29 Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” Context: Jn 6:27 Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed. 28 Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? 29 Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.
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Jesus spoke the words in the verse cited in the question in response to being asked by those who had followed Him across the Sea of Galilee from the place where He had fed the five thousand, "What must we do to do the works that God requires?" Two thoughts occur to me in that regard: 1) The Bible elsewhere draws a similarity between faith and works as means of salvation in passages such as Romans 4, where Paul speaks of faith being credited as a work. 2) Alternatively, but still consistently with Jesus' words, faith could be viewed as a work that does not occur on man's initiative or by his doing, but as a work that God performs within humans, which, to me, would also be consistent with Ephesians 2:8-9 speaking of faith as a gift of God.
Faith is a "work" because it is something we do and is a required condition. Note the man's question - "What must I do" to do the works that God requires. But faith is not a "work of the law" nor is it a work of "merit." Faith in no way deserves, merits, earns, or accomplishes salvation. That is, faith is a conditional work not a meritorious one. Analogous works would be things like endorsing a check that someone gave you, or handing in a ticket you got for free, or signing your name on a contract that offers you an inheritance. You did not "work for" the money, or "work for" the ticket, or "earn" the inheritance. But you still had to do the "work" of accepting the gift or entering the contract. Scripture clarifies in many places that faith is contrasted with "works of the law" or personal effort towards salvation. "We who are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified." Gal 2:15-16 But scripture is also clear that faith is a requirement. God doesn't just hand us faith or accept the gospel for us. We have to meet the gracious condition He has set. And He chose faith as the condition because it rests in our humble trust of Christ's work, not our own useless effort or non-existent merit. Question: What does it mean in Rom 3:27 that boasting is excluded because of the law that requires faith? See Answer: http://ebible.com/answers/27255?ori=167400 Some claim that faith cannot be 'any' type of work because of Eph 2:8-9: "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast." But that is over-extrapolating from the text, and would make it contradict with Jesus' statement and other passages. We see that our having been saved is a gift (not, as some claim, "faith," as faith as the gift does not fit with the Greek grammar.) https://ebible.com/questions/15669-what-does-it-mean-that-it-is-by-grace-we-have-been-saved-through-faith-and-that-this-is-not-of-ourselves-but-is-the-gift-of-god Salvation is a gift, not the "result of works." These plural works would be the works of the law or works trying to "earn" salvation. Salvation is not worked for, earned, or merited. God doesn't save us because faith somehow earns it. And faith itself doesn't save us. God saves us, as a gift, because we met His gracious condition, faith. A clearer translation might be, "not out of toil." Salvation coming by the gift of God and not by our toil does not mean there is no condition. As Jesus says, there is indeed one "work" we must do - to believe on the one God sent. "But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name." John 20:31
Belief is an act of our will. When we hear the gospel message of what Jesus has said and done to secure our salvation, we have a choice, to believe these words or reject them. However, believing something intellectually may have no impact on our daily life. Jesus came to give us a brand new life, to totally transform every day of our lives. So the real question is, will we allow that to happen. When we believe in our heart we have come to the place where we are willing to trust God with our life. As Romans 10: 1-17 explains, faith comes from hearing the Word [gospel] about Christ. This faith is a gift from God that flows through the power of his Word. That faith convinces us that what God says is true and that we can trust God with our very lives, that we can begin the process of surrendering to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in our lives. Faith begins as a small seed and grows in our lives. It grows as we put our trust in God. The "Works" component is the choice we make everyday to do what God is calling us to do. The Ephesians passage (ch 2, vs 8-10) links grace and faith with the good works that God has prepared in advance for us to do. As we do the works of God [put our trust in Him] our faith grows and we are able to do even greater works in the future. The apostle James gives us a great explanation for the connection between faith and works in James 2:14-26 "What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder. You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone. In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead." The good works we do for the kingdom of God demonstrate that our faith is genuine and authentic. As these works require us to trust in God more and more, then our faith with strengthen and grow. These works will never save us but they are proof that we have been saved by the grace of God.
It is the work of God that we believe on His Son. Not our work. His work. John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, Jesus, that whosoever, believeth in Him, should not perish, but HAVE EVERLASTING LIFE. For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him, (His finished work on the cross) might be saved. Believers are no longer condemned, but unbelievers are condemned already because they have not believed on the name of the Son of God. Once we believe we are saved forever. Notice it says, have not believed, not that they are still believing. Second Timothy 2:13 If we believe not, (after we have once believed) He abideth faithful, He can not deny Himself. His Holy Spirit that lives in all those who have trusted Jesus as the only way of salvation apart from works. Ephesians 1:13-14. Faith is not a work. We believe on His finished work for the free GIFT of eternal life. It is the work of God that saves us when we believe it. Romans 3:26-28 Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? By works? Nay, but by the law of FAITH, Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law. Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace are ye saved, through FAITH, and that not of yourselves, it is the GIFT of God, not of works, lest any man should boast. It takes no effort to believe something is true. John 3:16 Jesus said it, we believe it, and that settles it. Romans 11:6 ALL grace apart from works. Our works can not save us, only His finished work on the cross can save sinners which we all are. First John 1:8. The reason we are saved by faith alone, is because Jesus paid our sin debt in full, past, present, and future sins we have not even done yet. Romans 4:5-8 But to the one that worketh not, does nothing, but BELIEVETH on Him who justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord imputeth righteousness APART FROM WORKS. Blessed is the man whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin. First Corinthians 15:1-4. Christ died for our sins. All of them at once. John 3:18 Once we believe it we can never be condemned to hell again. Our debt is paid by Jesus one blood sacrifice for all sin forever to those that believe. Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the POWER of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth, to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. It I faith apart from works. So faith is not a work. IT Is what we believe, not what we do or do not do. Salvation is done, not do. It is a free gift from God. That means the payments have already been made. A gift is free. Not something you earn. Since Jesus one blood sacrifice covers us from all sin, we can never be condemned again. John 3:18. All we did was believe it to receive the free gift of eternal life. John 6:47 Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that BELIEVETH on me, HATH EVERLASTING LIFE. The second we believe we are saved forever. Faith alone in Christ alone apart from any works. Our works can not save us, only His finished work on the cross paid our sin debt in full and we are saved when we believe it. First John 2:2. First John 5:13 These things have I written unto you that BELIEVE on the name of the Son of God, that ye might KNOW YE HAVE ETERNAL LIFE. John 1:12 and Romans 1:16. Faith apart from works. Free GIFT from God.
Go back to John 6:28 where we find in Capernaum, Jesus' headquarters, people who ask Him this question: "What shall we do that we might work the works of God?" What shall we do? The people are asking what actions are required by God, missing the point that eternal life is something that will be given to them (John 6:27). See also John 6:28-29 See also Acts 16:30-31; Romans 1:5; 1 John 3:23. As Charles Ryrie put it, "The only 'work' that a man can do that is acceptable to God is to believe in Christ (1 John 3:23)." To believe is more than work. Faith is a gift of God's grace, prompted by God's mysterious work within us (John 6:44, 65). QSB The people picked up the word labor and misinterpreted it to mean they had to work for salvation. They completely missed the word give. Steeped in legalistic religion, they thought they had to “do something” to merit eternal life. Jesus made it clear that only one “work” was necessary—to believe on the Savior. When a person believes on Christ, he is not performing a good work that earns him salvation. There is certainly no credit in believing, for it is what God does in response to our faith that is important (see Eph. 2:8-10). Wiersbe
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