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The Work of God

It was in the synagogue at Capernaum nearly two thousand years ago that Jesus defined the work of God. The teaching session was interactive in nature, meaning that the attendees were afforded the opportunity to offer feedback and submit questions to the guest lecturer. But this was not your average synagogue crowd. In the back of their minds was the recent miraculous feeding of several thousand Jews with five barley loaves and two small fishes. Many in the congregation were eyewitnesses who had been satiated with the overabundance.

A campaign to make Him king had been set in motion, marked by a willingness to invest whatever labor was required to make it happen. Jesus knew that a selfish desire for continued physical fulness was behind the effort, and exhorted them to redirect their labor toward “that meat which endureth unto everlasting life” (John 6:27). The response “What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?” indicated a desire for specifics (6:28). So the Lord said: “This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent” (6:29).

Two ideas appear to be melded together in this definition. First, the work of God is the abandonment of any works of righteousness that one might deem necessary to earn everlasting life. If a man wants to do the work of God, and experience everlasting life, which the Son of man alone can give, he must stop working to earn it and start trusting to receive it! Secondly, the work of God is the gracious endeavor of the Father to draw unregenerate sinners to His Son, so that they might believe in Him and have eternal life! Engaging in the work of God is engaging oneself with the God who is working to ignite faith in the hearts of the lost.

After Jesus defined the work of God as faith that excluded meritorious works of righteousness, they immediately began to excuse themselves from such faith because, as they saw it, sufficient evidence was lacking to command such trust. They reasoned that Jesus, who had fed them once, was no match for Moses, in whom they allegedly trusted, who had fed them for forty years in the wilderness. Jesus forthwith returned the dialogue to matters spiritual and eternal, contrasting the earthly, perishable bread given through Moses with the heavenly, nonperishable bread that the Father was giving to the world through His Son Jesus.

Anyone who studies the content of this passage will reach the inescapable conclusion that giving is at the core of the work of God! The Son of man gives everlasting life (6:27). The Father gives to men the true bread from heaven (6:32) The bread of God gives life unto the world (6:33). Jesus gives His flesh for the life of the world (6:51). The Father who draws men (6:44) gives to them the ability to come to His Son (6:65). The Father gives to the Son every drawn individual who believes, and none of these shall ever be lost (6:37, 39).

The phrases “all that the Father giveth me” (6:37) and “all which he hath given me“ (6:39) are an interpretive challenge for any expositor or theologian. In His divine and practical wisdom, however, Jesus included the interpretive keys within the text itself. The verb giveth in 6:37 is present tense, signifying durative or continuous action. Jesus is referring to a giving activity that began with John the Baptist and continued into the present hour. A literal translation is “every one that the Father is giving to me shall come to me.” The verb hath given in 6:39 is a perfect tense, signifying completed action with abiding results. In this statement Jesus included all who had been given to Him up to that moment.

The meaning that emerges from the text is that the Father is continually giving to the Son, one by one, those who believe on Him to life everlasting. All who are given become an abiding possession of Christ, and for that reason none of them shall ever be lost. This is the Father’s will! The use of these two verb tenses in the order that Jesus used them was designed (1) to teach us that the work of God is primarily a real time activity, and (2) to disabuse us of the notion that this giving of the Father was a done deal in eternity past! The cumulative result of what the Father is giving to the Son in the present will determine what the Father hath given to the Son at the time of reckoning.

Brethren, the Father is still engaged in the work of drawing and teaching sinners in order that they might believe on the Lord Jesus and be saved. It becomes more apparent with each passing day that this world is starving for spiritual sustenance. The Bread of heaven, the Lord Jesus Christ, is the only answer! The first order of business for any man is to hear and learn from the Father those things that pertain to His Son, and, having been taught, to come to Christ, believing on Him unto life everlasting. The second order of business is to become a laborer together with God, distributing the bread of the gospel to all who suffer from spiritual hunger. This is the work of God—the noblest work on the face of the earth!


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