John 14:12 (NLT) “I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father".
What did Jesus mean when He told his apostles, and by extension us, because we believe in Him, that they would not only do the works that He did but would do greater works? Many in the Body of Christ take this statement and apply it to believers doing greater miracles than Jesus did. Think about it...that would mean. We could at a minimum calm the winds and the sea, raise the dead, restore limbs, give sight to the blind, or feed more than 5,000 people with two fish and five loaves of bread. And that’s at a minimum. Let me be perfectly clear that I believe that God can do these things through believers, but it is God doing the miracle using the believer as a vessel.
The book of Acts includes many miracles being performed by the apostles but none of them were superior to those performed by Jesus. The people to whom Jesus was speaking directly to, in John 14, never duplicated walking on water or had another group of people walk on water. No apostle ever relocated themselves from one place to another. No apostle resurrected himself. No apostle healed a person from a far away distance, they had to be there. Not even the apostles who were personally trained by Jesus were able to exhibit power over nature as Jesus did. Like Jesus, the apostles healed those brought to them. However, the Apostles’ miracles were limited in variety, mostly to casting out demons and healing diseases and raising the dead. No prophet or apostle was ever able to duplicate or exceed all the miracles that Jesus did in quality or quantity. Jesus says His works were unique and He did works nobody else did.
John 15:24 (NLT) If I hadn’t done such miraculous signs among them that no one else could do, they would not be guilty. But as it is, they have seen everything I did, yet they still hate me and my Father.
They did not duplicate everything Jesus did. I would think that if they performed miracles superior to Jesus that it would be recorded somewhere in the Bible and I have not found any.
Here’s what Paul said;
1 Corinthians 12:29-30 (NLT)29 Are we all apostles? Are we all prophets? Are we all teachers? Do we all have the power to do miracles?30 Do we all have the gift of healing? Do we all have the ability to speak in unknown languages? Do we all have the ability to interpret unknown languages? Of course not!
Jesus is not saying that our works will be greater than His in terms of power or majesty. After all we know that Jesus is a member of the Trinity so He’s God and, by definition, humans cannot surpass God’s omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence.
So What Did Jesus Mean?
First Jesus said greater works not greater miracles;
John 14:12 (NLT) “I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father.
The Greek word translated greater is meizōn which in short means greater degree: more (irregular comparative of megas; larger literal or figurative, specially in age:- elder, greater-est, more.)
The Greek word translated works is ergon, which means to work; toil as an effort or occupation; an act of labor. Jesus did not say meizōn dunamis (greater miracles). So the statement means that they will labor greater in degree. Jesus saying “greater works than these” meant a more extensive ministry.
The following is from The Wycliffe Bible Commentary
Greater works. Not to be restricted to the signs such as Jesus wrought in the days of his flesh. The works could not be greater in quality than his, but greater in extent. Because I go unto my Father. This is the reason for the greater works. The restrictions imposed on Jesus by incarnation would be removed. His position with the Father would be related to the greater works in two ways: answering the prayers of his own, and sending the Paraclete as the unfailing source of wisdom and strength. The works, then, would not be done in independence of Christ. He would answer prayer; he would send the Spirit.13, 14. Whatsoever. The scope of prayer. Ask. The condition of prayer. In my name. The ground of prayer. This involves at least two things: praying in the authority Christ gives (cf. Mt 28:19; Acts 3:6) and praying in union with him, so that one does not pray outside His will. That will I do. The certainty of prayer. That the Father may be glorified in the Son. The purpose of prayer. If ye shall ask. The if is on the side of the one who prays, not on the side of Christ.
What Are These Works?
Works that point to Jesus which help people believe in him, works that lead people to faith. That’s what his works do, and what our works as believers, do, bear witness of Jesus.
John 10:25 (NLT) Jesus replied, “I have already told you, and you don’t believe me. The proof is the work I do in my Father’s name.
Jesus means that all believers are so united, as the Church, to Him by belief that we will carry on his work by his power and do the kinds of things that will “bear witness” to Him. Works that will point people to Jesus, and through Jesus to the Father.
John 17:1-4 (NLT) 1 After saying all these things, Jesus looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son so he can give glory back to you. 2 For you have given him authority over everyone. He gives eternal life to each one you have given him. 3 And this is the way to have eternal life—to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth. 4 I brought glory to you here on earth by completing the work you gave me to do.
Matthew 5:16 (NKJV) Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.
Every believer is to do these works.
Ephesians 2:10 (NKJV) For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
How is it Possible for Us to Do Greater Works?
The answer is the last part of John 14:12
John 14:12 (NLT) “I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father. (emphasis mine).
When Jesus went to be with the Father He sent the Holy Spirit to indwell all believers . The greater works are the direct result of the Spirit's working in and through the believer.
John 14:16-17, 26 (NLT)16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you.17 He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you.26 But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.
John 15:26 (NLT) “But I will send you the Advocate—the Spirit of truth. He will come to you from the Father and will testify all about me.
Romans 8:9-11 (NLT)9 But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you. (And remember that those who do not have the Spirit of Christ living in them do not belong to him at all.)10 And Christ lives within you, so even though your body will die because of sin, the Spirit gives you life because you have been made right with God.11 The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.
Acts 1:8 (NLT) But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Ephesians 3:20 (NLT) Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.
D. A. Carson (The Gospel According to John [Eerdmans/Apollos], p. 496) argues that the greater works are those done on the basis of Jesus’ death, resurrection, and exaltation. The greater works point to the power of the gospel to transform lives as it spread through the apostolic witness. Through Peter’s preaching on the Day of Pentecost, 3,000 were born again, probably more than Jesus saw converted during His entire ministry! The Book of Acts tells how the message kept spreading, first around Jerusalem, and eventually to the Gentiles around the Roman Empire. J. C. Ryle succinctly observes (Expository Thoughts on the Gospels [Baker], on John 14:12, p. 67), “There is no greater work possible than the conversion of a soul.”
When Jesus said that we would do greater works He was referring to the extent of the spiritual miracle of salvation. Jesus never preached outside of Palestine, yet His followers would spread the gospel throughout the world. Jesus had only a limited outreach to Gentiles, but the disciples (particularly Peter and later Paul) would reach the Gentile world with the gospel. The number of believers in Christ would also grow far beyond the hundreds of followers during His lifetime, becoming the Church.
Acts 1:15 (NLT) During this time, when about 120 believers were together in one place, Peter stood up and addressed them.
1 Corinthians 15:6 (NLT) After that, he was seen by more than 500 of his followers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died.
Acts 2:41 (NLT) Those who believed what Peter said were baptized and added to the church that day—about 3,000 in all.
When Jesus said we would do greater works He was referring to us, the believers, spreading the good news of His death and resurrection which brought ushered in the new covenant that was better;
Hebrews 8:6 (NLT) But now Jesus, our High Priest, has been given a ministry that is far superior to the old priesthood, for he is the one who mediates for us a far better covenant with God, based on better promises.
Jeremiah 31:31-33 (NLT)31 “The day is coming,” says the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and Judah.32 This covenant will not be like the one I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand and brought them out of the land of Egypt. They broke that covenant, though I loved them as a husband loves his wife,” says the LORD.33 “But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel on that day,” says the LORD. “I will put my instructions deep within them, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.
Romans 7:6 (NLT) But now we have been released from the law, for we died to it and are no longer captive to its power. Now we can serve God, not in the old way of obeying the letter of the law, but in the new way of living in the Spirit.
Fulfilling the Great Commission is the responsibility of the Church and is greater work Jesus spoke of.
Matthew 28:18-20 (NLT)18 Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth.19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
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Donald Jacobs is an ordained minister with the spiritual gift of teaching. He is the Associate Pastor of a non-denominational church in Los Angeles, CA.