I hear preached all the time that John 14:12 means that Christians, some if not all, should and could be doing greater miracles than Jesus. Is that really what that verse means?
You are correct, it is frequently and consistently taught in many churches and on TV that this verse means Christians will and should be doing greater miracles than Jesus:
John 14:12 “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. (NKJV)
To answer your question, let me clarify what I am NOT answering:
- I am not answering whether or not miracles occur today
- I am not answering that if there ARE miracles performed today, are they done by God directly to a person; or through one person to another person
- I am not answering whether or not I believe that today’s self-proclaimed miracle-workers are authentic
What I will answer here is: Does John 14:12 mean that we (Christians) are capable of, or should be doing, greater miracles than Jesus?
No. Plainly, No.
First of all, the verse does not say “miracles”, it says “works”. Now certainly it COULD mean miracles, but it doesn’t have to necessarily mean miracles. So does it mean miracles? Clearly not. Why? There are a few reasons to consider:
- The verse doesn’t specifically say “greater miracles“;
- there is a lack of additional Scriptural support for this idea that we will do GREATER miracles than Christ;
- to assume “works” means “miracles” is not in context with the overall point of the passage, and
- the common human experience does not bear out that anyone is actually doing “greater miracles” than Jesus.
While we have many folks collectively claiming to do thousands of miracles every day, the fact remains that those who claim this either refuse to, or cannot, produce the evidence to back up those claims. If there was ONE undeniable, irrefutable case – with evidence – of a missing leg appearing, or a destroyed eye becoming new, or a dead person being resurrected, you can bet the farm that this evidence would documented, televised, put on the Internet, put in print and enshrined for all to see. But it’s not – because it doesn’t exist.
Note: now, let me re-emphasize at this point, that I am speaking specifically about those who claim to be the CONDUIT of miracle power that is then delivered to others – those who claim to have the gift of imparting or performing miracles to others. I’m not speaking of the individual who claims that God did a miracle directly for them. That is a completely different topic.
So the common experience of the honest observer is that there is no one on earth, much less multitudes of people, doing “greater miracles” than Jesus. According to proponents of this view, we should have Christians today who are routinely doing miracles GREATER than:
- Turning water to wine – John 2:1–11
- Healing critically ill children – John 4:46
- Cleansing the terminally diseased – Matt 8:1-12
- Raising up the invalids and paralyzed – John 5:1-16
- Causing the weather to obey them – Matt 8:23-27
- Curing internal diseases – Matt 9:20
- Restoring sight to genuinely blind people – Matt 9:27
- Feeding the multitudes of starving by multiplying small quantities of food miraculously – Matt 14:15-21
- Restoring the ears of the deaf and speech to those who can’t speak – Mark 7:31-37
- Reattaching dismembered body parts – Luke 22:49
- Healing people who simply touch them even if the healer isn’t looking or aware – Matt 9:20-22
- Raising people from the dead – John 11:1-46
Is this occuring today? According to those who teach this doctrine about John 14:12, it SHOULD be. But it’s obviously not. It’s a lack of faith according to them. But is this what John 14:12 even means?
What does “greater works” mean? If it means “greater miracles”, then what exactly is greater than restoring sight or curing disease instantly? What could possibly be greater than raising someone from the dead?
Perhaps “greater miracles” means greater in QUANTITY; that is a common interpretation – we will do “greater quantities of miracles”. But again, the obvious and undeniable conclusion is that “greater quantities of miracles” of the same type Jesus performed are NOT occuring today. Add that to the fact that “greater quantity of miracles” is simply guessing at the meaning of the verse, or worse, making it say what you want to fit a predetermined opinion.
So what does the verse mean? It means what it says. It means that we will do the work that Jesus did, and do it even greater, in some way.
What was the work Jesus did? He came to save the lost. It fits the meaning and context and reality of the verse to interpret it as saying that Jesus came to do the work of saving the lost, and every person who believes in Christ will do the same work as well.
What about “greater works”? This could be a reference to quantity because Jesus knew the Church would grow and be established over the whole earth and while thousands recieved salvation from hearing Christ personally, millions would receive salvation by hearing his followers in the future.
It may also reference the fact that salvation, the Gospel, is a “greater work” than any miracle. How much greater is salvation for all eternity, than any temporal miracle performed on the perishing flesh?
To make John 14:12 refer to “greater miracles” is to simply insert a meaning that is 1) not there; 2) out of context, and 3) not reality. You have to MAKE it say “greater miracles”, for that is not the meaning that naturally and comfortably fits either the context or the facts or the rest of Scripture. Yes, some of Jesus works were miracles, but from our discussion, we see that miracles were not the subject in mind IN THIS VERSE when it speaks of “greater works”.
John 14:12 refers to the “greater work” of salvation over miracles, and the “greater work” relating to the numbers of people who would hear the Gospel through Jesus followers after His ascension to heaven. That is the plain, unstretched, natural and contextual intrepretation of Jesus’ words.
Note: This answer will compel many readers to send me their stories of miracles that are intended to refute my answer. Again, I am addressing the issue of what John 14:12 means, and specifically the common idea taught today that every Christian SHOULD be performing miracles, even “greater” miracles than Jesus. I am also addressing the situation we have in Christianity today of self-proclaimed miracle-workers using this verse to support their claims of miracle power.
For the record, I believe that God most certainly CAN, and most likely still does miracles directly in the lives of Christians where it pleases Him to do so for His reasons and His glory. Miracles, true miracles, by nature and definition, are going to be rare and undeniable. So my answer does not mean that I DENY the possibility of miracles today, only that I refute the teaching in question about John 14:12.