Ready for Good Works (7)
“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. And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it. John 14.12-14
Greater works than these?
This has to rank as one of the verses most difficult to believe in all of Scripture. Its focus is “whoever believes” in Jesus – that would include you and me. It instructs us to do the works that Jesus did, works which we can easily trace through His earthly sojourn in the gospels. And it promises that we will do greater works even than those Jesus did, because He is going to the Father, and from the Father’s right hand He will give us the Kingdom in the Person of the Holy Spirit.
Which works should you be doing as a follower of Jesus Christ? The same works Jesus did. What standard for doing good works does Jesus hold out to you? “Greater works than these”.
How can that be?
“Because I go to My Father. And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.”
James reminds us that we have not because we ask not (Jms. 4.2). Paul says that power is at work within us – the power of the Holy Spirit, sent from Jesus and the Father – is “able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think” (Eph. 3.20). Perhaps the reason we have such difficulty believing Jesus and His promise that we will do greater works than He did is that we have not yet dared to think that way, much less to ask God for His power to work through us for good works, following the teaching and promise of the Lord.
Calvin was right when he wrote, “Many are perplexed by the statement of Christ, that the Apostles [and we as their spiritual descendants] would do greater works than He had done” (Commentary on John 14.12). We just don’t see how this can be so.
How can we possibly hope to obey this instruction and realize this great promise?
Aim for the same
We have to begin our obedience of this Word where Jesus did: “the works that I do he will do”. What works did Jesus do? He did works of love for God and for His neighbors, beginning with His friends. He did the works which the Law and the Prophets explained, those acts of daily obedience that enrich our love for God and express our love for the people around us.
We must seek to do the works Jesus did, and this means becoming ever-increasingly more familiar with the teaching of all God’s Word about which works are the good works we, following Jesus’ example, must seek to do each day.
Don’t get hung up on the unlikelihood of your healing a leper or raising someone from the dead. These are works unique to Jesus in His Person, place, and time. You have works to do which are unique to you in your person, place, and time. But like the works of Jesus, your good works will be shaped by the Word of God, and the more you learn about those good works – becoming equipped, zealous, and ready to do them – the more constant you will be in doing the works that Jesus did.
So aim to do the same works Jesus did. Make it a matter of daily prayer and creative seeking to discover new ways to do good works to others. This is what Jesus did. Everybody knows that! And Jesus said, “the works that I do”, all who believe in Him must do as well. Jesus became renowned for good works, known to all as One Who was reliably, consistently, and powerfully ready and constant in doing good to others.
Make that you aim as well.
And the “greater than these”?
The Greek word μείζονα, meizona, “greater”, has the sense of “more” or “larger than.” Jesus was not thinking qualitatively at this point, but quantitatively. And it’s quite likely that He intended His disciples, and us as their spiritual descendants, to think of ourselves as one family, one body – the body of Christ. If we understand Jesus in this way, then it’s quite clear that the body of Christ down through the ages – the Church of our Lord – has indeed accomplished more numerous and varied good works than Jesus was able to do while He was on earth. But God’s people have not accomplished these good works on their own, and we will not be able to accomplish any good works whatsoever without, first, knowing which works are good works, and then relying on the means Jesus has provided for us to greater works than He did.
Those means are the Spirit of God and prayer. When we pray, we must seek the Lord according to His will, in the pursuit of His glory and the glory of God the Father (v. 13), and in line with what we have learned from Him about which works are the good works He is looking for in us. We pray in Jesus’ Name not just by ending our prayer with that default phrase, but by making sure our requests line up with what He teaches and what will glorify both Jesus and His Father. When we pray this way, we can know that Jesus will do what we have asked, and He will do it by His Spirit at work within us.
So we rely on the Spirit to equip and empower us for good works. As He bears fruit in us, and fits us with gifts for ministry and power to be witnesses for Jesus, the Spirit works within us to make us willing and able to do that which is pleasing to God (Phil. 2.13; cf. Ezek. 36.26, 27). We must therefore seek to be filled with the Spirit, rather than any lesser interests or concerns (Eph. 5.18-21). We must walk in the Spirit and not in the ways of the flesh (Gal. 5.16-23). And we must nurture the mind of the Spirit so that we love and plan for and carry out by faith those good works which are consistent with His instruction and ends (Rom. 8.5-9).
All of which should create in us an expectation of good works – that we will have opportunities for doing good; that we will be able to know which works are good works; that as opportunities arise, we will be eagerly disposed to do good works; and that the good works we do will enable us to thank and praise our God and to bring honor to Jesus and our heavenly Father.
The psalmist reminds us that the goodness of God is in all the earth (Jer. 33.5), and this includes the goodness He manifests through the “greater than these” good works of His people – you and me and all those who believe in Jesus. May God richly bless and use us all for His glory as we abound in good works of love in all we do.
For reflection or discussion
1. How can we know which works are the good works Jesus expects us to do?
2. What is the role of prayer in a life of good works?
3. How can our good works glorify Jesus and the Father?
Next steps – Transformation: Pray daily that God will make you zealous, equipped, ready, and constant in good works, to the glory of Jesus and the Father.
T. M. Moore
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.