A BIBLICAL EXPLANATION AND ILLUSTRATION OF SALVATION
Christ defines a three-fold means by which the Salvation takes place.
A. It is revealed in the Bible by a “New Birth.” John 3:3-8.
It is revealed by believing the Word of God. John 3:5. The "water" here is the well-known symbol for the Word of God. Ephesians 5:26; John 15:3; Psalm 119:9. It has no reference to baptism. Other Scriptures make it abundantly clear that the new birth comes through the Word of God. I Peter 1:23-25; James 1:18. Just as water when applied cleanses from our eyes the dirt that would otherwise obscure our vision, so the Word of God, when read and believed, washes from the mind of the sinner his wrong ideas of God and His salvation. The entrance of God's word brings light on man's lost condition, Romans 3:10-19; God's love as seen in His provision for man's salvation, John 3:16; and the way by which a sinner may be saved, Romans 10:1-17.
B. It is revealed by the indwelling of the Spirit of God. John 3:5.
The Holy Spirit, the third Person in the Trinity, was sent by Christ, on His ascension, to use the Word of God to convince men of their sin; to lead them to put their trust in Christ; to indwell each person on believing; to communicate to the believer a Divine nature or capacity for spiritual things, and to guide each born-again person into all truth. John 16:7-15; Ephesians 1:13; 4:30; II Peter 1:3-4; Galatians 5:22-26.
As the Word of God is read or heard, the Holy Spirit applies the truth to the heart in convicting force, showing the sinner his lost, guilty, helpless and hopeless condition. He then reveals through the Word the way of salvation through faith in Christ and His finished work. The moment the sinner trusts in Christ He seals him as His purchased possession. This is not a question of feeling, but of fact. We do not feel the new birth.
C. It is revealed by the testimonies of those who looked and lived.
Throughout the New Testament and history, millions have looked and lived. By faith, they believed in the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ. John 3:14-16. In these words Christ made crystal clear how this new life can come to a sinner. In answer to Nicodemus' question "How can these things be?" Christ used an incident recorded in the Old Testament to illustrate how the new birth could be experienced. Now stop and read Numbers 21:4-9.
Seven words seem to sum up the incident. Let us give it our closest and most careful attention, for it is Christ's own illustration of how the sinner can be born again.
(1) Sin - Numbers 21:5. Just as Israel sinned, so all humanity has sinned against God in thought, word and deed. Romans 3:23.
(2) Judgment - Numbers 21: 6. As their sin brought God's judgment upon them, so God has revealed His wrath against all sin. Romans 1:18; Job 36:18; Romans 6:23.
(3) Repentance - Numbers 21:7. Israel realized, confessed, and sought pardon for their sin. This is repentance, which consists of a change of mind, resulting in a change of attitude, which is expressed by a change of action. God demands the repentance of the sinner. Luke 13:3; Acts 17:31; 20:21; Mark 1:15.
(4) Revelation - Numbers 21:8. "And the Lord said." As God revealed to Moses the way of salvation for these snake-bitten Israelites, so God has revealed in the Bible His way of salvation for us. II Timothy 3:15-17; Romans 10:8-9.
(5) Provision - Numbers 21:8-9. A serpent of brass was made and lifted up on a pole in full view of the camp of Israel. Now compare John 3:14. Just as Moses lifted up the brazen serpent, so Christ must be lifted up on a cross to provide salvation for sin-bitten humanity. On the cross He bore our sins, took our place, endured all the judgment due to our sins, and by His death, satisfied all God's demands against the sinner. God has indicated His acceptance of the substitutionary sacrifice of His Son by raising Him from the dead. Isaiah 53:5-6; I
Corinthians 15:1-4; Romans 5:7-8.
(6) Condition - Numbers 21:8. "When he looketh." The fact that the brazen serpent was lifted up on the cross did not, of itself, save them. Looking was not enough. There was a step of faith required for each Israelite. They had to believe that looking at the snake would really save them. They could have looked away in unbelief. They could have said that it was foolish to believe that a snake, even though God had said it, could really save them. They could have mocked and laughed with others that it was foolish. However, in order for each bitten Israelite to live, he had to look. The fact that Jesus Christ died for our sins on the cross and accomplished all the work needed for salvation does not save us. As a lost sinner, each must personally look, by faith, believing and trusting that what God has said is true. “Whosoever shall call upon the Lord shall be saved.” Romans 10:13. Just as the bitten Israelite was not asked to pray, confess or do good works in order to merit salvation, so unsaved sinners are urged to trust completely in Jesus Christ and receive Him by faith as their own personal Savior. John 1:12; Ephesians 2:8-9.
(7) Result - Numbers 21:9. "He lived." The moment a bitten Israelite (who was as good as dead) looked, he received new life. He was, as it were born again! So the moment a guilty, lost sinner believes the
gospel that Christ died for his sins, and definitely accepts Him as his own personal Savior, he receives spiritual or eternal life. He is then indwelt by the Holy Spirit, becomes a partaker of a Divine nature, and is thus born from above, or regenerated. This is the new birth, which Christ declared was absolutely essential to seeing and entering the Kingdom of God. John 3:3,5.