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Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
February 27, 2000
Doing the Work of God
I had an interesting call this week from a college student doing a paper who wanted a quote from a pastor about Al Gore and Hillary Clinton using a church in Albany last Sunday for political campaigning. That opened a door for a good conversation about both the purpose of the church and the hypocrisy in the news media regarding this issue.
Most of us are aware that if conservative political views are expressed by those in or affiliated with a church, there is a lot of negative speech concerning the "religious right" and how they should not interfere with the "separation of church and state." If however, those in a church express politically liberal ideas, there is praise for the courageous people making a difference. That may say a lot for the sad state of journalism, but it speaks even more about the sad state of the churches they are reporting about. When a church allows itself to be used for such political purposes, liberal or conservative, it demonstrates they have forgotten their purpose.
The church exists for the glory and worship of God. It is God Himself that is to be the focus of the church, and all that is done in the church and by the church should be an effort to bring Him glory and honor. A church that allows its services to be used for political campaigning is no longer focused on God, but on man. Certainly the church must speak out on issues, some of which have become political, but it does so to declare what God has said on the subject as both an encouragement to obey Him and a warning about the consequences of disobedience. The focus must remain on God. Jesus Christ is the savior, not Al Gore, or Hillary Clinton, or George Bush, or John McCain, or Rudy Gulliani, or anyone else. What a tragedy that many churches will spend their time discussing such political figures and political issues rather than proclaiming God and the truths of His word. But there is a greater tragedy occurring in churches today, and it is much more widespread than politics replacing the worship of God. It is an old problem found in our text this morning.
Turn to John 6:22. We will find in our study of this chapter both this week and next week that just because a person claims to be religious and follows after a religious figure, it does not mean that they are actually interested in the things of God. There always have been and always will be those who are self-deceived. They think they are seeking after God, but in actuality, they are only after what they think will benefit them in this life.
THE SEARCH FOR JESUS (vs. 22-27)
Jesus and the disciples had left sought out a lonely place on the Northeastern shore of the Sea of Galilee in order to rest. Instead, a large crowd of people had followed them there and Jesus, because of His compassion for the, continued to minister to them by healing the sick and teaching them about the kingdom of God. As evening approached Jesus performed the miracle of multiplying five barley loaves and two small fish into enough food to feed well over 5,000 with twelve baskets of food left over.
John 6:14 & 15 tell us that these people had responded to this miracle and recognized that Jesus could be the promised prophet of Deut. 18 and that they intended to force Jesus to be their king. Jesus, however, knowing this sent the disciples away and then dismissed the crowds before retreating back to the mountain alone to pray.
Very late that night the disciples were caught in the midst of a storm while several miles out into the Sea of Galilee. Then Jesus came walking on the water to where they were at. They were very frightened until He said to them, "It is I, do not be afraid." After Jesus got into the boat with them the wind stopped and they immediately arrived at their destination. We pick up the story in verse 22.
John 6:22 (NASB) The next day the multitude that stood on the other side of the sea saw that there was no other small boat there, except one, and that Jesus had not entered with His disciples into the boat, but [that] His disciples had gone away alone. 23 There came other small boats from Tiberias near to the place where they ate the bread after the Lord had given thanks. 24 When the multitude therefore saw that Jesus was not there, nor His disciples, they themselves got into the small boats, and came to Capernaum, seeking Jesus. 25 And when they found Him on the other side of the sea, they said to Him, "Rabbi, when did You get here?"
The people that Jesus had ministered to the previous day had spent the night in that area. It was late when Jesus dismissed them and would have been too far to return that night, so they either found places to stay or slept out in the fields that night. They had seen the disciples leave in the boat the evening before, but Jesus had gone up on the mountain. Now they begin to look for Him, but they can not find Him. There was no other boat that Jesus could have left on and no one had seen Jesus walking around the lake. They would not have known that Jesus walked directly across the lake to join His disciples.
Tiberias was near by and folks from that city came in their small boats to where Jesus had been the day before. The Scriptures do not tell exactly why these folks had come. I favor the idea that they came because they had heard about what Jesus had done the day before and they came to see Him themselves. When they got there, they found that Jesus had already left, but the multitude was still intent on finding Him. They all joined together and got in the boats and went across to Capernaum, where Jesus had been living for the last year or so.
When they arrived in Capernaum, they found Jesus and then questioned Him, "Rabbi, when did You get here?" Their question is one of surprise that He had gone back to Capernaum and they had not even seen Him leave. If Jesus had answered their question by relating the events of walking on the water the night before and calming the storm, He could have easily strengthened the conception of the crowned that Jesus was a miracle worker who was powerful enough to lead a revolution against Rome and restore Israel to her glory. But Jesus had no interest in becoming King in such a manner. He had come to establish a kingdom of a different nature. Instead, Jesus looks into their hearts and rebukes them for their wrong motives in seeking Him out.
John 6:26 (NASB) Jesus answered them and said, "Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves, and were filled. 27 "Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man shall give to you, for on Him the Father, [even] God, has set His seal."
These people had not searched for Jesus because they were interested in spiritual things or the kingdom of God. They were looking for him because they had gotten a free meal. They were looking for someone who would meet their felt needs. They had seen the signs that Jesus had performed and understood, at least to a small degree, the significance of them for they had concluded that Jesus was "the prophet who is to come into the world" (vs. 14). But they did not understand the nature of the Messiah or what He actually came to do. They were looking for a leader who would restore their nation to the glory and prosperity it had when David and Solomon were on the throne. They were looking forward to good time in the future with this man that could heal the sick and even provide food for them when they were hungry. Jesus rebuked them because their minds were stuck in the materialism of this life and they could not perceive the spiritual realities that were so much more important.
Jesus statement in verse 27 was so designed as to awaken them to the greater reality. Their lives revolved around working to earn a living. Their labor would be quickly consumed in just buying the necessities of life like food. But food is quickly gone. You can have a great meal and enjoy it very much, but after a few hours or a day, you are hungry again. The satisfaction of eating is only temporary. Jesus called them to set a new goal. Instead of pursuing temporal things, pursue something that will be eternal. Physical food sustains your life only temporarily, but the spiritual food of Jesus would bring eternal life. Jesus again designates Himself with the messianic name, "Son of Man." He is the one that will give this food for God the Father had set His seal on Him. As we saw at the end of chapter 5, the seal of God on Jesus was confirmed by the witness of John the Baptist, the witness of Jesus’ works, the witness of God the Father at Jesus’ baptism and the witness of the Scriptures themselves since Jesus was fulfilling the prophecies concerning the Messiah.
What Jesus said to these people then applies just as well today. This is the tragedy I was speaking of earlier. People who think they are seeking after God, but in reality they are simply searching for what they think will benefit them in this life. This displays itself in different ways, but in our society it is the prevailing idea of hedonism and materialism. Even the gospel message itself is often perverted by the quest for pleasure, comfort and stuff. The health, wealth, prosperity gospel so often presented on "Christian TV and radio" may be the most flagrant example, but it extends far beyond these people. Jesus did not die on the cross so that we could "name and claim" in "Jesus name" the stuff we want in life. His blood was not shed so that you would never be sick again. He did not rise from the dead to assure you of comfort and affluence. Even those in the conservative, fundamental wing of American Christianity need to be careful lest we preach a milder version of this. Jesus did not come to fulfill our felt needs or make our lives on earth easier. He came to break the bondage of our sin so that we might live holy and blameless before Him (Eph. 1:4). And in living for Jesus, we will suffer persecution from the ungodly (2 Tim. 3:12).
I daresay that even those who claim to be Bible believing Christians are, for the most part, no different from these crowds who were seeking after Jesus. They have come to have Jesus meet some felt need, but they have not sought Him. Their lives still revolve around working for the pleasures and material things of this life than working for the food which endures to eternal life. They, like these crowds in our text, do not understand the work of God.
DOING THE WORK OF GOD (vs. 27-29)
John 6:28 They said therefore to Him, "What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?" The crowds’ response shows they did not understand the spiritual nature of what Jesus was talking about. They are interested in what Jesus was offering. Eternal life is a good thing to desire, especially as should be understood here as a quality of life and not just a length. But they think that they must somehow earn it. They want to know what work they should do in order to get this food which endures to eternal life. That was the basic premise upon which the religious leaders had been following. You did certain things and refrained from doing others and you would gain eternal life. They want the rules and duties spelled out.
Jesus’ answer to them is direct and to the point, but they will not understand it which will lead them to misunderstand most everything else Jesus will say in His discussion with them throughout this chapter. 29 Jesus answered and said to them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent."
They wanted to work to earn eternal life. That is a materialistic view of life. Jesus gave them an answer from a spiritual view of life. The work would be to believe in Jesus because God had sent Him. There would not be a list of rules and duties to keep and perform to some standard for gaining eternal life. It would come as a gift to those who believed.
Some have balked at the idea expressed here that faith is a work. I think that is because of a distorted idea of faith that has been advocated in which faith becomes an intellectual assent that does not affect the life of the individual instead of a core of belief that will radically change the individual.
Let me be clear here that salvation is a gift from God that comes entirely by His grace. That truth is presented throughout the gospel of John. I also believe that Eph. 2:8 teaches that faith itself is a gift from God. Faith is not something the individual can somehow work up for himself. It comes only upon the Holy Spirit working in the life of the individual. The unsaved person is dead in sin (Eph. 2:1) with a mind that is blinded (2 Cor. 4:4) and an understanding that is darkened (Eph. 4:17). The Holy Spirit must bring conviction of sin (John 16:8), illumine their mind (2 Cor. 4:6) and regenerate the sinner (Eph. 2:5; Tit. 3:5) for them to believe and be saved. God is the one that does all this work, but the sinner must still respond to what God is doing. God has the truth presented and convicts the sinner, but the sinner must still repent and believe in Jesus. The work of faith is the work of receiving the gift of God.
What are some of the elements of this work?
1) Hearing the word of God – Romans 10:17 So faith [comes] from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.
2) Repentance from sin – Acts 17:30 "Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all everywhere should repent. 2 Pet 3:9 The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. Matt 5:3 "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
3) Believing what Jesus says – to believe "in" Jesus, you must first believe that what He says is true – John 6:40 "For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him, may have eternal life; and I Myself will raise him up on the last day." If you do not believe what Jesus says, then there can be no saving faith – John 8:46b, 47 If I speak truth, why do you not believe Me? 47 "He who is of God hears the words of God; for this reason you do not hear [them,] because you are not of God."
This includes believing that Jesus is the Messiah, God in human flesh – John 8:24b "for unless you believe that I am [He], you shall die in your sins."
4) Believing that Jesus death on the cross is the sufficient payment and substitute for your sins – 1 Pet 3:18 For Christ also died for sins once for all, [the] just for [the] unjust, in order that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit;
5) And believing that God raised Jesus from the dead – Romans 10:9 that if you confess with your mouth Jesus [as] Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved;
Some might balk at these requirements saying it sounds like works and not grace, but grace can make requirements and still be grace. For example, I will give this $5 bill to whoever believes that I will keep my word and will come up here and receive it. My offer to freely give this $5 is not dependent upon your deserving it, but on my grace to give it. The fact that I ask you to come up here to get it does not change the grace of my offer. In fact, your coming up here is simply the demonstration of your belief that I will keep my word.
God’s offer of salvation by His grace through faith in Jesus Christ is not changed by His requirement that you repent and believe. Repentance is not a work. It is already commanded anyway so it is certainly not something that earns you salvation, but it is simply the demonstration of your belief. Repentance is the consequence of believing the truth about yourself as a sinner and Jesus as the only savior. You turn from sin and yourself to the Savior. A lack of repentance demonstrates a lack of belief. The same is true of sanctification. The quest of a Christian to live a holy life is the consequence of His belief, not a work to earn salvation. The lack of that quest is a demonstration of a lack of belief.
THE DEMAND FOR PROOF (vs. 30-33)
The crowd did not understand all of what Jesus was talking about, but they did understand that He was a claiming to be the Son of Man, a name for the Messiah. They then demanded that Jesus give some proof of this claim. John 6:30 They said therefore to Him, "What then do You do for a sign, that we may see, and believe You? What work do You perform? "Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread out of heaven to eat.’"
They had seen many of the signs Jesus had performed including miracles of healing and the multiplication of the five loaves and two fish the previous day. Yet, what they wanted now was some proof that Jesus was really from God the Father by performing a miracle they thought would be equal with Moses. This was somewhat logical because the prophet spoken of in Deut. 18 was to be similar to Moses. Their reasoning was along these lines – "Jesus had multiplied earthly bread, but if He really is the Prophet, the Messiah, then He should cause bread from heaven to come down as it did during the time of Moses."
Jesus corrects them and then again brings out the spiritual nature of what He is talking about. John 6:32
Jesus therefore said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread out of heaven, but it is My Father who gives you the true bread out of heaven. 33 "For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world."
First, Jesus emphasizes the truth and importance of what He was about to say by introducing it with the phrase, "truly, truly" or "verily, verily" in the KJV. Then He reminds them that it was not Moses that gave the manna, but God Himself. Moses simply gave the directions on how it would come and how to gather it. Next, Jesus interjects again the spiritual nature of the food that He was talking about in verse 27. God was now sending the true bread out of heaven. The manna was only a type of the "true bread" which was to come. The manna only gave temporary nourishment, but the true bread would give life to the world.
THE BREAD OF LIFE (vs. 34-40)
The Request. They still do not understand the spiritual nature of what Jesus is talking about. Like the woman at the well they could only perceive the physical. John 6:34 They said therefore to Him, "Lord, evermore give us this bread." This sound like great bread to them so they ask Jesus to give it to them continually.
The Clarification (vs. 35). Jesus now clarifies the nature of this true bread. John 6:35 (NASB) Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me shall not hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst. It is Jesus Himself that is the true bread from heaven. He is the food from heaven that gives eternal life. The negation of the opposite (litotes) here stresses the positive – Jesus satisfies both spiritual hunger and thirst. Note as well that Jesus equates believing in Him and coming to Him.
The Tragedy (vs. 36) is they were still not ready to receive what Jesus was telling them. Jesus knows their hearts and reveals them in verse 36 "But I said to you, that you have seen Me, and yet do not believe. They had seen the miracles and heard Him teach, but they were still unbelieving. Their response in verse 41 to grumble at what Jesus says here proves that Jesus’ perception of them was correct.
The Promise (vs. 37). Jesus continued on in the next few verses to explain the promise to those who come to Jesus as well as His own submission to the Father and the Father’s will for them. John 6:37 (NASB)
"All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out."
The promise is one of security. Jesus will not reject in the present or in the future, but take note how a person comes to Jesus. It is because the Father gives them to Jesus. We will spend more time on this concept next time, but for now just keep in mind that God the Father is involved in a person coming to Jesus for salvation. But also take note that the offer is still universal even here – "and the one who comes to me." No one should ever hesitate thinking that perhaps they had not been given to the Son by the Father. Whoever comes is welcomed and will not be rejected.
Jesus’ Submission (38,39). It is in Jesus submission to the Father that there is great security in His promise. John 6:38 "For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. 39 "And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. Jesus is in complete submission to the Father’s will and the Father’s will for Jesus is that none of those He gives to Jesus will be lost, but will be raised up on the last day. This is a promise of security and resurrection.
The Father’s Will for people is expressed in verse 40. John 6:40 "For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him, may have eternal life; and I Myself will raise him up on the last day." While the sovereignty of God in salvation is spoken of in these passages, and again, we will give that ample time in a couple of weeks, it must be emphasized that it is not the Father’s moral will that any should perish, but for all to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). The offer of salvation is universal to "whoever believes" in Jesus shall have eternal life (John 3:15,16). Those who do not come to Jesus for salvation cannot blame God.
The Father’s will is that those who will behold the Son and believe in Him may have eternal life. The Son’s promise is that those who do this will be part of the resurrection to eternal life. Those who come to Jesus will be welcomed and they will never be lost. This is the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints. Once a person belongs to Jesus, He will never let them go. He will fulfill every one of His promises to them. Regardless of how you may feel when circumstances get tough, Jesus is still there. He is not a butterfingers who will drop you or absent minded that He will forget you. He who began a good work in you will perfect it – complete it (Phil. 1:6).
The crowd was looking for another sign from Jesus, one that would be similar to what occurred at the time of Moses when God provided manna in the wilderness. What Jesus gave them was much more. He Himself is the Bread of Life. They had challenged Jesus authority and wanted Him to prove Himself. Jesus response not only corrected their errors in thinking and pointed to the spiritual realities involved, but He also made it very clear that opposing His will was also opposing the will of God the Father.
Where do you stand this morning? I hope it is not in opposition to the will of Christ. Have you done the work of faith? Do you believe in Jesus Christ as the only savior from your sin? The offer of salvation is made to you, what will you do with it?
Does your life demonstrate the consequences of that belief? Do not be like those in this crowd who thought they were seeking after God, but in reality were not. Jesus did not come to make your life comfortable, but to radically change it so that you would be like Him. Take a good look in the mirror and if the reflection is not that of Jesus Christ, then ask yourself why? Do the work of faith and then live according to what you claim to believe.
Sermon Study Sheets
Older Children – Do one or more of the following: 1) Count how many times the name "Believe" is said. 2) Discuss with your parents the what it means to believe in Jesus.
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others.
What should be the extent of church’s involvement in politics? What are the dangers? Why were the people surprised that Jesus was gone? Why did the people search for Jesus? What is your interest in Jesus? What do you want Him to do for you? What is the purpose of salvation? What is the "work of God" (vs. 29)? Can you earn salvation? What are some of the prerequisites of salvation? What is repentance? Where does it fit in salvation? Is grace still gracious if it makes a requirement? Why did the crowd demand Jesus perform another sign (vs. 30)? What corrections did Jesus give them? What contrasts are there between "manna" and
the "true bread?" What kind of bread does vs. 34 indicate they were looking for? What kind of bread does Jesus say that He is? What is the benefit of this bread? What is the tragedy about the crowd? What is Jesus’ promise to those that come to Him? How does someone "come" to Jesus? What is Jesus’ response to the Father’s will? What is the Father’s will for people? What is His will for you? What do you believe about Jesus? How does your life demonstrate your faith?
Sermon Notes – 2/27/2000 a.m.
Doing the Work of God – John 6:22-40
THE SEARCH FOR JESUS (vs. 22-27)
The Search Begins (vs. 22-24)
Questioning Jesus (vs. 25)
Jesus’ Response (26,27)
Wrong Motives Today
DOING THE WORK OF GOD (vs. 27-29)
The Work of Faith
Hearing the Word – Romans 10:17
Repentance from sin (Acts 17:30; 2 Peter 3:9; Matthew 5:3;
Believing Jesus’ words (John 6:40; John 8:46,47)
Believing Jesus is the Messiah (John 8:24)
Believing Jesus is the substitute for your sin (1 Peter 3:18)
Believing God raised Jesus from the dead (Romans 10:9)
THE DEMAND FOR PROOF (vs. 30-33)
THE BREAD OF LIFE (vs. 34-40)
The Request (vs. 34)
The Clarification (vs. 35)
The Tragedy (vs. 36)
The Promise (vs. 37)
Jesus’ Submission (38,39)
The Father’s Will (40)
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