Greater Works? A Study of John 14:12-14 – Part 3

…Continued from Part 2

Exegesis

As is common among Charismatics to isolate verses from their respective context, so this verse suffers the same treatment among them. An elaborate approach to the context as set above is needed in order to correctly understand the text. We will now attempt to walk through the text and explain the details.

“Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves. 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. Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.” John 14:10-14

Peter had just been warned by Christ of his denial. The Apostles were terrified of the idea that any one of them would deny and give Christ over. It could be any one of them. Christ comforts them and urges them to believe, to trust in, to rely upon Himself. Jesus was departing soon, and they (disciples) could not yet go with Him. In fear and turmoil, they were not paying attention to the words of Christ, but were anxious in their own hearts. By having told them before that they (disciples) would follow Him afterward, Jesus gives them peace with his words, “I will come again and take you to Myself…”

It should be striking to note that the disciples didn’t know where Christ was going, nor the way to get there. In the frenzy of the desperate situation and having their minds flooded with questions and a sense of hopelessness, it is not hard to put ourselves in their shoes. Christ, God incarnate, was leaving them in the midst of wolves and enemies, but He would not them leave alone, nor leave them without a witness. This witness was to be an empowerment for their testimony to Christ.

The disciples, voiced by Philip, respond with unbelief. This is clear because of their seemingly utter reliance on their senses and feelings, not on God’s promises in Jesus Christ. They need to see the Father in order to trust and have a grasp on Him to endure what was coming upon them. Jesus kindly rebuked Philip for his disbelief in what he has seen and heard for the past three years. Jesus then makes an astonishing claim of deity. Whoever has seen Him, whoever has laid eyes of faith upon Him has seen the Father. The Son is the perfect reflection and image of the Father. They share an equal essence and all the attributes of the One belong to the Other. The Son reveals the Father by the Holy Spirit who opens our eyes at the command of the Father to behold the Son in His divine majesty.

The unity of the Trinity is such that one Member does not do anything apart from the other Two. Opera trinitatis ad extra sunt indivisa, Latin for “the external works of the Trinity are indivisible.” Whatever the triune God decrees within the internal relationship of the Trinity, that very thing He works outwardly, and with the same unity. God the Father was present in creation (Gen. 1:1). God the Son was present in creation (John 1:1-3). God the Holy Spirit was also present in creation (Gen. 1:2). Everything that God does, He does in full activity. No Member of the Godhead is inactive while the other Two are active. They always and forever work in strict harmony and unity. As the Son is eternally begotten by the Father, everything He does, including His very words, come from the Father. The Father worked in the Son (while the Son was submitted and willing) by the power of the Holy Spirit. The Father’s works were manifest in the Son by the Spirit.

So the apostles were called to believe that the Father is in the Son and the Son in the Father. They were called to believe in their unity, both essential and economical (how God relates to His creation). They were urged by Christ to believe in account of the works He did. The might of the signs and wonders of Christ were unparalleled in the Old Testament, and so they worked as a powerful testimony to the veracity of Christ’s identity as God’s final Word to man. Not only were His miraculous powers part of His authenticity as God’s Son, the final Spokesman, but also His works of righteousness. Jesus’ perfect, undefiled life was a massive testimony to the veracity of who He truly is.

The greater works then, encompass both signs and works of righteousness. Although a very important distinction must be made: they are not greater in potency or magnitude, but in outreach and spread quantity. None of the Apostles walked on water or calmed a raging storm with a word. None of the disciples raised a dead person who had been lying in the grave for 4 days. No other follower of Christ has ever fed over 8,000 people with a few loaves and fish. What is the difference then? Whilst Christ had a few hundred disciples throughout his ministry, the disciples witnessed 3,000 converts to Christ in one single day. While Jesus spoke in Aramaic, Hebrew and Greek, the disciples were given the gift of speaking in other languages in order to preach to people from all nations. While Jesus primarily came to proclaim His Good News to the house of Israel, the disciples were sent to the whole world. Jesus never wrote Scripture in His humanity, yet His apostles were inspired to pen down 27 God-given books.

When Christ was physically present on earth, only He had the fullness of the Spirit. When He ascended on high He led a host of captives, and He gave gifts to men (Ephesians 4:8). His disciples spread the power of Christ through the nations, albeit with the same purpose as that of Christ. “While God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will” (Hebrews 2:4).

Whatever His Apostles asked or were led to, God did, but He did with a specific goal in mind, “that the father may be glorified in the Son” (John 14:13). They never performed signs just for the sake of healing someone, or to bring attention to themselves, or to grow a massive church filled with people who are hungry and obsessed to witness a “miraculous” experience. After the Canon of the Bible had been finished and revelation ceased with the last Apostle, the signs weaned, for they were no longer needed. God no longer had the purpose of bearing witness for His spokesmen.

So, the greater works are not to be interpreted as an ability to do mightier signs and wonders than the Messiah Himself did. That in itself is an impossible feat. But the works are far greater in extent. We have Christian colleges, universities, seminaries, missionary centers, hospitals, prison ministries, military ministries, etc. These are the greater works, the spread of Christ’s divine message and its benefices. The greater one being the preaching of the Gospel, the power of God unto salvation. The furthering of the message of Christ’s incarnation, perfect life, atoning death, and resurrection are far greater than any sign. There is no greater sign than God bringing life and holiness from a place that only knew death and sin.

“If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.” John 14:14

Written by Paul Tkaczuk, @reformed.wretch

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