John 14:8-14 (NIV):

8 Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” 9 Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. 11 Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves. 12 Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.

My understanding of verse 11 is that Jesus is pointing to the works he has done that give evidence that the Father is in him, which without a doubt include the signs and wonders he had been performing during his ministry. Then in verse 12 he says "whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these".

How do Cessationists interpret this passage, especially verses 11 and 12?

Edit: Luke 7:20-23 (NIV) gives explicit examples of the works Jesus did:

20 When the men came to Jesus, they said, “John the Baptist sent us to you to ask, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?’” 21 At that very time Jesus cured many who had diseases, sicknesses and evil spirits, and gave sight to many who were blind. 22 So he replied to the messengers, “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. 23 Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.”

  • @NigelJ - but Jesus' answer undoubtedly is: verse 11 says "[...] or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves." What "evidence of the works" was there that the Father was in Jesus other than the signs and wonders that Jesus performed? See for example Luke 7:22: So he replied to the messengers, "Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. – Spirit Realm Investigator Dec 18 '20 at 14:30
  • Yes, granted. These outward signs are a signification of what is spiritual and invisible. The argument thus centres on seeing a repetition of such things rather than believing the permanent, reliable and inspired documentation of the original supernatural activities of Jesus Christ and his apostles. – Nigel J Dec 18 '20 at 15:15

As Rhetorician has said, it is the greater work of bringing souls to salvation. Just before Christ died, after His ministry of, debatably, three and a half years, there were about one hundred and twenty believers (Acts 1:15) in Jerusalem, and some elsewhere (eg at Sychar in Samaria). When Peter preached at Pentecost, on the first day of receiving the Holy Spirit, about three thousand souls were added to their number (Acts 2:41).

That is the greater works.

The miraculous healings of the New Testament era, apart from those of our Lord, were done only by the Apostles and by two of their close band.. Stephen and Phillip. The only other miraculous healing was by the restoration of sight to Saul by Ananias (Acts 9:17). That's it. Notice the following verses:-

Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. (Acts 2:43)

And through the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were done among the people. And they were all with one accord in Solomon’s Porch. (Acts 5:12)

Truly the signs of an apostle were accomplished among you with all perseverance, in signs and wonders and mighty deeds. (2 Corinthians 12:12).

They were the signs of an Apostle, not of all believers, or many believers.

how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard him, God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will? (Hebrews 2:3-4)

And if there were some who had gifts of miracles, signs and wonders then we should expect to see them named in the following verse:

And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:11-12)

And then we discover Paul who had power to raise the dead at an earlier stage lost the power to heal Timothy, advising take a little wine for the sake of your frequent illnesses (1 Timothy 5:23)... and

Trophimus: Trophimus I left in Miletus sick (2 Timothy 4:20).... and

Epaphroditus: Yet I considered it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, fellow worker, and fellow soldier, but your messenger and the one who ministered to my need; since he was longing for you all, and was distressed because you had heard that he was sick. (Phil 2:24-26)

Finally when a believer was sick they were not to call for a worker of miracles or a wonder worker, they were to call for the ordinarily appointed elders of the church who were chosen on the basis of their spirituality (1 Timothy 3:1-7). These are the ones to call:

Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. (James 5:14-15)

Cessationists believe that the greater works means effective preaching of the Gospel with the aid of the Holy Spirit; the continuing works of miraculous gifts and healings is a myth.

The sign miracles were the work of the apostles and a few of their band only. And only those who were eye witnesses of the resurrection could be an Apostle (Acts 1:21-26) who are by their writings along with the Old Testament prophets the foundation of the church (Ephesians 2:20).

And the Word of God explicitly tells us that the last of the Apostles was the Apostle Paul:

After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time. For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. (1 Corinthians 15:7-9)

There are no more Apostles, nor Prophets, nor the signs of Apostles (2 Cor 12:12) which were given to authenticate their message of the Gospel.

[[I have used "Proving the Charismatic gifts have ceased" by Dr Peter Masters, a 50 pence booklet from the Tabernacle Bookshop, Metropolitan Tabernacle, Elephant & Castle, London. Tel: UK 0207 735 7076]]

  • In short, cessationists do not believe that Apostles "super charged" with miraculous power and gifts are for today, but they do believe in praying for the sick (as per your quote of James 5:14-15), is that correct? – Spirit Realm Investigator Dec 27 '20 at 23:02
  • Yes. And we certainly believe God can still heal however he chooses.. its just there are no specially gifted workers of miracles today, or since the NT era. They are not named in Eph 2:20. If God should choose to work a miracle in some jungle to authenticate a missionary, again that would be his work.. the gift for an individual believer is no more. – Andrew Shanks Dec 27 '20 at 23:05
  • Can't help it: related to your comment about missionaries: christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/79994/… – Spirit Realm Investigator Dec 27 '20 at 23:07
  • I too have read credible testimonies, and other stories which are not far short of the miraculous. God still works miracles, why doubt it? But I doubt he any longer gives the gifts of miracles to the men, it would undermine the foundation of the Church, and the message of the Gospel is now a given in the Word of God. – Andrew Shanks Dec 27 '20 at 23:12

You are not alone in thinking immediately of signs and miracles when you hear the word works. Have you ever stopped to think about another aspect of Christ's work on earth, which the apostle John called "other things"?

24 This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true. 25 Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written (John 21, NIV, my emphasis).

As good as signs and wonders and miracles are in testifying to the deity of Jesus, those "other things" John referred to are equally as good, if not better!

First is the amazing teaching and preaching Jesus did throughout his public ministry. Witnesses characterized them as having authority and inspiring awe and praise. The Synoptics record this in Matthew 7:29 and 9:8; Mark 1:22 and 27; and Luke 4:32 and 36.

In like manner, when Jesus sent out the 12, he gave them authority to perform miracles and to preach repentance wherever they went (Mark 6:7 ff.; and Matthew 10:1). While they doing what Jesus told them to do, he also went out by himself to to the same; namely, to preach and teach and perform miracles of healing and exorcism.

Second is the harvesting of souls. I suggest there would not have been a harvest of souls in Samaria when Philip the evangelist preached there after Jesus's ascension had not Jesus himself reached out to a despised woman whom he met him at Jacob's well in Sychar. She was gloriously saved, and thanks to her witness to her fellow townspeople, she may very well have prepared the Samaritan field for harvesting when Philip and, later, Peter and John also came to town (see Acts 8:12-25).

What I am suggesting is that "cessationists" may be on the right track, hermeneutically, when they seem to minimize the miraculous aspects of Christian ministry after the church universal was up and running. What were the "greater things" Jesus spoke of when he told his followers in general and Philip(!) in particular they would in fact do after he ascended to his Father?

I suggest those "even greater things" included the harvesting of souls who would become disciples of the Master and expand the Kingdom of Heaven and God which would be baptized by the Holy Spirit in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost.

Jesus said confidently in the presence of his disciples and Peter in particular,

“Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you that you are Peter [or rock] and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades [or, the realm of the dead] will not overcome it (Matthew 16, NIV).

In conclusion, I believe the greater works of the first-century disciples, and the disciples of each generation since then, is the expansion of the church universal through the harvesting of souls. As good as signs and wonders and miracles are (and yes, I believe God is still to this day a miracle-working God), the greatest work of Christians in any generation--besides loving one another--is preaching the gospel and making disciples worldwide. By so doing, they will one day, in God's perfect timing, see the completion of the church when every living stone is in its place and the superstructure is complete "at the end of the age" (see Matthew 28:16-20 and 1 Peter 2:4-5).

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