Jesus reminds us not to seek to do the work of God through self or with any expectation of blessing or reward. Absolute faith in the full nature, victory, and purpose of Christ as Suffering Servant and Lion of Judah is the ‘work’ we are called to. In Him, every work of God is already established and we are simply vessels to manifest it in the world.
Then 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.” (John 6:28-29)
As believers, we are all called to manifest the work of God in and through our lives. Salvation is only the beginning of a life lived in surrender and service to Him. Doing His work and bearing kingdom fruit is how we glorify Him in this world. We’re told in James 2:17 that faith without works is dead, and Paul talks about doing the works of the Lord. Yet today’s verse seems to contradict all these others and the accepted Christian principle of doing His work while we are here on this earth. Can it be that everyone has ‘got it wrong’ and all we need to do is believe – have faith – without resultant works? Does this mean that we’re here to simply testify to faith in Christ as one sent by God? If we dig a little deeper, we’ll discover a beautiful wisdom that resolves all apparent contradictions.
Jesus and the work of God.
Christ came and, by His own testimony, did only the will of the Father. A quick look at creation reminds us that God’s will always results in works. Creation is the works of His hands and the manifestation of His will. Therefore, if Jesus came to do the will of the Father, He also came to do the work of God – the manifestation of His will. Jesus also said that He did nothing of Himself but only what He heard from the Father. What He heard was the Father’s will which was then established or worked by Christ. Simply put, Jesus was sent by God to do His work, i.e. to reveal and accomplish His will. Our faith as believers is rooted in this absolute and powerful truth. Unless we believe that Jesus was sent by God for this particular purpose, we have no real basis for faith.
Just as He came some 2 000 years ago, Jesus will return once again do the work of God. His first coming was as the suffering servant, but His second coming will be as the Lion of Judah. He will carry the full power and authority of God to reign and rule and to dispense judgement. In this, once again, He will manifest the perfect will of God. Our faith, therefore, must include both. We cannot stop at the cross and resurrection but must look forward to eternity. If we believe in Jesus it must be as both Saviour and King, otherwise we serve an incomplete Christ and see only half of the work and will of God. The Jesus who raised the dead also cleared the temple with a whip. Both of these were the work of God and according to His will.
Believing and the work of God.
Our verse today says very clearly that to believe in Jesus is to do the work of God. It’s in the Bible so it must be true, but so are all the other verses about works. They must therefore be equally true. The solution to the apparent dilemma is Christ. If we believe in the one God sent, we believe absolutely everything about Him, including the work of God He accomplished. Included in that faith is the truth of Christ in us and us in Christ. We can no longer be separated. Believing in Him brings us to the place of full identification with Him as He did with us. We now live in the perfect exchange that was God’s work – His will – through the cross. Jesus continues His work in and through us. We don’t do the work. We need only believe in Him who does it.
Christ has already accomplished every single work of God. Everything, whether past, present, or future is already perfect and complete in Him. God has created good works for us to walk in, but we do so in Christ. The will of God, already accomplished, is simply outworked through our lives in Christ. It is believing in Him – all of Him and the full measure of His work on the cross – that enables Him to manifest God’s will in and through us. The wonderful part about this truth is that there is no striving or stressing involved. It has nothing to do with us and our strengths or weaknesses and everything to do with Christ. If we believe in Him, the work will follow because our faith includes what He came to do. It really is most beautifully simple and wise all at the same time.
Work of God or God of the work.
The context of our verse is the multitude who followed Jesus because He had fed them miraculously on a previous occasion. Their interest was not in hearing His teaching but in what they could get out of it. Today’s verse is their response to His challenge and reveals their shallow attitude to the work of God. They were focused on the work rather than on Him. Even after He had redirected their focus to the necessity of faith in Him, they went on to ask what sign He would give them. It becomes clear, then, that their desire was not to serve God and do His work, but rather for the benefits they could get in doing it. Sadly, it’s an attitude common to many believers, one based on an incorrect perception that if we do His work, He will bless or reward us. The motivation is the expected blessing.
This seeking after self-gratification is pride, and it’s the reason why Jesus reminds us that to truly do the work of God we must first believe completely and absolutely in Him. He must be our centre, our all in all. If we seek after Christ He will manifest in us as the work will be established through us. Our work is to believe in the God of the work and the one He sent. Anything that occurs thereafter will be the will and purpose of God. Believing, here, is so much more than believing that Jesus is the Son of God sent to earth to save mankind. It’s a daily reliance in absolute faith in every single Word spoken about Him and in all that He has accomplished and continues to accomplish. Lives lived in Christ in faith accomplish far more than our self-centred striving.
Self and the work of God.
In our verse, the people ask ‘what shall we do,’ a clear indicator of self. It reveals presumption, which is pride at work in us. The real truth is that we can do nothing to accomplish the work of God. It’s His work and He is the one who ordains and establishes it in and through us. We are simply vessels in His service. Self will always seek to insert itself into His work. It will constantly seek the ‘glory’ attached to ‘doing the work of the Lord’ rather than the servanthood it demands. Jesus was wise when He reminded us to believe in Him. But it must be a complete belief, a surrender that mirrors His servant-heart and sets self aside. All that matters is Christ. Any work is simply an outworking, a fruit of our faith in Him, if we simply believe rather than strive through self.
Lord Jesus, forgive us for our presumption and for seeking the work rather than the God of the work. Show us, Lord, when we err towards self and grant us the grace we need to have servant-hearts. Help us to believe in You and in the fullness of who You are, as both Suffering Servant and Lion of Judah, and all You have accomplished. Today, we seek the God of the work, not the work, so that we may live in Your perfect will and purpose.