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)
Following the context of Scripture, or any document really, is important in order to grasp the full meaning of a smaller section of the text. The question of whether the sign gifts have continued or ceased since the First Century is not a component this passage. The context in which Yeshua/Jesus was teaching in Yochanan/John 14:12 began a bit earlier. The response to “show us the Father” (verse 8) was an explanation by the Son that the Father is in the Son and the Son in the Father and that it was the Father’s works they were seeing:
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 authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves. (John 14:10-11)
What follows in verse 12 was referring to the “Quantity” of the works — not the “Quality” of the works. What follows explains why: “Because I go to My Father.” What does that change?
And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. (John 14:16-17)
In other words, when Yeshua returned to His rightful place in Heaven, He would send the Holy Spirit to indwell His followers, to lead and guide them, and to remind them of the truth He had taught them. The Gospel would no longer be limited to the Jewish people within the borders of Israel but would be proclaimed throughout the entire world.
To reiterate, when Yeshua was speaking of “greater” works, He meant “Quantitatively” — not “Qualitatively.”
And when the topic of “greater” works comes up, there’s a simple and gracious way to address it. I try to use the occasion as a teaching moment, rather than pouncing on the person who said it to immediately present the context in which Yeshua was speaking. And it has the added benefit of prompting the person to think about what they’re saying, which is always a good thing. I simply ask them, “What greater works has anyone ever done that were ‘greater’ than the works and miracles Yeshua did?” 🤔 (I’ve asked that question numerous times over the past 30 years and have yet to receive a reasonable answer.) It would indeed be difficult since, according to the same writer, the Apostle John, the Son was the One Who created everything which has been created. (John 1:1-4)
It’s also important to point out that people who claimed to know Yeshua did perform miracles in His name, but Yeshua told them He didn’t know them, to depart from Him, and called them workers of iniquity (i.e., those who “practice Lawlessness” and live contrary to His teachings (Matthew 7:15-29).
Regardless of which theological position you adhere to, one thing that all true followers of Jesus should agree on is that while the gifts of the spirit will eventually fade away, the Fruit of the Spirit will abide forever. And if authentically born-again followers of Yeshua were producing the “Fruit of the Spirit” in their lives, the “gifts” would flow naturally and wouldn’t be a divisive issue in the Body.
Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Goodness, Kindness, Gentleness, Faithfulness, and Self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23)
These attributes lift up and build up one another without drawing unnecessary attention to ourselves.
Someone who manifests the fruit of the Spirit may also have spiritual gifts; but if the spiritual gifts aren’t accompanied by genuine fruit, we should stop and evaluate what’s being produced.
Most importantly, the gifts should always be used in humility before the Lord. (Something that is sorely lacking in the people I know who claim to speak in tongues, prophesy, have the gift of healing or any of the other gifts mentioned in 1 Corinthians chapters 12 & 14.)
Theologically speaking, the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements produce a lot of emotional heat, but t seems ivery little light. One of the gifts that is essential for the Church at large (which unfortunately is sorely lacking) and would produce unity instead of division, is the gift of DISCERNMENT. However, discernment by its very nature divides the true from the false. However, it brings unity among those who love the truth.
Subjective feelings, experiences and personal anecdotes by definition are just that — subjective and experiential. And if personal experiences are contrary to or go beyond the clear teachings of Scripture (which they often do), they should be rejected.
From a Messianic Jewish perspective, the “signs and wonders” during Shavuot/Pentecost in the first century had a dual purpose. It was a reversal of the curse at Babel; and the fulfillment of God’s promise to write His Law on circumcised hearts (Deuteronomy 10:16, and 30:6; Jeremiah 4:4, 9:25-26, and 31:31-34;Ezekiel 11:19-20, and 36:24-27).
The parallels between the first Shavuot at Sinai, and the Shavuot of fulfillment in Jerusalem should not be missed (compare Exodus 20:18-21 and 32:28-29, to Acts 2:1-41).
In a nutshell, God is glorified when we allow Him to produce the Fruit of His Spirit in the lives of His people. That’s a sign and a wonder that no one can deny or refute, and it produces unity — not discord and division.
Unfortunately, there’s a very disturbing movement which has grown exponentially over the past few years and has caused a lot of controversy, confusion, discord, and division in the Body of Messiah, and I would be remiss if I failed to mention it.
There are influential pastors and teachers who would have us believe that the gifts of the Spirit can be procured by anyone who professes to be a follower of Jesus — as long as they’re willing to pay an exorbitant amount of money to attend their ”School of Supernatural Ministry” in Redding, California; where their ”anointed” instructors claim to be able to teach spiritual techniques that can allegedly train people to prophesy; to heal people of infirmities and diseases, and a host of totally bazaar practices that have no precedent in Scripture whatsoever, and are in fact extremely deceptive and dangerous.
There is, however, a passage of Scripture that addresses something eerily similar to what I’m referring to, so I’ll let the Word speak for itself, and you can draw your own conclusions.
Therefore, those who had been scattered went through places preaching the word. Philip went down to the city of Samaria and began proclaiming the Christ to them. The crowds were paying attention with one mind to what was being said by Philip, as they heard and saw the signs which he was performing. For in the case of many who had unclean spirits, they were coming out of them shouting with a loud voice; and many who had been paralyzed or limped on crutches were healed. So there was much rejoicing in that city.
Now a man named Simon had previously been practicing magic in the city and astonishing the people of Samaria, claiming to be someone great; and all the people, from small to great, were paying attention to him, saying, “This man is the Power of God that is called Great.” And they were paying attention to him because for a long time he had astounded them with his magic arts. But when they believed Philip as he was preaching the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were being baptized. Now even Simon himself believed; and after being baptized, he continued on with Philip, and as he observed signs and great miracles taking place, he was repeatedly amazed.
Now when the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent them Peter and John, who came down and prayed for them that they would receive the Holy Spirit. (For He had not yet fallen upon any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) Then they began laying their hands on them, and they were receiving the Holy Spirit. Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, saying, “Give this authority to me as well, so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could acquire the gift of God with money! You have no part or share in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. Therefore, repent of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intention of your heart will be forgiven you. For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bondage of unrighteousness.” But Simon answered and said, “Pray to the Lord for me yourselves, so that nothing of what you have said may come upon me.” (Acts 8:4-24, NASB)
Somehow, “But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could acquire the gift of God with money!” is both ominous and a fitting rebuke then and now.
Being a musician and an apologist, I’ll leave you with an analogy I think most people will be able to relate to.
If you’ve been listening to one of your favorite songs for many years without realizing it wasn’t the original version – and then someone comes along and plays the original version by the person who wrote it, it might sound very different to you, because you’ve grown accustomed to the version your ears are used to hearing. You might not even like the original version because it lacks some of the embellishments you associate with the song.
That’s often how it is with Bible teachers who teach false doctrines. You’ve become accustomed to their interpretation of Scripture, which is often far removed from sound, Biblical theology. But you like that particular pastor and teacher, and when you hear someone else teaching sound theology that contradicts what you’ve been taught, it sounds strange to you.
You might even become angry and defensive and reject sound doctrine simply because you’ve been taught something else, it’s what you’re used to, and that’s what you prefer.
But that’s a very dangerous position to take. It is also clearly in opposition to what the Bible teaches concerning how to respond to false teachings and the people who promote them. We are admonished to expose them and avoid them.
There is certainly a difference between how we’re to approach primary, essential doctrines; and secondary, peripheral doctrines. The former should always be protected and defended; the latter should be allowed more latitude, and oftentimes aren’t worth arguing or fighting over.
Concerning aberrant teachings, heterodox teachings, heretical teachings, and outright blasphemous teachings (which, tragically, are more prevalent than you might think), we should make every attempt to correct those teachers in the hope that they will see the error in their teaching and publicly renounce it. That’s the Biblical model we are to follow, regardless of how nice the teacher is or how much you may like them personally.
“May it never be! Rather, let God be found true, though every man be found a liar, as it is written, “That Thou Might Be Justified In Thy Words, And Prevail When Thou Art Judged.” (Romans 3:4, NASB, ©1978)Ω
Steven Mark is a Messianic Jew with a heart for sharing Yeshua the Messiah with Jewish people, and all people. He is a longtime researcher on issues pertaining to biblical faith, apologetics, and sharing the truth of the Gospel with people who are involved with cults and false religions. He is also a musician.
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