September 29, 2019 at First Presbyterian Church of Unionville, NY (BPC)
[Jhn 6:22-29 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. 24 So when the crowd saw that Jesus was not there, nor his disciples, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum, seeking Jesus. 25 When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” 26 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27 Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” 28 Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”
Years ago I came to realize just the great importance verse 29. And particularly the great importance of a single world found in that verse. Seeing this word was instrumental in helping me to choose to attend a Presbyterian seminary over a seminary in the Lutheran tradition in which I was raised. The word in view is the very simple word “OF.”
We find this in verse 29, the conclusion of our passage:
29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work OF God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”
Your very belief, your very faith in Jesus Christ is a work not of our your own, but is a work OF God. This point, confirmed in many other places in the Scriptures, helps us to understand that we are entirely dependent on the sovereign Lord God for our salvation. Our salvation is not of any work of our own doing, nor of our own ability to chose the Lord, but rather it is a work OF GOD.
One of the great debates in church history has been between this teaching—of God’s sovereignty—and the contrary teaching that man earns his salvation by choosing God of his own free will. This debate is known as the Calvin-Arminian debate. It is not Armenian like the country Armenia. But Arminian, named after the theologian Jacob Arminius.
John Calvin taught—correctly we believe—that election to salvation “depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy” as Romans 9:16 teaches. But Jacob Arminius—the founder of the Arminians—in error taught contrary to this teaching. Arminius held that salvation is dependent on the will—the completely free will—of man.
Now, we certainly understand the Scriptures to say that “YOU must believe, YOU must have faith in Jesus Christ for salvation.” But, over and over we find that faith is a gift FROM GOD, not chosen of our own will. For our wills are not free to chose between good and evil, but are in bondage to sin, corrupt and unable to chose God. We need God not only to send Jesus Christ to die on the cross for us, but we need God to send His Holy Spirit to us and make us “born again.” A dead man cannot chose anything. But a man alive with the Holy Ghost has faith in the Lord by means of the Holy Spirit working in him.
And so we see in John 6:29 Jesus explaining that saving faith is a work not of man, but OF God.
This verse, among many others, makes clear that the Calvinist understanding—which is the Presbyterian understanding, and the Augustinian understanding, and the Pauline, and the Johannine (that is, John)—is the correct understanding. Faith is a work OF God.
This point is made all the more clear in the context of the passage by verse 27 which says of eternal life that it is something the “Son of Man will GIVE to you.” Eternal life is not something earned nor chosen, but it is given from God. Saving faith is a gift OF God, so that no one should boast. If you boast, boast in the Lord.
This is the core doctrinal teaching of our passage. Faith is a gift FROM God, not an accomplishment of man.
Let’s then return to our story. Where we left off Jesus had walked on the water, stilled the storm, and miraculously made the boat carrying himself and the disciples arrive instantaneously to its destination on the other side of the lake.
Now, in our passage today, we find that the crowd realizes something of this miracle. Jesus has gotten to the other side of the lake without another boat having been launched.
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. 24 So when the crowd saw that Jesus was not there, nor his disciples, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum, seeking Jesus. 25 When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?”
Though Jesus is from Nazareth he seems to have made Capernaum his home base. So it is there, in Capernaum, that the people go to seek him.
The people are fascinated by the miracles they have seen. And they are glad for the hand out of free bread and fish.
They find Jesus and ask him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?”
We might also ask, “How did you come here!”
But Jesus choses not to answer the question. Rather he uses the opportunity to point out more important truths. There are two points to Jesus’s answer:
First, we read,
26 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.
Then, he says,
27 Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.”
We’ve seen this a number of times in John’s Gospel. The people are more interested in the miracles than in the one who performed them.
Rather than wanting to serve Jesus, they wanted Jesus to serve them.
They were interested in what they could get for themselves. They weren’t seeking Jesus at all, but were seeking what they thought would be to their own benefit.
But they do not know what is to their own benefit. The greatest thing they could have is eternal life in Christ. But we do not know this.
The story C. S. Lewis tells in this regard is that of the young child playing in a dirty sand box in an alleyway in the city. One day his parents say “You must stop playing so that we can go to the beach.” The child, not knowing how much better the clean expansive sands of the beach are, puts up a fight. “Don’t take me away from my sandbox!”
This is the human condition. We don’t know what is best for us, because we don’t know all things. The beach is unknown to us. God, however, is omniscient. He knows all things. And he knows what is best for us. And it is not food that feeds us one time, but it is Jesus, the bread of life, who gives us life eternal. This is what is best for us.
The famous quote of C. S. Lewis’ is:
“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
Jesus uses the last miracle that the people saw in order to make his point. The last miracle they saw (for they were not on the boat with the disciples) was the feeding of the five thousand. There Jesus used just two fish and five loaves to feed five thousand men plus women and children.
He then makes the clear point that while food may satisfy your hunger for a short time, the life given by the Son of Man is eternal. It is no comparison. The people should be craving that eternal life! If they knew who Jesus was they’d want only that – eternal life.
And his answer is another “truly, truly.” Remember, in a sermon a few weeks ago we heard other “truly, trulies” or “verily, verilies.” The Greek is “amen, amen” and it means “this is a certain truth.” So when Jesus says “Truly, truly, I say unto you” we are to listen with extra attention.
And he says:
“Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life.” [REPEAT: “Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life.”]
But lest you think that your work is somehow earning salvation, Jesus immediately says that eternal life is something “which the Son of Man will GIVE to you.”
But the people in the story don’t really get it. They want to know “What must WE do, to be doing the works of God?” What must WE do?
29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work OF God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”
He emphasizes not the law in all its detail, but faith. You must believe in him who God has sent.
And doing so is not even YOUR work. It is the work OF God.
This idea that faith is a work of God, a gift from Him, is not new to the New Testament.
We read in the Old Testament in Ezekiel 36:26-27 the prophecy saying,
[Eze 36:26-27 ESV] 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and CAUSE you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.
Some people hate this. They want to be the one responsible for their salvation. They want free will. They want the credit. They certainly don’t want God to force them to do anything.
This is foolish. Did you decided to be born? No, it was OF God’s choosing. The time and the place, and the very fact that you were born were all of His choosing, and of no other’s.
Likewise, your rebirth is entirely OF God. “And I will put my Spirit within you, and CAUSE you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.”
We do not invite God into our hearts. Dead in sin we cannot do such a thing. But God in his mercy PUTS his Spirit in us and CAUSES us to follow him.
To protest this would be as foolish as the small child protesting that his parents are taking him from the mud and bringing him to the beach. Once he is at the beach, there is no protesting. And once we know the Lord and have salvation in him, there is no protesting. The Lord has overpowered our will. Is that a bad thing? Only if you desire a sinful rotten will. But we have been brought to the beach, we have been given a will alive for Christ and there can be no complaint. We now live in joy of what the Lord has done.
APPLICATIONS and CONCLUSION
So, with Jesus’ admonition in mind to “ not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life” I want you to ask yourself, “What am I seeking”? What are you seeking?
Are you coming to church to enjoy the music and the sermon, or are you coming to church to worship the Lord your God?
Are you seeking your own advantage day to day in the pleasures of the world? Or are you seeking the Kingdom of God?
John Calvin writes, “He who does not aspire to the kingdom of God, but rests satisfied with the conveniences of the present life, seeks nothing else than to fill his belly.”
Are you seeking the Lord or seeking your fill of the world?
Are you hanging on to your possession and financial accounts to build a hedge of protection around yourself? (which will indeed NEVER give you protection) Or are you using what God has given you to further His kingdom?
We must realize that we are not the real owners of what we possess in this life. All we have, and indeed our very selves, all belong to the Lord.
We are told in the Scripture to “Seek first the kingdom of God.”
Don’t seek, like the crowd following Jesus, don’t seek the fleeting things of this world. But seek the eternal things of the Lord. Do not worry where your food or shelter will come from, but trust in the Lord. Find joy not in the created things but in the creator.
Seek Jesus because he GIVES eternal life and he GIVES faith.
And praise the Lord knowing that it is His work that Jesus Christ died for the sins of His people and that the Holy Spirit comes to those same people causing them to have faith in God. This is a work OF God. Praise the Lord for this. Praise the Lord. Amen.