John 14:12-14

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. Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.” (John 14:12-14)

These are amazing words of Jesus.  But how do we apply them?

First, let’s discuss what these words CAN’T mean:

  1. They can’t mean that we have a GREATER Holy Spirit than Jesus had.  The Holy Spirit is God and unchangeable.  He is no different in us than He was in Jesus.
  2. They can’t mean that we have a GREATER CAPACITY for the Holy Spirit than Jesus had.  Jesus alone is said to have the Spirit without measure (John 3:34), and He is the “Christ” or “Messiah” (which means the “Anointed One” – and shows that His person is tied to being completely anointed with the Holy Spirit).  In contrast, Christians are told to “be [continually] filled” with the Holy Spirit (Eph. 5:19), and that the Spirit gives various manifestations and gifts to various members of the church, but does not give full manifestation to individual members (1 Cor. 12).

Now let’s discuss what John 14:12-14 means:

  • In context, Jesus says that something is changing by the fact that He goes to the Father (John 14:12).  But what is changing?
  • Well…from the time He spoke those words in John 14, to the time that He would be exalted at the right hand of the father, Jesus would die, be buried, and resurrect.  This brought: forgiveness of sins, new life, direct access to God, and the Holy Spirit to anyone who would receive Jesus.  These could all be called “greater works” than Jesus offered in the time of John 14.  Thus, the depth of the work was greater.
  • Furthermore, the mission of Jesus before His death and resurrection was confined to the geographic region of Israel and to those who were ethnically Jews.  But after He goes to the Father, the mission would expand to the whole world (Acts 1:8) and to non-Jews (e.g. Acts 15).  Thus, the work would be “greater” in terms of geography, ethnicities involved, and numbers of believers.  In other words, the “breadth” of the work was greater.
  • And all of this expanded work is only possible by the Holy Spirit (the same Person who resided in Jesus during His ministry).  God the Holy Spirit will demonstrate Himself in new ways to people, which will involve signs that are “greater”, in some ways, than Jesus’ signs.  For instance, the early church is recorded as doing various things that Jesus is never recorded as doing: speaking in tongues (Acts 2), Paul was bit by snakes and lived (Acts 28), Paul’s handkerchiefs healed people (Acts 19), etc.  Even the fact that signs were given to the Gentiles was “greater”, in a certain sense, than Jesus’ signs (which were only given to the Jews).

Thus, the same Holy Spirit and Jesus are at work now as were at work in Jesus’ earthly ministry.  But the depth and breadth of this ministry has changed (since Jesus died, resurrected, and ascended), and so the manifestation of the Holy Spirit also will be “greater” to match this expanded ministry.  Same Holy Spirit, greater manifestation.  But remember, the greatest miracle of all is a new life given to unworthy sinners! (which also couldn’t happen until after Jesus died, was resurrected, and went to the Father).

My paraphrase of what He’s saying in John 14:12-14 – “You can do the kinds of things I do (like miracles, etc.), and other miracles, as well, that will match a greater mission–by the power of the same Holy Spirit that I have.”

Not that we possess God in some way to do magic with Him (e.g. Acts 8 – “Simon the Sorcerer”), but that God possesses us in a new way, and gives us new access to Him, because Jesus goes to the Father.

Christ in us

Happy New Year!

A bit delayed, but here is part 2 of 2…

In part 1 it was shown that Christ’s righteousness/life covers sinners who have trusted in Him for salvation.  Thus, regardless of their inherit sinfulness, they are–amazingly–counted as righteous in God’s sight on the basis of their faith.  This is summed up nicely in Romans 4:5 – “To the one who does not work but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness.”

In this part (part 2), I want to talk about what happens to the nature of the believer.  Is he inherently godly, sinful, or something else?  To be clear, this is not talking about what God “counts” or “reckons” him to be.  In part 1, it was shown that God “counts”/”reckons” all believers as being righteous.  Instead, this part refers to what our inherent nature is like…

I think it is clear from Scripture that we remain inherently sinful after conversion.  For instance:

  • God “justifies the ungodly” (Rom. 4:5)
  • Paul says, “nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh.” (Rom. 7:18)
  • Christians are called “sinners” in James 4:8
  • Etc.

However, this does not mean that our character is not becoming more and more righteous. Quite the contrary. Instead, such Scriptures affirm that we have this sin element/nature residing in us.  But we also know that true Christians simultaneously have God’s Spirit dwelling in us.  The result: “The desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other,” (Gal. 5:17).

This is different than the world.  Non-Christians have only a sin nature in them.  Christians have 2 natures: (1) Sin nature, and (2) God’s nature (the Holy Spirit).

And having the Holy Spirit in us is THE EVIDENCE that we are perfect and eternally justified in God’s sight:

  • In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.” (Eph. 1:13-14)
  • “Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.” (Rom. 8:9)
  • Etc.

Furthermore, when the flesh and Spirit co-exist, the Spirit will always be the victor.  This was the point Paul made when saying that the Spirit beat out the dead flesh of Jesus by raising Him from the dead (Rom. 8:11).  For Jesus, there was a 3 day period of death before the Spirit showed Himself victorious.  For us, there may be periods of time where it seems that the sin nature in us is winning the fight, but it CANNOT persist if God is truly in us.  The Spirit always ends up on top.

Paul explained this phenomena another way: by showing that the Spirit should produce fruit in us (Gal. 5:22-24).  In the natural world, we recognize that it takes time for fruit to be produced.  In the same way, it may take time for us (and others) to see evidence that the Spirit is in us…but, over time, He will ALWAYS show Himself.  And thus, righteousness–over time–should appear more and more in our life, if we truly belong to Jesus (and sometimes, to be frank, it may be revealed in a greater hatred of sins we continue to struggle with…but it still shows a difference that the Spirit is making in us).

And if righteousness is manifesting itself more and more, than we have this beautiful assurance:

“For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” (Heb. 10:14)

See, the sanctification is the process.  It will never fully happen in this lifetime, but, like fruit, it should be growing in us more and more.  But perfection is ours from the moment we believe, because we are in Christ.

Thus, 2 realities exist for the Christian:

  1. We are in Christ (and under His complete and perfect righteousness)
  2. Christ is in us (by His Spirit), and thus making us, in our experience, more and more righteous

The theme of Christ being in us (and 2 natures being at war in us) is seen in Old Testament pictures as well.  Here are some of those.

Blessings in Him,