John 6:28 Then they said to Him, “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.”
John 6:22 - 59
ESV - 22 On the next day the crowd that remained on the other side of the sea saw that there had been only one boat there, and that Jesus had not entered the boat with his disciples, but that his disciples had gone away alone. 23 Other boats from Tiberias came near the place where they had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks.
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I believe that Jesus is taking what they literally call work and makes it a metaphor to express that there is no literal work to be done. It occurs to me that Jesus is saying the "work" is to not work, only believe.
"This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent" (John 6:29). This isn't what they asked Jesus. They didn't ask Him what was God doing, or what was God supposed to do, they asked 'what could they do to work the works of God.' That's really a strange question; they want to do God's part. They admit that they believe God has work to do that concerns them / us. They want to know if they can help God to do whatever that work is. They don't know what work God is doing, or has to do, but they want to be involved with it. That's not a bad thing that they ask, it's just not the way our life here is constructed. They wanted to do God's part. Read it again. "What can we do to work (do) the works (job) of God (that God is supposed to do) (John 6:28)?" Jesus told them what God's job is; "this is the work of God (God's job), that you believe..." God causes us to believe. It is God's work to reveal to us the truth of who His Son Jesus is, the One who was sent to die for the sins of humanity. He didn't tell them any work that they could do. He didn't say 'Your job is to believe,' or 'Your part in this is to believe.' I realize that this can be twisted to try to get that from His statement, but that's all that is. It is twisting the scriptures to get it to imply or state something that it doesn't say. He doesn't even answer them to what they can do. He tells them what God's work is. They asked about God's work; He answered them; He told them what God's work is, it is to get us to believe. It is by grace that we are saved through faith, and that not of ourselves, it is the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8). All the twisting in the world can't change the truth of that scripture. It is by unmerited favor that we are saved through believing, and we don't come to believe on our own, or by our own power, it is a gift from God. This question was similar to the question the rich young ruler of Luke 18 asked Jesus. He wanted to know what he could do to inherit eternal life. His question let's me know how he became rich; he inherited his wealth; he wanted to inherit eternal life in the same manner. Jesus first asked him about his knowledge of the commandments. He claimed to have "Kept all these from my youth." Jesus then told him to go and give his "inheritance" away and "you will have treasure in heaven" (a new inheritance, the answer to his original question). He wouldn't have the inheritance in heaven because he gave the earthly inheritance away; Jesus didn't say that. You have to twist the scriptures to get that from the narrative. The rich young ruler refused the assignment. Jesus tells the listening audience that it's easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. They understood that He was saying it is impossible. Note: He means it is impossible for men (humanity) to do anything to enter the kingdom of God by his / her own volition. That answered what He was asked by the rich young man. I think He said it about rich men to make a needed point. It was believed then, and still is by many people, that rich people are God's favorites. If that's true, then Jesus' earthly life made absolutely no sense at all. He didn't have a place to sleep (Matthew 8:20), and He is God's only begotten Son. Some of the vilest people on earth are rulers of their own country, and have great riches. It is the work of God for them to believe the One He sent, not for them to step down from being ruler and give their wealth and power away, although that could be a part of His method to get them to believe in someone other than themselves and their wealth. The church is to be fasting and praying that God will bring it to pass. If it happens it will be by God doing the works of God, not by us doing anything!
It is critical to understand 'who' is to believe 'what' specifically for salvation. John, being a Hebrew, writing to Hebrews, and not privy to the revelation of the mystery gospel later given to the apostle Paul (1 Corinthians 2:7-10), was to instruct Hebrews that the requirement from God for salvation was to believe in who Christ was...Israel's prophesied Messiah (John 3:15-16, John 6:29, John 11:26, John 12:46, Acts 3:16, Matthew 27:42, 1 John 5:1). In comparison, Paul teaches us today, living during God's dispensation of grace (Ephesians 3:1-6), that we are to believe his gospel of Christ (Ephesians 1:13), which is: 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 "Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; 2 By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. 3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; 4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:" When we believe this, we are sealed with the holy Spirit until the day of redemption, and thankfully not just until we sin again (Ephesians 4:30)…which we will most certainly do (Romans 7:22-25). Our faith in Jesus Christ makes us the righteousness of God in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21)! Our sins were forgiven nearly 2,000 years ago (Colossians 1:14, 2 Corinthians 5:19), and salvation occurs at the moment of belief in this, the gospel. Nothing that we ourselves do in the flesh can assist in what Christ has already completed for us (Ephesians 2:8-9, Colossians 2:10). It's literally how we accept Jesus Christ as our savior from this present evil world (Galatians 1:4). Only faith in Christ will work for salvation today. When you obtain faith alone in Christ alone for your salvation, you now have the license to serve Him instead of serving yourself. You are now an ambassador for Christ and a minister of the Word of reconciliation between God and man. You will desire to share the good news that saves today when you finally let go of yourself and submit to God through faith in Christ. Jesus Christ was perfect for you, did all the work for you, took the punishment on the cross that you deserved, was buried but rose from the grave the 3rd day for your justification. Thank You God! Break the yoke of bondage (Galatians 5:1) and live in peace by accepting God’s free gift (Romans 5:18) through faith in Christ and His finished cross work (Colossians 2:14)!
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