I really like and I am committed to teaching verse-by-verse through the Scriptures. Yahweh gave us the Scriptures in book form, and I believe we should study them in their context, not pick out our favorite topics and neglect the rest. The Church today talks a lot about the Bible, but it doesn't spend much time actually studying it. There is not a lot of verse-by-verse exposition going on today, and as a result, we know a lot of Bible stories, but not much theology.
One thing I like about verse-by-verse teaching is I don't have to spend any time trying to figure out what to speak on-I just go to the next verses. But this is not always comfortable or easy because it often makes me deal with verses that I had rather not deal with. Today is one of those times. These verses, 12-14, have caused many believers to either question their salvation or to question the Word of God. I hope that I'm able to bring some insight to these difficult verses in our study today. WARNING: I don't know of anyone who teaches what I am about to teach regarding these verses. So please be a Berean and study this out for yourself.
We are currently looking at the Farewell Discourse, which is part of the Upper Room Discourse. This is the last night of our Lord's earthly life. He has gathered His disciples together to teach them things that they need to know in His absence. The teachings we find here are not found in the Synoptic Gospels, but only in John.
Judas has left to go betray the Lord. So there are only believers left in the room, and to them the Lord has many things to say. When the Lord finished His teaching to them they sing a hymn, then go to the Mount of Olives where Yeshua prays. And then He is arrested; has a mock trial and is crucified; and on Sunday He rises from the dead. So we are in the final hours of Yeshua's earthly life.
We saw at the end of chapter 13 that Yeshua has shocked those assembled in the Upper Room by telling them that one of them will betray Him, that Peter would denyHim, and that He was leaving them and where He was going they could not come now. After three years of being in a constant face to face relationship with Yeshua He is now leaving them. This scares them to death. Yeshua has provided food for them, He has provided shelter for them, He has even provided their tax money. He has protected them from storms and demons. He has taught them the truth of the Kingdom of God. He has answered every question they had about life and doctrine. And now, He is leaving them.
So Yeshua tells them to stop being troubled. They believe in Yahweh who they have never seen and now they need to believe in Him even though they will no longer see Him. We ended our last study with verse 7:
If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him." John 14:7 ESV
"If you had known me"—there is a manuscript variant here. The United Bible Societies Greek text supports the first class conditional sentence, as do the ancient Greek manuscripts P66 and D. This would then be translated, "If you had known Me and you do, then you would have known My Father, which you do."
The second class conditional sentence, which is often called "contrary to fact," is supported by manuscripts, A, B, C, Db, K, L, and X. This would be translated, "If you had known Me, which you have not, then you would have known My Father, which you do not." The context seems to support the second class conditional. This is a difficult statement because they seemed to have already believed in Yeshua. They knew He was the Christ, the Son of God; they said that:
Simon Peter replied, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." Matthew 16:16 ESV
They knew He was the Holy One of God:
and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God." John 6:69 ESV
They knew He was the Son of David:
saying, "What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?" They said to him, "The son of David." Matthew 22:42 ESV
So what does Yeshua mean, "If you had known Me"? As we have seen this Fourth Gospel speaks of levels of belief. So what they didn't really understand was that He was Yahweh incarnate. Yeshua is the One who Joshua called:
"The Mighty One, God, the LORD! The Mighty One, God, the LORD! He knows; and let Israel itself know! If it was in rebellion or in breach of faith against the LORD, do not spare us today Joshua 22:22 ESV
The phrase "The Mighty One, God, the Lord" is "el elohim yhwh" and can be translated: "Yahweh is the greatest God!" And notice that he says it twice. This is who Yeshua is, He is the greatest God.
He says in the end of verse 6 that, "No one comes to the Father except through him" because he is one with the Father. To know Yeshua is to know Yahweh, to see Yeshua is to see Yahweh. In Yeshua that which is impossible actually happens: we humans see Yahweh.
The emphasis of verses 7-11 is pretty clear. Six times Yeshua says virtually the same thing, that He and the Father are so profoundly One, that His presence is the presence of God the Father:
Verse 7a: "If you had known Me, you would have known my Father also."
Verse 7b: "From now on you do know Him and have seen Him."
Verse 9a: Philip asks to see the Father and Yeshua says, "Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know Me, Philip?"
Verse 9b: "Whoever has seen Me has seen the Father."
Verse 10a "Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me?"
Verse 11a: "I am in the Father and the Father is in Me."
This is what I have been saying since the beginning of this study in John, Yeshua is Yahweh.
Philip said to him, "Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us." John 14:8 ESV
"Philip" asked for a clear revelation of "the Father" that would satisfy the disciples. He wanted Yeshua to give them a theophany like Isaiah saw in Isaiah 6:1. What they still didn't get what that Yeshua's Incarnation, made that revelation of the Father more clearly and fully than it ever had been made.
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14 ESV
The Word from verse 1 that "was God" became flesh. "Show us the Father"—that is exactly what He has been doing all the time He has been with them.
Philip may have been saying, Lord if we are to trust in You as we do the invisible God can we at least see Him? You're leaving, can we see Him?
Keep in mind the context here, Yeshua was preparing the disciples for ministering without His bodily presence. The question of Philip in verse 8 provides the opportunity for Yeshua to explain further that Father-Son relationship in verses 9-11.
Yeshua said to him, "Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father'? John 14:9 ESV
Yeshua is rebuking Philip here, "You still don't know me, Philip?" As highly as they thought of Yeshua, they did not yet grasp that in Yeshua Yahweh has made Himself known.
"Whoever has seen me has seen the Father"—anyone who has seen Yeshua, has seen the Father. Paul put it this way in Colossians:
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. Colossians 1:15 ESV
Yeshua is the "image of the invisible God"—the word for "image" is the Greek word eikon," like the English "icon." Eikon means: "that which resembles an object, which represents it." This word "image" cannot be pressed to mean: "a perfect representation" as is seen in its use in 1 Corinthians 11:7, which says that man is the image of God.
So, this word "eikon," in and of itself, does not mean: "a perfect manifestation." But let me ask you a question, "Is Yeshua a perfect manifestation of Yahweh?" Yes, He is! But we learn that, not from this word "image" in Colossians but from other passages in the New Testament. What our text in Colossians is teaching is that Yeshua manifests the invisible Yahweh to us. As we look at other texts in the New Testament, we see that this is a perfect manifestation. For example:
He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, Hebrews 1:3 ESV
The writer of Hebrews says that Yeshua is, "The exact imprint of his [Yahweh's] nature"—the words "exact imprint" are from the Greek word charakter. It is used only here in the New Testament. But it is used in classical Greek to indicate a die or a stamp, or the mark made by a seal. Used here, it means that Yeshua is the exact reproduction of Yahweh, in human form. The word "nature" is the Greek word hupostasis, which is from hupo, meaning: "under", and histemi, meaning: "to stand." Thus its meaning is: "that which stands under." We could translate it "essence."
If you want to know the glory, the moral beauty of the father, read the Gospel and behold the person of Yeshua, because He's the radiance (the streaming out, the effulgence) of the glory of God. Those who know Yeshua should have no more questions about Yahweh. All we need to do is to look at Yeshua. Here all the questions about Yahweh that have ever been asked and ever will be asked are answered. Whoever has seen Yeshua has seen the Father. Is this a clear enough statement on the Deity of Christ?
Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. John 14:10 ESV
"I am in the Father and the Father is in me?"—this mutual indwelling is a linguistic way of describing the complete unity between Yeshua and the Father. This is what Yeshua said in:
I and the Father are one." John 10:30 ESV
This is the third time that Yeshua makes this claim. He said this in John 5:17 and 8:58. Yeshua is claiming unity and equality with the Godhead.
Some would say that Yeshua only means that He and the Father are united in their resolve to keep all the sheep. They are united in that, but that view doesn't take into account the Jews' reaction:
The Jews picked up stones again to stone him. Yeshua answered them, "I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?" The Jews answered him, "It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God." John 10:31-33 ESV
They got the point: They probably understood this as an allusion to Deuteronomy 6:4 and a claim to divinity. Yeshua was claiming to be one with the Father in His divine essence.
When Yeshua said, "I and the Father are one," this does not obliterate all distinctions between them: the words and works of Yeshua are given to Him by the Father (5:19ff.; 8:28; 12:49). So He didn't mean that He and the Father were the same person of the Godhead. Yeshua is one in substance with the Father as far as divine essence or nature is concerned, but the Father and the Son are distinct Persons.
Augustine wrote, "Listen to the Son Himself, 'I and the Father are one.' He did not say, 'I am the Father' or 'I and the Father are one [Person].' But when He says 'I and the Father are one,' notice the two words 'we are' and 'one'.. for if they are one, then they are not diverse; if 'we are', then there is both a Father and a Son. (In Ioannis Evangelius- The Gospel of John, 36,9).
The Jews had asked Yeshua for a "plain" statement about His messiahship. Yeshua gave them far more: a claim that He and the Father were one. The Jews understood this as a claim to deity and said, "You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God."
"The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works"—Yeshua said this earlier in:
So Yeshua said to them, "When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me. John 8:28 ESV
"I speak these things as the Father taught Me"—this is what we saw in chapter 5, the unity of the Father and Son. The Son does only what the Father does (5:19). The Son gives life just as the Father gives life (5:21, 26). The Son has the same authority as the Father (5:22 ,27). The Son does nothing by Himself, but only what He hears from the Father, only what pleases the Father (5:20). The Son comes in the name of the Father, not in His own name (5:43).
Both Yeshua's words (the Samaritans' said, "we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world" 4:42) and Yeshua's works are revelatory of who He is, but as the next verse indicates, works have greater confirmatory power than words:
Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves. John 14:11 ESV
Why does Yeshua rebuke Philip? Because the works that Yeshua has already done should be evidence enough for Philip to believe that He and the Father are One?
Some of Yeshua's supernatural miracles include: Walking on the water (Matthew 14:22-23; Mark 6:45-52; John 6:19), Commanding the wind (Matthew 8:23-26; Mark 4:37-39; Luke 8:22-24), Feeding the multitude (Matthew 14:13-21; 15:32-38; Mark 6:32-44; 8:1-10; Luke 9:10-17; John 6:1-15), Curing the blind; even someone blind from birth (Matthew 9:27-30; John 9:1-7), Raising the dead (Matthew 9:18-19, 23-26; Mark 5:22-24, 41-43; Luke 8:40-42, 49-56; John 11:43-44). They knew that only God can control nature and give life.
Alright, so verse 7-11 make it pretty clear that Yeshua is Yahweh. This is another strong text on the deity of Yeshua. To deny the deity of Yeshua is to be damned.
Now let's look at the next three verses:
"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. Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it. John 14:12-14 ESV
Does anything about these verses trouble you? If not, you're not paying attention. Do you believe in Yeshua? Do you do the works that He did? Are you getting everything you ask for in prayer? Why not? Isn't that what is promised here?
Well folks, I believe in Yeshua, I believe that He is Yahweh, but I'm not doing the works that He did and my prayers for the most part are not answered. So how do we reconcile this? I see three possibilities as to why these things are not true in my life: 1. Maybe I'm not a believer. 2. Maybe I'm not praying in Yeshua's name. 3. Maybe I'm misunderstanding these promises. Which one of these seems to be the most likely?
I believe that need to apply the hermeneutical principle of audience relevance, which means we have to understand what this text meant to the people to whom it was written. So who is the Lord talking to? He is talking to His disciples, His first century disciples who in just 53 days are going to experience Pentecost. They are going to be indwelt by the Holy Spirit and supernatural gifts to minister to the new body of believers, the church.
So it is my opinion that these three verses apply to those first century disciples and only those first century disciples. It is these disciples that our Lord will use to take the Church from infancy to maturity during the transition period. It is during the transition period that believers had all the gifts of the Spirit. Spiritual gifts were not natural abilities or talents. Natural abilities and talents are shared by believer and unbeliever alike. An unbeliever can be a great musician, or have a good memory for names, but spiritual gifts came only as a result of salvation. Spiritual gifts were supernatural enablements given by the Holy Spirit for the purpose of ministry. And they were only for the transition period.
Are the modern Charismatic so called gifts the same as we see in the New Testament? I submit to you that there is a definite lack of similarity. For example: Are lame men who never walked healed so that they can jump up and walk and leap? Do missionaries blind their opponents as Paul did? Do preachers preach the Word to a foreign speaking audience who hear what he is saying in their own language? No, preachers today use an interpreter. Do Church leaders discern hypocrisy and pronounce the immediate death of members? Do evangelists amaze an entire city with miracles as did Philip? Are there entire multitudes healed by merely being in the shadow of the healer? No! So I think that the position that all gifts are functioning today is wrong. What happened in the early Church is not happening today.
If we are going to correctly understand the New Testament, we must understand "The Transition Period." But I would say that most Christians have never heard of the "Transition Period" and have no clue as to what it is. The "Transition Period" began on Pentecost in A.D. 30, with the birth of the Church, and it ended at the destruction of the Jewish Temple in A.D. 70, which ended the Old Covenant Age. During the "Transition Period" the Church was growing from infancy to maturity. Yahweh worked in the growing Church through miraculous gifts to bring His Church to maturity. A spiritual house was being built in which Yahweh would dwell. This was a time of change and growth, it was a time of transformation from the Old to the New. The old things of Judaism, the Old Covenant, faded out very slowly, and the New Covenant gradually phased in. It was a changing of the ages.
In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away. Hebrews 8:13 ESV
Notice that the text says, "…is becoming obsolete…ready to vanish away." Is that speaking to us? NO! This is written to the first century Hebrew believers. As of A.D. 65, the Old Covenant had not yet become obsolete, but it was about to.
The Old Covenant was fading away, while the New Covenant, the Church, was growing to maturity:
In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. Ephesians 2:22 ESV
The process was still occurring. They were "being built" for a dwelling place of God. But the clear blessing of the New Covenant was that God would dwell with His people. But man's access to God—the consummation of the New Covenant—did not take place until the Old Covenant tabernacle was destroyed, and this happened in AD 70.
Please listen, I am not saying that prayer is not for today. I pray every day. What I'm saying is that I believe that these specific promises were for the first century saints only. With that in mind let's look at these three verses and their promises:
"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 ESV
This verse has provoked considerable discussion in the history of Christianity.
"Whoever believes in me"—to "believe in Him" is to believe and embrace all the revelation of Yeshua as revealed to us through His teaching in the Gospels and other Sacred Scripture. He is saying in this context, "Whoever believes that I am Yahweh."
"Will also do the works that I do"—the word "works" used here and in verse 11 is the Greek word ergon, which is here used specifically of His miracles (cf. 5:36; 10:25, 37-38; 11:47; 12:37; 20:30-31). Yeshua's miracles were signs that signified His divine identity:
This, the first of his signs, Yeshua did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him. John 2:11 ESV
This phrase in verse 12, "the works that I do," only occurs in one other place in the New Testament and that is in John 10:25:
Yeshua answered them, "I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father's name bear witness about me, John 10:25 ESV
So again the function of the "works" in John 10:25 is exactly the same as here in John 14:11-12. My works, the miracles, are the things I do that bear witness about Me.
While the disciples no doubt struggled with the idea that their ministries were over since Christ was leaving, He now encourages them with this promises: "whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do."
"And greater works than these will he do"—the weight of lexical evidence on this word, "greater," favors the idea of "greater in scope, greater in proportion, greater in intensity, greater in impact." Their works will be greater, "because I am going to the Father"—after Yeshua's death on a cross, His resurrection and ascension into heaven, the Father sent the Holy Spirit to indwell every believer (Acts 2:3; Rom. 8:9; 1 Cor. 12:13). This divine enablement empowered first century believers to do miracles that only Yeshua Himself could do previously. When we examine the early chapters of Acts we find that from a numerical standpoint, the works of Peter and the other Apostles surpassed those of Yeshua on the day of Pentecost. And the message went forth not just in Judea, Samaria, and Galilee, but to the farthest parts of the known world. The Church thoroughly permeated the Roman Empire during the apostolic age, whereas Yeshua's personal ministry did not extend beyond Palestine. It seems that this is what Yeshua meant by "greater works."
Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it. John 14:13-14 ESV
This promise is another that has been wildly misinterpreted in the history of the Church. Does this describe your prayer life, whatever you ask Yeshua does? This is a promise from Yeshua, so why is it not true in your life? It's not true because the promise is not to you, it is to the first century disciples who brought the Church to maturity.
The Greek text begins with the conjunction kai. Conjunctions show that themes have not been changed, but are simply being enlarged upon. So, in light of this, we see our Lord giving promise for the expanse of Christian ministry, then adding the Provision for Christian Ministry in the work of prayer in verses 13-14. Similar statements appear in other places in the Last Discourse: 15:7, 15:16, 16:23, 16:24, and 16:26.
Did you notice that there is a condition here, "in my name"—does this mean that at the end of your prayer all you have to do is say, "In Yeshua's name," and Yahweh will give you whatever you asked for? No, this is not "a magic get your prayer answered formula." In the Bible, a person's name equals all that a person is; a person's name is linked to the person's character and prerogatives. Thus to pray in Yeshua's name is to seek His will and submit to His authority. When Christ said to pray in His name, He was saying, "Pray prayers that are consistent with Who I am and My purpose, My will, My person."
Augustine taught that to pray in Jesus' name the prayer must be consistent with Christ's character.
Charles Ross tries to explain this in his little book, The Inner Sanctuary. He writes:
To ask in the name of another is, in ordinary language, to ask as drawing upon his resources, and as if you were one with him. That other is supposed to have, by position or by service rendered, a right and title to what is asked; and he who asks in his name, does so, as being one with him, and as drawing on his resources. And, in like manner, to ask in the name of Jesus, is to ask as being one with him; it is to renounce all merit of your own; it is to ask as one depending entirely on his divine resources. (p. 87)
Brown offers this summary:
Johannine theology has introduced into prayer in Jesus' name an emphasis that goes beyond the use of a formula. A Christian prays in Jesus' name in the sense that he is in union with Jesus. Thus, the theme of asking "in my name" in xiv 13-14 continues and develops the indwelling motif of 10-11: because the Christian is in union with Jesus and Jesus is in union with the Father, there can be no doubt that the Christian's requests will be granted. (Brown, The Gospel According to John, 636).
J.C. Ryle, puts it this way, "…the things we ask are for our souls' good and not mere temporal benefits" [Ryle, John, p. 187].
Okay, so according to these men when we pray we must, "ask as being one with Him; which is to renounce all merit of our own; it is to ask as one depending entirely on His divine resources" and "to be in union with Jesus" and "we ask for things that are for our souls good." If we do this, all our prayers will be answered.
Well I can say that at times I honestly pray this way, I pray for things that I think are according to Yeshua's character, renouncing all merit of my own, in union with Yeshua, but most all of my prayers prayed this way are NOT answered.
I pray almost daily that I would love my wife as Christ loves the church. Is that prayer in accord with Christ's desires and will? It is according to Ephesians 5:
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, Ephesians 5:25 ESV
So I pray that I would do what I'm commanded to do and In a way I often fail miserably.
John Piper writing on these verses says, "And these words of Jesus in John 14:12-14 bear directly on your life. What they say is that all of us who believe in Jesus will carry on with His work, and in some wonderful way, do something greater than the works of Jesus ." He goes on to say, "It's a promise to all believers." He also says, "The text says, 'whoever believes in me.' Believers, pure and simple, will do the works I do."
Well, if I didn't know better, what Piper writes could cause me to question my salvation. This promise of answered prayer is not true in my life. When Betty Sue Hill went into the hospital for heart surgery on her heart valve. I really cried out to God for her. The day of her surgery I was on my face before God for her. Glenn called me after the surgery and said the surgery went well and she was in recovery. Then an hour later Glenn called me in tears asking me to pray, Betty Sue wasn't doing well. For the next couple hours I prayed harder than I ever have in my life. Then I got the call from Glenn that Betty Sue had passed away. I wasn't praying for my self, but for this godly woman who was Glenn's help mate. The Bible says that it's not good for man to be alone. And I prayed that Glenn wouldn't be, but my prayers were not answered. This promise is not for us.
People say, Well our prayers will be answered when we pray that God's will will be done. Well that is a prayer that will always get answered because God's will is always done. But in our text in John it says, "Whatever you ask in my name…If you ask anything in my name, I will do it."
We need to see this promise of answered prayer in the context of what Yeshua has already spoken. He has made great promises about the work of ministry through His disciples. They would naturally have had fears and reservations about such work, so He gives them the critical key to carrying out their God-given tasks: "If you ask anything in my name, I will do it." So I see these promises as made just to the first century disciples who He is leaving. It is for their work during the Transition Period.
To me, the best definition of prayer that I have ever heard is, Prayer is a declaration of dependence, and Prayerlessness is a declaration of independence. Every time we pray we are saying, Yahweh I need you. Which is an act of humility. At this stage in my life most of my prayers are prayers of thanksgiving. I am constantly thanking Yahweh for all He has given me. And when I pray for someone who is sick or going through a difficult time, I pray that God would use this sickness or trouble to draw them nearer to Himself.
If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it. John 14:14 ESV
Notice that Yeshua is saying if you ask "ME." I'm sure you have heard people say that we should always pray to the Father in Yeshua's name. Well here direct prayer to Yeshua is taught as we see it practiced by Stephen in Acts 7:59 and in Rev. 22:20.
Let me close with this; Please, please, please do not believe what I am saying here without first studying it out for yourself. I don't know of anyone who teaches this the way I do, and I hate standing alone, but this is how I see it. Be a Berean and study it out.