“GREATER WORKS THAN THESE” (JOHN 14:12): AN INTRODUCTION TO BIBLICAL EVANGELISM
Text: "Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. (Joh 14:12)
Context. The apostles were taken aback when Jesus said he was leaving them to go to the Father and after Jesus asserted that they know the way to the Father, they expressed their ignorance of the way to the Father. Jesus then made the eternally wonderful statement that He is the way, Truth and Life and that no one comes to the Father in Heaven unless through Him. This was the context in which the Lord made two promises to the apostles: The first is that the works that are signs proving He is the Son of God which He is doing, the apostles are going to do same. Secondly, they will do greater works than the miraculous because He is going to resurrect and ascend to heaven.
WILL DO THE WORKS THAT I DO
On the one hand, God is promising the apostles that miraculous signs will continue with them to prove to the world that Jesus is God’s last spokesman and that His message is to be believed as it carries the divine authority and mandate:
Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. (Heb 1:1-2)
“how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.” (Heb 2:3-4)
The Words of Life that Jesus spoke and embodied were passed on to the apostles and attested by miracles. The purposes of miraculous signs were twofold: First to authoritatively demonstrate that Jesus is the Son of the Living God, secondly to prove or attest the words given to the messengers so that the whole world might believe that God has sent Him. Thus Jesus promised the apostles and assured them of the help of the Comforter the Holy Spirit who will confirm the message they were given. The whole world is to believe in Jesus and be saved through the apostles’ preaching! This was a wonderful and glorious instrument and priviledge.
"I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word… For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours…"I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. (Joh 17:6, 8-9, 20-21)
The apostles of Jesus did many miracles which proved their message. These miracles were like Jesus’ miracles in power, authority and signature (Act 2:22; 2:43) Jesus in His words encapsulated His miraculous deeds in a message to John, His cousin:
And Jesus answered them, "Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. (Mat 11:4-5)
- Opening the eyes of the blind
- Healing the lame, lepers, deaf and all manner of sicknesses
- Casting out demons
- Raising dead people
Other signs which may not have been duplicated by the apostles include:
- Walking on water
- Multiplying food
- Calming the waves and the stormy sea
- Rising or resurrecting from the grave
GREATER WORKS THAN THESE WILL HE DO
The second part of the promise of Jesus to the apostle is the key to understanding the heart of the gospel and the work of God. Some misunderstood this word, “works” and think it is referring to miracles! It is simple to see that “a servant is not greater than his master, nor a messenger greater than he who sent him.” (Joh 13:16) This assurance was given by Jesus Himself (cf. Luke 6:40; Mat 10:24-25) that “it is enough for a disciple that he become like his teacher, and the servant like his master” None of the apostles could duplicate some of Christ’s miraculous deeds and power because God did not give Jesus the Spirit’s power by measure unlike the disciples (Joh 3:34). For one, they could not raise themselves from the dead like Jesus did! (Joh 2:19-20). Jesus had already promised the apostles they will do the miraculous deeds He performed so the second works that are greater than miracles is what He alluded. What was the work that Christ came to do on earth? Jesus Christ did not mince words in telling the world about the work He came down from heaven to do. The work was to seek and save the lost. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost." (Luk 19:10 cf. Mat 18:11) This work, (Greek –“ergon”) Jesus came to do by giving His own life as a ransom, and shedding His own blood that humanity might be recovered and saved. God is Holy and there is no way unrighteous man can ever have fellowship with God unless his sins are taken away. The love of God worked out a way for this to occur: Death and shedding of innocent blood so that the anger and wrath of God against ungodliness can be abated.
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by His blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in His divine forbearance He had passed over former sins. It was to show His righteousness at the present time, so that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” (Rom 3:23-26)
The apostles would be able to do these greater works because Jesus ascended to heaven! The prophetic background to this promise of greater works is seen in Daniel when he observed: "I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and He came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him. And to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him; His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom one that shall not be destroyed. (Dan 7:13-14). The great event was the core of the preaching of Jesus (Mat 4:17, 23 et al.) and could only be achieved when He ascended to heaven.
The implication of the ascension include the following:
- The commencement of the kingdom of Christ usually also called the kingdom of heaven, kingdom of God. (Luk 8:1; 9:2; Mat 13:11 et al.)
- The forgiveness of sins as people are translated into the kingdom without which no one would have received forgiveness. (Joh 3:3, 5)
- The coming of the Holy Spirit. The ascension made possible the commencement of the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said that “Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send Him to you. And when He comes, He will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see Me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. " (Joh 16:7-11)
- The revealing of all truth by the Spirit of God. As Paul observed that no one knows a man’s thought except the man’s spirit, so no one knows the mind of God except His Spirit. “But, as it is written, "What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him"—these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For who knows a person's thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. (1Co 2:9-13)
Jesus could not proclaim all the truth to the apostles but when He went to heaven and the Holy Spirit came down, at the right time, the whole truth was revealed. This truth is what the Scripture describes as the faith once and for all time delivered that saves man today (Jude 3)
I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. (Joh 16:12-13)
- The empowering of the apostles to be genuine or true witnesses so that there is no error in their testimony. Many people have been trying to find fault with the Bible especially the New Testament of Jesus Christ. If the testimony or witness of the apostles can be faulted, then the gospel would have lost its power to save! "But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning. (Joh 15:26-27)
The Holy Spirit brought with Him power with which the word of life can be accurately proclaimed and authenticated by miracles.
- The Holy Spirit becoming a seal for believers and will live in believers as a gift. “And Peter said to them, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Act 2:38).
“In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit” (Eph 1:13)
“And who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.” (2Co 1:22). Let us remember that Jesus made this promise that the greatest feature that will characterize this dispensation and differentiate it from all others since the beginning of the world is the reception of Holy Spirit of God by man and the coming together of the divine and carnal humanity! Man and God, together as one! “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, 'Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'" Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” (Joh 7:38-39)
These wonderful things will be achieved when Jesus ascended to the Father and the apostles were the foundation builders of the great work of establishing the church of Christ (Eph 2:19-20).
These two great promises made by Jesus to the apostles are still very relevant to us today. We are not apostles (1Co 12:29) so we can neither do the miracles Jesus did, nor be eye witnesses of His majesty. For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty. (2Pe 1:16) Today many are preaching another gospel using these very tricks –cleverly devised myths (stories –“Baba appeared to me,” “Baba told me” and they can never be witnesses of His Majesty because they are 2,000 years too late to be eye witnesses. But we are part of the promises because when we become born-again, we become enjoined by God to continue in the steps of the apostles to preach this wonderful saving news to all the world and commit it to future generations by the same process God revealed through Paul: “And what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” (2Ti 2:2)
We are not to neglect this salvation because it is the greatest thing that have ever happened to mankind since Adam and Eve fell from grace in the Garden. It is the crowning part of God’s plan from eternity! Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to His will. (Heb 2:1-4)
If God says that the preaching of the gospel of Christ is greater than the miracles that confirmed the same gospel’s genuineness (authenticated its veracity), then we ought to be eager to defend the gospel and preach it with vigour knowing that the Devil and his angels will not sleep on their mission to ‘sow tares among the wheat’:
He put another parable before them, saying, "The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, 'Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?' He said to them, 'An enemy has done this.' So the servants said to him, 'Then do you want us to go and gather them?' But he said, 'No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.'" (Mat 13:24-30 ESV)
ARE WE SLEEPING?
Abiodun E. Adegoroye (Preacher, Kado Congregation, Abuja, October 2016)