Greater Works

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In John 14:12-14 Jesus said, 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.  And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it. (KJV)

Few Christians take time to examine what Jesus is saying here. He begins his statement with a double positive, "Verily, verily," This tells us that Jesus wishes to relate something of special significance. We should never gloss over a statement that Jesus begins in this manner and pay close attention to what he says.

It is also important to note to whom the Lord is speaking. Although he is addressing his disciples, his promise is directed towards all who believe in him. In John 6:28, the people sought out Jesus and asked him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?They were probably thinking of his miracles, but Jesus replied in verse 29, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.

The context of these verses is also significant. We could call this Christ's last will and testament before he was crucified. He had just washed the feet of his disciples and celebrated the Last Supper with them. He dismissed Judas to go about "his business"(13:27) prior to visiting Gethsemane to pray to his Father. Christ's earthly work was finished and he finished the prayer to his Father with three simple words, "Thy will be done."

Now evil men would do the work of their father, the devil. Judas betrayed him, soldiers arrested him, mocked and persecuted him all night. In the morning Jesus was tried and found not guilty, yet delivered to the executioners. The wayward son of a Rabbi was released in his stead.

I hear people claim that the crucifixion was the supreme work of Christ, but what did Jesus do? Men built the cross; men carried the cross; men dug a hole for the cross; men nailed Jesus' hands and feet to the cross. Men pierced his side with a spear and they nailed a sign to the cross which stated, "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews."

Jesus speaks of "his works" in John 14:12-14 and most people think immediately of his miracles. The Greek word translated “works,” however, is ergon, a broad term that would include all that Jesus did. We might say "his life's work." It can refer to plural deeds or works, but ergon is an all-encompassing word, often used in the singular. We use the English word in a similar fashion. We may talk about the things (plural) that we do, or we just speak of "our work" or "our job."

The Greek ergon appears about 180 times in the New Testament and approximately half the time it is rendered in the singular. Even where it is translated in the plural, it could often have been translated in the singular form. Numerous times, Jesus said that he was doing the works of his Father, but in John 17:4, Jesus speaks of his “finished work”. In both verses, the Greek word is ergon. Many theologians speak of the crucifixion as the "finished work of Christ", but Jesus had not yet been crucified when he made this statement. As already stated, the crucifixion was the work of evil men!

Jesus not only promises that we will do the works that he did, but even "greater works." What kind of works could be greater than the works of Jesus? When the new Testament refers to Christ's or the Apostle's miracles, the terminology is usually "mighty works" or "signs and wonders." Jesus also said that many false prophets would come and amaze the people with signs and wonders. Most of the "miracles" we hear about today are performed by charismatic personalities on stage and money seems to flow freely.

If we desire to do the works of Jesus, we must be willing to pray, "Thy will be done!" Some Christians dream of performing miracles, but the apostles who did perform signs and wonders suffered much, and most of them died at the hands of wicked men. Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. (II Timothy 3:12).

In John 14:12, “works” is in italics the second time it appears (KJV). The original text simply says, "greater" which can mean "larger," "more" or "longer." It should be translated, "greater than these" or perhaps "greater than this."

Jesus came to seek and to save that which was lost. A choir of angels appeared to celebrate our Lord's birth. There is great rejoicing in heaven when just one soul is converted to Christ and enters God's kingdom (Luke 15:7-10). Jesus took upon himself the most heinous suffering imaginable (Hebrews 12:2) in order to rescue people from the power of Satan and place them in his eternal kingdom. This always was and still is the Lord’s work here on earth, and the salvation of sinners is the primary task of the church of Jesus Christ.

Jesus did not come down to earth to heal the sick, the lame and the blind. He didn't come to cast out evil spirits, to aid the poor or to feed the hungry. He came to redeem sinners. Jesus came to seek and to save that which was lost . Signs, wonders and miracles are no big deal for God, who spoke all creation into existence. He delights in doing the impossible. Jesus often told those whom he healed not to tell anyone, but he commands all who believe on him to tell everybody! Nothing gives God more joy and pleasure than the conversion of a sinner. There is nothing greater in all the universe!

Multitudes flocked to see Jesus perform miracles, but Jesus came to seek and to save that which was lost!  Jesus worked many miracles to underscore his messianic claims, but not many people were saved because of the miracles. He healed ten lepers, but only one returned to give thanks. When the unbelieving Pharisees demanded a sign from Jesus, he told them that they already had a sign, the sign of the prophet Jonah. That was a slap in the face, because the Pharisees and Sadducees didn’t think very highly of Jonah. In Matthew 13:58 we read, And he did not many mighty works there [Galilee] because of their unbelief.

If Jesus came to seek and to save that which was lost, how successful was he in the 33 years he spent on earth? The gospels mention first twelve and later seventy disciples whom Jesus sent out to preach the gospel. Luke speaks of 120 disciples praying in an upper room on the Day of Pentecost, which was about ten days after the ascension of Christ into heaven. After the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost, 3,000 were saved, baptized and added to the church! Soon after that, Luke stops counting and just says that believers were multiplying. Three centuries after the birth of the Christian Church, much of the then-known world had heard the gospel of Jesus Christ. There was opposition and bitter persecution, but many vibrant, growing churches had been established on several continents! Enemies of the gospel claimed that the disciples had "turned the world upside down" (Acts 17:6).

When Jesus spoke of his work (or works) in John 14, I am convinced that he is speaking of missions and evangelism. Jesus spent much of his time training the disciples. He could have stayed here to fulfill the “great commission" himself, but he bestowed that honor on his followers. Jesus said, Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter [the Holy Spirit] will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you (John 16:7).

We have the privilege of preaching the gospel and making disciples. Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom (Luke 12:32). Jesus promised to accompany us and empower us until the end of the world – both geographically speaking and time-wise. We are privileged to do "the greater work." There is not a single miracle recorded in the pages of scripture that can even come close to the miracle of a new birth!

And how do we react to this? Do we yawn and groan and ask, "Who me?" There are so many other matters that interest us more and grab our attention, energy and time. Life is so short and there is never enough time or money to get what we want and to experience everything that this world offers. We don’t want to miss out on anything so we snub our noses at the "greater works." In effect, we are telling God that the temporal things of this world are more important to us than the salvation of souls on their way to hell. And it also shows what a horribly distorted view we have of heaven!

A church may have annual evangelistic meetings and mission conferences. And it may support and pray for missionaries. This is wonderful, but members should all be dedicated to fulfilling the “great” commission. The "greater works" are our golden opportunity to reap unspeakable joy now and innumerable blessings in eternity!

Jesus said in Acts 1:8, Ye shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you, and ye shall be be witnesses unto me, both in Jerusalem, in Judea, and in Samaria and unto the uttermost part of the earth.

One thing I don’t like about most modern English translations is that translators did away with the word [shall.[ People don’t like that word today and claim that it is old fashioned and too dogmatic. They prefer the word "will" because it reflects what we like and want. That is a big problem in the church today. People want what they want and don’t like anyone to tell them what to do, not even God! They don’t like missions because sinners don’t like it. Paul said that he was not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth (Romans 1:16)

That great power is available to every one of us. It is the opportunity of a lifetime –, rather for eternity!

(Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-17; Luke 24:47; John 20:21 and Acts 1:8)

There are many races, nationalities and languages, but there is only one God and one plan for the salvation for man. We are entrusted with spreading the good news – the message of salvation – all over the world.

That may seem to be an impossible task when one considers all the obstacles we have to deal with. We might be tempted to ask if it was fair of Jesus to entrust us with the task of world evangelism! Consider the following:

John the Baptist, the 12 and 70 disciples prepared the way for Jesus, but who prepares the way for us?

According to Luke 3:15, the entire nation of Israel anticipated the coming of Christ. Today, people laugh at the silly idea. Some even accuse us of using this as an excuse for not protecting the environment and wasting natural resources.

Two thousand years ago, the name "Jesus"was common. The very mention of the name of Jesus today (except in cursing) evokes ridicule.

In Jesus' day, the people heard him gladly and multitudes went to great trouble to find him. Today, people prefer to sit in their recliners and watch sports on big-screen TVs. They are more interested in the Sahara sand than what God has to say.

Jesus performed many miracles, healing the blind, deaf, crippled and diseased. He turned water into wine and fed the multitudes with just a few loaves and fish. There are still needy people today, but where are the miracles?

The people who experienced miracles in the New Testament were told not to tell anyone, but we are asked to tell everybody about Jesus and his miracles, even though we can’t show them any convincing examples.

Jesus never left his homeland except for a brief trip to Egypt as a baby. He never had to learn a foreign language or culture. The disciples were sent only to the Jews. At Pentecost, God performed a miracle so that foreigners understood what the apostles were saying in their own dialects. But we are supposed to go into all the world, learn new languages and cultures, and explain all this to anyone who will hear.

The people who heard Peter preach the gospel at Pentecost were convicted in their hearts and asked Peter what they needed to do in order to be saved -- before he had a chance to tell them! Over three thousand were saved and baptized that day and multitudes of others in the days following (Acts 2:41+47; 4:4; 5:14; 6:1+7 and 9:31). When we preach the gospel today, listeners yawn and look at their wristwatches!

The early believers were called Christians in ridicule, but they didn’t need to be ashamed of that name. Today, millions of people claim to be Christians who live godlessly and we try to explain the difference.

Christianity has gotten a bad rap. First there were the crusades, then the bloody reformation and counter-reformation. Today Christianity is split into a million sects and splinter groups, all claiming to be the one true religion.

Most of the Apostles died a martyr's death. Today, clergymen are more likely to make headlines for their involvement in immoral acts, for improper handling of money and misuse of their influence.

In New Testament times nearly everyone believed in creation, heaven and hell; that marriage was a union between one man and one woman, that children were a gift of God and that the Ten Commandments should be revered. Today, anyone who believes these things is called a religious extremist. Preaching what the Bible says about homosexuality is now a “hate crime” punishable by law.

All these obstacles and the feverish attempts of Satan to stop us from obeying the Great Commission only serve to make the work of God greater!

The simple sharing of the gospel suffices! We may need to illustrate it and make it understandable, but we don’t have to be great theologians. Our own conversion story can suffice. It is not our job to save or convert people to Christ. We are only to be witnesses and share the gospel. The Holy Spirit and God's Word do the rest.

Some use the excuse that they don’t have the experience or know-how. Is that an excuse? Don’t go in the water if you can’t swim! A newborn baby has no experience, but it lets everyone around know that he or she is alive! It is no secret that newborn babes in Christ lead more people to Jesus than older Christians.

I Corinthians 1:21  For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.

Isaiah 55:11 So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.

Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth.

We had a printing ministry in Austria and printed Bible portions and Bible study materials that were smuggled into Eastern Europe. The Communists claimed that there was no God and that the Bible was just a bunch of fairy tales, but they were deathly afraid of it! Vehicles were searched and even taken apart as border guards sought hidden Bibles.

Worthless money is never counterfeited. Satan does all in his power to counterfeit, distort and adulterate truth, but God is still at work and his Word gets results. Faithful servants are seeing a harvest of souls in places and situations that would seem impossible to most.

Jesus sends his disciples forth to preach the gospel -- "as lambs among the wolves" (Luke 10:3). Yes, you read it right! The disciples not only returned alive, but they returned victorious and jubilant (verse 17)!

Jesus said, Without me ye can do nothing!
Jesus said, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen
Jesus said, With God all things are possible!

We have all we need for the job.
We have the experience of salvation. Tell it like it is!
We have the Word of God; share it!
We have the Holy Spirit which enables us and convicts the sinner; give him a chance!
We have the authority – the great commission.
And there are plenty of lost souls around us which give us the opportunity to do greater works!

Ralph V Harvey

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