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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Greater Works?

My good friend, Lem, has made some great comments and asked some good questions lately. The following comment of his was noted in my last post but because the post was already too long I wanted to address this separately.

Lem wrote: When I look at the verse in John 14:12, I’m led to interpret Mark 16:16-18 in the same light. “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.”   To me, greater works means more signs and miracles than what Jesus did.”

Lem, are you sure that when the Lord Jesus spoke these words that He meant that believers would do more signs and wonders than what He did?

Consider that he made the lame to walk, gave sight to the blind, healed lepers, straightened crooked backs, restored withered hands, gave hearing and speech to the deaf and the dumb, mended an ear which had been sliced off with a sword, cast out evils spirits, raised people up from the dead, and even performed such miracles when the sick people were not even in his presence or even in the same town!  He walked on water,  stilled storms and the waves of the sea, withered up a fig tree simply by his word, turned water into wine. But not only did the Lord Jesus not “advertise” his own miracles, he often told others not to tell about them! And yet His fame was spread far and wide by those who observed and knew what He had done!

In addition, John 20:30 tells us that He did many other signs in the presence of his disciples which are not written in the scriptures!  So it is clear that none of the apostles, no one among the first century Christians and no one in our own day has ever come close to the miracles and signs which the Lord Jesus did! So if the Lord Jesus was promising that those who believed on Him would do more signs and wonders than He did,  that promise has certainly not been kept!!!

So it is clear that the Lord Jesus was not talking about miracles, signs or wonders for which He became famous and which proved that He truly was the Son of God. That was the very reason why John’s Gospel was written… “But these (signs) are written that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and that believing ye might have life through His name.” (John 20:31)

Think about this…. Since the signs/miracles/wonders which Jesus did were the proof that He truly was the Son of God and that people could have life by believing in Him….what would be proved if someone came on the scene doing more signs, miracles or wonders than Jesus did???  Would it not prove that they also would be the Christ and that life could be had by believing in them???

Can you see where this interpretation would inevitably lead us if it were true? It obviously is not!

But if you have a Strong’s Concordance or any Online Bible program you will notice that the word which the Lord Jesus used in this statement for “works” was NOT any of the words he used for “signs”, “miracles”, “wonders” etc!  It was a very common word “ERGON” which is translated as “work”, “deeds” or “labor”.  It’s the Greek word from which our word “ergonomics” is derived. 

We are certainly not called to do greater signs, miracles and wonders than the Lord Jesus did, so how could “work” that we do be “greater” than the works He did?  Let me suggest that the greatness is not in visible display of physical power but rather 
(1) in the importance of the effect of the work and
(2) in the permanence of the work.

Of all the miracles and healings which Jesus did during His earthly ministry…how important were they and how long did their effect last?  All whom he healed and even those whom he raised from the dead eventually died!  So the importance of those signs was only temporal.

But the work (ergon) which New Covenant believers (i.e. since Calvary) are called to do is far greater in its importance and in its permanence than the signs and wonders which the Lord Jesus did!  The work to which we are called transforms lives (vs. simply healing bodies) and these changes are permanent and not just temporary!

Notice how the apostle Paul describes this work (ergon) in his first epistle to the Corinthians:

1 Corinthians 9:1)  Am I not an apostle? am I not free? have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? are not ye my work in the Lord?  In chapter 5, Paul had described the nature of his work in the Corinthian believers:

1 Corinthians 6:9)  Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, 10)  Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. 11)  And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God. He also emphasizes that other believers are also involved in the same work (i.e. seeing lives transformed for eternity!

1 Corinthians 16:10)  Now if Timotheus come, see that he may be with you without fear: for he worketh the work of the Lord, as I also do.

2 Timothy 4:5)  But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work (ergon) of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.

So, in summary, the “greater works” of which the Lord Jesus spoke in John 14:12 could not be more signs and wonders or greater signs and wonders than the Lord Jesus did for those were the evidence that He gave that he truly was the Son of God.

He did not say that believers would do “greater signs, wonders or miracles” than He did but rather “greater works” (ergon).

These works (transformed lives) are greater in effect and in permanence than any temporal signs or wonders.

Thus churches which desire to be biblical in their practices will be glad whenever God gives gifts and bestows signs and wonders according to His own will, but they will emphasize and be eager to be involved in the work (ergon) of the Lord which radically transforms lives for eternity!


  1. Ok, Bruce,

    I got your point. Thanks for taking the time to reply.

  2. I appreciate your insight into this Bruce. However, I wonder about your statement "what would be proved if someone came on the scene doing more signs, miracle and wonders than Jesus did?" and your conclusion to where that might lead. Consider this-if Holy Spirit is living in us and is working out those signs, miracles and wonders, then it's Jesus through us-not us-- Is it possible that "greater" means more as opposed to less simply because Jesus was only actually on the earth in human form for such a short period of time? So then, more or greater is accomplished because He works through us? (just thinking out loud) So...signs, wonders and miracles would be a marker of Jesus' disciples and not someone who is greater than Jesus.

    1. Hi "Anonymous",
      Thanks for your thoughtful response to my post above.

      I think there are a number of reasons why your suggestion simply does not fit the context of the NT record nor of the last 2,000+ years since the Lord Jesus was here on earth...
      (1) John 21:25 clearly tells us that the Gospel writers record of the wprks of the Lord Jesus was very limitted to say the least. If everything had been recorded which He did, John tells that the world could not contain the books that shoulod be written. So His works certainly were not limitted by the brief span of his earthly ministry!
      (2) No one since the Lord Jesus was here has come even close to the variety and power of the signs and wonders which He did which are actually recored for us in scripture!
      (3) Nor are signs and wonders "the marker" by which Jesus disciples are to be known! Rather, the Lord Jesus clearly told us what that marker would be..."By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another." John 13:35

      A brother in Christ,
      Bruce Woodford

  3. what's your comment on Mark 16:14-20?

  4. Hi "Anonymous",

    Good question (and I'm assuming you are curious as to what I believe about verses 17&18 of Mark 16 so that will be what I take up here...

    I believe that this was a promise which the Lord Jesus made and He is always good to His word. (He keeps His promises!)

    All those things did follow those who believe. But notice a few things the Lord Jesus did NOT say:

    He did not say:
    -that ALL those things would follow in the life of any ONE
    of His followers, (Indeed the NT does not record that all
    of these things were true even of any one of the greatest
    apostles!) Thus He did not say, "All these things shall
    follow HIM that believeth."
    -that all those things would follow in the life of EVERY
    believer, (Indeed, in all of the last 2,000 years, NO
    One's life (at least of whom I am aware) has been marked
    or distinguished by all these things!) Thus He did not
    say, "All these signs shall follow ALL who believe."

    Rather He said, "These signs shall follow them that believe." He was truthful and those signs have followed!

    Hope this helps. Feel free to comment further or ask any other questions.

    A brother in Christ,
    Bruce Woodford