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Monday, September 03, 2012

The Works of God

I'm leaving this here for awhile just so people don't think something bad happened. Okay, something really bad. In fact, something normal happened. I was wrong. Again.

I inquired of an actual Greek scholar about the meaning of the phrase in the text. He said:
The expression, whether in the plural as in John 6:28 (τὰ ἔργα τοῦ θεοῦ) or the singular as in 6:29 (τὸ ἔργον τοῦ θεοῦ), is an idiom that bears the sense, "the works God requires" (pl.) or "the work God requires" (sg.). So, when Jesus says, "This is the work of God," he is saying, "This is the work God requires, that you believe in the one whom he sent."

Live and learn. Now you know.


David said...

You are really making my brain hurt for this one. While I don't disagree with the premise, I question if that is really the thrust of what Jesus is saying in 6:29. English is too imprecise at times, and it can either be, "You asked what you can do to do what I do, and this is how." Or it can be like you said, "It isn't your work to do what I do, but the Father working in you." I do agree with the second, I'm just having a hard time agreeing that that is what that particular text is saying. Unfortunately I can't read the Greek, so in trying to research the original, all I can find online is either the text written out without being translated, or the text transliterated with the Greek root words next to it. I don't know for sure who the "ergon" is in reference to. Maybe someone with a better understanding of the Greek can find it, but it is lost to me. So, my brain hurts trying to figure out who the work is precisely being attributed to. Of course, there is a third choice, which isn't an uncommon practice of Jesus', that He meant both. Yes, God's work is what makes you believe, and the way you do God's work is by believing. He's been known to be tricky like that in many other passages.

I started researching it because I didn't agree with you on what 6:29 says, and ended my research with, you could be right.

Stan said...

You're making my brain hurt with your comments on this post at 4:20 in the morning. Don't you sleep??

I would agree that it isn't absolutely certain from the English translation of the Greek that this is exactly what Jesus was saying. On the other hand, it is exactly what the rest of Scripture says. Jesus Christ is the author of our faith (Heb 12:2). Faith is a gift from God (need I list references?).

(As an aside, if "the work of God" refers to faith that we muster, then it is indeed true that faith is a work and we are saved by works. Problem.)

Hanny said...

Very interesting! I like how you mentioned that we can look at 'what the rest of Scripture says.' Too many people get lost trying to decipher one item and forget to put in the entirety of the Bible.

David said...

Just because you were wrong about who is doing the work in this passage doesn't mean that this passage is teaching that we must "work" to be saved, unless you read it by itself. While it is true that the only thing we must do to be saved is to believe in the One whom He sent, it isn't in opposition to the rest of Scripture that says God works in us to be saved. It is why I chose option C, "both/and" earlier. Yes, we must believe to be saved, there is something WE must do, but only God working IN us can we hope to accomplish that(based on many other passages as you pointed out).

Stan said...

Actually, according to the Greek expert, the text was saying, "So, you want to do the work of God, eh? Well, here's the work of God: Believe." There is an implied "You thought feeding 5,000 was tough!" There is a rebuke in it. "You're in a tizzy trying to obtain divine powers; you can't even believe." And, of course, there is the "Look, fellas, you want to do the works of God? Let's start with the beginning: Believe."

Of course, again, bottom line, faith is a gift provided by God. Dead people can't even muster that.