In this blog post want to address a portion of Jesus teaching that is commonly misunderstood in
our day. The passage is from John 14:12, which says, “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.” In the last 40 or so years, this passage has been largely misunderstood.
Often today we hear Christians tell us that this means Christians will do greater works—meaning
more spectacular than Jesus did (miracles and such). But, this would mean then that Christians
(whoever believes) will do more spectacular things than turning water to wine (Jn 2); giving
sight to a man born blind (Jn 9); and raising people from the dead (Jn 11). This of course seems
rather silly that one person can actually say they have done more spectacular things than this.
Many in the early church interpreted this passage as teaching of the great missionary successes
of the early church as seen in the book of Acts, which were more substantial in number than
Jesus ministry. I think this is closer to the mark, but I think there is more to it.
I appreciated Brian’s blog post on the law / gospel distinction narrowly considered. The law—gospel distinction was also highlighted by the godly 19th century pastor/ hymn writer John Newton, he wrote, “The correct understanding of the harmony between law and grace is to preserve oneself from being entangled by errors on the right hand and on the left.” Someone reading Brian’s post may ask: where does repentance fit in? Is repentance then part of the covenant of works or is repentance gospel? We must understand that repentance is gospel truth, it is an essential part of the salvation that the gospel brings. “Repentance is a pure gospel grace. The covenant of works admitted no repentance; there it was, sin and die. Repentance came in by the gospel. Christ has purchased in his blood that repenting sinners shall be saved.” (Thomas Watson). Repentance has been called an evangelical grace, which declares it is a gospel grace. It is fashioned in the heart of the sinner by the Word and Spirit of God.