John 6:27-29 – The “Work” of Faith

By Wayne Jackson

In his epistle to the Romans, Paul thrillingly declares:

“For the wages of sin is death; but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (6:23).

The expression “free gift” translates the single Greek word, charisma. This term is related to the original word that is frequently rendered “grace” charis). It thus denotes a gift that is given strictly out of favor; it is not deserved. Here the term is set in contrast to “wages” (opsonion), which represents deserved payment for services rendered.

It is sometimes assumed, by well-meaning though mistaken people, that because salvation is an unmerited “gift,” there is absolutely nothing to be done in order to obtain remission of sins. That is very far from the truth. Jesus himself once said:

“Not everyone that says unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Mt. 7:21; emphasis added).

Pardon is conditional (Acts 2:38).

There is a remarkable passage in the Gospel of John that wonderfully illustrates that a gift may be offered, and yet, conditions may be imposed as a requisite to the reception of that gift. Jesus once instructed:

“Work not for the food which perishes, but for the food which abides unto eternal life, which the Son of man shall give unto you…” (Jn. 6:27).

Though eternal life is designated as a “gift,” the Lord emphasizes that there is work (obedience) to be done (on the human side) in order to receive that gift.

Thus, circle “work” and “give” and connect them with a line. Note in your margin: “Gift” does not exclude human response.

The disciples obviously understood the import of the Master’s admonition, for they asked: “What must we do, that we may work the works of God?” (The “works of God” are those he has prescribed for us to do.)

Christ responded: “This is the work of God (i.e., from God – a genitive of source), that you believe on him whom he has sent” (6:29).

It is very important to observe that even believing is a “work” which must be done by those who aspire to heaven. Thus, circle “work” and “believe” and note the relationship between these terms.

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About the Author

Wayne Jackson has written for and edited the Christian Courier since its inception in 1965. He has also written several books on a variety of biblical topics including The Bible and Science, Creation, Evolution, and the Age of the Earth, The Bible on Trial, and a number of commentaries. He lives in Stockton, California with his dear wife, and life-long partner, Betty.