Notes on John 6:28-40

John 6:28-40
The crowd was not so ignorant as not to know that the Lord claimed no insignificant place when He spoke of Himself as the Son of man. The Psalms and the prophets had spoken of such an One, and of His wide and exalted glory. Besides, apart and different from the Old Testament testimony, He had just told them that the Son of man is the giver of the food that abides unto eternal life, and that the Father, even God, sealed Him. “They said therefore to him, what should we do that we may work the works of God? Jesus answered and said to them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he sent.” (vers. 28, 29.) Thus they manifest afresh the inveterate assumption of men in every state, and age, and country, that man as he is is capable of working the works of God. They ignore their own sin, His holiness and majesty. It was the way of Cain; and professing Christendom is as infected with it as Judaism or heathenism. It is the universal lie of man, till the Holy Spirit brings him to repentance; then in the new life he feels and judges the old, and finds, as we see in Rom. 7, that it is a question not of works, but of what he is, and that there is no help for him but deliverance from all, and that in Christ by faith.
So the Lord here answers that the work of God is that they should believe on Him whom He sent. Similarly the apostle reasons in Rom. 4, that if Abraham were justified by works, he would have had matter for boast, but not before God, from whom it would detract. Scripture guards against any such misunderstanding, and says plainly that he believed God, which was reckoned to him as righteousness. The principle is thus evident: to him that works the reward is reckoned as not of grace, but of debt; while to him that does not work but believes on Him that justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness. Man may be fully and securely blest, but it is only of grace, and so by faith, which gives the glory to God, as itself His gift. Faith is thus the work of God, and excludes man's working, not as its effect (for it produces works, and good works abundantly), but as antecedent to it or co-ordinate with it, and justly so unless it would suit God to be a partner with man, and this the believer would he the first to eschew. The sent One of the Father is the object of faith.
It was at once felt that this was to claim more and more on God's part, although He refused to be made a king by man. “They said therefore to him, what sign doest thou that we may see and believe thee? What dost thou work? Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, according as it is written, Bread out of heaven he gave them to eat. Jesus therefore said to them, Verily, verily, I say to you, not Moses hath given you the bread out of heaven, but my Father giveth you the true bread out of heaven. For the bread of God is he that descendeth out of heaven, and giveth life to the world.” (Vers. 30-33.) Such is unbelief, ever dissatisfied with the admirably suited and magnificent signs of God, refusing perhaps to ask a sign when God offers, despising those He does give. They did not on this occasion say outright what they meant, but it seems to have been some such thought as this “You ask us to believe; yet, after all, what was the miracle of the loaves to that of the manna? Give us food from heaven, as Moses did, for forty years; and then it will be time enough to speak of believing. Do a work to match his, if you cannot surpass it.” The Lord answers that it was not Moses that had given the bread out of heaven, but His Father was giving them the true bread out of heaven. The bread of God is Jesus Himself, and these two great characteristics are His alone of all men; He comes down out of heaven, and He gives life to the world. He is a divine person, yet a man here below, the bread of God for every one that needs Him. It is no mere question of Israel in the desert He gives life to the world.
“They said therefore to him, Lord, evermore give us this bread. And Jesus said to them, I am the bread of life; he that cometh to me shall in nowise hunger, and he that believeth on me shall in nowise ever thirst. But I said to you, that ye have both seen me, and do not believe.” (Ver. 34-36.) This is their last effort to get what they sought—bread for this world, bread evermore, if not through them in any way, at least from Him. But unbelief is every way wrong. It is life that God is giving, and nothing less meets the true need of man; and this life is in Christ, not from Him. Apart from Him, given out of Him, and thus, so as to be independent of Him, it exists not. In Him was life; in Him only is life found. He is the bread of life. He is not here viewed as the Son of God, quickening whom He will, even as the Father. Here He is the Son of man sealed, and the object of faith. “I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall in nowise hunger, and he that believeth on me shall in nowise ever thirst.” Alas the crowd that saw Him had no faith in Him. Their privilege in seeing Him but added to their guilty unbelief; and, I must add, that now that the atoning work is done, and He is dead, risen, and glorified, and preached among Gentiles, it is a still greater sin where He is not believed on in the world. Yet men no more believe in Him than those who then followed Him, nor are their motives purer who profess and preach Him than theirs who would have crowned Him in Galilee.
The Lord proceeds to explain what was behind and above this in the words that follow. “All that the Father giveth me shall come unto me; and him that cometh unto me I will in nowise cast out. For I am descended from heaven not to do my will, but the will of him that sent me.” (Vers. 37, 88.) This then is the key, and it is twofold; and only in this largeness do we know the truth. If either side be seen to the exclusion of the other, the teaching is imperfect, and the consequences are apt to be error on this hand or on that. The reprobationist presses the first clause; the Arminian the second. Neither gives its due weight to the clause they respectively omit. The theologian who sees only the divine decrees pays little heed to the encouragement given by the Lord to the individual that comes unto Him. The advocate of what he calls free-will seeks to neutralize, if he does not absolutely ignore, the declaration that all the Father gives to Christ shall come unto Him; and no wonder, for it is an assertion of His sovereignty, which is inexplicable on his, own theory. But the hard lines of reprobationism can as little admit cordially the Lord's assurance of a welcome to him that comes unto Him. The purpose of the Father is as sure as the Son's reception of all that come to Him. The unbelief of Israel, favored as they were, did not enfeeble the counsels of the Father: and the Son would not refuse the vilest or most hostile that came to Him. The reason given is most touching. He was thoroughly the servant of God in this. Come to Him who might, He had come down from heaven to save, not to do His own will. It was for the Father to choose and give. He had descended to save, and would in nowise cast out even the man who had reviled Himself most. He was the Father's servant in salvation as in all else.
This is carried out still more fully in verses 39, 40, where the Lord says, “And this is the will of him who sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that every one who seeth the Son, and believeth on him, should have life eternal, and I will raise him up at the last day.” Thus, on the one hand, He who sent Christ, and gave Him in His sovereign grace, fails in nothing of His will, for Christ loses nothing of it; on the other hand, Christ abides the test for every soul of man who receives life eternal in Min by faith alone; while in both cases, whether for the whole, or for each individual, Christ raises up when man's day is ended forever. All hope of present deliverance for men in the flesh, or dead, as they were under the Messiah, as they fondly dreamed, was vain. The Father's will, whether for His people as a whole, or individually, shall stand: the whole that He has given to the Son shall be kept, and every believer in Him has life everlasting, as Christ's raising will prove for both when the last day comes.