John 14:12 and Company

By Marv

In this post I wish to make a simple point about John 14:12, a verse we have referred to often as foundational to our understanding of “spiritual gifts.”  I want to focus on the phrase “whoever believes in me,” as this is key to understanding what Jesus was teaching here, as well as what John intended to convey in his gospel. 

That phrase is far from unique, and in fact it fits into a major theme in that gospel.  The exact same phrase, and variations of that phrase occur throughout the book, and an examination of these clearly demonstrate that what Jesus says here about doing the same works as He is applicable to all believers, not merely the eleven in the room with Him that evening, not merely the apostles and close associates, not merely Christians of the first century, not merely those living before the close of the Canon.

The verse is neither obscure nor insignificant, and even bears the attention-grabbing prefix: “Truly, truly, I say to you.”

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)

These works Jesus refers to include much, much more than “spiritual gifts”: prophecy, healing, and such, but these are certainly included.  The works, Jesus states, back up His words and are with them a basis for faith (John 14:11).  Thus confirmation of the message of salvation is not relegated to any purported category of “sign gifts,” but to His works in general, works that, according to our Lord, will be done by “whoever believes” in Him.

Let’s look at that phrase.  In the Greek it is an articular infinitive:

ὁ πιστεύων εἰς ἐμὲ  (ho pisteuōn eis eme) “the (one) believing in me”

Variations include:

A.  πᾶς ὁ πιστεύων εἰς ἐμὲ  (pas ho pisteuōn eis eme)  “all the (one) believing in me”

B.  ὁ πιστεύων ἐν αὐτῷ (ho pisteuōn en auto) “the (one) believing in him”

C.  πᾶς ὁ πιστεύων ἐν αὐτῷ (pas ho pisteuōn en auto) “all the (one) believing in him”

D.  ὁ πιστεύων εἰς τὸν υἱὸν (ho pisteuōn eis ton huion) “the (one) believing in the son”

E.  ὁ πιστεύων  (ho pisteuōn) “the (one) believing”

   

There are many other related expressions in this theme, but I list those with identical or near identical wording. 

And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him [πᾶς ὁ πιστεύων ἐν αὐτῷ (pas ho pisteuōn en auto)] may have eternal life. (John 3:14-15)

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him [πᾶς ὁ πιστεύων ἐν αὐτῷ (pas ho pisteuōn en auto)] should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

Whoever believes in him [ὁ πιστεύων ἐν αὐτῷ (ho pisteuōn en auto)] is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. (John 3:18)

Whoever believes in the Son [ὁ πιστεύων εἰς τὸν υἱὸν (ho pisteuōn eis ton huion)] has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him. (John 3:36)

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me [ὁ πιστεύων εἰς ἐμὲ  (ho pisteuōn eis eme)] shall never thirst. (John 6:35)

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes [ὁ πιστεύων  (ho pisteuōn)] has eternal life. (John 6:47)

Whoever believes in me [ὁ πιστεύων εἰς ἐμὲ  (ho pisteuōn eis eme)], as the Scripture has said, “Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” (John 7:38)

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me [ὁ πιστεύων εἰς ἐμὲ  (ho pisteuōn eis eme)], though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”  (John 11:25-26)

And Jesus cried out and said, “Whoever believes in me [ὁ πιστεύων εἰς ἐμὲ  (ho pisteuōn eis eme)], believes not in me but in him who sent me.  And whoever sees me sees him who sent me. I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness. (John 12:44-46)

It is sometimes said that even if we are not told that spiritual gifts will cease during the church age, we are not told they will continue either.  It looks to me as if that is exactly what our Lord tells us in John 14:12.

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7 responses to “John 14:12 and Company

  1. It is sometimes said that even if we are not told that spiritual gifts will cease during the church age, we are not told they will continue either. It looks to me as if that is exactly what our Lord tells us in John 14:12.

    A very important concluding statement. And while we are strongly exhorting non-continuationists to see this includes all believers able to participate in all spiritual gifts, I also find myself exhorting some continuationists that these works include all of Jesus’ works, not just certain spiritual gifts.

  2. But, but, but….

    If this means spiritual gifts, it means Jesus had spiritual gifts. Thus we can do his works (spiritual gifts) in our works (spiritual gifts).

    But this is a simple mix up of terms that ends up minimizing His works.

    Jesus didn’t possess spiritual gifts. He had the Spirit without measure because of the Father’s love for Him in His incarnation, true (John 3:34-35). His works were a proof of His Messiahship.

    But spiritual gifts are poured out on believers as part of being in the church (1 Pet 4:10, 1 Cor. 12:7). They were not a part of OT Israel, of which Jesus was a part.

    Its a confusion of terms in John 14:12. His works were not His exercising spiritual gifts, but performing attesting to His unique status as Israel’s Messiah.

    We do greater works than Jesus in this only – that we are weak and nobodies, and that what we do accomplish spiritually is always through the Holy Spirit. The fact that it is we who yet do it testifies the work is greater in degree – it has to be worked through us who are so sinful, but not greater in quality or quantity than our Lord’s.

  3. Ted –

    But spiritual gifts are poured out on believers as part of being in the church (1 Pet 4:10, 1 Cor. 12:7). They were not a part of OT Israel, of which Jesus was a part.

    Well, the early church was heavily Jewish (part of Israel).

    Its a confusion of terms in John 14:12. His works were not His exercising spiritual gifts, but performing attesting to His unique status as Israel’s Messiah.

    I don’t know if Marv specifically says Jesus performed spiritual gifts. Though, if they are of the Spirit, then they are spiritual charismata (thought we translate as ‘gifts’). We must remember Jesus was 100% human. His reliance was upon the Father and the work of the Spirit. If not, then his humanity was not much of a reality.

    The fact that it is we who yet do it testifies the work is greater in degree – it has to be worked through us who are so sinful, but not greater in quality or quantity than our Lord’s.

    When you have a body that has been empowered by the Spirit for 2000 years, and you presently have a body in this present-day that is estimated over 1 billion (some estimate closer to 2 billion), then you are performing a great quantity of works than the Messiah as one incarnate man.

  4. Ted, you say: “If this means spiritual gifts, it means Jesus had spiritual gifts.”

    No, it doesn’t mean that. In fact I quite agree that Jesus did not exercise “spiritual gifts.” He wasn’t just “part of” OT Israel, he was the King of Israel, THE Anointed One. He was anointed with the Holy Spirit and power. Yes, His works were proof of His messiahship.

    That’s WHY it is such a jaw-droppingly amazing thing when He teaches that His Church would do the same works as He (even greater, He says, but that is not what I focus on in this post).

    When we find Jesus’ teaching and prophecy about His Church doing His works fulfilled after His ascension, we find that this ministry is distributed among the members in various forms. These we refer to as “spiritual gifts.”

    I make this point in an earlier post here.

  5. Pingback: Why the Holy Spirit? « The Prodigal Thought

  6. Pingback: Why the Holy Spirit | To Be Continued…

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