Today we are looking into the gospel of John 14:1-14, 27 – section 218 in Thomas and Gundry’s Harmony of the Gospels.
Purpose: The purpose of this study is to explore the importance of possessing a faith that trusts Christ despite the circumstances that we may face. This is in contrast to falling away from the faith (Matthew 12:21; Mark 4:17; Luke 8:13). We are not to be fair weather Christians. Our faith must persevere to be saving faith.
Historical Background: This is Jesus’ farewell discourse. In the next four chapters (John 14-17), Jesus must drive home three critical facts:
- He is leaving (John 13:1, 31-33, 36; 14:1-4, 18, 25, 27-29; 16:5, 11-19, 28; 17:11).
- The Apostles will continue Jesus’ mission with opposition from the world (John 13:13-17, 20, 34-35; 14:12-14, 18-21; 15:1-21, 27; 16:1-4, 23-24; 17:12-22).
- The Holy Spirit will assist them in their mission (John 14:15-18, 26; 15:26-27; 16:6-11, 13-14).
This is one of those “good news/bad news” scenarios. What lies ahead is difficult, but Jesus’ promises are simply out of this world!
This has been unlike any other meal the disciples shared with Jesus. He seemed so solemn. An ominous finality lingered over the Passover “celebration” and the words “one of you will betray me” kept echoing in their minds. Jesus has just told Peter that he would deny him three times and the other ten would scarcely fare any better. They are visibly shaken. So Jesus tells them to stop being troubled. With two more imperatives, Jesus gives the solution: “Trust in God; trust also in me!” (John 14:1)
While the crucifixion and ascension will be devastating losses for the disciples, their faith can be sustained in the midst of this present suffering by the assurance of three glorious realities:
- The enduring presence of the Holy Spirit
- The promise of Jesus’ return
- The hope of a heavenly home
The setting is very similar to a modern board room where the once highly charged management team of a new enterprise with worldwide aspirations just receives news that the CEO is leaving; the treasure was fired, and the CEO’s personal apprentice was going to distance himself from the organization. How would you feel? Troubled? Trusting? Hopeful? Like an orphan? Jesus was totally in touch with what His disciples were feeling.
Commanded in the Gospels: John 14:1 “Do not let,” “believe” (2x); John 14:11 “believe” (2x); John 14:27 “Do not let your heart be troubled,” “nor let it be fearful.” (The word “faith” occurs 39 times in the Gospels; “believe” 119 times).
Illustrated in the Book of Acts: the word ‘faith” occurs 218 times in the epistles and 11 times in the Book of Revelation; “believe” occurs 74 times.
Amplified in the Epistles: The word “faith” occurs 14 times in the Book of Acts; “believe” 39 times.
Do not let [Present Imperative] your heart be troubled; believe [Present Imperative] in God, believe [Present Imperative] also in Me. (John 14:1)
The scene is in the upper room where the disciples gathered for the Passover meal with Jesus on the night before his death. In a very short time the world of these eleven men is going to collapse in unbelievable chaos. They have been informed that Jesus is going away and they are filled with fear. Jesus anticipates their already broken hearts and here commands them to keep trusting in him. Jesus promises that he will come back to get them, but in the meantime consoles them with the promise of the coming of the Comforter, the Holy Spirit (John 14:16-26; 16:5-15).
Instead of the disciples offering support to Jesus in the hours before the cross, he had to support them spiritually as well as emotionally. This reveals his love for them. Faith in Jesus can stop the heart from being agitated. The verb “troubled” [tarasso] means, “to agitate, trouble (a thing, by the movement of its parts to and fro), to cause one inward commotion, take away his calmness of mind, disturb his equanimity, to disquiet, make restless, to stir up, to trouble, to strike one’s spirit with fear and dread, to render anxious or distressed, to perplex the mind of one by suggesting scruples or doubts. – Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance.
We all experience trouble, suffering, pain, anxiety, disappointment, and losses. These circumstances don’t have to trouble us if we know Jesus. He is bigger than our needs and circumstances. So, when you are feeling anxious, take your eyes off your troubles and put them on Jesus.
In fact Jesus commands us “do not let” your heart be troubled; “believe” in God “believe” also in Me. All three of these verbs (“do not let,” “believe,” “believe”) are present tense imperatives.
“Let not your heart continue to be agitated. Be putting your trust in God. Also be putting your trust in Me.” The New Testament – An Expanded Translation by: Kenneth S. Wuest, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1961
Faith in Christ can stop the heart from bring agitated – John MacArthur
The verb “believe” [pisteuo] occurs 248 times. The KJV translates it as “believe” 239 times, “commit unto” four times, “commit to (one’s) trust” once, “be committed unto” once, “be put in (trust with” once, “be commit to one’s trust” once, and “believer” once. The word “believe” means, “to think to be true, to be persuaded of, to credit, place confidence in.” It is used in the New Testament of the conviction and trust to which a man is impelled by a certain inner and higher prerogative and law of soul. Faith involves trusting in Jesus as able to aid either in obtaining or in doing something. True saving faith is more than mere intellectual assent.
Wuest points out that the use of the verb is pisteuo in classical Greek – “In classical Greek pisteuo meant to believe, trust, trust in, put faith in, rely upon a person or thing. In the papyri, [Moulton and Milligan] we find the following illustrations of the use of these words; Whom no one would trust even if they were willing to work; (confidence in the person’s character and motives); I have trusted no one to take it to her, (confidence in the ability of another to perform a certain task). Pisteuo in every instance is translated by the word “believe,” except in the following places; Luke 16:11; John 2:24; Romans 3:2; 1 Corinthians 9:17; Galatians 2:7; 1 Thessalonians 2:4; 1 Timothy 1:11; Titus 1:3, where the idea is that either of entrusting one’s self or something else into the custody and safe keeping of another.
When these words refer to the faith which a lost sinner must place in the Lord Jesus in order to be saved, they include the following ideas; the act of considering the Lord Jesus worthy of trust as to His character and motives, the act of placing confidence in his ability to do just what he says he will do, the act of entrusting the salvation of his soul into the hands of the Lord Jesus, the act of committing the work of saving his soul to the care of the Lord. This means a definite taking of one’s self out of one’s own keeping and entrusting one’s self into the keeping of the Lord Jesus.
In Acts 8:13; 26:27; James 2:19, the word refers merely to an intellectual assent to certain facts, in Acts 15:11, to a dogmatic belief that such and such is the case.
“The New Testament conception of faith includes three main elements, mutually connected and requisite, though according to circumstances sometimes one and sometimes another may be more prominent,
- A fully convinced acknowledgement of the revelation of grace
- A self-surrendering fellowship (adhesion)
- A fully assured and unswerving trust (and with this at the same time hope) in the God of salvation or in Christ.
None of these elements is wholly ignored by any of the N.T. writers” [Cremer, Biblico-Theological Lexicon of New Testament Greek]. Thus, the word sometimes refers to an acknowledgment that a certain statement is true (Matthew 21:25), and sometimes to a definite commitment of one’s soul into the keeping of another (John 5:24). Word Studies in the Greek New Testament Vol.3, Kenneth S. Wuest, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1973, pgs.28-30
Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes him who sent me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life. (John 5:24)
The disciples first transferred their trust on Christ as their Messiah in John 2:11. The aorist tense of the verb “believed” points to the moment of salvation but for faith to be true saving faith it must persevere.
John MacArthur writes “But it is not a biblical view of faith to say one may have it at the moment of salvation and never need to have it again. The continuing nature of saving faith is underscored by the use of the present tense of the Greek verb pisteuo (“believe”) throughout the gospel of John (John 3:15-18, 36; 5:24; 6:35, 40, 47; 7:38; 11:25-26; 12:44, 46; 20:31; also Acts 10:43; 13:39; Romans 1:16; 3:22; 4:5; 9:33; 10:4, 10-11). If believing were a one-time act, the Greek tense in those verses would be aorist.”- The Gospel According to Jesus, pg.172
John MacArthur cites Hodge who writes, “It is widely held in modem Christendom that the faith of a genuine Christian cannot fail. But this is not an assertion that can be verified from the New Testament” (pg.68); and, “There is nothing to support the view that perseverance in the faith is an inevitable outcome of true salvation” (pg.83). Contrast that statement with Paul’s inspired words in Colossians 1:22-23: “He has now reconciled you… if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel” cp. also 1 Corinthians 15:1-2; 2 Timothy 2:12; Hebrews 2:1-3; 3:14; 4:14; 6:11-12; 12:14; James 1:2; 1 John 2:19. – The Gospel According To Jesus.
Jesus in John 14:1 is commanding his disciples to continue believing in Him despite the trouble they are facing.
“In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you.” (John 14:2)
“Have you ever decorated a room for someone special? If you have, you know what it is like to make a room suit one particular personality. If it is a daughter, you make the room pretty…. If it is a son, the room might have airplanes or model cars. If it is for Grandma, the room might have her favorite books; and it might be far from the playroom or the children’s bedrooms. We take care in such preparation. Are we to think that Jesus will take less care for those whom he loves, who are to spend eternity with him?” – The Gospel of John, Boice, pg.95
This verse teaches that heaven is under construction. Jesus has gone to heaven “to prepare” or “to make ready” [hetoimazo] our dwelling place for us.
John’s readers would have pictured a first-century house in Palestinian when they read these words. The “dwelling place” [mone] was built around a central courtyard and designed for sons to bring their spouses to live there as well and raise their families there. Each household had its own room or apartment within the house that provided privacy. Members also had (closeness to the father of the family by gathering in the courtyard. The “dwelling place” may have been quite modest even though the house was huge. The KJV translation “mansion” today conjures up the wrong idea. The glory of our future dwelling is not in its size or prestige but in the presence of Christ.
“If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to myself, that where I am, there you may be also.” (John 14:3)
Jesus here spoke of the rapture as he began his closing message to his disciples. The passage reveals several things regarding the rapture.
“One is that it is a planned event; at the time of his departure Christ anticipated returning for the disciples. Another is that it concerns Christ’s own followers. Christ was speaking only to when he gave the promise. Third, Christ’s return for his own will be personal. He himself will come for them, not by sending some angel, for instance, nor merely giving a general permission for the church finally to come to him. Fourth. the rapture results in the church being taken out of the world. Jesus said that he would come and “receive” the disciples, that where he had made the preparations, they might be also. The church will not remain here on earth, then, merely in some improved status, but will be taken away from the earth to heaven.” – The Bible and Future Events, pgs.40,41
“Many signs were given to the nation Israel, which would precede the second advent, so that the nation might be living in expectancy when the time of His corning should draw nigh. Although Israel could not know the day nor the hour when the Lord will come, yet they can know that their redemption draweth nigh through the fulfillment of these signs. To the church no such signs were ever given. The church was told to live in the light of the imminent coming of the Lord to translate them in his presence (John 14:2-3; Acts 1:11; 1 Corinthians 15:51-52; Philippians 3:20; Colossians 3:4; 1 Thessalonians 1:10; 1 Timothy 6:14; James 5:8; 1 Peter 3:3-4). Such passages as 1 Thessalonians 5:6; Titus 2:13; Revelation 3:3 all warn the believer to be watching for the Lord himself, not for signs that would precede his coming. It is true that the events of the seventieth week will cast an adumbration before the rapture, but the object of the believer’s attention is always directed to Christ, never to these portents.” – Things to Come, pgs.202-203
This passage teaches the doctrine of imminence, or “at any moment coming.” The rapture reflects the traditions of a Jewish wedding. Although the Jewish bride was expecting her groom to come for her, she did not know the exact time of his coming.
The Jewish bridegroom took the initiative in marriage by leaving his father’s house and traveling to the home of the prospective bride. So Jesus left his Father’s house in heaven and traveled to the earth; the home of his prospective church (bride). Jesus came to earth to obtain the church (bride) through the establishment of a covenant.
At the home of the prospective bride, the Jewish bridegroom would negotiate with her father to determine the price [mohar] that he must pay to purchase his bride. On the same night Jesus made his promise in John 14, he instituted communion. In this communion, he passed the cup of wine to the disciples saying: “This cup is the new covenant in my blood” (1 Corinthians 1:25). Jesus established an eternal covenant through his blood. His Holy Spirit is the “ring” sealing the bride with a guarantee that he will return for her (Hebrews 13:20; Luke 22:20; Ephesians 1:13).
Once the bridegroom paid the purchase price, the marriage covenant was established, and the young man and woman were regarded as husband and wife. From that moment on, the bride was declared to be consecrated or sanctified; set apart exclusively for her bridegroom. Jesus paid a price to purchase the church (bride). The price he paid was his life blood (Acts 20:28, 1 Corinthians 6:19-20). So the church is said to be sanctified and set apart exclusively for Christ (Ephesians 5:25-27; 1 Corinthians 1:2; 6:11; Hebrews 10:10; 13:12).
As a symbol of the covenant relationship, the groom and bride would drink from a cup of wine over which a betrothal benediction had been pronounced. The cup of communion serves as the symbol of the covenant through which Christ has obtained the His bride the church (1 Corinthians 11:25).
After the marriage covenant was established, the groom would leave the bride’s home and return to his father’s house. There he would remain separate from his bride for usually at least a period of 12 months. Just as the Jewish groom left the home of his bride and returned to his father’s house, so Jesus left the earth, the home of the church (bride) and returned to his Father’s house in heaven after he’d established the new covenant and risen from the dead. The church is currently living in this period of separation awaiting Christ’s return (John 6:62; 20:17).
During this period of separation between the Jewish bride and groom, the bride would use this time to gather her trousseau and prepare for her married life. The groom occupied himself with the preparation of living accommodations in his father’s house where he would bring his bride. Parallel to the custom of the Jewish groom preparing living accommodations for his bride in his father’s house, Christ as been preparing living accommodations for the church in His Father’s house in heaven. (John 14:2)
Dr. Dwight Pentecost writes, “In relation to the eternal destiny of the church saints, it is to be observed that their destiny primarily is related to a Person rather than a place. While the place looms with importance (John 14:3), the place is overshadowed by the Person into whose presence the believer is taken.
- John 14:3, If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.
- Colossians 3:4, When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.
- 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.
- 1 John 3:2, Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.
It is the Person who is emphasized in all the passages dealing with the glorious expectation of the church rather than the place to which they are taken.” Things to Come, pgs.562
“And you know the way where I am going.” 5 Thomas said to Him, 0 Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way?” (John 14:4-5)
They didn’t even know where he was going, much less how to get there. So Jesus explained that he is the only way to God and heaven. They may not have fully understood Jesus’ teaching at that time, but after the resurrection, they got it. A couple of months later, when Peter was preaching, he said, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” (John 14:6)
“A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic (on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg) or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse.” – C.S. Lewis
Our Lord in John 14:6 says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” The word “way” is from a Greek word which has two uses, a literal and a metaphorical. It was used to speak of a road and also to refer to a method or manner of accomplishing something. These uses are closely intertwined and cannot be disassociated. The road leading to a certain place is the method of getting there. Our Lord is the literal road which a sinner must take if he is to reach heaven, and Jesus thus becomes the method by which he is saved. Missing the glory of God is evidence of the fact that the sinner has not gone in the right direction, and that shows that he has not been on the right road. He has missed the road. To reach heaven, the sinner must put himself on the road to heaven. Jesus is that road. – Word Studies in the Greek New Testament Vol.3, pgs.88,89
The way to the Father is not a road but a relationship.
- “Let there be no mistake, while Christianity is open to all people, heaven is not! Call it narrow-minded, call it intolerant, call it what you like as long as you call it truth from the lips of Jesus.” – Mark Moore
- Acts 4:12, “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”
- 2 Timothy 2:5-6, For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time.”
- “Jesus made it clear that the destination was the Father. He did not say that he came to show the way, but that he himself was the actual means for bringing men to God. An illustration might be a flowing river whose current actually conveys the boat to its destination, or the modern escalator which is not only the route but is also the conveyor from one level to another.” - Homer A Kent Jr.
This is the sixth of seven “I AM” statements in John (John 6:48; 8:12; 10:9; 10:11; 11:25; 14:6; 15:1). The first description of Jesus, “The Way,” became one of the names of the early church (Acts 9:2; 19:9, 23; 22:4; 24:22). The second and third descriptions of Jesus (truth and life) are found in a number of other places in John:
“If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him.” (John 14:7)
God has revealed himself through His Son. John 1:18, No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him. Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” (John 14:8)
We get three glimpses of Philip in John. He was one of the first to follow Jesus clear back in the days of John the Baptist (John 1:43-46). His first act of devotion to Jesus was to lead him to Nathanael. A couple of years later it was Philip whom Jesus tested at the feeding of the five thousand by asking how they would feed all these people (John 6:5-7). Finally, in John 12:21, the Greeks who wanted to see Jesus petitioned Philip to take them to him.
Here we find Philip making a request. Philip wants a visual glimpse of God. He is probably thinking in terms of a vision like Ezekiel’s (1-2) or Isaiah’s (6) or even Moses’ (Exodus 33:18-23). But Jesus gives him nothing more than he needs and nothing less than himself. To see Jesus is to see the Father (Hebrews 1:3). Granted, Jesus’ incarnational form is not nearly as striking as these visions of God. Then again, his incarnational form was not nearly as striking as his own non-incarnational visions (Isaiah 11:3-5; Ezekiel 40:3; Daniel 10:6; Revelation 1:12-16). Nevertheless, what is needed here is not a striking vision but an accurate revelation of the character, purpose, and acts of God. These are represented with striking clarity in Jesus’ incarnational ministry through his words (John 14:10) and his works (John 14:11), both of which come directly from the Father (John 5:18-23, 36-39; 8:41-42; 10:30-32, 37-38; 12:49-50).
Dr. Ray Stedman writes, “Everyone was surprised when Philip spoke up. It was as if the table had suddenly spoken. He was the quiet, mousy disciple who never said anything. Yet all the sob and agony of man’s hunger for God is heard in this cry, “Show us the Father and we’ll be satisfied.” Our Lord’s answer is a quiet rebuke: “Philip, after three and a half years haven’t you yet found out who I am? I came to reveal the Father. When you know me you have known the Father.”
These are, confessedly, words of mystery. They reveal what theologians have called the “Doctrine of the Trinity”; that three distinct Persons can still exist as only one God. It is beyond our human comprehension. We have nothing to compare it with, thus we struggle to grasp it.” (pg.5)
Jesus said to him, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? (John 14:9)
Paul in Colossians 1:15 spoke of Christ as “the image of the invisible God.” “The word “image” has the obvious idea of likeness, but the Greek word does not refer to an accidental likeness, as one egg is like another. It implies an original of which the image is a copy. But the image in this case is not the result of direct imitation as the head of a king on a coin, but is derived, like the features of the parent in the child. In John 3:16 our Lord is the only begotten Son of God. John 1:18 refers to him as the only begotten God, the word “God” appearing in the best manuscripts. It is a tremendous thought. The word ‘only begotten’ does not only mean that our Lord was the only Son of God, but that he as God the Son is alone of his kind, unique, be gotten of God through eternal generation. He is the image of God in the sense that he is a derived representation of God the Father, co-existent eternally with him, possessing the same essence, deity himself. Being the representative of God, he is also therefore the manifestation of God. He said to Philip, “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father” (John 14:9). – Word Studies in the Greek New Testament Vol.3, pgs.83
John 1:18 says, “No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.” This verse teaches us that our Lord never started to be God’s only begotten Son. He always was his Son. He possesses the same essence as God the Father, and therefore he can in his incarnation fully explain God. The verb “has explained” in John 1:18 is a Greek word which means “to lead out.” “God the Son in his incarnation led the Father out from behind the curtain of his invisibility into full view. The Greek word here comes into the English language in the word ‘exegesis.’ Exegesis is the method of Bible study in which we fully explain every detail of the text. Jesus Christ has in his incarnation, fully explained in finite terms so far as finite minds can grasp, all the details of the Person of God the Father. He said, ‘He that hath seen me hath seen the Father.’ Thus Jesus Christ is the exegesis of God.” - Word Studies in the Greek New Testament Vol.3, pgs. 85-86
The Bible teaches that the Godhead exists eternally in three persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and these three are one God. (Genesis 1:1, 26; Deuteronomy 6:4; Matthew 28:19-20; John 4:24; 2 Corinthians 13:14).
John 14:9 (“He who has seen Me has seen the Father”) and John 14:10 (“I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me”) have been misused to teach the heresy of Modalism.
Modalism -A Third Century Heresy
“Modalism claims that there is one person who appears to us in three different forms (or “modes”). At various times people have taught that God is not really three distinct persons, but only one person who appears to people in different “modes” at different times. For example, in the Old Testament God appeared as “Father.” Throughout the gospels, this same divine person appeared as “the Son” as seen in the human life and ministry of Jesus. After Pentecost, this same person then revealed himself as the “Spirit” active in the church.
This teaching is also referred to by two other names. Sometimes it is called Sabellianism, after a teacher named Sabellius who lived in Rome in the early third century A.D. Another term for modalism is “modalistic monarchianism,” because this teaching not only says that God revealed himself in different “modes” but it also says that there is only one supreme ruler (“monarch”) in the universe and that is God himself, who consists of only one person.
Modalism gains its attractiveness from the desire to emphasize clearly the fact that there is only one God. It may claim support not only from the passages talking about one God, but also from passages such as John 10:30 (“I and the Father are one”) and John 14:9 (“He who has seen me has seen the Father”).
However, the last passage can simply mean that Jesus fully reveals the character of God the Father, and the former passage (John 10:30), in a context in which Jesus affirms that he will accomplish all that the Father has given him to do and save all whom the Father has given to him, seems to mean that Jesus and the Father are one in purpose (though it may also imply oneness of essence).
The fatal shortcoming of modalism is the fact that it must deny the personal relationships within the Trinity that appear in so many places in Scripture (or it must affirm that these were simply an illusion and not real). Thus, it must deny three separate persons at the baptism of Jesus, where the Father speaks from heaven and the Spirit descends on Jesus like a dove. And it must say that all those instances where Jesus is praying to the Father are an illusion or a charade. The idea of the Son or the Holy Spirit interceding for us before God the Father is lost. Finally, modalism ultimately loses the heart of the doctrine of the atonement that is, the idea that God sent his Son as a substitutionary sacrifice, and that the Son bore the wrath of God in our place, and that the Father, representing the interests of the Trinity, saw the suffering of Christ and was satisfied (Isaiah 53:11).
Moreover, modalism denies the independence of God, for if God is only one person, then he has no ability to love and to communicate without other persons in his creation. Therefore it was necessary for God to create the world, and God would no longer be independent of creation.
One present denomination within Protestantism (broadly defined), the United Pentecostal Church, is modalistic in its doctrinal position. Some of the leaders who formed this group had earlier been forced out of the Assemblies of God.”- Systematic Theology, pg.242
“Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works.” (John 14:10)
The word “abide” [meno] is one of John’s favorite words. Its classical usage will throw light upon the way it is used in the N.T. It meant “to stay, stand fast, abide, to stay at home, stay where one is, not stir, to remain as one was, to remain as before.” In the N.T., it means “to tarry, to dwell at one’s own house, to tarry as a guest, to lodge, to maintain unbroken fellowship with one, to adhere to his party, to be constantly present to help one, to put forth constant influence upon one.” In this verse God is said to meno in Christ… to be constantly present with him, to be continually operative in him by his divine influence and energy. – Word Studies in the Greek New Testament Vol.3, pgs.64,65
“Believe [Present Imperative] Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; otherwise believe [Present Imperative] because of the works themselves.” (John 14:11)
The proof of the union of Jesus and His Father is threefold. They should believe Jesus
- Because of his character (“I am in the Father [John 14:20] and… the Father is in Me”)
- Because His words are the Father’s (“The words I say to you are not just My own” (John 7:16; 12:49-50; 14:24)
- Because the miracles reveal God’s working through Him (the Father, living in Me… is doing His work…. believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves; John 5:36). One of the key elements in John’s Gospel is the stress on the signs as gracious pointers to faith (John 5:36; 10:25, 38; 11:47; 12:37; 20:30-31).
Greater Works Than Jesus?
“Truly, truly, 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 the Father.” (John 14:12)
Jesus did not mean greater works in power, but in extent. They would become witnesses to all the world through the power of the indwelling and infilling of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8) and would bring many to salvation because of the Comforter dwelling in them. The focus is on spiritual rather than physical miracles.
What are the “greater works” that Jesus promised that those who believe in him could do? The Gospel writers used the word “works” [ergon] to describe Jesus’ miraculous works (Matthew 11:2; Luke 24:19). “John accords them theological significance (John 5:36; 7:3, 21; 15:24). The works validate Jesus’ claims about himself and point to the Father who sent him. His works are intended to draw faith responses from those who witness them (John 14:11 ).” – Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words pg.807
- John 5:20, For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself is doing; and the Father will show Him greater works than these, so that you will marvel.
- John 5:36, But the testimony which I have is greater than the testimony of John; for the works which the Father has given Me to accomplish – the very works that I do – testify about Me, that the Father has sent Me.
- John 6:28, Therefore they said to Him, “What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?
- John 7:3, Therefore His brothers said to Him, “Leave here and go into Judea, so that Your disciples also may see Your works which You are doing.
- John 9:3-4, Jesus answered, “It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him. 4We must work the works of Him who sent Me as long as it is day; night is coming when no one can work.
- John 10:25, Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe; the works that I do in My Father’s name, these testify of Me.
- John 10:32, Jesus answered them, “I showed you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you stoning Me?”
- John 10:37-38, If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; 38but if I do them, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me, and I in the Father.
- John 14:10-12, Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works. 11″Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; otherwise believe because of the works themselves. 12″Truly, truly, 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 the Father.
How could we do more miracles than Jesus did? John 21:25 says, “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, which if they were written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books that would be written.”
The text literally says, “Most assuredly, I am saying to you, he who believes in me, the works which I am constantly doing, also that one shall do” – The New Testament: An Expanded Translation pg. 249
So what went wrong? Was this a false promise or have we failed in some way? God’s miracle working power through men was very rare over biblical history. There were no miracles
- From creation until Moses – 2700 years (Exodus 4:8-9, 17, 28, 30; 7:3; 8:23; 13:9; 10:1,2).
- From Moses until Elijah – 600 years (1 Kings 17:14-24; 18:24, 25; 2 Kings 4:8-37).
- From Elijah to Christ – 900 years (John 20:30-31; 21:25; Acts 2:22).
The book of Acts gives us a historical narrative of the first 30 years of the church. During the first 20 years of the early church, the Book of Acts records eighteen miracles (Acts 1-18) and over the next 10 years five miracles are recorded (Acts 19-28). With the exception of a few cases of the miraculous that have not been verifiable the church hasn’t seen the miracles that Jesus promised. There has been a strange absence of miracles among Jesus’ disciples throughout the church age until the present. Is it a lack of faith on our part or has Christ failed to keep his promise? Don’t just think of the supernatural as physical phenomenon.
Homer Kent writes, “This certainly did not mean that believers would perform more amazing physical miracles that Jesus did (e.g., stilling the storm, feeding 5,000, opening the eyes of the blind, curing the lame, healing an amputated ear, raising the dead, etc.). The answer is indicated by the fact that Christ’s return to the Father is said to be the cause. Hence these greater works would be spiritual ones, in which the good news of Christ’s death and resurrection would be proclaimed as the transforming power for sinful men. As a consequence, Gentiles as well as Jews would be reached, and a new spiritual body, the New Testament church, would be created.” – Light in the Darkness pg.174
So when Jesus speaks of “greater works” he must mean “greater” in a spiritual dimension. When we look at both the record of Scripture and of church history we see how true this is: On the day of Pentecost, 40 days after our Lord uttered these words, Peter, filled with the power of the Spirit, preached with such effect that 3,000 people were converted in one day. That never happened during Jesus1 ministry. Perhaps a few hundred on occasion believed when he preached, but a mere handful was the usual response, never thousands as the book of Acts reports.
“…greater, not in power, but in extent or scope, due to the indwelling Spirit; the focus is on the spiritual, not physical miracles.” – John MacArthur
But it is unlikely that Jesus had miracles in mind when he says the Apostles will do greater works than he himself has done. After all, what greater miracle could there be than raising a person from the dead? And Jesus did three of these (excluding his own), while the “greatest” Apostles, Peter, and Paul, only had one each (Acts 9:40-41; 20:10). Certainly, the greatness of Jesus’s followers would not be in the number or character of their miracles but in the number and character of their converts. How great indeed are the works of those who break the barriers of geography and ethnicity to bring to Christ people from every tongue and tribe.
This is from John MacArthur on What It Means to Do Greater Works than Jesus:
“Many charismatic teachers look to the above verse to validate their teaching. They see it as a proof text for the notion that present-day believers can perform miraculous signs and wonders, even more spectacular than Jesus Himself. Reinhard Bonnke, who claims to have raised the dead, is one prominent charismatic who subscribes to that view, and has even written a book offering his interpretation of what Jesus meant by “greater works.”
But Bonnke’s view not only contradicts church history, it also defies Jesus’ teaching in Scripture. In the following audio clip, John MacArthur explains the true, and far more profound, meaning of John 14:12.
One of the great tragedies of the charismatic movement’s fixation on miracles is that it drags the focus away from biblical priorities. Rather than bring the life-transforming power of Scripture to bear on a lost and dying world, too many charismatics long for God’s power to manifest itself in and through their own experiences.
We don’t do things that are greater in power, how could we? I certainly cannot heal the sick, cast out demons from unbelievers, I can’t raise the dead, I cannot walk on water, I cannot pronounce curses on people, I can’t make food and feed people by the tens of thousands. I cannot know what people think, I cannot know what’s on their hearts, I cannot articulate their unasked questions, I cannot predict the future, those are things that Christ did and He did them routinely and regularly.
So when Scripture says that we will do greater works than Jesus, it’s not greater in kind, its greater in extent and what it means is, that the proclamation of the gospel which for Jesus was limited to one nation, one small piece of geography will go far beyond that. We who live in generation after generation since the life of our Lord are fulfilling the Great Commission and the Gospel is expanding and covering the whole earth. Not greater in kind but greater in extent, greater in world influence. These are the works that we are able to do because we know the truth and possess the Holy Spirit.” (Source: www.gty.org)
“Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.” (John 14:13-14)
“In their hour of loss at the departure of Jesus, he comforted them with the means that would provide them with the necessary resources to accomplish their task without his immediate presence which they had come to depend upon. To ask in Jesus’ “name” does not mean to tack such an expression on the end of a prayer as a mere formula. According to the MacArthur Study Bible, pg.1579, it means:
- The believer’s prayer should be for his purposes and kingdom and not selfish reasons
- The believer’s prayer should be on the basis of his merits and not any personal merit or worthiness
- The believer’s prayer should be in pursuit of His glory alone
“If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” (John 14:15) The disciples’ love for Christ is revealed in their obeying his commands (John 14:21, 23; 1 John 2:3; 3:22, 24; 5:3).
“Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled [Present Imperative], nor let it be fearful [Present Imperative].” (John 14:27)
The peace Jesus spoke of could not be exemption from conflict and trial. Jesus himself was “troubled” (John 12:27) by the impending crucifixion. The peace he spoke of is the calmness of confidence in God. Jesus had this peace because he was sure of the Father’s love and approval. The world can give only false peace, which mostly comes from the ignorance of peril or self-reliance. Jesus, fully aware of the distressing suffering confronting him, had such confidence in the purpose and power of the Father that he moved forward unhesitatingly to meet the crisis without fear. His peace would be the source of courage for the disciples. With his promise of peace, he repeated the words of comfort he had spoken in reply to Peter’s question: “Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:1). – The Expositor’s Bible Commentary
- Serendipity Bible for Groups by: Serendipity House, Zondervan Publishing House, 1998
- The Gospel Under Siege by: Zane C. Hodges, Redenci6n Viva, 1981
- The New Testament: An Expanded Translation by: Kenneth S. Wuest, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1961
- Expository Dictionary of Bible Words by: Lawrence 0. Richards, Zondervan Publishing House, 1985, pg.484
- The Gospel of John by: James Montgomery Boice, Zondervan Publishing House, 1978
- Light in the Darkness, by: Homer A. Kent Jr., Baker Book House, 1974, pg.173
- Mere Christianity, by: C.S. Lewis, Macmillan Publishing Co., 1960, pg.56
- The Gospel According To Jesus – The Nature of True Faith by: John F. MacArthur, Zondervan Publishing House, 1988, Pages 169-178
- The Chronological Life of Christ Vol.2 by: Mark E. Moore, College Press,1997, pages 230-234
- Word Studies in the Greek New Testament Vol.3, Kenneth S. Wuest, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1973
- The NIV Serendipity Bible Study of John, Edited by: Lyman Coleman, Denny Rydberg, Richard Peace, Gary Chrisropherson, Zondervan Publishing House, 1986
- The Expositor’s Bible Commentary Vol.9, by: Frank E. Gaebelein, Zondervan Publishing House, 1981
- The Gospel of John by: John MacArthur, Word of Grace Communications
- John: God’s Word for the Biblically-Inept Series by: Lin Johnson & Larry Richards, Starburst Publishers, 2000
- Day Counter Bible Studies by: Thomas R. Lovejoy, 1989
- John – MacArthur Bible Studies by: John MacArthur, W. Publishing Group, 2000
- The Chronological Life of Christ Vo/.2 by: Mark E. Moore, College Press Publishing Company, 1977
- Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words by: W. E. Vine & M.F. Unger & W. White, Nelson: Nashville, 1996.
- Systematic Theology by: Wayne Grudem, lnterVarsity Press, Zondervan, 2000, pg.242
- The Cure for Heart Trouble by: Ray Stedman, Message No: 38; Catalog No: 3868
- Complete Expository Dictionary of Old & New Testament Words by: William D. Mounce, Zondervan, 2006
- The Gospel According To Jesus- The Nature of True Faith by: John F. MacArthur, Zondervan Publishing House, 1988, Pages 169-178
- The Bible & Future Events by: Leon J. Wood, Zondervan Publishing House, 1973
- Things to Come by: J. Dwight Pentecost, Zondervan Publishing House, 1958
[Based on my classes with Richard D. Leineweber Jr.]
© Copyright 1994 Richard D. Leineweber Jr.