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Are You Doing the ‘Greater Works’?

November 10th, 2013 | 22 Comments | Posted in Deadraiser Film, Miracles/Supernatural Powers

greater worksRecently, I wrote a two-part series of posts examining a new film called Deadraiser. The film’s premise is that Jesus commissioned all Christians to heal the sick and raise the dead. So, if you are a Christian, then should be performing these miracles as a part of your normal Christian walk, according to the filmmakers.

But I argued–contrary to the film– that Jesus did not commission all Christians to heal the sick and raise the dead. I sought to show that the miracles in the Gospels and Acts were descriptions of what Jesus and his disciples did–not prescriptions of behavior for all Christians to emulate.

But What About John 14:12?

Yet, whenever I present this argument–that miracle working is not a normal practice of the Christian life–people who disagree with me say I have overlooked a key verse of Scripture–John 14:12. They claim Jesus’ words  in John 14:12 are a clear promise that all his followers, in all ages, will perform the same miracles Jesus did–and, in fact, even greater miracles than he did.

Here are Jesus’ exact words.

“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)

Doesn’t this verse teach that all Jesus’ followers will perform the same–and even greater–miracles than he did?

No, I don’t believe it does. There are some significant problems with interpreting it as a promise that all believers will perform miracles.

Problem No. 1: “Works” Does Not Equal Miracles

To make sure you arrive at a correct interpretation of Scripture, it is crucial to pay attention to the larger context a verse is found in. And John 14:12 comes from the Gospel of John. Throughout this Gospel, the author–the apostle John–uses different words when he refers to Jesus’ “signs”–as in his miraculous “signs” and wonders–and when he refers to Jesus’ “works”–which includes not only the miracles Jesus worked, but to all he did as part of his overall ministry, including his teaching.

Certain actions of Jesus that are referred to specifically as “signs” include when Jesus turns water into wine (John 2:11), when he heals the official’s son (John 4:54), and when he feeds 5,000 people (John 6:14). But John never applies the word “sign” to anyone but Jesus. He chose his words carefully because miraculous “signs” in in the Gospel of John serve a sole purpose-to authenticate Jesus as the unique and long-awaited Messiah (John 20:30-31).

Yet when John refers to Jesus’ broader ministry–not just to his miraculous signs, but to all Jesus did during his earthly life–he uses the words “work” or “works” (John 4:34; 5:36, 10:32; 17:4). And it is the word “works” John uses when he records Jesus’ promise to all believers in John 14:12.

Thus, it does not seem best to understand Jesus’ words as a promise specifically of miracle-working power for all Christians. Rather, they are better understood as a promise pertaining to the many, various types of ministry that will be performed by Christians in the world–in continuation of the work Jesus began–including evangelism, teaching, and acts of love.

Problem No. 2: Greater Does Not Necessarily Mean “More Spectacular”

Besides, to think that Jesus’ promise is mainly about miracles is to miss Jesus’ bigger point–which is that the “works” done by those who believe in him would be greater than his own works.

Yet, in what respect could their works be described as “greater” than Jesus’ works? Certainly, there can be nothing more miraculous than giving sight to the blind and raising the dead. So, when Jesus said “greater works” he must have had something in mind other than greater–or more miraculous–miracles. So, then, what does “greater” mean?

New Testament scholars–including D.A. Carson, George R. Beasley-Murray and Andreas Köstenberger–agree. The works done by believers are greater in the sense that they would be performed during a greater eschatological era–that is, after Jesus’ finished work on the cross, glorification, and ascension. That is what Jesus means when he says, “greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. (John 14:12, emphasis mine). In other words, the works of present-day Christians are superior because they are done on the basis of the finished work of Christ and with the full range of spiritual resources that have been made available through his finished work.

(See an insightful article titled “The ‘Greater Works of the Believer’ According to John 14:12,” written by New Testament scholar Andreas J. Köstenberger.)

Problem No. 3: Jesus’ Apostles Didn’t Interpret John 14:12 as a Promise That All Believers Will Perform Miracles

Another way to make sure you arrive at a correct interpretation of a teaching of Jesus is to see if your interpretation lines up with how the apostles interpreted his teaching. Their understanding is crucial because they were eyewitnesses of his entire ministry and were uniquely appointed by him to be the authoritative guardians of his teachings (John 15:27, Acts 1:21-22). And the Twelve apostles, plus the apostle Paul, were divinely inspired to interpret the significance of his teachings for the church through their New Testament writings (John 14:26; 15:26-27, Ephesians 3:4-9).

But there is no indication that these apostles understood Jesus’ words in John 14:12 as a promise that all believers would regularly perform miracles. Never once in Acts or their epistles do we see the teaching that working miracles is normative. On the contrary, we see the apostle Paul teaching that working miracles is not the norm when he specifically identifies the working of miracles and “gifts of healing” as spiritual gifts that not all Christians possess (1 Corinthians 12:29-30).

And when Christians at the church in Thessalonica were grieving over the recent deaths of loved ones, Paul did not encourage them with an assurance that they could raise the dead–which  would have been appropriate had Jesus’ promise in John 14:12 been about miracles. Rather, Paul encouraged the grieving Christians by assuring them that their deceased loved ones would be raised at the coming of the Lord (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).

Problem No. 4: Miracles Aren’t Happening All the Time

The most important thing to consider, when forming our beliefs, is what the Bible says. So, we should always look first to Scripture. But we should also look to experience. After all, if Scripture teaches that something is true then we should see that teaching played out in real life.

In other words, if the Bible really teaches that all Christians should be performing miracles left and right, then we should see them actually doing so.

But the fact is we don’t see all Christians regularly performing miracles. Even in the movie Deadraiser–which seeks to show that healing the sick and raising the dead are a normal part of the Christian life–the members of the “dead raising team” do not heal or resurrect a single person.

At this point, I know some people will object that the reason we don’t see more miracles today is because many Christians don’t have enough faith for them. But I don’t buy that explanation. If the Bible teaches that miracles should be performed regularly, then most Christians through church history have not had enough faith for them. And that explanation smacks of elitism. Besides, the Deadraiser team certainly had faith for miracles when they produced the film, yet they couldn’t show one miracle.

That doesn’t mean miracles don’t occur today. It just means they aren’t being performed regularly. But this is to be expected since a miracle, by definition, is an extraordinary act of God. In other words, it is not His ordinary means of operating in the world.

— Holly Pivec

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22 Responses to “Are You Doing the ‘Greater Works’?”

  1. Bob Scruggs Says:

    I use to pray for healing the sick and injured with no results and wondered about it for years. Now I pray that the Holy Spirit would comfort, encourage, and have the person open their heart to the calling of the Lords voice and his direction.

    When I was in the prison ministry I did see many answers to prayers but they were very subtle no lightning bolts. The greatest signs and wonders were changed hearts and minds kind of like a compass to change a persons direction in life.
    Great article.

  2. Holly Says:

    Bob,

    Thanks for sharing your personal experience with teachings about healing. You wrote: “When I was in the prison ministry I did see many answers to prayers but they were very subtle no lightning bolts.” I think the “subtle” answers to prayer you referred to are the more common ways God works–that is, not through miracles, but through divine providence. But it does take eyes of faith to see those “subtle” answers.

    Holly

  3. Jessica Says:

    Did you see this? Christian Post article on Cindy Jacobs “prophecy” about the Philippines. Jacobs is NAR, correct? 

    http://www.christianpost.com/news/prophecy-for-the-philippines-by-cindy-jacobs-video-goes-viral-animation-news-company-challenges-2009-predictions-108850/

  4. Holly Says:

    Thanks for bringing this article to my attention, Jessica–I hadn’t seen it yet.

    Holly

  5. Scott Says:

    The reason the church does not see miracles today is because the people in the church are taught in Sunday School, the pulpit and “Christian” magazines and papers that the miracles of the bible no longer exists and they have “passed away with the apostles” or “ceased when the bible was printed”
    Both of which are man’s doctrines.  The bible does not bear this out in any form.
    Jesus warns a number of times about “mans traditions”.  The same is still going on through denominations, theology and church history.  None of which is based in or on the word of God.
    Men use “theology” that is written by men to teach men that these things do not exist. Another common excuse for not doing what the bible tells us to do is “church history” and how “church history” does not bear out these things happening.  Who wrote church history… MEN!  When discussing the power and miracles of the bible, men will often quote other men as a resource of why things do not happen.  They will not and refuse to quote the bible and allow it to speak for it’s self…
    Example:
    New Testament scholars–including D.A. Carson, George R. Beasley-Murray and Andreas Köstenberger–agree. The works done by believers are greater in the sense that they would be performed during a greater eschatological era–that is, after Jesus’ finished work on the cross, glorification, and ascension. That is what Jesus means when he says, “greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. (John 14:12, emphasis mine). In other words, the works of present-day Christians are superior because they are done on the basis of the finished work of Christ and with the full range of spiritual resources that have been made available through his finished work.
    (See an insightful article titled “The ‘Greater Works of the Believer’ According to John 14:12,” written by New Testament scholar Andreas J. Köstenberger.)”
     
    Really?  What did God say about it, when did they quote him and his view point?
    What he actually said about “greater works” was this…
    John 4:12 Greater

    Greater – meizōn G3187 greater, larger, elder, stronger
    Thayers Lexicon
    As respect to stature, number and quantity, abundant, violent, mighty, strong, admiration and wonder.
    Matthew 10:7 And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. 8 Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give.
    And…
    Mark 16:15 And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. 16 He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. 17 And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; 18 They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.
    Nowhere will you find a single scripture in the bible that tells us we are NOT to do these things, nor does he withdraw the commission from anyone.
    Unbelief is taught as a doctrine in our churches.  I teach healing in the church I attend, I lay hands everywhere I go.  I see God heal people in Walmart, Walgreens, Lowes, the mall, Burger King.  I have had many that see the people I lay hands on get healed and line up for healing and prayers for jobs, finances, and loved ones.  Many say that their grandmother or grand parents did it, and thought it had died out and no longer existed!
    I have had a few to return later to tell me that they had been healed and it had been confirmed by a licensed doctor.
    THIS is how the kingdom of God is supposed to operate!
    Paul warned the church about those that preached another doctrine, one that was weak and powerless.
    2 Tim 3:5 Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. 6 For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, 7 Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.
    The gospel of Jesus was ALWAYS displayed inPOWER!
    1 Thess 1:5 for our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction
    1 Cor 4:20 For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power.
    In the two verses above the work power is – dynamis
    G1411 – dynamis
    strength power, ability
     

    inherent power, power residing in a thing by virtue of its nature, or which a person or thing exerts and puts forth

    power for performing miracles

    Either God has changed, or we have…

    IF you want to learn about healing and the like the teachings are out there and many are very very solid.

    Research:

    Curry Blake
    Charles and Francis Hunter
    Joan Hunter
    School of Power and Love
    Michael Smith
    Derek Prince

    All of which you can locate on Youtube, they have very detailed teachings on how to go lay hands on the sick and see them healed.

    Not only is it exciting to be apart of watching God heal people, it is fun as well to be a part of his kingdom and putting Satan in his place!

    If your pastor or church preaches against laying of hands and doing it, find one that does!

    It is real, and it is where you will find the kingdom and actually get to walk in it’s authority!

    Several links for the healing videos are on the website for my church.

    http://www.wellspringchurchofgod.com

  6. Stephen Says:

    Holly, what is the greatest miracle of all? Yes, eternal life! So it is very possible that Jesus knew that we, his followers, would bring millions of people (following His ascension into Heaven) to Christ, with the enabling and work of the Holy Spirit, of course; and so they’d be raised from the spiritual “death” they were/are in and into eternal life. That makes sense, but I do agree with your article; people are still chasing fake signs and fake wonders and fake experiences, and they are getting it from fake and false teachers, unfortunately.

  7. Laurel Says:

    Unfortunately, my church is hosting one of the upcoming Global Awakening conferences speaking on “Healing and Impartations” or as I have been calling it “Feelings and Incantations”. It saddens me at the lack of discernment in allowing and supporting this conference. I believe that God heals and He performs miracles, in His time and always to bring glory to his name. Not at the command of men who claim they have full spiritual maturity because of their super Holy Spirit indwelling and the signs and wonders they conjure. For only $130 you can line up to be healed. This is pure Simony.

  8. Penny Says:

    Holly, did you respond to Scott’s comments?  I didn’t see them if you did and would like too.  Thanks.

  9. Holly Says:

    Penny,

    Scott made many claims, each of which would take some time to respond to. Which comment specifically were you hoping I’d address?

    Holly

  10. Jim Says:

    I believe they were addressed in the article

  11. mark trumble Says:

    Hi Holly,  I keep seeing this guy David Hogan popping up around the country and I just wondered if you had encountered any of his teachings.  He is all over youtube and has been to Bethel Temple many times.  I have a local pastor friend that can find no wrong in him.  But….. I a video tells a thousand words and I have watched many youtubes of his teaching and read some comments by others about him and I have developed my own opinion so to speak.  He has huge influence in many churches and the frustrating thing for me is that no one checks him out.  His claims have never been verified and when he comes claiming to raise someone from the dead, it was always in the past way down in Mexico somewhere.  He is a great story teller, and this is probably all he is, because he rarely teaches from scripture….he will have a bible open on his pulpit and read one or two texts, but then distorts them and takes them out of context.   Anyway, this is probably nothing new to you and you may know all about him.  I was hoping you might turn your research gun on him and expose some of what he says and does as a false teacher.  I have a dear friend that is hooked on him and many people try to defend him and his teachings.  It’s a sad day when believers refuse to read the word for themselves and agree with sound doctrine.   Anyway, thanks for you time and I look forward to getting your books soon.   Thanks Mark

  12. Ketan Says:

    Well-said Scott! While I attend an evangelical church, I prefer not to call myself just evangelical neither Pentecostal, but Biblical. Only the Bible is true. The Bible has many, many verses that guarantee healing. Read the book Bodily Healing an the Atonement by Dr. T. J. McCrossan (1930). He was the Examiner for Greek and Hebrew at the Presbyterian Church. He delves deep and proves beyond a shadow of doubt, that the written Word of God promises healing and health based on Jesus’ name and faith in that name. 

    By far, I have found John G. Lake Ministries’ tackling of the subject most mature and scriptural. They warn you against going after voices and feelings. Being Biblical (!) I prefer to be like an evangelical and be convinced that laying hands to heal is for today is in the Bible; rather than pray/lay hands like goosebump-seekers and not be sure if God really asked me to do it. But thank God, that it is His will to lay hands and heal. Just read John 10:10. Jesus now carries on his ministry through us believers. Truth be told, Satan has proved to be a good dentist. He has extracted the teeth of the Body of Christ to a great extent, so that it does not operate in power. So many Christians are allergic to anything that remotely suggests operating in power.

    If you take out power from the Gospel and preach it, it won’t work. Jesus did not do it. So we should not. Neither should we take the Gospel out of the Gospel and merely operate in power, as then there is nothing left to preach. Both are required and inseparable. God meets needs. If healing is what you need, he has his guys waiting to lay hands on you – so Jesus can touch you and heal. Listen to the DHT from here and receive the full Good News:
    http://www.divinerevelations.info/documents/healing/jgl/jgl_ministries.htm

  13. Jerry Dodson Says:

    Excellent article. I’m sharing it on Facebook.

  14. Pete - England Says:

    The main reason Jesus came to earth was to die for our sin and defeat the power of death and hell. Another amazing reason was to teach a rag tag bunch of disciples to do the “stuff of heaven”. He was passionate about this and you can sometimes hear this in his comments to them when they wouldn’t believe it and couldn’t get it. A bit like his church today. How delighted he was when they finally got it. Luke 10v21
    We need to take healings, signs and wonders and raising people from the dead out of our doctrinal yes or no tick boxes and see what the Father’s heart is concerning these issues. Jesus came to die for us not to prove a doctrinal point but because he loved us. The same goes for healings etc. Henry X for example has a bent spine that causes much pain. Well it’s alright for us who aren’t in pain to have doctrines, but Jesus showed us that God’s heart of compassion was to heal everyone who was brought to him Mt 8 v16, Mt 12v15. Jesus showed us exactly what to do when Henry asks us to pray for him.
    When we are living holy, Spirit filled lives, close to God, being obedient to Him, then he will guide us how to pray (just like he did to Jesus – “I only do what the Father says…”), Then we will see Henry healed. Then we will see Henry dancing for joy. Then we will be filled with the Joy of the Lord. Then heaven will rejoice with us especially if others see God’s love and get saved.
    We need to stop worrying about ourselves and our opinions and get down to some serious obeying. Lets stop being the blockage in the system and start being the vehicle of our wonderful God’s love and compassion

  15. Marc Says:

    Well Scott I guess my question to you then would be, why aren’t you using this power that you claim all Christians have to go into the hospitals and heal and clear them out? What about going into nursing homes and healing the elderly or into Hospice and healing people. Why aren’t you in the Morgues raising the dead if you as a Christian have the power to do so that you claim you have and that we all have as Christians? I don’t see this happening. How come? I know an older couple in our church body that have been walking with the Lord for a long time and are missionaries. They have a son who loves Jesus and serves the Lord but he has lime decease and is in a wheel chair because he can’t walk. I’m sure they are praying hard for his healing but why haven’t they or others from the same church or other churches been able to walk right up to him and heal him? Do they not have the power that you speak of? Can you explain this and please don’t throw the, not enough faith thing at me.

  16. Sean Says:

    Hey Marc,

    A common thing said is….why aren’t you going to hospitals.  I know Curry Blake often goes to hospitals.  I am from Canada but live in the Philippines and I am now going to the emergency ward of a particular busy hospital nearby whenever I can.  I see people healed all the time.  Almost everyday in fact!  I just teach English in a school for Koreans and Japanese….but have have seen eye sight restored….. arthritis healed many times, deaf ears opened, Diabetes gone,  slipped discs in the back healed and many other amazing things. Healing is very real.  I realized this when I was thinking about the scripture when the disciples brought the blind man to Jesus and asked which of his parents sins caused him to be like this.  Jesus said it was not his sins or his parents and that he was born this way so that God could be glorified…and then healed him.  I thought……if people are born with disabilites so that God could be glorified…why aren’t we all healing?  My friend shared a video…I watched….. re read many of the mentioned scriptures…..asked if she was out healing…and when she said yes… all the time…. I believed.  I went out….layed hands….and saw healing my first time.  It’s an amazing way to open the door to really tell people about salvation and the need for repentance…..because we know that being healed does not get anyone into heaven.  But it’s a great door opener for conversation.

  17. Sean Says:

    Come on Holly…… I’m curious on your reply to my post.

  18. Holly Says:

    Sean, I didn’t see you ask me a question. Did I overlook it?

  19. Sean Says:

    Hey Holly,   Not a question directly…but statements that kind of go against your beliefs.  Curious on your comments.  It’s the post above the last one.  And please don’t get me wrong.  I believe NAR and all that stuff is pure deception.

  20. Holly Says:

    Sean, I receive so many comments on my blog I’m unable to reply to them all. Can you help me by giving me a specific question to respond to?

  21. Sean Says:

    Holly……the title of this post is….are you really doing the greater works.   As we know….greater does not necessarily mean bigger…..although…..Peter healed with his shadow……Jesus didn’t.  People today are healing people on the phone….or by prayer overseas…..Jesus didn’t.  Just a couple of examples.  But I think greater is more….or whatever you want to translate it.    You said to bob before that you think Jesus heals more in divine providence….not miracles.   I see miracles all the time.  Even today at the Emergency ward in the hospital.  Why don’t you think miracles happen today?  Why is Jehovah Ropha different today then 2000 years ago?   Where does it say that these miracles were only for the apostles?

  22. Holly Says:

    Sean,

    Can you show me where I made the comment about divine providence? I don’t recall making that particular comment. I never said miracles don’t happen today or that miracles were only for the apostles. In the above article, I argued, from Scripture, that the working of miracles is not a normative practice for Christians. That’s different from what you’re saying I said.

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