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"Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father." (John 14:12)
Consider. What did Jesus mean when he said that believers in him would do greater works than he had done?
The Bible verse quotations below are from the English Standard Version (ESV) unless noted otherwise (Ref. 1).
Believers shall do the works of Jesus
The works that Jesus did while he was on earth -- such as healing the sick and raising the dead -- confirmed the authority of his teaching and demonstrated that the Father was in him and he in the Father (John 14:10-11, Ref. 2). Jesus' promise that we will do his works is directed to believers -- people who trust in, adhere to, and rely upon Jesus (Ref. 3). The works that we do in the name of Jesus as believers demonstrate the authority of the words of Jesus, point to him as our Savior, and show that he is in us and that we are in him (Matthew 28:18, 1 John 4:14, Colossians 1:27, Romans 8:1).
With Jesus’ exaltation to the right hand of the God completed, he now gives us -- believers, the body of Christ -- the Holy Spirit to help us accomplish his works on earth (John 14:16-17, John 16:13, Acts 1:8, Acts 2:32-33, Acts 2:37-38, Ephesians 1:18-23). The Holy Spirit apportions distinctly different gifts to individual believers as he wills (1 Corinthians 12:11, 1 Corinthians 12:28-31, Romans 12:6-8). Not all of us are gifted to work miracles, but are given other gifts (1 Corinthians 12:28-31). That is why we as different members of the body of Christ need to work together as the body of Christ to accomplish the works of Christ.
Jesus Said Believers Shall Do Greater Works Than These
When Jesus said that believers would do "greater works than these," he was referring to the greatly increased world-wide reach and extent of his works that would be accomplished by his disciples. When Jesus ministered during his time on earth, he did his works in the geographic area where he traveled -- principally in Galilee and Judea (Ref. 4, Ref. 5). Jesus has since commanded his disciples -- "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations" (Matthew 28:19), "Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation" (Mark 16:15). In Acts 1:8, Jesus promised his disciples (that includes us who believe in him), "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth."
When considering what Jesus meant by "greater works than these," think also about the miraculous change done by God that occurs in the heart of each man, woman, and child when they repent of their sins and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. When Peter preached his Holy Spirit-inspired sermon on Pentecost, the result was that about 3,000 souls repented of their sins and believed in the Lord Jesus (Acts 2:22-24, Acts 2:36-41). When Peter visited Joppa and raised Dorcas from the dead, the result was that "many believed in the Lord" (Acts 9:36-42). When the Lord provided an earthquake at the Philippian jail which opened the doors for Paul and Silas and the other prisoners, the result was that the Philippian jailer believed in (put his faith in and trust in) Jesus Christ, and rejoiced (Acts 16:25-34, Ref. 3). When Philip witnessed to the Ethiopian eunuch about Jesus, the result was that the Ethiopian eunuch became a believer in Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Philip baptized him, and the Ethiopian eunuch went on his way rejoicing (Acts 8:26-39 NASB1995).
Consider also that doing "greater works than these" world-wide includes acts of service such as giving others a drink of clean water in Jesus' name (Mark 9:41), teaching others to become disciples (Matthew 28:19-20), and providing for the needs of the "least of these" (Matthew 25:31-40).
Apply. Repent of your sins, and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. You will receive forgiveness of your sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit (1 John 1:9, Acts 2:38). By the power of the Holy Spirit, use the gifts that the Holy Spirit has given you to do the works of Jesus. May your actions towards others confirm the truth of Jesus' words, point people to him as their Savior (Luke 19:10), and show them the love that God has for them (John 3:16).
"When Jesus Said, 'Truly, Truly,' What Did he Mean?" -- John 6:47
"The Authority of Jesus" -- Matthew 28:18
Consider. Jesus came to be the Great Physician for people afflicted with the greatest disease -- sin. Jesus calls sinners -- then and now -- to repentance.
Read Luke 5:27-32
Jesus Calls Levi (Matthew)
"27 After this he went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax booth. And he said to him, 'Follow me.' 28 And leaving everything, he rose and followed him.
29 And Levi made him a great feast in his house, and there was a large company of tax collectors and others reclining at table with them. 30 And the Pharisees and their scribes grumbled at his disciples, saying, 'Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?' 31 And Jesus answered them, 'Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.'"
The Luke 5:27-32 scripture includes "tax collectors," "sinners," "Pharisees," and "scribes." A related lesson defines who these people groups were. For an explanation, please refer to "Jesus Receives Sinners - Then and Now" (Ref. 1, Luke 15:1-2).
1. Who needs the Great Physician?
Jesus said, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick" (Luke 5:31).
As the spiritual Physician, Jesus gracefully went about his work with the people who needed him the most -- people who were diseased with sin. God draws such people -- then and now -- to Jesus (Luke 15:1). Jesus came to be with sinful people -- people the Pharisees and scribes held in contempt. Jesus conversed with them, instructed them, and called them to repentance (will discuss more in Section 3).
In contrast with the tax collectors and sinners who welcomed Jesus, the Pharisees and scribes did not see their need for Jesus. In their own opinion of themselves, they were free from the taint of sin. Thus, they thought (falsely) that they were well. When a person -- then and now -- thinks they are free from sin, they deceive themselves. "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us" (1 John 1:8).
2. Who does Jesus call to repentance?
Jesus said, "I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance" (Luke 5:32).
Jesus said that he had come to call sinners to repentance. "Sinners," in the Biblical technical sense, are hamartólos, people who miss the mark of what God approves (Ref. 2). That actually includes all of us. "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23).
In the eyes of the Pharisees and scribes, sinners not only were those with blatant moral problems (such as prostitutes), but also those who did not observe the Pharisees' and scribes' strict and rule-oriented interpretation of the law -- which was most everybody else (Mark 7:5-7).
3. What is repentance?
Jesus said, "I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance" (Luke 5:32, italics added for emphasis).
The biblical definition of repentance means to turn about, to have a change of mind, to express regret (Greek: metanoia, Ref. 2, Ref. 3). Thus, repentance is much more than being superficially sorry for one's sins. Repentance includes a sincere heart change that turns from sin towards God and purposes to lead a more righteous and holy life. The prophet Joel says, "'Yet even now,' declares the Lord, 'return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; 13 and rend your hearts and not your garments'” (Joel 2:12-13, italics added for emphasis).
God says through the prophet Isaiah, "Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other" (Isaiah 45:22). John, the apostle and disciple of Jesus, wrote to believers, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9).
4. Repentance and belief go together.
Repenting and believing go together. Repentance is integral to our believing in Christ. Note what Jesus said early in his ministry. "Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, 15 and saying, 'The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel'" (Mark 1:14-15). Not just "repent." Not just "believe." Jesus said, "Repent and believe."
Both repenting of our sins and believing in Christ should be ongoing in our walk with Christ and not just a one-time occasion. Even as believers, when we sin (in thought, word, or deed), we should repent of that sin, receive God's forgiveness already provided for us in Christ's sacrificial death, and continue to walk in the newness of life that God gives us through his Son (1 John 1:9, Matthew 5:21-22, Matthew 5:27-28, Romans 6:4).
Apply. Are you up to date on repenting from any sin that may be affecting your relationship with the Lord? Consider the main principles in this lesson:
"Jesus Receives Sinners - Then and Now" (Luke 15:1-2)
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