The Expository Files

“Greater Works Than These”
“...and he will speak words to you by which you will be saved,”

John 14:11,12

There are many directives given in the New Testament telling us to be busy in the kingdom and not to neglect the work of discipleship. The parables of Jesus emphasized this over and over, so we'd best pay attention. We must not bury our talent. We must not spurn the Lord's invitation to the feast. We must not allow ourselves to run out of oil. We must not be asleep when the Lord returns. We must be faithful in a few things so He will put us in charge of many things. We must not put our hands to the plow and then look back. All these figures and metaphors, and many others, are used by Jesus to illustrate His intense interest that we be diligent in our endeavors in His name.

What can I do? Can I make a difference? It's a big world. There's a lot of wickedness. Sometimes we may doubt that we can do much about it. We're wrong to think that way. Allowing oneself to become involved where he/she influences one person to obey the gospel is a very, very great thing. It affects an eternal outcome. There are not many things you can do in this world that will result in an everlasting good, but some things you and I can do will accomplish just that

Jesus put it this way: "Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; otherwise believe because of the works themselves. Truly, truly, 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 the Father.” (John 14:11-12).
This passage has often been misunderstood. These “greater works” refer to works that Jesus promises the apostles that if they believe, that they shall do. What are these “greater” works? And can we do these “greater works” today?

These “Greater Works” Are Not Miracles
According to some, the “greater works” are the “signs and wonders” being performed in their so-called “miracle services.” This is a misunderstanding of this passage, and obscures the point Jesus is actually making. Instead, He is talking about being involved in something greater than miracles.

First, the quality of “miracles” claimed today does not even compare to what was done by Jesus. Oh, you may hear of some being done today, but when challenged, those making such claims are unable to back up their claim with any verifiable demonstration. If you are like me, you may have heard reports, but you have never witnessed an obvious miracle. The Lord's miracles were undeniable and spectacular. He healed hopeless lepers, cripples, and people blind from birth. And we must not forget that He raised some from the dead! Find the fellow who will do these kinds of things in your presence - then you'll have something.

Led To Do Greater Works
It is clear that the Lord made a distinction between miracles that had been done by Him and His apostles and a greater work that they would do if they believed.

First, this “greater work” was dependent upon Jesus going to the Father. This cannot refer to miracles because they were already being done. So what was it that could not take place until Jesus went to the Father?

Up until the ascension, the gospel was proclaimed as the good news of what was going to happen. After the ascension, the gospel was proclaimed as an established fact ( Mark 1:14,15; Luke 24:44-49). This is because the foundation of the gospel is the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. Before His death, the good news was that He would become our Savior. After the cross, the good news was that He had become our Savior. (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).

It was necessary for Jesus to “go away” so that He could send the Holy Spirit to guide the apostles unto all the truth. (John 16:5-15). This “truth” is the “gospel”. It is the preaching of the gospel throughout the earth, beginning at Jerusalem, that is the “greater work” that would be done; the proclamation of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, and all the ramifications of it for us. (1 Peter 1:10-12; 1 Corinthians 2:12,13).

Are You Ready To Do Greater Works?
Were miracles done so we might have the gospel, or was the gospel preached so that we might have miracles? The answer is that miracles were done to confirm that the gospel, as it was being delivered, was truly from God (Hebrews 2:2-4). The verified gospel was the goal of miracles; to do miracles was not the goal of the gospel.

This great work of preaching the gospel of Jesus, and Him crucified, and raised again, could only begin after the deed had been done (Acts 2:32-33; 36).

For example, God, through Paul, raised Eutychus from the dead (Acts 20:91-12). That gave evidence that the gospel he preached was of God. That is why it was important (1 Corinthians 1:21-25). Miracles have done their job. They confirmed the gospel, which has been completely delivered. It is no longer being delivered today, we have it all (1 Corinthians 13:8-10; Jude 3). We have the gospel, and the “greater work” we are called upon to do is to teach it to others. Paul raised Eutychus from the dead. You cannot do a great work like that, but the work that you can do is greater. You can teach someone the soul-saving gospel (Matthew 16:26). By the gospel you teach, one who receives it can be forgiven and made spiritually alive in Christ (Ephesians 2:1-7; 1:7; 1:13,14). You, as a teacher of God's word, are an important link in God's will to save the lost (Romans 10:8-15). What a truly great experience it is to be “born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever” (I Peter 1:23). When Peter was sent to talk with Cornelius, he was sent with a message (Acts 11:13,14). You have the same message to take to the world today. It is the power of God unto eternal salvation. There is simply no greater work than that. If you could raise the dead, they would live a few more years and then die again. The greater work entails a gospel, which if believed and obeyed, involves living eternally even if we should die. It is ours to believe, obey and teach unto others.


By Jon W. Quinn
From Expository Files 17.10; October 2010