Rom. 4:7). As we have seen, forgiveness includes transform-nation.
"Through faith in His name He imputes unto us His righteousness, and it becomes a living principle in our life."-That I May Know Him, p. 302.