Helena Nazarene Church
Wednesday, March 21, 2018
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This Week's Full Commentary Notes

Matthew Henry's Commentary

Purple text is in the Lectionary Bulletin

John 3:14-21

Christ here discourses of the great design of his own coming into the world, and the happiness of those that believe in him, v. 14-18. Here we have the very marrow and quintessence of the whole gospel, that faithful saying (1 Tim. 1:15 ), that Jesus Christ came to seek and to save the children of men from death, and recover them to life. Now sinners are dead men upon a twofold account:—(1.) As one that is mortally wounded, or sick of an incurable disease, is said to be a dead man, for he is dying; and so Christ came to save us, by healing us, as the brazen serpent healed the Israelites, v. 14v. 15. (2.) As one that is justly condemned to die for an unpardonable crime is a dead man, he is dead in law; and, in reference to this part of our danger, Christ came to save as a prince or judge, publishing an act of indemnity, or general pardon, under certain provisos; this saving here is opposed to condemning, v. 16-18.[1.] Jesus Christ came to save us by healing us, as the children of Israel that were stung with fiery serpents were cured and lived by looking up to the brazen serpent; we have the story of it, Num. 21:6-9 . It was the last miracle that passed through the hand of Moses before his death. Now in this type of Christ we may observe,First, The deadly and destructive nature of sin, which is implied here. The guilt of sin is like the pain of the biting of a fiery serpent; the power of corruption is like the venom diffused thereby. The devil is the old serpent, subtle at first (Gen. 3:1 ), but ever since fiery, and his temptations fiery darts,his assaults terrifying, his victories destroying. Ask awakened consciences, ask damned sinners, and they will tell you, how charming soever the allurements of sin are, at the last it bites like a serpent, Prov. 23:30-32 . God’s wrath against us for sin is as those fiery serpents which God sent among the people, to punish them for their murmurings. The curses of the law are as fiery serpents, so are all the tokens of divine wrath.Secondly, The powerful remedy provided against this fatal malady. The case of poor sinners is deplorable; but is it desperate? Thanks be to God, it is not; there is balm in Gilead. The Son of man is lifted up, as the serpent of brass was by Moses, which cured the stung Israelites. 1. It was a serpent of brass that cured them. Brass is bright; we read of Christ’s feet shining like brass, Rev. 1:15 . It is durable; Christ is the same. It was made in the shape of a fiery serpent, and yet had no poison, no sting, fitly representing Christ, who was made sin for us and yet knew no sin; was made in the likeness of sinful flesh and yet not sinful; as harmless as a serpent of brass. The serpent was a cursed creature; Christ was made a curse.That which cured them reminded them of their plague; so in Christ sin is set before us most fiery and formidable. 2. It was lifted up upon a pole, and so must the Son of man be lifted up; thus it behoved him, Lu. 24:26Lu. 24:46 . No remedy now. Christ is lifted up, (1.) In his crucifixion. He was lifted up upon the cross. His death is called his being lifted up, ch. 12:32ch. 12:33 . He was lifted up as a spectacle, as a mark, lifted up between heaven and earth, as if he had been unworthy of either and abandoned by both. (2.) In his exaltation. He was lifted up to the Father’s right hand, to give repentance and remission; he was lifted up to the cross, to be further lifted up to the crown. (3.) In the publishing and preaching of his everlasting gospel, Rev. 14:6 . The serpent was lifted up that all the thousands of Israel might see it. Christ in the gospel is exhibited to us, evidently set forth; Christ is lifted up as an ensign,Isa. 11:10 . It was lifted up by Moses. Christ was made under the law of Moses, and Moses testified of him. 4. Being thus lifted up, it was appointed for the cure of those that were bitten by fiery serpents. He that sent the plague provided the remedy. None could redeem and save us but he whose justice had condemned us. It was God himself that found the ransom, and the efficacy of it depends upon his appointment. The fiery serpents were sent to punish them for their tempting Christ (so the apostle saith, 1 Co. 10:9 ), and yet they were healed by virtue derived from him. He whom we have offended is our peace. Thirdly, The way ofapplying this remedy, and that is by believing, which plainly alludes to the Israelites’ looking up to the brazen serpent, in order to their being healed by it. If any stung Israelite was either so little sensible of his pain and peril, or had so little confidence in the word of Moses as not to look up to the brazen serpent, justly did he die of his wound; but every one that looked up to it did well,Num. 21:9 . If any so far slight either their disease by sin or the method of cure by Christ as not to embrace Christ upon his own terms, their blood is upon their own head. He hath said, Look, and be saved (Isa. 45:22 ), look and live. We must take a complacency in and give consent to the methods which Infinite Wisdom has taken is saving a guilty world, by the mediation of Jesus Christ, as the great sacrifice and intercessor.Fourthly, The great encouragements given us by faith to look up to him. 1. It was for this end that he was lifted up, that his followers might be saved; and he will pursue his end. 2. The offer that is made of salvation by him is general, that whosoever believes in him, without exception, might have benefit by him. 3. The salvation offered is complete. (1.) They shall not perish, shall not die of their wounds; though they may be pained and ill frightened, iniquity shall not be their ruin. But that is not all. (2.) They shall have eternal life. They shall not only not die of their wounds in the wilderness, but they shall reach Canaan (which they were then just ready to enter into); they shall enjoy the promised rest.[2.] Jesus Christ came to save us by pardoning us, that we might not die by the sentence of the law, v. 16v. 17. Here is gospel indeed, good news, the best that ever came from heaven to earth. Here is much, here is all in a little, the word of reconciliation in miniature.First, Here is God’slove in giving his Son for the world (v. 16), where we have three things:—1. The great gospel mystery revealed: God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son. The love of God the Father is the original of our regeneration by the Spirit and our reconciliation by the lifting up of the Son. Note, (1.) Jesus Christ is the only-begotten Son of God. This magnifies his love in giving him for us, in giving him to us; now know we that he loves us, when he has given his only-begotten Son for us, which expresses not only his dignity in himself, but his dearness to his Father; he was always his delight. (2.) In order to the redemption and salvation of man, it pleased God to give his only-begotten Son. He not only sent him into the world with full and ample power to negotiate a peace between heaven and earth, but he gave him, that is, he gave him up to suffer and die for us, as the great propitiation or expiatory sacrifice. It comes in here as a reason why he must be lifted up; for so it was determined and designed by the Father, who gave him for this purpose, and prepared him a body in order to it. His enemies could not have taken him if his Father had not givenhim. Though he was not yet crucified, yet in the determinate counsel of God he was given up, Acts. 2:23 . Nay, further, God hasgiven him, that is, he has made an offer of him, to all, and given him to all true believers, to all the intents and purposes of the new covenant. He has given him to be our prophet, a witness to the people, the high priest of our profession, to be our peace, to be head of the church and head over all things to the church, to be to us all we need. (3.) Herein God has commended his love to the world: God so loved the world, so really, so richly. Now his creatures shall see that he loves them, and wishes them well. He so loved the world of fallen man as he did not love that of fallen angels; see Rom. 5:8 ; 1 Jn. 4:10 . Behold, and wonder, that the great God should love such a worthless world! That the holy God should love such a wicked world with a love of good will, when he could not look upon it with any complacency. This was a time of love indeed, Eze. 16:6Eze. 16:8 . The Jews vainly conceited that the Messiah should be sent only in love to their nation, and to advance them upon the ruins of their neighbours; but Christ tells them that he came in love to the whole world, Gentiles as well as Jews, 1 Jn. 2:2 . Though many of the world of mankind perish, yet God’s giving his only-begotten Son was an instance of his love to the whole world, because through him there is a general offer of life and salvation made to all. It is love to the revolted rebellious province to issue out a proclamation of pardon and indemnity to all that will come in, plead it upon their knees, and return to their allegiance. So far God loved the apostate lapsed world that he sent his Son with this fair proposal, that whosoever believes in him, one or other, shall not perish. Salvation has been of the Jews, but now Christ is known as salvation to the ends of the earth, a common salvation. 2. Here is the great gospel duty, and that is tobelieve in Jesus Christ (Whom God has thus given, given for us, given to us ), to accept the gift, and answer the intention of the giver. We must yield an unfeigned assent and consent to the record God hath given in his word concerning his Son. God having given him to us to be our prophet, priest, and king, we must give up ourselves to be ruled, and taught, and saved by him. 3. Here is the great gospel benefit: That whosoever believes in Christ shall not perish. This he had said before, and here repeats it. It is the unspeakable happiness of all true believers, for which they are eternally indebted to Christ, (1.) That they are saved from the miseries of hell, delivered from going down to the pit; they shall not perish. God has taken away their sin, they shall not die; a pardon is purchased, and so the attainder is reversed. (2.) They are entitled to the joys of heaven: they shall have everlasting life.The convicted traitor is not only pardoned, but preferred, and made a favourite, and treated as one whom the King of kings delights to honour. Out of prison he comes to reign, Eccl. 4:14 . If believers, then children; and, if children, then heirs. Secondly, Here is God’s design in sending hi Son into the world: it was that the world through him might be saved. He came into the world with salvation in his eye, with salvation in his hand. Therefore the aforementioned offer of live and salvation is sincere, and shall be made good to all that by faith accept it (v. 17): God sent his Son into the world, this guilty, rebellious, apostate world; sent him as his agent or ambassador, not as sometimes he had sent angels into the world as visitants, but as resident. Ever since man sinned, he has dreaded the approach and appearance of any special messenger from heaven, as being conscious of guilt and looking for judgment: We shall surely die, for we have seen God. If therefore the Son of God himself come, we are concerned to enquire on what errand he comes: Is it peace? Or, as they asked Samuel trembling, Comest thou peaceably? And this scripture returns the answer, Peaceably. 1. He did not come to condemn the world. We had reason enough to expect that he should, for it is a guilty world; it is convicted, and what cause can be shown why judgment should not be given, and execution awarded, according to law? That one blood of which all nations of men are made (Acts. 17:26 ) is not only tainted with an hereditary disease, like Gehazi’s leprosy, but it is tainted with an hereditary guilt, like that of the Amalekites, with whom God had war from generation to generation;and justly may such a world as this be condemned; and if God would have sent to condemn it he had angels at command, to pour out the vials of his wrath, a cherub with a flaming sword ready to do execution. If the Lord had been pleased to kill us, he would not have sent his Son amongst us. He came with full powers indeed to execute judgment ch. 5:22ch. 5:27 ), but did not begin with a judgment of condemnation, did not proceed upon the outlawry, nor take advantage against us for the breach of the covenant of innocency, but put us upon a new trial before a throne of grace. 2. He came that the world through him might be saved, that a door of salvation might be opened to the world, and whoever would might enter in by it. God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, and so saving it. An act of indemnity is passed and published, through Christ a remedial law made, and the world of mankind dealt with, not according to the rigours of the first covenant, but according to the riches of the second; that the worldthrough him might be saved, for it could never be saved but through him; there is not salvation in any other. This is good news to a convinced conscience, healing to broken bones and bleeding wounds, that Christ, our judge, came not to condemn, but to save. [3.] From all this is inferred the happiness of true believers: He that believeth on him is not condemned, v. 18. Though he has been a sinner, a great sinner, and stands convicted (habes confilentem reum—by his own confession), yet, upon his believing, process is stayed, judgment is arrested, and he is not condemned. This denotes more than a reprieve; he is not condemned, that is, he is acquitted; he stand upon his deliverance (as we say), and if he be not condemned he is discharged; ou krinetai —he is not judged,not dealt with in strict justice, according to the desert of his sins. He is accused, and he cannot plead not guilty to the indictment, but he can plead in bar, can plead a noli prosequi upon the indictment, as blessed Paul does, Who is he that condemns? It is Christ that died. He is afflicted, chastened of God, persecuted by the world; but he is not condemned. The cross perhaps lies heavy upon him, but he is saved from the curse: condemned by the world, it may be, but not condemned with the world, Rom. 8:1 ; 1 Co. 11:32.4. Christ, in the close, discourses concerning the deplorable condition of those that persist in unbelief and wilful ignorance, v. 18-21.(1.) Read here the doom of those that will not believe in Christ: they are condemned already. Observe, [1.] How great the sin of unbelievers is; it is aggravated from the dignity of the person they slight; they believe not in the name of the only-begotten Son of God, who is infinitely true, and deserves to be believed, infinitely good, and deserves to be embraced. God sent one to save us that was dearest to himself; and shall not he be dearest to us? Shall we not believe on his name who has a name above every name? [2.] How great the misery of unbelievers is: they are condemned already; which bespeaks, First, A certain condemnation. They are as sure to be condemned in the judgment of the great day as if they were condemned already. Secondly, A present condemnation. The curse has already taken hold of them; the wrath of God now fastens upon them. They are condemned already, for their own hearts condemn them. Thirdly, A condemnation grounded upon their former guilt: He is condemned already, for he lies open to the law for all his sins; the obligation of the law is in full force, power, and virtue, against him, because he is not by faith interested in the gospel defeasance; he is condemned already, because he has not believed. Unbelief may truly be called the great damning sin,because it leaves us under the guilt of all our other sins; it is a sin against the remedy, against our appeal. (2.) Read also the doom of those that would not so much as know him, v. 19. Many inquisitive people had knowledge of Christ and his doctrine and miracles, but they were prejudiced against him, and would not believe in him, while the generality were sottishly careless and stupid, and would not know him. And this is the condemnation, the sin that ruined them, that light is come into the world, and they loved darkness rather. Now here observe, [1.] That the gospel is light, and, when the gospel came, light came into the world, Light is self-evidencing, so is the gospel; it proves its own divine origin. Light is discovering, and truly the light is sweet, and rejoices the heart. It is a light shining in a dark place, and a dark place indeed the world would be without it. It is come into all the world (Col. 1:6 ), and not confined to one corner of it, as the Old-Testament light was. [2.] It is the unspeakable folly of the most of men that they loved darkness rather than light, rather than this light. The Jews loved the dark shadows of their law, and the instructions of their blind guides, rather than the doctrine of Christ. The Gentiles loved their superstitious services of an unknown God, whom they ignorantlyworshipped, rather than the reasonable service which the gospel enjoins. Sinners that were wedded to their lusts loved their ignorance and mistakes, which supported them in their sins, rather than the truths of Christ, which would have parted them from their sins. Man’s apostasy began in an affectation of forbidden knowledge, but is kept up by an affectation of forbidden ignorance. Wretched man is in love with his sickness, in love with his slavery, and will not be made free, will not be made whole. [3.] The true reason why men love darkness rather than light is because their deeds are evil. They love darkness because they think it is an excuse for their evil deeds, and they hate the light because it robs them of the good opinion they had of themselves, by showing them their sinfulness and misery. Their case is sad, and, because they are resolved that they will not mend it, they are resolved that they will not see it. [4.] Wilful ignorance is so far from excusing sin that it will be found, at the great day, to aggravate the condemnation: This is the condemnation, this is what ruins souls, that they shut their eyes against the light, and will not so much as admit a parley with Christ and his gospel; they set God so much at defiance that they desire not the knowledge of his ways,Job. 21:14 . We must account in the judgment, not only for the knowledge we had, and used not, but for the knowledge we might have had, and would not; not only for the knowledge we sinned against, but for the knowledge we sinned away. For the further illustration of this he shows (v. 20v. 21) that according as men’s hearts and lives are good or bad, so they stand affected to the light Christ has brought into the world.First, It is not strange if those that do evil, and resolve to persist in it, hate the light of Christ’s gospel; for it is a common observation that every one that doeth evil hateth the light, v. 20. Evil-doers seek concealment, out of a sense of shame and fear of punishment; see Job. 24:13 , etc. Sinful works are works of darkness; sin from the first affected concealment, Job. 31:33 . The light shakes the wicked, Job. 38:12Job. 38:13 . Thus the gospel is a terror to the wicked world:They come not to this light, but keep as far off it as they can, lest their deeds should be reproved. Note, 1. The light of the gospel is sent into the world to reprove the evil deeds of sinners; to make them manifest (Eph. 5:13 ), to show people their transgressions, to show that to be sin which was not thought to be so, and to show them the evil of their transgressions, that sin by the newcommandment might appear exceeding sinful. The gospel has its convictions, to make way for its consolations. 2. It is for this reason that evil-doers hate the light of the gospel. There were those who had done evil and were sorry for it, who bade this light welcome, as the publicans and harlots. But he that does evil, that does it and resolves to go on in it, hateth the light, cannot bear to be told of his faults. All that opposition which the gospel of Christ has met with in the world comes from the wicked heart, influenced by the wicked one. Christ is hated because sin is loved. 3. They who do not come to the light thereby evidence a secret hatred of the light. If they had not an antipathy to saving knowledge, they would not sit down so contentedly in damning ignorance. Secondly,On the other hand, upright hearts, that approve themselves to God in their integrity, bid this light welcome (v. 21): He that doeth truth cometh to the light. It seems, then, that though the gospel had many enemies it had some friends. It is a common observation that truth seeks no corners. Those who mean and act honestly dread not a scrutiny, but desire it rather. Now this is applicable to the gospel light; as it convinces and terrifies evil-doers, so it confirms and comforts those that walk in their integrity. Observe here, 1. The character of a good man. (1.) He is one that doeth truth; that is, he acts truly and sincerely in all he does. Though sometimes he comes short of doing good, the good he would do, yet he doeth truth, he aims honestly; he has his infirmities, but holds fast his integrity; as Gaius, that did faithfully (3 Jn. 5, ), as Paul (2 Co. 1:12 ), as Nathanael ch. 1:47 ), as Asa, 1 Ki. 15:14 . (2.) He is one that cometh to the light. He is ready to receive and entertain divine revelation as far as it appears to him to be so, what uneasiness soever it may create him. He that doeth truth is willing to know the truth by himself, and to have his deeds made manifest. A good man is much employed in trying himself, and is desirous that God would try him, Ps. 26:2 . He is solicitous to know what the will of God is, and resolves to do it, though ever so contrary to his own will and interest. 2. Here is the character of a good work: it is wrought in God, in union with him by a covenanting faith, and in communion with him by devout affections. Our works are then good, and will bear the test, when the will of God is the rule of them and the glory of God the end of them; when they are done in his strength, and for his sake, to him, and not to men; and if, by the light of the gospel, it be manifest to us that our works are thus wrought, then shall we have rejoicing, Gal. 6:4 ; 2 Co. 1:12 .

Numbers 21:4-9

Verses 4-9 Here is, I. The fatigue of Israel by a long march round the land of Edom, because they could not obtain passage through it the nearest way: The soul of the people was much discouraged because of the way, v. 4. Perhaps the way was rough and uneven, or foul and dirty; or it fretted them to go far about, and that they were not permitted to force their passage through the Edomites’ country. Those that are of a fretful discontented spirit will always find something or other to make them uneasy.II. Their unbelief and murmuring upon this occasion, v. 5. Though they had just now obtained a glorious victory over the Canaanites, and were going on conquering and to conquer, yet they speak very discontentedly of what God had done for them and distrustfully of what he would do, vexed that they were brought out of Egypt, that they had not bread and water as other people had by their own care and industry, but by miracle, they knew not how. They have bread enough and to spare; and yet they complain there is no bread, because, though they eat angels’ food, yet they are weary of it; manna itself is loathed, and called light bread, fit for children, not for men and soldiers. What will those be pleased with whom manna will not please? Those that are disposed to quarrel will find fault where there is no fault to be found. Thus those who have long enjoyed the means of grace are apt to surfeit even on the heavenly manna, and to call it light bread. But let not the contempt which some cast upon the word of God cause us to value it the less: it is the bread of life, substantial bread, and will nourish those who by faith feed upon it to eternal life, whoever calls it light bread.III. The righteous judgment which God brought upon them for their murmuring, v. 6. He sent fiery serpents among them,which bit or stung many of them to death. The wilderness through which they had passed was all along infested with those fiery serpents, as appears, Deu. 8:15 . but hitherto God had wonderfully preserved his people from receiving hurt by them, till now that they murmured, to chastise them for which these animals, which hitherto had shunned their camp, now invade it. Justly are those made to feel God’s judgments that are not thankful for his mercies. These serpents are called fiery, from their colour, or from their rage, or from the effects of their bitings, inflaming the body, putting it immediately into a high fever, scorching it with an insatiable thirst. They had unjustly complained for want of water (v. 5), to chastise them for which God sends upon them this thirst, which no water would quench. Those that cry without cause have justly cause given them to cry out. They distrustfully concluded that they must die in the wilderness, and God took them at their word, chose their delusions, and brought their unbelieving fears upon them; many of them did die. They had impudently flown in the face of God himself, and the poison of asps was under their lips, and now these fiery serpents (which, it should seem, were flying serpents, Isa. 14:29 ) flew in their faces and poisoned them. They in their pride had lifted themselves up against God and Moses, and now God humbled and mortified them, by making these despicable animals a plague to them. That artillery is now turned against them which had formerly been made use of in their defence against the Egyptians. He that brought quails to feast them let them know that he could bring serpents to bite them; the whole creation is at war with those that are in arms against God.IV. Their repentance and supplication to God under this judgment, v. 7. They confess their fault: We have sinned. They are particular in their confession: We have spoken against the Lord, and against thee. It is to be feared that they would not have owned the sin if they had not felt the smart; but they relent under the rod; when he slew them, then they sought him. They beg the prayers of Moses for them, as conscious to themselves of their own unworthiness to be heard, and convinced of the great interest which Moses had in heaven. How soon is their tone altered! Those who had just before quarrelled with him as their worst enemy now make their court to him as their best friend, and choose him for their advocate with God. Afflictions often change men’s sentiments concerning God’s people, and teach them to value those prayers which, at a former period, they had scorned. Moses, to show that he had heartily forgiven them, blesses those who had cursed him, and prays for those who had despitefully used him Herein he was a type of Christ, who interceded for his persecutors, and a pattern to us to go and do likewise, and thus to show that we love our enemies. V. The wonderful provision which God made for their relief. He did not employ Moses in summoning the judgment, but, that he might recommend him to the good affection of the people, he made him instrumental in their relief, v. 8v. 9. God ordered Moses to make the representation of a fiery serpent, which he did, in brass, and set it up on a very long pole, so that it might be seen from all parts of the camp, and every one that was stung with a fiery serpent was healed by looking up to this serpent of brass. The people prayed that God would take away the serpents from them (v. 7), but God saw fit not to do this: for he gives effectual relief in the best way, though not in our way. Thus those who did not die for their murmuring were yet made to smart for it, that they might the more feelingly repent and humble themselves for it; they were likewise made to receive their cure from God, by the hand of Moses, that they might be taught, if possible, never again to speak against God and Moses. This method of cure was altogether miraculous, and the more wonderful if what some naturalists say be true, that looking upon bright and burnished brass is hurtful to those that are stung with fiery serpents. God can bring about his purposes by contrary means. The Jews themselves say that it was not the sight of the brazen serpent that cured them, but, in looking up to it, they looked up to God as the Lord that healed them. But there was much of gospel in this appointment. Our Saviour has told us so (Jn. 3:14Jn. 3:15 ), that as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness so the Son of man must be lifted up, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish. Observe then a resemblance,1. Between their disease and ours. The devil is the old serpent, a fiery serpent, hence he appears (Rev. 12:3 ) as a great red dragon. Sin is the biting of this fiery serpent; it is painful to the startled conscience, and poisonous to the seared conscience. Satan’s temptations are called his fiery darts, Eph. 6:16 . Lust and passion inflame the soul, so do the terrors of the Almighty, when they set themselves in array. At the last, sin bites like a serpent and stings like an adder; and even its sweets are turned into the gall of asps.2. Between their remedy and ours. (1.) It was God himself that devised and prescribed this antidote against the fiery serpents; so our salvation by Christ was the contrivance of Infinite Wisdom; God himself has found the ransom. (2.) It was a very unlikely method of cure; so our salvation by the death of Christ is to the Jews a stumbling-block and to the Greeks foolishness. It was Moses that lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so the law is a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ, and Moses wrote of him, John v. 4-6. Christ was lifted up by the rulers of the Jews, who were the successors of Moses. (3.) That which cured was shaped in the likeness of that which wounded. So Christ, though perfectly free from sin himself, yet was made in the likeness of sinful flesh (Rom. 8:3 ), so like that it was taken for granted that this man was a sinner, Jn. 9:24 . (4.) The brazen serpent was lifted up; so was Christ. He was lifted up upon the cross (Jn. 12:33Jn. 12:34 ), for his was made a spectacle to the world. He was lifted up by the preaching of the gospel. The word here used for a pole signifies abanner, or ensign, for Christ crucified stands for an ensign of the people, Isa. 11:10 . Some make the lifting up of the serpent to be a figure of Christ’s triumphing over Satan, the old serpent, whose head he bruised, when in his cross he made an open show of the principalities and powers which he had spoiled and destroyed, Col. 2:15 .3. Between the application of their remedy and ours. They looked and lived, and we, if we believe, shall not perish; it is by faith that we look unto Jesus, Heb. 12:2 . Look unto me, and be you saved, Isa. 45:22 . We must be sensible of our wound and of our danger by it, receive the record which God has given concerning his Son, and rely upon the assurance he has given us that we shall be healed and saved by him if we resign ourselves to his direction. The brazen serpent’s being lifted up would not cure if it was not looked upon. If any pored on their wound, and would not look up to the brazen serpent, they inevitably died. If they slighted this method of cure, and had recourse to natural medicines, and trusted to them, they justly perished; so if sinners either despise Christ’s righteousness or despair of benefit by it their wound will, without doubt, be fatal. But whoever looked up to this healing sign, though from the outmost part of the camp, though with a weak and weeping eye, was certainly healed; so whosoever believes in Christ, though as yet but weak in faith, shall not perish. There are weak brethren for whom Christ died. Perhaps for some time after the serpent was set up the camp of Israel was molested by the fiery serpents; and it is the probable conjecture of some that they carried this brazen serpent along with them through the rest of their journey, and set it up wherever they encamped, and, when they settled in Canaan, fixed it somewhere within the borders of the land; for it is not likely that the children of Israel went so far off as this was into the wilderness to burn incense to it, as we find they did, 2 Ki. 18:4 . Even those that are delivered from the eternal death which is the wages of sin must expect to feel the pain and smart of it as long as they are here in this world; but, if it be not our own fault, we may have the brazen serpent to accompany us, to be still looked up to upon all occasions, by bearing about with us continually the dying of the Lord Jesus. 

Ephesians 2:1-10

This chapter contains an account, I. Of the miserable condition of these Ephesians by nature (v. 1-3) and again (v. 11v. 12). II. Of the glorious change that was wrought in them by converting grace (v. 4-10) and again (v. 13). III. Of the great and mighty privileges that both converted Jews and Gentiles receive from Christ (v. 14-22). The apostle endeavours to affect them with a due sense of the wonderful change which divine grace had wrought in them; and this is very applicable to that great change which the same grace works in all those who are brought into a state of grace. So that we have here a lively picture both of the misery of unregenerate men and of the happy condition of converted souls, enough to awaken and alarm those who are yet in their sins and to put them upon hastening out of that state, and to comfort and delight those whom God hath quickened, with a consideration of the mighty privileges with which they are invested.

Verses 1-3 The miserable condition of the Ephesians by nature is here in part described. Observed, 1. Unregenerate souls are dead in trespasses and sins. All those who are in their sins, are dead in sins; yea, in trespasses and sins, which may signify all sorts of sins, habitual and actual, sins of heart and of life. Sin is the death of the soul. Wherever that prevails there is a privation of all spiritual life. Sinners are dead in state, being destitute of the principles, and powers of spiritual life; and cut off from God, the fountain of life: and they are dead in law, as a condemned malefactor is said to be a dead man. 2, . A state of sin is a state of conformity to this world, v. 2. In the first verse he speaks of their internal state, in this of their outward conversation: Wherein, in which trespasses and sins, in time past you walked, you lived and behaved yourselves in such a manner as the men of the world are used to do. 3. We are by nature bond-slaves to sin and Satan. Those who walk in trespasses and sins, and according to the course of this world, walk according to the prince of the power of the air. The devil, or the prince of devils, is thus described. SeeMt. 12:24Mt. 12:26 . The legions of apostate angels are as one power united under one chief; and therefore what is called the powers of darkness elsewhere is here spoken of in the singular number. The air is represented as the seat of his kingdom: and it was the opinion of both Jews and heathens that the air is full of spirits, and that there they exercise and exert themselves. The devil seems to have some power (by God’s permission) in the lower region of the air; there he is at hand to tempt men, and to do as much mischief to the world as he can: but it is the comfort and joy of God’s people that he who is head over all things to the churchhas conquered the devil and has him in his chain. But wicked men are slaves to Satan, for they walk according to him; they conform their lives and actions to the will and pleasure of this great usurper. The course and tenour of their lives are according to his suggestions, and in compliance with his temptations; they are subject to him, and are led captive by him at his will, whereupon he is called the god of this world, and the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience. The children of disobedience are such as choose to disobey God, and to serve the devil; in these he works very powerfully and effectually. As the good Spirit works that which is good in obedient souls, so this evil spirit works that which is evil in wicked men; and he now works, not only heretofore, but even since the world has been blessed with the light of the glorious gospel. The apostle adds, Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past, which words refer to the Jews, whom he signifies here to have been in the like sad and miserable condition by nature, and to have been as vile and wicked as the unregenerate Gentiles themselves, and whose natural state he further describes in the next words. 4. We are by nature drudges to the flesh, and to our corrupt affections, v. 3. By fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, men contract that filthiness of flesh and spirit from which the apostle exhorts Christians to cleanse themselves, 2 Co. 7:1 . The fulfilling of the desires of the flesh and of the mind includes all the sin and wickedness that are acted in and by both the inferior and the higher or nobler powers of the soul. We lived in the actual commission of all those sins to which corrupt nature inclined us. The carnal mind makes a man a perfect slave to his vicious appetite.—The fulfilling of the wills of the flesh, so the words may be rendered, denoting the efficacy of these lusts, and what power they have over those who yield themselves up unto them. 5. We are by nature the children of wrath, even as others. The Jews were so, as well as the Gentiles; and one man is as much so as another by nature, not only by custom and imitation, but from the time when we began to exist, and by reason of our natural inclinations and appetites. All men, being naturally children of disobedience, are also by nature children of wrath: God is angry with the wicked every day. Our state and course are such as deserve wrath, and would end in eternal wrath, if divine grace did not interpose. What reason have sinners then to be looking out for that grace that will make them, of children of wrath, children of God and heirs of glory! Thus far the apostle has described the misery of a natural state in these verses, which we shall find him pursuing again in some following ones.

Verses 4-10 Here the apostle begins his account of the glorious change that was wrought in them by converting grace, where observe,I. By whom, and in what manner, it was brought about and effected. 1. Negatively: Not of yourselves, v. 8. Our faith, our conversion, and our eternal salvation, are not the mere product of any natural abilities, nor of any merit of our own: Not of works, lest any man should boast, v. 9. These things are not brought to pass by any thing done by us, and therefore all boasting is excluded; he who glories must not glory in himself, but in the Lord. There is no room for any man’s boasting of his own abilities and power; or as though he had done any thing that might deserve such immense favours from God. 2. Positively: But God, who is rich in mercy, etc., v. 4. God himself is the author of this great and happy change, and his great love is the spring and fontal cause of it; hence he resolved to show mercy. Love is his inclination to do us good considered simply as creatures; mercy respects us as apostate and as miserable creatures. Observe, God’s eternal love or good-will towards his creatures is the fountain whence all his mercies vouch-safed to us proceed; and that love of God is great love, and that mercy of his is rich mercy, inexpressibly great and inexhaustibly rich. And then by grace you are saved (v. 5), and by grace are you saved through faith-it is the gift of God, v. 8. Note, Every converted sinner is a saved sinner. Such are delivered from sin and wrath; they are brought into a state of salvation, and have a right given them by grace to eternal happiness. The grace that saves them is the free undeserved goodness and favour of God; and he saves them, not by the works of the law, but through faith in Christ Jesus, by means of which they come to partake of the great blessings of the gospel; and both that faith and that salvation on which it has so great an influence are the gift of God. The great objects of faith are made known by divine revelation, and made credible by the testimony and evidence which God hath given us; and that we believe to salvation and obtain salvation through faith is entirely owing to divine assistance and grace; God has ordered all so that the whole shall appear to be of grace. Observe,II. Wherein this change consists, in several particulars, answering to the misery of our natural state, some of which are enumerated in this section, and others are mentioned below. 1. We who were dead are quickened (v. 5), we are saved from the death of sin and have a principle of spiritual life implanted in us. Grace in the soul is a new life in the soul. As death locks up the senses, seals up all the powers and faculties, so does a state of sin, as to any thing that is good. Grace unlocks and opens all, and enlarges the soul. Observe, A regenerate sinner becomes a living soul: he lives a life of sanctification, being born of God; and he lives in the sense of the law, being delivered from the guilt of sin by pardoning and justifying grace. He hath quickened us together with Christ. Our spiritual life results from our union with Christ; it is in him that we live: Because I live, you shall live also. 2. We who were buried are raised up, v. 6. What remains yet to be done is here spoken of as though it were already past, though indeed we are raised up in virtue of our union with him whom God hath raised from the dead. When he raised Christ from the dead, he did in effect raise up all believers together with him, he being their common head; and when he placed him at his right hand in heavenly places, he advanced and glorified them in and with him, their raised and exalted head and forerunner.—And made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. This may be understood in another sense. Sinners roll themselves in the dust; sanctified souls sit in heavenly places, are raised above the world; the world is as nothing to them, compared with what it has been, and compared with what the other world is. Saints are not only Christ’s freemen, but they are assessors with him; by the assistance of his grace they have ascended with him above this world to converse with another, and they live in the constant expectation of it. They are not only servants to the best of masters in the best work, but they are exalted to reign with him; they sit upon the throne with Christ, as he has sat down with his Father on his throne. III. Observe what is the great design and aim of God in producing and effecting this change: And this, 1. With respect to others: That in the ages to come he might show, etc. (v. 7), that he might give a specimen and proof of his great goodness and mercy, for the encouragement of sinners in future time. Observe, The goodness of God in converting and saving sinners heretofore is a proper encouragement to others in after-time to hope in his grace and mercy, and to apply themselves to these. God having this in his design, poor sinners should take great encouragement from it. And what may we not hope for from such grace and kindness, from riches of grace, to which this change is owing? Through Christ Jesus, by and through whom God conveys all his favour and blessings to us. 2. With respect to the regenerated sinners themselves: For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, etc., v. 10. It appears that all is of grace, because all our spiritual advantages are from God. We are his workmanship;he means in respect of the new creation; not only as men, but as saints. The new man is a new creature; and God is its Creator. It is a new birth, and we are born or begotten of his will. In Christ Jesus, that is, on the account of what he has done and suffered, and by the influence and operation of his blessed Spirit. Unto good works, etc. The apostle having before ascribed this change to divine grace in exclusion of works, lest he should seem thereby to discourage good works, he here observes that though the change is to be ascribed to nothing of that nature (for we are the workmanship of God), yet God, in his new creation, has designed and prepared us for good works: Created unto good works, with a design that we should be fruitful in them. Wherever God by his grace implants good principles, they are intended to be for good works. Which God hath before ordained, that is, decreed and appointed. Or, the words may be read, To which God hath before prepared us, that is, by blessing us with the knowledge of his will, and with the assistance of his Holy Spirit; and by producing such a change in us. That we should walk in them, or glorify God by an exemplary conversation and by our perseverance in holiness.