(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)
It is found in John 6, verses 28 and 29:
And they said to Him, “What shall we do that we may work the works of God?” Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.”
What have we found in these two verses? The work that we must do to please God and gain eternal life! “But I thought that you can’t work your way into God’s favor! After all doesn’t it say in Titus 3:5, ‘Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit…’? And aren’t there a lot of other Scriptures that say we can’t work our way into His favor?”
Yes there are!
- Ecclesasties 7:20 – “…there is not a just man on earth who does good and does not sin.”
- Isaiah 57:12 – “I will declare your [self] righteousness and your works, for they will not profit you.”
- Isaiah 64:6 – “But we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; we all fade as a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.”
- Romans 3:23 – “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
- Romans 4:4, 5 – “Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness.”
- Romans 6:23 – “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
- Ephesians 2:8, 9 – “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”
- II Timothy 1:9, 10 –
God ...has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before the world began, but has not been reveal- ed to us by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortal- ity to light through the gospel.
So why did Jesus, in John 6:29 describe as work believing in the Father who sent His Son Jesus to be our Savior? It is because the Jews were so ‘hung up’ on gaining God’s favor by their works! Here are some examples:
- Matthew 19:16 – “Now behold…[the rich young ruler] came and said to [Jesus]… ‘Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?’ ”
- Luke 18:11, 12 –
The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, “God, I thank You that I am not like other men — extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.”
Jesus said in verse 14 that this Pharisee did not find justification before God!
- Romans 9:31 and 32 (English Standard Version) – “Israel…pursued a law that would lead to righteousness [but] did not succeed in reaching that law. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works.”
- Romans 10:3 – The Jews “…being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God.”
- Galatians 5:4 – “You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law, you have fallen from grace.”
- Philippians 3:4-6 – Paul’s pre-Christian testimony:
“If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews, concerning the law, a Pharisee; concern- ing zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.”
Jesus was dealing with a people who emphasized works to please the LORD! So He spoke to them on their level, using their language: “This is the work of God….” But notice, it is the work of God, not of man! And God did all the work necessary!
- II Timothy 1:9 – The Triune God laid out the plan to save sinful human beings, “…before the world began…”
✡ ...before anything was created! ✡ ...before any human being walked the earth! ✡ ...before anyone sinned and needed redemption!
God knew what work He would have to do!
And what is that work that only God could do?
- I Timothy 1:15 – God the Son, Jesus “Christ came into the world to save sinners….”
- Galatians 4:4 and 5 – “…when the fulness of time has come, God sent forth His Son…to redeem [humankind]….”
- I Peter 1:18 and 19; 2:22 – “…you were…redeemed…with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot….who committed no sin, nor was guile found in His mouth….”
- Acts 17:2 and 3 (International Standard Version) – “…Paul…[from] the Scriptures… showed…that the Messiah had to suffer and rise from the dead: ‘This very Jesus whom I proclaim…is the Messiah.’ ”
It is all the Lord’s work, and we can add nothing to it but acceptance of what He has already done!
- Romans 3:21 through 25 –
...now the righteousness of God apart from [obeying] the law is revealed...through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who beieve. For there is no differ- ence [between Jew and Gentile]; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith....
- Romans 10:9 and 13 –
...if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved....For whoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
- Acts 16:30 and 31 – The Philippian jailer pleaded with Paul and Silas, “‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ So they said, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved….’ ”
Do you insist on working your way into God’s favor and acceptance? Remember what Jesus said in John 6:29…
“This is the work of God,
that you believe in Him whom He sent.”