“And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.” (John 3:14-15 ESV).
One thing to remember when reading the New Testament is that it is not “unhitched” from the Old Testament as some “Bible teachers” suggest. The New Testament shows that the gospel is even seen in the Old Testament. In fact, the Old Testament heavily points to the New. Consider Jesus’ discussion at night with a Jewish religious leader.
The same passage that contains the most clear gospel message, John 3:16-18, is the same passage that relies heavily on the Old Testament for its proof text. Nicodemus was telling Jesus that he came from God. But Jesus rebukes him and says that one had to be born again to enter the kingdom of heaven.
Nicodemus believing that he was already right with God asks how these things can be so. Jesus said that one is born of water and the Spirit. The water and the Spirit. Jesus is referring to Ezekiel 36:24-26:
“24 I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land. 25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” (ESV).
Then Nicodemus still does not understand so Jesus refers to the event recorded in Numbers 21 where the people of Israel sin against God so God sends a plague of fiery serpents to kill the people. Yet the people repent and Moses intercedes, so God tells Moses to make a bronze serpent and put it on a pole. All who looked at the serpent when they were bitten did not die. In the same way all who look at the Son of God, though bitten by sin, will not perish but have eternal life. That historical event brings John 3:16 to life.
Context is key when you are studying the Bible. You should have a general understanding of the Old Testament as you study the New Testament. You don’t have to unhitch from the Old Testament when witnessing. Jesus didn’t. Turn to Jesus and not your own sinfulness and self-righteousness and you will be born again, be sprinkled with living water, and have eternal life.
Thank you for reading this I hope that this has blessed you. For additional resources you can go to Josiah’s sermons for examples of going verse by verse through the Bible and using context to explain it. You can also go to the resources page to see the Using Hermeneutics Book Series. If you buy these books they will teach you how to study God’s Word and you will be helping this ministry greatly. Lord bless you and study God’s Word.