“Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.” (John 14:12)
Jesus is giving the Apostles His last instructions before His crucifixion. As soon as Judas Iscariot in John 13:31 left the room where Jesus had washed the feet of the Apostles, after Jesus had made the announcement (John 13:21) “….and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me” – Jesus began His final words to the Apostles – before His arrest by the Roman soldiers later on that night, and His consequent crucifixion the next morning.
The text verse of this devotion has been, and is, a mystery to many of God’s people. In fact many of these, that claim this is a mystery, ask the question: ‘How can one who believes that Christ was God in the flesh, who Paul said was the Creator of all things (Col. 1:16-17); how could He have His believers do “greater works” than creating something out of nothing, even giving life and breath to all things, as Christ had done?’ They reason, and rightly so, that man is a created being; and there is no way the created can create, and give life and breath to any thing. Therefore, this statement of Jesus remains a mystery to them.
The premise statement of the interpretation given by this author is as follows:
There must be an understanding of two important things in defining the works of Christ; and the subsequent works of the believer in Christ:
- The Design and Purpose of the Works of Christ, as purposed by God, is to reveal Who He is to His people as their Substitute, Sacrifice, and Savior; as their Creator, Controller, and Consummator; as their Provider, Protector, and Peace. These Works of God were “Finished” in the Work of Christ. If they, the Works of Christ, were “finished”; then the believer cannot do His Works.
- The Design and Purpose of the Works of the Believer is to be a Witness of Who the believer is in Christ to himself and to others. The believer’s works are the works of faith to bring glory to God, and not to himself. The believer’s works are never “finished,” until physical death.
The following is an exegesis of John 14:12 by identifying the Works of Christ as God in the flesh, revealing Who He was, and is, to His people, which Christ “finished” what He came to do; and identifying the works of the believer as works of faith as a witness of the saving Grace of God, which works are never finished.
However, Jesus is not speaking of the nature (or the kind) of His Works for the believer to perform in (Jn. 14:12). But notice in (John 5:36) the “works” that Jesus was given to accomplish could only be performed by God Himself; “But I have greater witness than that of John: for the works which the Father hath given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent me.” What were the “works” which the Father had given to the Son to “finish” that would “bear witness of Me, that the Father hath sent Me”? Are we to reason that Jesus in the text verse (Jn. 14:12) is saying that all believers can perform the work of God? If so, would this not place the believer in a position that he no longer needs God to protect and provide his needs? Will the believer’s work reveal that he is a God? Or even equal to a God-status? Surely, there is no believer that considers himself in a God-position or to be a God. So, what is the interpretation of John 14:12?
All the works that Christ did on earth was to show that He was God in the Flesh, and by so doing, show that God had sent Him; and He came to “finish” these works. The nature (or the distinguishing characteristics) of these works are as follows:
- To declare the Attributes of God; (Jn. 1:14-18) God is a Spirit. For man to see God, God became flesh; yet without sin. God is Love, Mercy, Grace, Holy, Perfect, Omniscient (all Knowing), Omnipotent (all powerful over all creation). Nicodemus confessed to Jesus (John 3:2), “The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.”
- Christ did declare that He was God in the flesh (not only sent by God to the earth; but, He was God in the flesh) in the work of signs, wonders, miracles. His ultimate work was the Atonement on the Cross as the sinner’s Substitute, as Sacrifice for the sinner’s sin debt, and as the sinner’s Savior. Proven by the Resurrection from the dead (Rom. 1:4) that He was God.
- Thus proving that He is the Life Giver (Jn. 5:26; 6:63; 9:3-4; 10:25, 32-38; Jn.11:25-44; 17:2-4; 19:30; 1 Cor. 15:22) and the Judge (Jn. 5:22). Therefore, Christ is the Creator, Controller, and Consummator of, and over, all His creation.
- These works of Christ were “finished” (Jn. 17:4); therefore, of His works, there were no works left to perform. Christ either did finish His works or He did not; if He did (and He did); then these works are not the works of the believer.
Man being the created and not the Creator, Controller, and Consummator of creation; and being born in trespasses and sin – has no power to do signs, wonders, and miracles; much less be his own Savior. Only God Himself could propitiate (or satisfy, or atone for) the sinner’s sin debt, as the sinner’s Substitute, being God; for only God is Holy, Perfect, Sinless, and Righteous (2 Cor. 5:21; Eph. 1:7; 1 Cor. 1:30; Jn. 1:29). Only God could Reconcile, Redeem, and Justify the guilty sinner, in His own Blood on the Cross. Only the Perfect and Sinless Lamb of God could be the Sin Offering for the guilty sinner (Isa. 53:1-12); whereby the guilty sinner is “made righteous” or “declared righteous” in Christ’s Work of Atonement on the Cross (Rom. 3:24-25).
Then how could the believer do “greater works than these,” seeing that the believer is not God; but is the creation of God, and is the Temple of God? Seeing that man is but flesh; and until regeneration, he is dead in trespasses and sin, and is powerless to perform the works of God. Therefore, the interpretation of (John 14:12) in the word “works,” cannot have to do with the Nature of Christ’s work; for only God could perform the works He came finish; for only God could do the work of Grace and Mercy that Christ performed and finished; especially the Atonement for sinners on the Cross, which reconciled and redeemed the sinner from the curse of the law, which was spiritual death of the sinner (Rom. 5:1-12).
Therefore, the correct, and only, interpretation of (Jn. 14:12) is the “greater works than these” has to do with the quantity and the how they would be done, and in the Motive they would be performed. The “works” that Jesus told the Apostles that the “believer” would perform are the works of faith (Gal. 2:20). When a person is regenerated by the Holy Spirit of God, as Paul wrote in (Rom 5:5) “And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.” This means God is Love, and God comes to dwell in the quickened sinner in the process of regeneration. Jesus said, (Joh 14:15) “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” Jesus also taught the Apostles:
“A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. (35) By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” (Jn. 13:34-35)
Therefore, the motive that we perform the works of God is LOVE. The reason is two-fold; (1) The keeping of the commandments of Christ proves that the one keeping the commandments does love God; which in turn proves that he is born of God; that God does dwell in him. (2) It reveals, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples.” That is, in keeping His commandments, it reveals to others that you are a “disciple” of Christ. Therefore, the work that the “believer” performs is a witness to others, even to himself, that he is a child of God; not that he is as God is – God forbid that any man would teach and preach that a believer had the purpose or mandate to create, control, and consummate life and etc. from God.
God’s purpose in coming to this earth in flesh was to fulfil the Law for Righteousness; to ratify the Eternal Covenant of Grace, to secure the Reconciliation, Redemption and Justification of those chosen in Him before the foundation of world according to (Eph. 1:4-11); and in so doing, to reveal the Nature of God. Jesus’ works revealed He was and is God; whereas the believer’s works reveal that God lives in him; and that the love of God has been shed abroad in his heart; and therefore the works that the believer performs are the works of faith (or the works of The Faith, Christ Himself) (Gal. 2:20; 5:6).
However, the believer must understand that the only way he can perform the works of Christ (or to say, the works of Faith); is he must have the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus, in John 14:12, was leading the Apostles up to the truth that when He left this earth after His crucifixion and resurrection; He promised the ministry of the indwelling Holy Spirit by saying in (John 14:16-25) that, “I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you” (John 14:18).
Therefore Jesus, foreseeing the Day of Pentecost, wherein the Holy Spirit would baptize the church with His Presence, and therein the church would receive the Indwelling Power of God as was Promised by Jesus in (Matt. 3:11c Jn. 14:16-25; Lk. 24:49; Acts 1:8) – then on this basis, or foundation, Jesus said (Joh 14:12) “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.”
The only way any believer can perform the works of God would be by the Power of the Holy Spirit. The reason Christ told His Disciples this is because soon Jesus would be crucified, buried and raised from the dead; and ten days later would ascend back to heaven, “because I go unto my Father”; and without Christ they could do nothing. But Christ’s instructions in (Lk. 24:46-49); was to Wait on the Promise of the Father;
“And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: (47) And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. (48) And ye are witnesses of these things. (49) And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.” (Lk. 24:46-49)
The Promise of the Father was the coming of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost; wherein the 120 were waiting in Jerusalem, in the upper room, for the Promise of the Father, for the coming of the Holy Spirit. On the Day of Pentecost, they were baptized into the Body of Christ by the Holy Spirit; not by physical water (1 Cor. 12:13). Also see Acts 2:1-41; not only the 120 received the Gift of the Holy Spirit, but as many as were “called” by God (Acts 2:39). And on that day alone there were 3,000 souls added to the church.
And in Acts 1:8, Jesus said that they would receive “power”: “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.”
Therefore, Christ’s words in Jn. 14:12, in looking to His coming to the church in Power upon them (see Jn. 14:16-26; esp. v-18, “I (notice Christ used the personal pronoun “I”) will not leave you comfortless: I (Christ once again used the personal pronoun “I”) will come to you.” Once I have come (the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, God) to dwell in you; then, and only then, can you do the works that I do (that is, the works of faith by Love). That is, the Church from the Day of Pentecost and forward would perform the work of Christ in the Power of the indwelling of the Spirit of God in the Love of God.
The phrase “greater works than these shall he (the believer) do,” has to do – not with the Nature of (which no man can do the work of God); but rather has to do with the quantity (or the number) of works of faith that Christ did (meaning, more in number). Why? Because not just Christ and His Apostles can do this; but also every believer. Notice first, Jesus was not thinking just of the Apostles; for notice, Jesus said, “Verily, verily I say unto you, He that believeth on Me.” This includes not only the Apostles in their ministry; but, also every believer, then, now and forever. It is “greater than these,” in that the Church is made up of thousands and thousands of believers; whereas Christ on the earth limited His works to a local geographical area.
In conclusion, this means that every sinner that has been regenerated (or born from above; or born again) by the Spirit of God is indwelt by the Holy Spirit, or the Power of God; and therefore, has the power to do the works of Christ in the Love of God.
The foundation of this is that Christ “finished” the works that He came to do. He did not fail in any of the purpose for His coming to this earth as God, to declare the Attributes of God and the ratification of the Eternal Covenant of Grace as described in (Eph. 1:4-11). This is Proven by the Coming of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, as the fulfilment of the Promise of the Father to the Church, the Lamb of God’s Wife, His Body. From the Day of Pentecost forward, even to this present hour, the Church has been and is doing “greater works than these”; (that is, by number, or quantity; for no creature could do better, or do more, or greater in quality than God Himself, Who is the Creator, Controller and Consummator). And this is being performed in the love of God by the indwelling Power of the Holy Spirit in every believer that has been regenerated by the Spirit of God all over the earth; not only in Jerusalem; but in Judah, Samaria and the uttermost parts of the earth. Thousands of the believers of Christ do the works of Christ all over the earth. Therefore, the works the believers do in the Name of Christ, and in the Power of Christ, and in the love of God are millions of times more than Christ performed during His earthly ministry.
The only way to come to the correct interpretation is by the Holy Spirit revealing to the believer The Purpose of the Works of God, and the Purpose of the works of the believer.
- The reason of the purpose that Christ came to this earth; which was to finish the works that the Father had sent Him to do (Jn.5:36); to prove that God had sent Him; that He was God in the Flesh; His Purpose was to Ratify the Eternal Covenant of Grace on the behalf of those chosen in Him (Eph. 1:4-11) (Rom. 8:29-30) (1 Cor. 1:30); and in so doing, the Attributes of God were revealed in the face of Jesus Christ to His people (2 Cor. 4:6).
- Then secondly, to reveal the purpose of the Believer’s works: (a) the believer is to be a witness to himself and to others that he is a Temple of God; (b) and as such, he possesses the Love of God; (c) and he possesses the Power of God; (d) therefore, he is able to work the works of God, which are the works of faith motived by the Love of God; not in the Purpose of Christ, but in the Purpose of the Believer.
Christ came to seek and save that which was lost; the Believer in Christ is to be a Witness of the Saving, Changing Grace of God to and for the believer and for all the future believers.