Sermon 1521. A Plain Answer to an Important Enquiry
C. H. SPURGEON,
AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON.
"Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that you believe on Him whom He has sent." John 6:29.
NOTICE the connection or you will miss the meaning of the words, for, at first sight it looks as if our Savior taught us thatit is the work of God for us to believe on Him. Now, that would be quite true and it is very plainly taught in other partsof Scripture that faith is the work of God, but that is not the teaching in this particular instance, as will be very plainif you look at the context. First, our Savior said to the people, "See how you labor after the bread of your bodies. You havebeen running all round the coast to find Me in order that I might feed you again with loaves and fishes. Now," He says, "letyour labor run after something better. Labor not for the meat that perishes, but for that which endures to life eternal."
He gently rebukes them, "Do not spend all your strength in seeking after temporal good, but think about your immortal natures.Satisfy the hunger of your spirits, the better part of you." They immediately answered, "You tell us to labor after the breadthat does not perish. What shall we do that we might work the work of God and so obtain it?" Our translation fails to letus see that they used precisely the same words as the Savior had done. He said, "labor," and they said, "What shall we dothat we may labor this labor of God? What is it?" They took Him at His word and they put a question in accordance. When menbegin to be awakened about spiritual things, they naturally cry, "What must we do to be saved? What must we do that we maywork the work of God?"
It is a faulty question-it is a question very much shaped by their ignorance and error. They suppose that there are worksto be done, and merit to be earned by doing and obeying a law. And so they put it in that shape-"What shall we do? What shallwe work that we may work the work of God?" The Savior did not chide them for the shape of the question. It was not the timeto expect accuracy, but He gave them such Truth as they could understand and He replied, "You want to know what work you mustdo that shall be 'the work of God,' or a work pleasing to God? This, then, is 'the work of God,' the work most pleasing toGod of all the works that can be done by men, that you believe on Him whom He has sent."
The teaching here is not that faith is worked in us by God, which I have already said is a great Truth of God, but it is this-thatif men desire to work, the first and chief of all work is that they believe on Jesus Christ whom God has sent! Does any manobject to faith being called the work of man? If he does, I ask him why he objects. It is true that faith is the gift of God,but this does not change, for a moment, the other Truth of God that faith is the work of man-for it is and must be the actof man. No one in his senses can deny that! Will you venture to say that man does not believe? Then I venture to tell youthat he who does not personally believe in Jesus is a lost man! And if there is such a thing as a faith which is not a man'sown act and deed it will not save him.
The man must, himself, believe or perish! This is the plain doctrine of Scripture. Repentance is worked in us by the HolySpirit, but we must, ourselves, repent or we shall never be saved. Faith is worked in us by the Holy Spirit, but the HolySpirit does not believe, or repent-these are a man's own acts! With our hearts we believe unto righteousness. If we do notbelieve, then we are not partakers of the promise which is given to those who do believe! Faith is, therefore, the work ofman and it is the chief of works, the work most pleasing to God, the most godlike work, or, as the text puts it, "This isthe work of God, that you believe on Him whom He has sent."
To open up this one thought I pray for help from on high-it is just this-that faith is the most pleasing of all the worksthat man can do. It is here called, "the work," but not strictly and properly, for it can never be ranged with the works ofthe Law, from which it essentially differs. But the Savior took up the word which they used and spoke to their ignorance thatHe might instruct them.
I. Regarding it as a work, faith is most pleasing to God, for, first, IT IS THE COMPREHENSIVE SUMMARY OF ALL TRUE WORK. Therelies within the loins of faith every possible form of holiness. As a forest may lie asleep within an acorn, so within thebounds of faith, little though it is, every virtue lies hidden. It may be microscopic in form, but it is certainly there andonly needs development. Repentance dwells in faith, for he that believes in Jesus Christ unto salvation knows that he is asinner and he must have some hatred of sin, or else he would not have taken Christ to deliver him from his sin.
Love to God is there, for, most assuredly, when I trust a man-completely trust him-it would be impossible for me to do sounless I felt some leaning of my spirit towards him. The complete trusting of the soul to Christ, which is faith, has hadin it no small measure of love to Christ. If I had before me a list of all the Graces of the Spirit of God and I were to takethem up one by one and then analyze faith, I should find some measure of all these good works of the Spirit hidden away inthe simple act of believing in Jesus Christ. I know what some of you have said-"Is that all that I am to do in order to besaved? Am I simply and only to believe in Christ, that is, trust myself with Him?"
Yes, that is all and it is so small an act that the most uneducated heart can perform it! But yet, within it there are inconceivablemysteries of goodness! Just as sometimes inside a walnut shell I have seen packed away with careful art all sorts of gemsand jewels, "with my lady's gloves to wear," so within this little walnut shell of, "believe and live," there will be foundby any careful eye all the Graces of the Spirit of God. What is more, all the Graces come out of faith in due time, for faithsums up the whole of a Christian's life!
Now, my Brothers and Sisters, I challenge you to read the 11th chapter of Hebrews and see if you can think of anything noble,brave, glorious which has not its counterpart in that chapter. But remember, it is a description of the heroism-not of thisvirtue or of that, but of faith. In the long list, beginning with Abel and going down to the last, faith worked all. Fromfaith comes the power that stops the mouths of lions, quenches the violence of flames! Out of weakness men become strong.It is faith that tramples on temptation. It is faith that overcomes the world. It is faith that attains to holiness. Withinthe compass of that little babe whom you hold in your hand, a slender weight that you can scarcely feel, there are all theelements of yonder man of six feet who leads the van in the royal host and so the true Christian man in the perfection ofthe stature of Christ is all within the babe in Grace who cries, "Lord, I believe. Help You my unbelief."
I can well understand why our Savior should say, "If you wish to work the work of God, you must believe in Jesus Christ whomHe has sent," for in that act lies all the virtues and out of that act will grow all the virtues in due time.
II. But now, secondly, this simple matter of trusting Jesus Christ which is called FAITH, IS, IN ITSELF, MOST PLEASING TOGOD. First, it is the creature acknowledging its God. While a man says, "I do not care about my soul," he lives in atheism,disowning God, living as if there were no God. When a man says, "I need no saving," that is contradicting God's testimonywherein He declares that we are all gone out of the way and have altogether become abominable. When a man says, "I may bewrong, but I can get right by myself. My own good deeds will save me," he is setting himself up in independence of his God.In fact, he is making himself his own god and so, practically, setting up another god.
But when the man cries, "I have sinned," there is an acknowledgment that the Law is good and holy and just! When he then adds,"I have so sinned that I deserve punishment and I submit myself to it," there is a recognition of the court of Heaven andan admission of the righteousness of its sentences! The rebellious heart submits itself to the authority of God! When he furthersays, "But I have heard, great God, that You have given Your Son to bleed and die for sinners and that He is able to saveto the uttermost them that trust Him and I do trust Him," the submission of the man to God is complete. Before, he said, "Ido not believe it. It does not stand to reason"-that is proud Reason still a rebel. Or he said, "It may or may not be so,but I do not see the peculiar beauty of an atoning Sacrifice." There, again, is the proud heart kicking against God.
But the man comes into his right place when he believes. When he believes in Jesus Christ and accepts mercy through the greatSacrifice, God is well-pleased because His poor erring creature has come into its right place and God sees in the act of faiththe restitution of rectitude. Again, God is pleased with faith because it accepts God's way of reconciliation. God has givenChrist that He might reconcile us to Himself by Him. When a man says, "I take Christ to be my Savior," he accepts God's wayof reconciliation and then God must be reconciled, for He has promised to be so. As He longs to be reconciled and wills notthat any should perish, but that they should come to repentance, so does He rejoice when they are willing to make peace withHim in His own appointed way. It shows a submission to His wisdom, a confidence in His
love, a yielding to His Divine will and that is what He seeks after. All this, I say, is included in faith and makes it wellpleasing to God.
Perhaps the most acceptable element in faith to the eyes of God is the fact that it puts honor upon Jesus Christ, for He dearlyloves His Son. We cannot tell how deep is the love of the Father towards His only begotten Son. That which dishonors Jesusmust be very obnoxious to the Father and your self-confidence, my Friend, is a dishonor to the merit and salvation of Christand God abhors it! But when you fling that all away and have no hope but in the great Atonement which He has made, then, Isay, because your faith honors Jesus, therefore God delights in it and He will honor your faith. It is not possible that Heshould cast a soul away that clings to the great High Priest. Oh, if you look to Jesus, you shall never lose your sight! Ifyour heart clings to Jesus, that heart of yours shall never lose its life! If your soul joys in Jesus, that soul of yoursshall never lose its joy!
The fact is, that faith puts us into a right relationship with God, for what is the right relationship of a creature to hisGod but that of dependence? Is it not most suitable that since God made us and He has all power and all strength, we shoulddepend upon Him for our being, as well as for our well-being? See how He hangs the world upon nothing! This round globe neverstarts nor falters, but is steadily upheld in its mighty march by the unseen hand of God! Yonder stars, mighty worlds thoughthey are, have no power to keep themselves in their places but the power of God which established them. All things hang uponHim and the only position for a created being is that of entire dependence-what is that but
I believe that there is faith in Heaven. Do not tell me there is no faith there. I believe it to be the essence of Heaventhat the glorified exercise unquestioning faith and never feel a doubt. It will be the joy of every spirit before the Throneof God to depend every moment for its immortality and bliss upon God and to be quite confident that He will never fail it.Some sorts of faith will be turned to sight-but if faith is confidence in God, I bless God I shall have a great deal moreof it in Heaven than I can have here! A perfect child must have a perfect faith in a perfect Father. Because faith bringsthe creature back to conscious dependence, God is well-pleased with it.
Faith restores us by putting us into a place of childlike rest. If a son has fallen into the hands of a malicious individualwho has whispered into his ear that his father hates him-that he is doing all he possibly can to ruin him-at first the youthwill not believe the accusation, but perhaps, after a while, he begins to think it is true. From that time forward every actionthat his father makes will be interpreted the wrong way-and if there is anything in the father's life which is more kind thanusual, it is highly probable that this poor misled boy will see a deeper subtlety of malice in it than in his father's ordinaryactions! The lad will break his father's commands and vex and anger him. What is the first thing to be done to set that youthright?
You may make him dread his father and then he will behave properly in his outward actions, but he will only be waiting histime to break loose. Suppose it to be possible to make him believe in his father and to be assured that his father loved himand had, all along, been the kindest man on earth? Why he would run into his father's arms! He will be willing enough to obeya parent whom he trusts-it will be his delight to do so! You have won his confidence and everything is right now. This iswhat faith does to us. The devil and our own corrupt nature say, "God is unkind, for He has made an awful Hell," and so on.Faith interposes and cries, "He has put away His wrath. He has made full atonement for sin. He is willing to receive us."
Then faith says, "Trust Him. Trust Him implicitly." And when the soul has done that, then faith testifies, "He has loved youwith an everlasting love. Jesus died for you and He has provided a Heaven for you." Let this be known and felt and what achange takes place! Oh, then you hate your sin! Oh, then you are ready to say, "How could I play the fool against One so kind,so good, so right?" Under this impulse you will serve Him and live for Him! That simple matter of believing Him has done itall! It is the hinge on which character turns. Hard thoughts of God lead to acts of rebellion, but a childlike confidencein Infinite Love softens the heart and sanctifies it and makes the man a true child towards the great Father.
Do you wonder, then, that there is much in faith, in itself, which is pleasing to God? And if you ask what great works youare to do to please God, we shall not tell you to build a row of almshouses, or endow an orphanage, or give your body to beburned-believe in Jesus Christ and you have done more than all these things put together!
III. And now a third reason why faith is so great a thing is this-FAITH IN JESUS CHRIST IS THE TEST OF WORKING FOR GOD, forall the works that ever were, without faith in Jesus Christ, are not works for God at all. Let me explain and prove my point.Suppose that a person should say, "But I mean to live for the great God and work for Him." Without faith the spirit of workis wrong. My Friend, suppose you said to me, "I will live for you and spend my life in your service, but I am not going tobelieve what you say"? There would be a point of disagreement between us which would render it impossible for you to be ofany service to me, or for anything that you did to be of any value to me. You call me a liar to begin with and then say youserve me?
Many of you that have heard the Gospel may, perhaps, think that you are serving God, though you have never believed in Christ.But, I tell you, your best actions are nothing but whitewashed sins! All that you do must be destitute of real excellencebecause you begin by making God a liar! It is a hard word, you say. I cannot help it-it is the word of John, the most gentlespirit among all Biblical characters. John says, "He that believes not has made God a liar because he has not believed onthe Son of God." If you begin by calling God a liar, I do not care much what you do after that. I would a great deal ratheryou should be moral than immoral and sober than drunk, but, after all, you will be lost in either case if you persevere incalling God a liar!
All your holiness will be a sham if you will not believe in Jesus. The test of true work for God is this-"That you believeon Jesus Christ whom He has sent." Without faith the motive of work fails. "But," cries another person, "I believe I havedeserved well of God! I have kept myself pretty right and I have performed many good deeds." What have you done them for?"I have been working for my salvation," says one. In other words, you have been working for yourself. Pay yourself, then!Self is first and last-your works are selfishness from top to bottom! You have been trying to be good to get to Heaven byit. It is a mean, beggarly life that begins and ends with self! Your Maker, whom you were bound to love with all your heart,you have not loved at all except that you have meanly pretended to love Him in order to save yourself!
You had a kind of cupboard love to Him, such as an ass or an ox might have to a corn bin, or a stall, but no real affection.How can you perform a virtuous act while self is your tyrant lord? When you have once believed in Jesus Christ then you aresaved and from that day on you live to glorify the name of the Lord-you live to work out that which He has worked in you-towill and to do of His own good pleasure. But until you are saved by faith, self is necessarily your first thought. No manis capable of virtue as long as self is his objective and every man must make self his objective till he is saved! When heis saved, he rises into a nobler atmosphere altogether and then his works are acceptable to God. Do you not see that you haveto get out of self-righteousness and to be saved by believing in Christ before you can begin to do anything that will be reallyworking for God? Up to that point it will be all working for yourself and that is a poor, poor thing which cannot please themost high God.
Beloved Friends, living by faith in Jesus Christ is the evidence of your sincerity in any work that you do for God, for canthere be any real working for God while your own pride is uppermost? God tells you that your best works are imperfect andwill not save you and He hangs His own dear Son upon the Cross to save you because you are a sinner. You turn your back tothe Cross-you say, "My own merits are good enough," and then you talk about serving God after that? Can He accept anythingat your hands after you have rejected His Son and insulted Him? You have touched the Lord in the most tender point when youhave taken your own detestable righteousness which is just a heap of infected rags-a mass of abominable filth in the sightof God-and have preferred it to the blood and righteousness of His only Son!
After such an atrocious crime as this, how dare you talk about doing service to God! It is impossible, Sir! There is a liein the bottom of your heart. Get rid of it! How can you serve the Lord while your pride thus angers Him? He tells you thatyou must bow before His Son and trust in Him and you reply, "No, I must feel something or do something." That is as much assaying, "I will be saved in my own way." You talk about serving God after that evil, "I will," of yours has been defying Him?Suppose that one of your family will not do what you tell him? He defies you to your face. He says he will have his own wayand then he goes into the garden and he plucks you a flower-and he expects that the gift will please you.
What? Brought in a rebellious hand? While he is in a willful state and boiling over with bad temper? Does he think to pleaseyou by such a trifle? You say, "No, my child, that cannot be. You must first bow before your father and acknowledge that youhave done wrong." He may pout his lips and say he will never obey you and then ask to kiss you.
Will he have his kiss? Assuredly not till first of all he will submit! That is just the condition of many a seeker after God.He has a wicked pride in his heart and a rebellious will and if he will believe in Jesus it will be a proof that his prideand rebellion are given up. But if he will not yield and trust, neither can he expect that God will save him!
IV. I would say, in the fourth place, that faith in God is a most blessed and acceptable thing because IT IS THE SEAL OF ALLOTHER BLESSINGS. Notice that faith in God is the seal-first, of our election. Read the 37th verse, "All that the Father givesMe shall come to Me." Now, if you come to Christ, dear Friend, you are one that His Father gave Him! You are one of His elect!Oh, what a blessing this is. The doctrine of Election is full of rich comfort to all who are interested in it and election,itself, is the greatest of all favors. "But how am I to know that I am one of God's elect?" By this testimony, "All that theFather gives Me shall come to Me." Every elect soul that reaches adult age is brought to believe in Jesus Christ and as sureas ever you are brought to believe in Jesus Christ, you may be absolutely certain that you are predestinated to eternal life!
In the next place, faith seals our effectual calling. If you look a little farther down you will see, "No man can come untoMe except the Father which has sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day." These are the express words ofChrist and they show that every man that comes to Christ must have been drawn by the Father. That is to say, that effectualcalling has exerted its Divine power upon him. No man need say, "Am I drawn of the Father?" after he is once sure that hehas faith in Jesus Christ, for you never could have believed in Jesus Christ unless this had been given you from Heaven. The44th verse is as plain as possible, "No man can come to Me except the Father which has sent Me draws him." You have come tohim and, therefore, the Father must have drawn you.
The next thing that faith assures us of is final perseverance. Read the 47th verse-"He that believes on Me has everlastinglife." You need not raise the question, "Have I received everlasting life?" Raise this question, first, "Have I believed inJesus Christ?" If so, you have everlasting life. Not a life, mark you, that will last you up to the end of the quarter whenyou take a new ticket-nor a life that will preserve you to old age and then leave you to temptation and death. No, "He thatbelieves on Him has everlasting life" And it is not everlasting life if it does not last forever. Herein he that believeshas the guarantee of final perseverance.
Did not Jesus say, "I give unto them eternal life and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of My hands"?Are we not told of him that believes in Christ that there shall be in him a well of water springing up unto everlasting life?Or, as Christ puts it in this very chapter, "He shall never hunger and he shall never thirst." He has drunk a draught of eternallife in Christ Jesus and he shall never thirst again! This is a great deal for faith to bring to us, but it is not all, fortwo or three times over we are told here that whoever believes in Christ shall be raised up again at the last day-so thatfaith secures resurrection! Read the 39th verse and then the 49th verse-"This is the will of Him that sent Me, that everyonewhich sees the Son and believes on Him may have everlasting life and I will raise him up at the last
How do I know that I shall have a blessed resurrection? How can I be certain that though the worms devour this body, yet whenChrist shall stand in the latter day upon the earth, in my flesh I shall see God? I may be quite sure of it because I believein Jesus Christ whom He has sent! Beloved, faith is the seal at the bottom of the title deed which secures all things fortime and eternity to the man that has it! If you are a Believer, all the wheels of Providence revolve for you! If you area Believer, every angel spreads his wings for you! If you are a Believer, life is yours and the death which seems to closeit is only the appointed janitor to open the door of another and a brighter chamber! If you believe, God Himself is yoursand Christ, His Son, is yours! If you believe, Heaven, with its eternity and infinity of joy which your eye has not seen,nor your heart conceived of, is yours!
Nothing shall be kept back from the man that believes his God and trusts his Redeemer! Oh that the Lord would give faith toyou all! "Alas," you say, "I do not feel right." Never mind your feelings, trust in Christ! "Oh, but I am such a sinner."Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. "Alas, but I have tried before." Away with all your trying before! Havedone with trying and accept the finished work! Trust Jesus now! "Do you mean that if I now trust myself with Christ, I shallbe saved while sitting in the pew?" I mean even so! Be you whoever you may be, this night look to Jesus and be saved! If youwill have done with yourself and will trust your soul in the hands of Jesus who has sworn to save those that rest themselvesupon Him, you are saved!
Oh, that those who have heard this Gospel many times would now, for the first time, really understand it and say, "Is this,after all, the greatest of all works-that I believe in Jesus Christ whom He has sent? Lord, I believe-help You my unbeliefand save me now." O God, help many to breathe the prayer of faith at this moment, for Jesus' sake. Amen.