Can we do greater works than Jesus?
John 14:1-12 “"Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. "In My Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. "And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. "And where I go you know, and the way you know." Thomas said to Him, "Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?" Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. "If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him." Philip said to Him, "Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us." Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, 'Show us the Father'? "Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works. "Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me, or else believe Me for the sake of the works themselves. "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father.”
Jesus is summing up the explanation of going before them to go to heaven and explains that he is the way to heaven. That the authority He has been speaking with is because the Father is in him and He is in the Father- they are united as God doing the work on earth.
As we can see from the context, this Scripture has been lifted out of the context by those that claim it is applied to our doing miracles. The work Jesus said he was doing is “speaking,” delivering a message.
This does not mean greater miracles as in greater quality. When we look at the apostles to whom heard these words personally we do not see anything superior in miracles by them. In the first century when the apostles lived these greater works took place. If they did greater miracles the proof should be found in the Bible but it is not there. So this Scripture must mean something other than the way the claimers of miracles (signs and wonders movement) interpret it.
The apostles did not exceed in doing greater miracles than Jesus did, and regular Christians did not have the ability to produce miracles the apostles did. Paul in 1 Corinthians 12:29-30 asks the church “Are all workers of miracles? Do all have gifts of healings?” His answer is NO. They did not “feed the 5,000” or “still a storm” No apostle ever 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. They did not duplicate everything 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 “which no one else did” (John 15:24).The main command by Christ throughout His ministry and specifically His last command was to preach the Gospel. If we preach miracles, we are practicing the opposite of the great commission which is about the gospel. Then we are not delivering the true message and we certainly will miss the true power.
How can anyone think we have the same power and abilities as Christ who is God that became man? Can we expect as sinful men to do miracles that only the sinless Son of God could do? We demote Jesus’ uniqueness when we say we can do the very same things He did. Jesus Christ is unique in both his deity and humanity, only “He is the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15) “the express image of His person” (Hebrews 1:3). There is none like HIM. God can still use us to do miracles, as He leads and as we pray but there is no Biblical support for believers to do miracles equal or greater than the apostles today.
Now for what the phrase actually means. Notice John 14:12 does not say greater miracles, but rather greater works (Gr. miezon ergon).
Greateris the Greek word meizon -neuter of 3187; (adverbially) meaning greater degree: more.
Jesus says, “the works I do” works Gr. ergon, means to work; toil as an effort or occupation; an act of labor. They will labor greater in degree. Jesus saying “greater works than these” meant a more extensive ministry.
There are other words used for miracles- Semeion, a “sign,” i.e., an evidence of a divine commission; an attestation of a divine message (Matt. 12:38, 39; 16:1; Mark 8:11; Luke 11:16; 23:8;John 2:11, 18, 23; Acts 6:8, etc.); evidence of the presence of God.
Terata, “wonders”; events that evoke astonishment in those who observe them (Acts 2:19).
Dunameis, often used for the power to do Miracles “mighty works”; deeds performed by a superhuman power (Acts 2:22; Rom. 15:19; 2 Thess. 2:9).
And Erga, “works;” the deeds of Jesus, (John 5:20, 36.)
To use John 14:12, and claim we will do greater works meaning miracles, signs and wonders is completely removed from its context and intent.
The apostles and the church did do greater works- by carrying the gospel to the ends of the earth. Jesus saying “greater works than these” we will do meant a more widespread ministry. The book of Acts shows that the church carried the gospel to the ends of the earth from Jerusalem. The apostles went out to the Gentiles and people were saved in greater numbers than when Jesus was physically on earth. Jesus gave to the apostles and to us today is the commission and authority to preach the gospel, which is the power of God unto salvation. The “greater” in quantity is in reference to the gospel. This is what we see taking place through the book of Acts “the Acts of the Apostles.” We can bring somebody immediately into a relationship with the Lord and they can have the Holy Spirit live in them, something that the disciples could not do at the time Jesus said this. We can do greater works, as in more abundant works, because the ministry of the Spirit is not limited to one person only (Jesus), or to one country, Israel, but now is preached throughout the world empowering all believers in His Church.
Jesus is NOT saying we will do greater miracles than He did but that our effect on people, our influence will be greater. Fulfilling the Great Commission IS the greater work Jesus spoke of. Their message was the death and resurrection of the savior, as they followed Jesus’ commission to preach the gospel, disciple and teach the people.
The apostles were given authority to do much that Jesus did, in a similar manner, but we see no record of them doing greater miracles than Jesus. Their ministry was considerably years longer than Jesus’, yet, it does not say of them that volumes of books could be written of all the miracles the apostles did, as it says of Jesus in John 21:25.
Many want first-century Christianity with its power and miracles to prove God is real. Some want it for selfish reasons, to make them-self famous. But Christ gave us commands for the practical work. They didn’t pray for God to meet their needs only through the supernatural means of a miracle but were carrying out His commands to help their brethren. In Acts 2:45 they sold their possessions and goods and divided them among all who had need. The fact is miracles recorded in the Bible were not as common as we are being told today, entire generations throughout history had not known signs and wonders as in the generation of Moses and the Exodus. There was no “miracle generation” found in history. Yet some say the last generation will have miracle-working power unlike any other despite the Bible’s silence on this. Miracles continue but they have increased or decreased in various degrees throughout different periods in history.
There is no greater work done than Jesus dying for our sin. What Jesus gave to the apostles and to us today is the commission and authority to preach the gospel, which is the power of God unto salvation. The “greater” in quantity is in reference to the gospel. We can bring somebody immediately into a relationship with the Lord and they can have the Holy Spirit live in them, something that the disciples could not do at the time Jesus said this. We can do greater works, as in more abundant works, because the ministry of the Spirit is not limited to one person only (Jesus) in Israel, but now is empowering all believers in His Church. Christ never went to Africa or to Central America (despite any Mormon claims), but we as His representatives can. Greater is in reference to number, not quality. Neither the apostles nor we can ever do a greater work (miracle) than a resurrection (especially of oneself), or have someone grow a new limb or make the blind see. Jesus is NOT saying we will do greater miracles than He did, although in our outreach it may include seeing miracles.
Miracles can still take place, but what is a greater work? Let me propose that to reverse the curse of Adam, to transform a life from being dead spiritually to alive spiritually, to have the potential of being raised from the dead and live forever most certainly falls in this category. To have someone walk with God who formerly walked in darkness is certainly a greater work. Fulfilling the Great Commission IS the greater work Jesus spoke of.As the Scriptures were not yet completed but in the process of being written, the miracles authenticated the apostolic message in the first century church. The miracles accompanied the apostles preaching to help establish belief in the gospel message (Mark 16:20; Hebrews 2:3, 4). When Paul and Barnabas preached, the Lord “was bearing witness to the word of His grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands” (Acts 14:3). The Apostle Paul defended his apostleship stating, “Truly the signs of an apostle were accomplished among you…in signs and wonders and mighty deeds” (2 Corinthians 12:12). Notice Paul explains this as these signs and wonders were the proof of one being an apostle, not of being a Christian, but an apostle. If miraculous signs were common to all Christians in Paul’s day, this type of statement would have proved nothing. If these signs and wonders were common to everyone how could one tell who the apostles were? How then could Paul use these as proof of his leadership? There would be no way to distinguish the leadership of the apostles. Even when the apostles were alive all the Christians could not do signs and wonders as the apostles did, so we certainly cannot do them today.
What John 14:12 does not say:
It does not say greater signs (miezon semeion)
It does not say greater miracles (miezon dunamis) power
It does not say greater wonder (miezon teras)
It does say greater works(Gr. miezon ergon)
You can do the greater work by learning the gospel and learning how to explain and stand down the arguments against it. The gospel message is the power of God to salvation which, Jesus taught as the most important (Rom. 1:16; 1 Cor. 1:18; 2 Tim.1:8; 1 Pt.1:5)- once it is understood by those hearing the message it becomes a motivation to exercise ones will to call upon the Lord to save them from their sin. Delivering it in your city and elsewhere is the main purpose of the church today as it was in the apostles day.
It is also a motivating factor for us as believers while we are still here living on earth. We are to look for any opportunity, whether it is an open door to share or initiate a conversation to begin to open a door.
If all of us discipled 1 person a year the whole world would have the potential of being saved within 20 years (those who are called by God). Consider the statistics of there being one a billion Christians. If only a 100 million Christians (10%) would disciple 1 person each year this turns to 200 million in the first year- then it multiplies to 4 hundred million the second year- 8 hundred million in a three years. Then on the 4th year to one and half billion- to three billion on the fifth year, to 6 billion in the 6th year. And that is if we disciple only 1 person a year. Of course not everyone will believe and even less will witness. It’s obvious we have a problem with timidity and confidence that the message will do what Jesus said it would. We are told that the Lord has not given us a spirit of fear but power (a sign of being filled with the spirit), courage, love, (a living care for those unsaved) and a sound mind (one who is able to think through the arguments to refute them biblically). The church would be far more successful in God’s eyes if we did the works He called us to.