Greater Works

Christ promised His disciples, “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” (John 14:12 emphasis added).

Since the Lord Jesus Christ has unlimited power and sinless character, it is hard to grasp the meaning and implications of this prophecy. How could His people do greater works? In what way(s) would these future works be greater than Christ’s miraculous and marvelous works of power, love, and righteousness?[1]

Before exploring the answer, note that these works would not be qualitatively superior. Albert Barnes noted, “Interpreters have been at a loss in what way to understand this. The most probable meaning of the passage is the following: The word ‘greater’ cannot refer to the miracles themselves, for the works of the apostles did not exceed those of Jesus in power. No higher exertion of power was put forth, or could be, than raising the dead. But, though not greater in themselves considered, yet they were greater in their effects.”[2]

Notice that the predicted “greater works” were contingent on the Son’s return to heaven: “…greater works than these he will do, BECAUSE I go to My Father.” After His ascension, the Holy Spirit was sent to indwell, seal, and empower all true believers. Later in this context the Lord declared, ” … Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you” (John 16:7). The Holy Spirit’s ministry is essential in producing these greater works.

After revealing His recognition of Philip (who had been sitting under the fig tree), Christ assured him that greater works would be forthcoming (John 1:50). In John chapter 5 He healed a man who had been lame for 38 years, yet greater works were in store: “For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself does; and He will show Him greater works than these, that you may marvel” (John 5:20). Later, for example, He would feed the 5,000, still a violent storm, and raise Lazarus from the dead (John 6:5-15; Luke 8:22-25; John 11:1-45).

Let’s consider some ways that the future works of Christ’s people would be even “greater.”

1. Future works would be greater in duration.

Whereas Christ’s public ministry lasted about three and one half years, the ministry of His Body has continued for about 2000 years.

2. Future works would be greater in number.

The Gospels record about 35 of Christ’s miracles. And John noted, “And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written” (John 21:25). Yet, the great works accomplished through His people over the centuries are countless.

3. Future works would be greater in quantity of workers.

Christ trained and commissioned the twelve and later the seventy (Luke 9,10). The book of Acts records the expansion and multiplication of the redeemed (Acts 2:41; 4:4; 5:14; 6:7). Today many millions are being used of God to do great works through Christ.

4. Future works would be greater in number of people helped.

Although huge crowds thronged Christ’s preaching and miracles, this number was small compared to those being reached on the earth today, with its population of over 7 billion.[3]

5. Future works would be greater in geographical scope.

Christ ministered in Galilee, Judea, Samaria and east of the Jordan river. Today, God is using His people all around the world.

6. Future works would be greater in popularity.

The fame of Christ’s miracles were heralded throughout Israel and beyond. His words and works were celebrated by word of mouth, recorded in the New Testament, and confirmed by secular historians.[4] However, since the invention of modern technology, vast numbers of people are touched by the gospel through telecommunications daily.

7. Future works would be greater in method.

Christ modeled the way Kingdom works should be carried out. He always lived in fellowship with the Father and fulfilled His plans (John 5:19,20,36). And although He could have relied on His own divine attributes, Jesus did His miracles as the Son of Man by the power of the Holy Spirit (Matt. 3:16; 12:31,32; Phil. 2:5-10).

Could it be that the wonderful works of His people following His ascension would be greater because they were done by Christ THROUGH them? This is the testimony of Paul, the great missionary and author of New Testament books. He affirmed, “For I will not dare to speak of any of those things which Christ has not accomplished THROUGH me, in word and deed, to make the Gentiles obedient … To this end I also labor, striving according to HIS working which works IN ME mightily” (Rom. 15:18; Col.1:29. cf. Acts 15:5; 21:19; Gal 2:8, emphasis added).

How about this illustration: If a dad gives an “assembly required” bicycle for his 6 year old son’s birthday, he will likely allow his son to “help him” put it together. In reality such “help” is for the boy’s experience, although the dad could have put the bike together more quickly on his own. In a similar way, the Son of God lovingly condescends to involve us in His Kingdom work. Whereas during His earthly ministry He acted directly through His sinless human nature and physical body, ever since then Christ has been acting on earth THROUGH His corporate Body on earth–true believers.[5]  He is the head; we are His members (Eph. 1:22,23; 1 Cor. 12:27).

Fruitful works are borne through those who are recipients of Christ’s spiritual life. “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10).

Fellow believer, don’t underestimate your potential as a member of the Body of Christ. The Lord continues to accomplish His “greater works” through disciples who abide in Him.

[1] “Greater” is from the Greek word, “meizon”– an adjective of comparison. It occurs 45 times in the N.T. in a variety of ways: greater, larger, elder, stronger; related to importance, rank, value, age, significance, dignity, power, degree, etc. Of course, works do not contribute to a person’s salvation, which is only available by grace through faith (Eph 2:2,9). And Matthew 7:22,23 cautions people to not assume that outwardly religious deeds prove saving faith.

[2] Albert Barnes, Notes on the New Testament (Online Bible edition).

[3] An example is the Jesus Film Project. “The film has been seen in every country of the world and translated into hundreds of languages since its initial release in 1979. Our goal is to reach every nation, tribe, people and tongue, helping them see and hear the story of Jesus in a language they can understand. ..Through use by The JESUS Film Project, and more than 1,500 Christian agencies, this powerful film has had more than 6 billion viewings worldwide since 1979…As a result, more than 200 million people have indicated decisions to accept Christ as their personal Savior and Lord.”

[4] Examples of the historicity of Christ and His followers as documented by authors outside the Bible include Flavius Josephus (Jewish Antiquities 18.63-64; 20.200), Pliny the younger (Epistles 10.96–Letter to Trajan), Tacitus (Annals 15.44), Mara bar Serapion (British Museum: 14.658), Seutonius (Life of Claudius 25.4; Life of Nero 16.2).

[5] “Just as Jesus acted in the sinless humanity which the Father had prepared for Him in the thirty-three years of His life on earth, so He wants to behave in YOUR humanity presented to Him now. The Christian life is nothing less than the life which He lived then … lived NOW in you.”  – W. Ian Thomas, The Indwelling Life of Christ (Multomah, 2006), 10.

Copyright 2007 by John Woodward. Permission is granted to reprint for non-commercial use. Biblical quotations are from the New King James version, copyright by Thomas Nelson.

Posted in