THE WORK OF GOD

"This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent."--John 6:29

JOHN'S SIXTH CHAPTER opens abruptly at a scene many miles distant from Jerusalem. Jesus had responded at length to his angry persecutors in that city. He had come upon a man at the edge of the pool called Bethesda. The unnamed man had been seriously ill for 38 years. He obviously wanted to be cured--he came, as did others, to bathe in the pool after "the water is stirred up."-- John 5:5-9

Jesus asked him, "Do you wish to get well?" The man did not say yes, but he implied that he was too helpless to enter the water in time for a miracle to be performed. This vaguely positive response from a helpless man moved our Master to reply at once: "Arise, take up your pallet, and walk." And the man did!

This miracle got both of them in trouble. First, the Jews accused the man who had been healed: "It is the Sabbath, and it is not permissible for you to carry your pallet." When they later began to charge Jesus, He replied: "My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working."--John 5:10,17

Ever Loving, Ever Working

Our Master's assurance suggests an important principle. God may have rested from His creative work, but He never ceases dispensing mercy (Exod. 34:6,7). The Jews did not understand this idea. They sought all the more to kill Him. In their eyes, Jesus not only broke the Sabbath, but also He "was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God"--or so they reasoned.

Jesus was also accused in another sabbath-day healing. He replied briefly at that time saying it was not unlawful to extend mercy to animals on the sabbath day. The law did not specify when acts of rescue could be performed (Matt. 12:11,12, Luke 13:15, 14:5, Exod. 23:5,6, Deut. 22:4). That silence implied that any day was appropriate for an act of mercy. That being so, it was even more proper to help a man.

But this time Jesus answered at length. He presented truths which enraged His opposers even more (John 5:19-47). He claimed to work cooperatively with God. He was implementing God's mercy with long-range blessings in view: deliverance and salvation for all. He said that God loved Him and had committed to Him all judgment both then and in the resurrection. Further, He told them that they should believe His testimony because Moses and the prophets had testified about Him.

Signs, Loaves, and Bread of Heaven

The sixth chapter contains John's last reference to Jesus' ministry in Galilee. He was a popular teacher. "...a great multitude was following Him, because they were seeing the signs which He was performing on those who were sick" (John 6:2). There Jesus fed five thousand with five barley loaves and two fish. This further evidenced Him to be the One whom God was to send. "the people...said, 'This is of a truth the Prophet who is to come into the world.' Jesus therefore, perceiving that they were intending to come and take Him by force, to make Him king, withdrew again to the mountain by Himself alone."--John 6:14,15

Our Master knew it was not yet time for Him to be made king (Zech. 9:9-12, Matt. 21:1-16). So He acted accordingly. On the following day, Jesus realized that the people were not sincere when some who had been fed previously, asked about how He arrived at Galilee's western side. They had noticed the evening before that while His disciples had travelled by boat, He had not. To them He said, "...you seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves, and were filled. Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man shall give to you, for on Him the Father, even God, has set His seal."--John 6:26,27

All this was just like Jesus. He often built spiritual lessons around real-life situations. Sometimes He caused a miracle to impress His teachings. Here, He was about to explain that God had sent Him with a greater purpose than to supply perishable bread. Their focus, the people's, must change if He was to benefit them. Labor not, He said. Worry not. Take less interest in the bread that strengthens only for a day. Seek for that bread which leads to eternal life. They must learn more about Him. They must learn that God had selected Him. God sent Him forth. God authorized Jesus, the Son of Man, to provide living bread.

And they did wish to know more. "What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?" What prevails with God that will assure us of His blessings? Jesus told them plainly. "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent." It was no more than a matter of faith: accept Him as the sent of God, with authority to give example and to teach.

'Well all that is fine,' they might have thought. 'We saw your sign yesterday in the wilderness meal. But now you are talking about food which builds eternal life.' "What then do You do for a sign, that we may see, and believe You? What work do You perform? Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, 'He gave them bread out of heaven to eat.'"--John 6:28-31

That inquiry suggested their readiness to compare bread with bread. At once, Jesus shared further truths. "Truly, truly, I say to you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread out of heaven, but it is My Father who gives you the true bread out of heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world."--John 6:32-34

To natural minds this seemed good: "Lord, evermore give us this bread." But they still needed to learn more. The spiritual meaning of our Master's words eluded them. So Jesus spoke further about the life-giving bread. "I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me shall not hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst...you have seen Me, and yet do not believe...For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me...For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him, may have eternal life; and I Myself will raise him up on the last day."-- John 6:35-40

"...and I work"

Many Bible passages describe God's mercy towards Israel and the nations. He communicated His purposes through prophets and judges, through kings and priests. His greatest act of mercy was the sending of His only Son. Such was essential to God's program for mankind's rescue (Heb. 2:16). Not only was His Son's ministry necessary, so also was His death. And that dying was "the work of God," for it assured the purchase of all mankind and enabled the redemption of all.--Eph. 1:14

Jesus purposed to die. His baptism in water spoke to that intention. He worked "the work of God" during His 3-1/2-year journey to Calvary: reasoning, teaching, affirming, encouraging, exampling...always seeking the attention of listeners so they might understand and believe. So now He would say, and say again:

"I am the bread that came down out of heaven." 'This is the work of God...'

"I say to you, he who believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life." 'This is the work of God...'

"This is the bread which comes down out of heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die." 'This is the work of God...'

"I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he shall live forever; and the bread also which I shall give for the life of the world is My flesh." 'This is the work of God...'

"I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves." 'This is the work of God...'

"He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day." 'This is the work of God...'

"My flesh is true food, and my Blood is true drink." 'This is the work of God...'

"He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him." 'This is the work of God...'

"As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me, he also shall live because of Me." 'This is the work of God...'

"This is the bread which came down out of heaven; not as the fathers ate, and died, he who eats this bread shall live forever" (John 6:41-58). 'This is the work of God...'

Jesus labored faithfully. He died as He intended. And we believe. "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent."

While we believe, all do not and have not. "But there are some of you who do not believe."--John 6:64

Believing in Jesus

That generation to which the man Christ Jesus presented Himself lacked faith. Even His disciples lacked sufficient faith to cure someone whose father had brought him to them. When Jesus came, the father pleaded, "...if thou canst do any thing, have compassion on us, and help us." Jesus inquired into his faith: "...if thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth" (Mark 9:22,23 KJV). Apparently knowing something about Jesus (Matt. 17:14-20, Mark 9:17-29), the man cried out, "I do believe; help my unbelief." This man seemed to know that faith grows. It increases through thoughtful consideration of things understood. His belief was "the work of God." And it led to a further "work of God." The request was granted. The deaf and dumb spirit left his son, not to enter again.

Only believe! It is the only way into life. Repeated exhortations to believe impress its importance:

"This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent."

"But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name."

"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life."--John 6:29, 1:12, 3:16

Such assurances by our Master promise reward to those who believe. They denote a belief greater than mere acknowledgment that He was a servant of God. Surely He expects more of His footstep followers than simple mental assent that He lived as a man on earth. Would He not require of "believers" an allegiance superior to that of those who witnessed His remarkable signs and healings and followed Him as a popular teacher? Should not belief in Jesus change one's entire way of life? Surely the answers are 'Yes'!

And John's exhortations indicate this. The word into would more accurately represent the ancient word translated in used once in each of the three above-quoted verses.

Belief holds twin concepts. First, there is intellectual assurance. Secondly, there is heart-felt trust. When both aspects are present one believes into the Son. Those who do so leave behind their former condition of being God's enemies. They enter, instead, into a new and blessed relationship with God.

This progression from one life to another is nicely represented in the King James Version. There "into" is used fifteen times to translate the same Greek word when teaching of those who may or may not "enter into the kingdom of God." Believing into Jesus' service and purpose means trusting in His promises. Further, it means being ready to respond to them: actively participating in His service, even to the complete involvement of one's life.

Let us believe into the depths of God's purpose in sending His one and only Son. He is one with God in the work of redemption. Let our belief in atonement take us into sonship. Let us raise our hearts to spiritual fellowship with God and with Jesus.--1 John 1:3

Words Introduce Work

"Whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved" (Rom. 10:13). The significance of the word name is important to this study. The original promise was written in Joel's prophecy (Joel 2:32). It gave assurance to the faithful who trusted in the power and authority of the great God whom they worshipped. Paul used the word name as John did--in reference to the Savior into whose hands God committed all judgment (John 1:12). The name of the Son is exalted by the service and responsibility which God assigned to Him in His plan of redemption. "There is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved."--Acts 4:12

Belief into Jesus means acceptance of Bible truths related to His service. Those teachings are conveyed by words. Words relate to the "work of God," which our article text says is "that you believe in Him whom He has sent" (John 6:29). No wonder, then, that God promised to send Simon Peter to Cornelius. "...and he shall speak words to you by which you will be saved, you and all your household."--Acts 11:14

Paul, too, related words to salvation, itself "the work of God."

"But what does it say? 'The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart'--that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved; for with the heart man believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation."--Romans 10:8-10

Paul's emphasis on the word in another place is also noted: "How then shall they call upon Him in [into] whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher [one heralding]? And how shall they preach [herald] unless they are sent? Just as it is written, 'How beautiful are the feet of those who bring glad tidings of good things!'" (Rom. 10:14,15, Isa. 52:7) "So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ."--Romans 10:17

Compliance Urged

"Repent..."--that may have been our Lord's first publicly- expressed word (Matt. 4:17, Mark 1:15). Written in the imperative mood, it commands compliance. God requires that sinners think differently, think afterwards: that such admit, acknowledge, truly repent of things done before they experienced the power of the gospel; before they learned what Jesus brought to light through it.

Peter made a similar command to Jews who "disowned the Holy and Righteous One" and who "put to death the Prince of life": "Repent ye, and be converted..."--change direction, cease to do evil, admire and pursue righteous principles. He promised a blessing to all who did: "that your sins may be blotted out." The expression "blotted out" means to smear something over until it is obscured, no longer recognizable as chargeable. God's condemnation ceases to believers "from the presence ("from the face"--KJV) of the Lord" when He turns His countenance of favor upon us.--Acts 3:14,15,19

Similar words also came from Paul: "having overlooked the times of [past] ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead."--Acts 17:30,31

What happy assurance! God now fully receives Gentile hearts that respond in faith. The middle wall of partition no more restricts sonship to Jewish believers (Eph. 2:13-18). But such promises do not apply to those who can not believe and who do not obey.

Trust and Obey

Jesus came in fulfillment of God's promise. He was sent to give us an example of faith, to expand faith's influence in devoted lives, and to subdue evil-hearted enemies. And an ancient prophet foretold that many would obey Him. "The scepter shall not depart from Judah, Nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, Until Shiloh comes, and to Him shall be the obedience of the peoples" (Gen. 49:10). This prophecy foresaw the tribe from which Messiah would come, and the success of His kingdom, itself "the work of God." Despite uncertainties as to the derivation and definition of the word Shiloh, the promise surely meets its fulfillment in the reign as king of the "Prince of Peace."--Isaiah 9:6

God determined that even the Son's obedience should be tested. "Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered. And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation."--Hebrews 5:8-10

We thus conclude that belief--the first-manifested "work of God" in us--bears fruit to salvation through obedience.

Peter, too, bore witness to the importance of obedience to what is believed, teaching that the bond of our salvation awaits our compliance: "Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to those...who are chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, that you may obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood..."--1 Pet. 1:1,2

The apostle there alludes to events associated with an early covenant between God and men. That covenant became effective when it was sealed with animal blood (as distinguished from Jesus' blood). After those people agreed to obey God, both the book of the law (God's requirements as expressed to that time) and the people themselves were sprinkled with blood. "...and they said, 'All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient!'"--Exod. 24:7,8, Heb. 9:19,20, 10:22

As noted above, Peter is talking about Jesus' blood, not animal blood. Being "sprinkled with His blood" denotes the coming of believers into the newly-established covenant. Believers into Jesus receive the holy spirit. It is the first evidence of our salvation. We receive it upon our agreement to obey, that is, when we first believe into Jesus.

Such believers are privileged to participate in a further "work of God." Paul describes that work and encourages us to joyful involvement. His exhortation mentions all four participants in the atonement process: God, His Son Jesus, active co-working believers, and the unreconciled.

"Now all {these} things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ, and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were entreating through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. He made Him who knew no sin {to be} sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. And working together {with Him}, we also urge you not to receive the grace of God in vain" (2 Cor. 5:18-6:1). "For He says: In a time acceptable I heard thee and in a day of salvation I helped thee; behold now a time acceptable, behold now a day of salvation"--2 Cor. 6:2 Marshall Interlinear, Young, Rotherham, Fenton, Wilson; Isa. 49:8

Summary

"The work of God" is described and taught through "the word of God."

"The work of God"--what is it? It is all the things that God does. It is all that the Son does, too, because He abideth in the Father's will. "Whatever {the Father} does, these things the Son also does in like manner."--John 5:19

"The work of God" is whatever God directs those to do who wish to receive His likeness.

"The work of God" is that which brings others into fellowship with Him. And belief into Jesus leads into that fellowship. That is what Jesus said: "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me."--John 14:6

And it is just that which the Apostle Paul believed into: "This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior [called so because He planned our salvation through Christ], who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, {and} one mediator also between God and men, {the} man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony {borne} at the proper time."--1 Timothy 2:3-6

Belief in that is "the work of God." And that is this article's text: "...that ye believe in Him whom He has sent."

Do you believe?


(Except as noted, Scripture quotations in this folder are from the New American Standard Bible (NASB). Some words for which there is no equivalent in the Greek manuscript have been added by the translators to make more easily recognized the meaning they thought intended. Their translation shows such words in italic. Inasmuch as all Bible quotations in this folder are in italic, those supplied words are enclosed within {}.

Explanatory words or phrases added within Bible quotations are enclosed within [].)