Chapter 27 Faith-Looking And Partaking

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).

Whoso eateth My flesh, and drinketh My blood, hath eternal life (John 6:54).

The forgiveness of sins is not enjoyed by all men. The gospel of the cross is good news to all men. It is a message of forgiveness—not through the birth, or the teaching, but through the death of the Lord Jesus. But the benefits of that sacrifice—such as forgiveness, acceptance, reconciliation, communion—are enjoyed only by those who avail themselves of those benefits, those who wholeheartedly believe in, and give themselves to, the Lord Jesus.

Such is saving faith—the faith that saves. Faith is not saving in its exercise if there is any vagueness about the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ, or if He is viewed as anything less than the Almighty God become man, who bled and died in our room and stead. True saving faith is born in Heaven; it is the brightest star in the firmament of grace. It reads the mind of God in the cross, and kindles trust and devotion in God’s blessed Son. The Lord Jesus has made this faith simple to understand, both in its object and in its character.

Faith Is Looking

“As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up.” That takes us back to an event in Israel’s wilderness wanderings. Israel began to loathe the manna sent down from heaven and, in doing so, despised the Son of God it typified. “Our soul loatheth this light bread,” said they! Whatever God did in those days, He ever had His Son in view. God had given Israel manna from heaven in the wilderness—a wilderness which could produce no sustenance for them. The supply of life-sustaining food was wholly from above—from the God of Heaven, unseen before by human eyes, untouched by human hands. It set forth the Son of God in type in His descent into the earth as the living Bread.

But Israel loathed it though it was sweet, nourishing, and all-sufficient. For the despising of this, God judged the offense and sent fiery serpents among them, so that, when bitten, the power of death worked in them. They were condemned to death.

But God, who by reason of His own just character, must needs judge sin, also, because He is love, provided a remedy. Moses was to set up a brazen serpent on a pole as a symbol of the curse, and a type which the Lord used to describe His own lifting up on the cross to be “made sin for us.”

All that God required of those Israelites who have been bitten was that they look to the uplifted serpent—not to Moses, not to the sun’s rays, not to fighting the serpent—but only to the uplifted serpent. It was as simple as that! Thus we see in this figure that God has given us the remedy for sin’s poison in the cross of Christ. Saving faith is looking only to Him—to Christ and Him crucified. It is “look and live”—“that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

Faith Is Partaking

This is the second metaphor left us by our Lord to describe saving faith. “Whoso eateth My flesh, and drinketh My blood, hath eternal life.” The teaching of our Lord took the Jews back to another event in their history. The wilderness yielded no food and no drink. But they were fed by manna sent down from heaven, and they were given water to drink from the smitten rock—both types of Christ in His incarnation and in His sufferings and death. All that the hungering and thirsting Israelites had to do in the wilderness was to partake of what God had provided.

We are not to think of His flesh and blood in a carnal sense. It is not the flesh of His body in which He dwelt in Palestine which we are to eat. That is not possible and, if it were, it would be cannibalism. Also, it is not the material blood which coursed in our Lord’s veins while living in His human body which we are to drink. His flesh and His blood were offered in sacrifice for sins on Calvary’s cross. Faith must look to that substitutional sacrifice, which saves forever the souls of all poor sinners who accept it by faith. Through that sacrifice all manner of sin is forgiven the children of men. It cleanses from all sin. It removes all guilt. Its merits save to the utmost.

But what is faith—the faith which saves? It is like eating and drinking. When we do this in a physical way we take in something. We appropriate, use, and digest what is placed before us in the way of food and drink. It is simply accepting and using the provision made for our well-being. Such is saving faith. The sole object of saving faith is Christ and Him crucified. Faith is appropriating what He has done for our good. It is not faith in good works, not faith in baptism, not faith in the church, but faith in Christ and Him crucified.

That faith is not credulity—just believing anything of a religious character. It is not credence—accepting a certain creed of men. It is a heart experience which trusts, and takes in—appropriates—what the Lord Jesus Christ is to us in this sacrificial and substitutionary sacrifice which He made on Calvary’s cross. We receive it in the same way as eating and drinking—taking in an all-sufficient, life-giving, fully satisfying feast of good things.

My faith looks up to Thee,
Thou Lamb of Calvary,
Saviour divine!
Now hear me while I pray,
Take all my guilt away,
O let me from this day
Be wholly Thine!

May Thy rich grace impart
Strength to my fainting heart,
My zeal inspire;
As Thou hast died for me,
O may my love to Thee
Pure, warm, and changeless be,
A living fire!

Ray Palmer