Paul wrote these passages to two of the churches that he had established. And he made it clear that it was NOT by his wisdom or cleverness or ability to craft clever words, but that it WAS only by the Holy Spirit that they had been brought to real and true saving faith in Christ; a salvation NOT to heavens glory world, but one to which would save him as he lived in this time world. In a day of cleverly packaged, methodically dominated, and man-centered missionism, it’s refreshing to be reminded that only by and through the power of the Spirit can true evangelism be accomplished by God’s people as they are a witness to those to whom God will choose as His answer to heart felt prayers of those children of God who are seeking and asking that He reveal Himself to them, as well as asking that He would bring the two of them together in His own particular way.
As in the experience of Philip in Acts 8:26-31, lets look at it, “And the angel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saying, Arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert. And he arose and went: and, behold, a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure, and had come to Jerusalem for to worship, Was returning, and sitting in his chariot read Esaias the prophet. Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot. And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest? And he said, how can I, except some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him.”
Who did the sending? It wasn’t any church or missionary board. It was the “angel of the Lord.” This, dear beloved child of God, is REAL and TRUE EVANGELISM. God sent the man of Ethiopia to the exact place that He had prepared…the exact place that He also sent His servant Philip. And He also…not any man-made institution…sent and equipped him to preach His word. And He, also, prepared the heart of the Ethiopian to hear, and obey. This Ethiopian WAS already a child of God. How do I know that? Because we are told that, he “had come to Jerusalem for to worship.” To worship God! And as you will recall that “the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned,” 1 Cor. 2:14. And I might add that “the wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God: God is not in all his thoughts,” Psa 10:4. He was definitely a child of God, already born again because he came to Jerusalem to WORSHIP GOD, and the natural man CANNOT do such a thing!
Next, the Spirit gives power to the ministry in the Church. True ministry within the body of the Kingdom Church of Christ is not achieved by human brilliance or skill, but by the work of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit gives special abilities (spiritual gifts) “For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Eph. 4:12; 1 Cor. 14:26; 1 Th. 5:11).
But, what are the “Greater Works” that Jesus Promised in John 14:12? Notice carefully the words of Christ, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on Me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto My Father.” The problem is that this verse has been used to validate all kinds of unscriptural activities today simply by calling them “greater works.” The question, that must be carefully examined, is how should the word “greater” be defined? Greater in power? Greater in scope? Greater in effectiveness? What are “greater works?”
I don’t believe that it is reasonable for us to think that we will be enabled to accomplish works of greater power or quality than Jesus did? Do you? No, I do not believe any of us think that. I mean just think of the nature of His miracles; He fed the multitudes with a mere “five loaves and two fishes,” He raised the dead, healed those who were incurable, controlled the forces of nature by the power of His word.
Now consider why He did these things. In John 20:30-31 we find the motive behind the miracles; “And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.”
His purpose was no doubt to reveal to His children the uniqueness of His Person as the Son of God. We certainly do not believe that we will accomplish such a goal; for on what grounds would we make such a claim? No, we are not to do works greater in quality nor in power, for Jesus alone is Christ.
Then what are these “greater works?” I believe that the best way to understand it is to understand that Jesus is not speaking of the quality of the works, but of the scope of the works. Think about it. The “greater works” seems to us to be impossible in light of the character and power of Christ, and yet, it is certain that Jesus spoke the truth when He said that we would do the “greater works.” In addition, we do so through the power of the Spirit whom Jesus sent to us. It was with this power of the Spirit that the influence of the infant Church spread over the Roman world, despite the horrible persecution laid upon it. We should be humbled by the glorious promise of Jesus that by the power of the Spirit we are used of God to perform His work even to the ends of the earth.
Perhaps the verse that captures the implications of these truths is 2 Corinthians 3:18, “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” It is by the work of the Holy Spirit of the Lord that spiritual transformation takes place. This involves every area of our spiritual lives.
It is the Spirit that matures us into the image of Christ so that we can give glory to the Lord Jesus Christ as seen in Gal. 3:1-5, “O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you? This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are ye so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh? Have ye suffered so many things in vain? If it be yet in vain. He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doeth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?” We are called to be submissive to His control in our lives. That is our duty and responsibility! However, the Holy Spirit is the One who produces the image and likeness of Christ in us!
The Holy Ghost enables us to personally perform various kinds of spiritual ministry, for we to be able to see that “all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as He will, (see 1 Cor. 12:11, also see Rom. 12; Eph 4:7-16; 1 Pet. 4:10-11). Notice that spiritual gifts are not given for our personal edification or glory. These gifts are given for “the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal” (1 Cor. 12:7), specifically for ministry to the body of Christ, His Church.
In Romans 12:3, we read, “For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.” These gifts of the Spirit are not to be exercised in pride, but in spiritual humility.
In 1 Cor 12:4-6, we read again, “Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all.” These spiritual gifts have not been given to us so that we will all fall into lock step with one common experience, such as everybody speaking in a so-called unknown tongue. No, and in fact we find that there is diversity in the body of Christ, with its many unique and varied members which each one contributes to the building up of the one body. “For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching; Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that showeth mercy, with cheerfulness,” Rom. 12:4-8.
I think that it’s helpful that we remind ourselves that spiritual gifts are only tools given by the Spirit to be used and worked with, not badges of pride, nor toys to be played with. They are that which the Holy Ghost gives to the church body equipping us to perform our spiritual service, bearing fruit to the glory of the Father.
The authority and guidelines of the Word of God always protect our worship, as we can see in John 4:24, “God is a Spirit: and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.” It is by the Spirit that we are able to give true worship to the living God.
In John 15:8, Jesus called His disciples to glorify the Father by bearing much fruit, “Herein is My Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be My disciples.” At the same time, the Lord made it clear saying, “I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without Me ye can do nothing,” John 15:5. But how can these two directives be resolved when Jesus has just told His disciples that He was going to go away? Jesus resolved them in the promise of the Holy Spirit!
It is Jesus’ desire that we glorify the Father, so He gave to His followers then, and today, the indwelling Holy Spirit to make it possible. How sad that so often we live our lives being totally oblivious to this wonderful “Comforter” in our lives! We often ignore His enabling by which we give glory to God in our spiritual growth, in our worship, and in our service to Him. How good it is when we submit to the ministry of the One who has come to magnify God in Christ and see His great work among the people of God.
Galatians 3:3 asks the question of the believers at the church at Galatia, “Are ye so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?” Even as the vital work of the Holy Ghost is a necessity to our salvation, so His work is also vital to our Christian living! And so in this light, will you as a child of God, give careful thought to the extent to which we consciously submit to the control of the Spirit as our guide in our lives? For we must remember, that “there is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death,” Prov 14:12.
We must consider what kind of “temple” that we are as He dwells within us, as the body of Christ. As Christ has given us the Holy Spirit, are we willingly submitting to Him to produce in us godliness in our walk? Beloved we can not do this in or of ourselves. This willingness is essential for us as obedient sons and daughters in Christ, if we are to live in the Church Kingdom of Heaven. And, as we experience this wonderful reality, we can know the joy of Christ and have an intimacy of fellowship with Him.
May we pray with the attitude of Paul, “Unto Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen,” Eph 3:21. In order for us to experience Jesus' promise of the Spirit, we must acknowledge two foundational truths. First, those who are in Christ must submit to the Spirit, and second, that as we do so we will grow in likeness of Christ. May God bless you through the faithful obedience of the Spirit.
Elder Thomas McDonald