Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.
“Do not labor 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.” 30 So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? 31 Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” 32 Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” 35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. 36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 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 I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”
This coming Thursday is Thanksgiving. We Christians should be the most humble, thankful people on the planet because God has opened our eyes to see how little we deserve and how much God has done for us, and become for us, in Christ. One of my aims in this message from John 6 is that we will be overflowing with faith in Jesus and gratitude to God because of what we see here.
Let me give you several summary statements of what we are going to see in this passage. And then we will walk through it together and let the words of Jesus make it plain and give it authority and power.
Two Parts to This Section
John 6:30–40 has two parts, verses 30–36 and verses 37–40. Here’s one way to sum up the point of each of these sections: In the first one (vv. 30–36), God’s gift of Jesus to these people is not received and is lost. In the second one (vv. 37–40), God’s gift of his people to Jesus is received and is kept—forever.
Or another way to say it would be that the first section (vv. 30–36) describes the apparent failure of God’s sending his Son to give eternal life, and the second section (vv. 37–40) describes the invincible success of God’s purpose to give eternal life.
Seeing the World in Two Perspectives
Or one other way to put it: We can always describe what’s happening in the world from two side—from the side of man and his responsibility to receive what God offers, and from the side of God and his sovereignty to accomplish his saving purposes. In verses 30–36, we are looking at things from the side of man’s responsibility. In verses 37–40 we are looking at things from the side of God’s sovereignty.
So the main point of the two sections, when you put them together, is that God’s purpose to give eternal life through Jesus does not fail. Now, far more interesting and more compelling than these general statements are the specifics of this text. So let’s look at them.
With Their Stomachs Empty Again
Jesus is still talking to the crowd that followed him across the lake because he had filled their stomachs with food (v. 26). He directed their attention away form the food that perishes to the “bread that endures to eternal life” (v. 27). Then in verse 29, he said that the way to “work” for this eternal food is to believe in the one God has sent—Jesus the Messiah.
So the crowd says to him in verses 30–31, “Then what sign do you do, 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 from heaven to eat.’” Here’s my sense of why they said this.
Even though they had seen him feed five thousand, this was another day, and their stomachs were not full any more. They remembered that in the wilderness Moses gave God’s manna every day. They didn’t just have miracle bread one day. But every day, for forty years. So Jesus, if you want us to see and believe, keep on working. Keep on doing your signs.
A Double Denial and an Amazing Offer
To this, Jesus gives a double denial and an amazing offer. He says in verse 32, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven.” The first denial is that Moses was not the key player in giving the manna; God was. Jesus’ Father was. “It was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father.”
The second denial in verse 32 is that the bread God gave through Moses was not the main point of the miracle. It pointed to something bigger. The point was that there is a “true bread from heaven,” namely, Jesus (as we will see in just three verses).
And the amazing offer in this verse is the last clause: “My Father gives you the true bread from heaven.” Don’t miss this. This is what I meant when I said we are looking at things from the side of God’s offer and human responsibility. Don’t miss the word “you.” “My Father gives you the true bread from heaven.” Most of them are not going to receive it. But Jesus says, God is giving it. This is the way we go to the world. This is the way we speak to the world. God has given you the bread of life. That is, he offers it to you. It is free. Take it. Eat it.
In the next verse (v. 33) Jesus reinforces the nature of the “true bread” and the scope of the offer. “For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” It is the “bread of God,” and it is offered here, not just to a few, but now explicitly for the life of the world. It comes down from heaven and “gives life to the world.” Here we have a global offer and the responsibility of man rises even higher—the responsibility to see and believe and eat the bread of God.
Their response to this is similar to the woman at the well in John 4:15, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.” They say in verse 34, “Sir, give us this bread always.” Be like Moses—just keep on giving us the bread of God, the manna that fills our stomachs.
Jesus Is the One We Hunger For
Now finally, for the first time, Jesus says explicitly in verse 35 that he’s talking about himself: “Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.’” It is hard for me to exaggerate the importance of this verse for me. For many years now (especially since writing the book Future Grace) this verse has defined two massive realities in my life. One is the object of my hunger and thirst. And the other is the nature of saving faith.
Jesus—Jesus himself and all that God is for me in him—is what I hunger for and thirst for. He has been merciful to me—and to most of you—to reveal himself as the supreme Treasure of our lives. “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” That doesn’t mean hunger and thirst in our souls does not rise up every day. It means now we know what it’s for. Now we know where to turn. Now we know what to drink and what to eat. We drink down Jesus. We swallow the glory of Jesus. And there is a never-ending supply. This is what we were made for. All other treasures, all other pleasures point to this. Jesus is the all-satisfying end of every longing.
Saving Faith: Satisfaction in Jesus
And the other thing this verse has shown me is the nature of saving faith. Notice the parallel between coming to Jesus to be satisfied and believing on Jesus. “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger.” That’s the first statement. We come to Jesus to have our hunger stilled.
Now parallel to that, and repeating the meaning, is the next statement: “And whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” Coming to Jesus to be satisfied in him and believing on him so as not to thirst are the same. So I define saving faith as being satisfied with all that God is for us in Jesus.
The Fight of Faith Is the Fight for Joy
This is a huge discovery when you make it. You never read your Bible the same again. You never think about the obedience that flows from faith the same again. You never fight for purity and holiness the same again. When you see that saving faith is being satisfied with all that God is for you in Jesus, the “good fight of faith” (as Paul calls is in 1 Timothy 6:12) becomes a fight for joy. And from then on, everything is different.
The fight of faith is the fight for joy. And the fight for joy is doing whatever you must to see Jesus for who he is, and savor Jesus above all things.
Seeing, They Did Not See
But then in verse 36, Jesus says they didn’t do it. “But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe.” Seeing they didn’t see. And they didn’t believe. That is, they didn’t come and eat to their soul’s satisfaction.
So, the first section of the text ends with the gift of God rejected. God offers his bread—his Son—to his own people, and his own did not receive him. This is the way the saving purpose of God looks from the side of man and his responsibility. God offers his Son, and man is responsible to see and believe. But we don’t.
5 Statements of God’s Sovereign Working
Has the saving purpose of God then failed? If not, why not?
No, it has not. And verses 37–40 make plain why. God is sovereign over the work of a person’s salvation, and he will not let his ultimate purposes for anyone fail. There are five powerful assertions of God’s sovereign working in verses 37–40. It is very important that you see them for yourself and not take my word for it. They are too precious to base on any man’s opinion. They are your life and your hope and your security in this life and the next. I’ll point you to all five of them.
1. God gives his chosen ones to Jesus.
Verse 37: “All that the Father gives me will come to me.” Verse 39: “And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me.” We will see this again in verse 44. We will see it again in verse 65. God does not wait for his chosen ones to come to Jesus. If he did, they never would. He gives them to Jesus. He chooses them for his own. And he gives them to his Son.
2. Because God gives them to Jesus, they come to Jesus.
Verse 37: “All that the Father gives me will come to me.” Or, as we have seen in verse 35, they believe on Jesus. It is not the other way around. Jesus does not say that because people come to Jesus and believe on Jesus, God therefore gives them to the Son. No. Those whom the Father gives to the Son, come to the Son. He secures their coming. He works their coming. He guarantees their coming. When you came to Christ, God brought. When you believed, it was God opening your eyes. When Jesus was understandable to you, you didn’t make Jesus look all-satisfying to your heart. God did. And when he did, you came, freely, with all your resistance overcome.
3. Those who are given to Jesus and come to Jesus are omnipotently and eternally kept by Jesus. None is lost.
Verse 37: “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” The giving and the coming are the Father’s sovereign work, and the keeping is the Son’s sovereign work. You will be kept. Verse 39: “And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me.” Jesus will lose no one who comes to him. No one. If the Father gives us, and therefore we come to the Son, the Son will never lose us, or reject us. The life we have in the Son is, as verse 40 says, “eternal life.” Not temporary life. It cannot be lost. We are as secure as the Father and the Son are God.
Not only does the Father give his chosen ones to the Son so that we infallibly come to the Son and remain eternally safe in the Son, but also . . .
4. Jesus will raise us from the dead on the last day.
Verse 39: “This is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.” Verse 40: “Everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”
Jesus knows that death looks to everyone like a defeat, a loss. It looks as though at least our bodies are lost. We may think he loses nothing of all that has given him (as verse 39 says), but it looks like he at least loses the body. And to that, Jesus says two times, to make it crystal clear,. “I will raise it up on the last day.” Not even your body will be lost.
5. Finally, the unshakeable foundation for all this sovereign work of God—his giving, our coming, his keeping, his raising—the unshakeable foundation of it all (mentioned three times lest we miss it!) is the will of God.
Nothing is more sure in this world than the sovereign will of God. Verse 38 gives the ground of why Jesus will not cast out any whom the Father gives him: “For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.” It is God’s sovereign will that none of his own be lost.
Verse 39 says it again: “And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.” Jesus will not fail to keep us and raise us, because it is the sovereign will of God.
Verse 40 says it again: “For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” It is God’s sovereign will that those whom he gives to Jesus, so that they come to Jesus, have no mere temporary blessing, but eternal life. And that they rise from the dead, lest even our body be lost. This is God’s sovereign will.
Never, Never, Never
Now we have seen both sections of this text. Verses 30–36, from the side of man and his responsibility, describe the offer of God to the world, and how the bread from heaven is rejected. Verses 37–40, from the side of God and his sovereignty, describe how God gives his chosen ones to Jesus so that they come, and how Jesus keeps them, and raises them from the dead according to God’s sovereign will. The first section describes an apparent failure, but the second section describes an invincible saving purpose.
And the basis of that invincible purpose is God’s sovereign will. It never, never, never fails.
“I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is none like me,
declaring the end from the beginning
and from ancient times things not yet done,
saying, ‘My counsel shall stand,
and I will accomplish all my purpose.” (Isaiah 46:9–10)
And the reason for this revelation, whether in Isaiah or in the Gospel of John, is to make you humble and fearless and loving in the absolute security of Jesus.
The Chosen Come to Jesus
And if you ask: How can I know if I am among the chosen ones? How can I know that I have been given to Jesus, and that he will keep me and raise me? The answer is very simple: “Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst” (John 6:35).
If you come to him like this, you have been given to the Son. And if you have been given by the Father to the Son, you will be kept, and if you are kept, you will be raised on the last day. Come. Come now. And come every hour of every day. Amen.