Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.”
(a) The work of God. In the new covenant of grace, Jesus has done all the work; your part is to trust him.
Much confusion has come from misunderstanding the relationship between faith and works. We are justified by faith and not our good works, but faith without works is dead and useless (Jas. 2:17, 20). What are the works of faith? In the New Testament, there are more than 200 imperative statements linked with faith. Some of these statements exhort us to: receive Jesus (John 1:11-12, 5:43), receive the message of Jesus (John 17:8), obey or heed the message or good news of Jesus (John 17:6) and turn to God in repentance (Acts 26:20).
Other scriptures encourage us to accept the word (Mark 4:20), confess Jesus as Lord (Rom. 10:9), call on the name of the Lord (Act 2:21), eat the bread of life (John 6:50-51), be reconciled to God (2 Cor. 5:20), submit to God’s righteousness (Rom. 10:3), and be born again (John 3:3, 7). But the one imperative that appears far more than any other, is the instruction to believe. We are to believe in Jesus (see entry for John 3:16).
(b) Believe in Him. If faith is the noun – the state of being persuaded that God loves you – then believing is the verb or activity that flows from that conviction. Indeed, believing in Jesus is both the work of God and the command of the Lord (1 John 3:23). We do not believe to create faith. Rather, believing is the action that reveals our faith. “Having the same spirit of faith… we also believe” (2 Cor. 4:13).