Truly, truly, I say to you, He that believes on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do…
I. THE WORK OF CHRIST IN THE KINGDOM OF NATURE, CARRIED ON THROUGH HIS DISCIPLES.
1. The use of miraculous powers. Miracles were the credentials of Christ's Messiahship. The words of the Saviour ought to have brought the world in homage to His feet. But seeing that men are held in bondage to sense He condescended to this weakness, and substantiated His preternatural knowledge by the exercise of preternatural power. When He added to His words this sign manual of Heaven, then numbers like Nicodemus said, "No man can do these miracles," etc.
2. Their present disuse. They were only for the commencement of our religion. The pillar of a cloud and fire was God's miraculous ratification of the authority of the Hebrew legislator. But that pillar was not a permanent gift. The Jews were trained to higher spiritual manifestations of the Divine presence, and then the cloud retired into the holy place and was seen no more. So the miracles of Christ and His apostles were the leading strings in which the infant Church was tenderly led until her inherent strength was developed, and she was enabled to walk alone in her spiritual might. The miracles in nature waned as the miracles of grace waxed, and the transforming influence of the gospel on the heart and life of a believer was left to be the world's standing sign and proof that it was the power and the wisdom of God.
II. THE GREATER WORK OF CHRIST IN THE KINGDOM OF GRACE. The conversion of the soul is a greater work, because —
1. It is wrought upon a greater object. Miracles were wrought upon material things; but conversion is wrought upon the soul. Who can calculate the vast superiority of spirit over matter? The soul allies us with Deity, for God is a spirit. It is the breath of the Almighty: matter is the rough clay in His hands. Hence the most degraded human being can say to the sun, "I am greater than thou!"
2. It demands more and greater attributes to effect it. Miracles were in the main displays of power. But in the conversion of our soul all the attributes of Jehovah are brought into play. Infinite wisdom must solve the problem, how the condemned can be pardoned, the lost saved, and the law honoured. Infinite power must work out the plan which wisdom has devised, and unite the Godhead and humanity in the person of Immanuel. Infinite love must be manifested in the undertaking of such an amazing work.
3. It encounters greater difficulties. It was easier to make a world than remake a fallen soul. In miracles of nature there was nothing to resist the Divine will. But in the restoration of the soul difficulties on all sides were encountered. Divine justice and truth stood in the way. All the powers of darkness were marshalled against it. The soul opposes its own conversion. It required four thousand years to prepare for the coming of Christ, and after His coming His thirty-three years of humiliation, privation, and toil. It still requires the striving of the Spirit on earth, the unwearied intercession of Jesus above, and the process of earthly discipline before one soul can be brought to glory.
4. It secures a greater good. Even the miracles of Jesus secured only a temporal good, though they aimed at awaking desires after spiritual benefits. But conversion is man's highest good, securing the richest blessings.
5. It has a greater duration. A change of heart has imperishable results. Where are the few whom Jesus summoned from the grave? To the grave they were summoned again. Where is the crowd from whom disease fled? The forces of human affliction returned, and brought death as their leader. Where are those miraculously fed They hungered again.
III. THE ESSENTIAL QUALIFICATION FOR THIS WORK. "He that believeth." One of the most prominent features in our Lord's teaching is the importance attached to faith. With respect to outward miracles, none of His disciples could perform them, none of the multitude could enjoy them without faith. If confidence in Christ was so essential in outward miracles, much more is it essential —
1. In the reception of the great miracle of grace.
2. To its instrumental accomplishment. The conversion of the world is entrusted to the Church as the instrument by which the Spirit effects this spiritual change. "He that believeth," whosoever he may be, may aspire to this surpassing honour. There are three truths which should be deeply graven on our hearts.
(1) Faith in the adaptation of the gospel to meet the wants of men of every class and in every age.
(2) Faith in the fact that none are excluded from a participation in its saving blessings except through their own unbelief.
(3) Universal reliance or dependence on the Spirit of Christ in every work of faith and labour of love. If we put our faith in the splendour of our sanctuaries, the talent of our ministers, the respectability of our churches, the machinery of our religious societies, the purity of our creed, we are trusting to a broken reed.
IV. THE SOURCE OF ALL SUCCESS IN THIS WORK. The outpouring of the Spirit resulting from the exaltation of Jesus. "For if I go not away, the Comforter," etc.
1. Our inward state requires this. To suppose a spiritual change without the Spirit is to suppose not only an effect without a cause, but an effect contrary to all causes.
2. Our outward state requires it. How can we conquer a hostile world, except by that Spirit who makes His strength perfect in our weakness?
3. Spiritual agency of a corrupting and deadly character shows our need of it. "Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord."Conclusion: Learn —
1. The Divinity of Christ Jesus. Man, however gifted, is never able to impart at his will, his power to another. Napoleon could not bestow as a legacy on his faithful adherents his own genius. Christ says, "The works that I do shall ye do also."
2. The honour and dignity of all believers. A greater miracle has been wrought on them than on the body of Lazarus.
3. The ennobling character of Christian work.
4. The lamentable condition of every unbeliever.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.