Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Greater things than these!

One of the most frequently used verses to validate the style of ministry practiced by faith healers like Todd Bentley is John 14:12 where Jesus tells his disciples, "I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father" (NLT). I have often heard this verse quoted but until recently did not take the time to truly look into the context and meaning of that verse. However, in light of the way the verse quoted to support Bentley and others of this apostolic/prophetic movement that claims the apostles and prophets today in the "END TIMES" are of greater status than those in the first century, I felt it imperative to dig deeper.

In order to truly understand this verse, we must ask ourselves several questions- questions that must be asked in order to understand the proper context of any verse in scripture. First, we ask the question of who is the author and what is his intent in writing. The author is John, and his clear intent in writing the Gospel of John is so that people may know that the gift of eternal life is available through Christ Jesus our Lord, the Son of God. Therefore everything that John writes is used to emphasize the point of eternal life.

While that in and of itself gives us a good starting point, we must look at it further. Though John is writing with the intent of emphasizing eternal life- this is an actual quote made by Jesus himself. It is Jesus himself who says that we shall do greater works than He. Scriptures that are unclear must always be interpreted in light of what we understand and know by the scriptures that are clear. The unifying theme of all of scripture is God's unfolding plan of redemption. Thus, the greatest work performed by Christ is that of his death on the cross in which he paid the once for all sacrifice for our sins- and his resurrection in which he conquered death, hell, and the grave, so that through trusting in His sacrifice we may inherit the gift of eternal life. So if we are going to do greater works than those which Christ has done, what could possibly be greater than his sacrifice on the cross and his resurrection?

The answer to that is quite simple- we are called to take part in the task of reaching the world with the gospel message of Jesus Christ. For while Christ did indeed pay the once for all sacrifice, and conquer death, hell, and the grave- he has called us to share the gospel and make disciples of all men. While miracles do take place in scripture- the underlying theme of scripture is not about miracles- but rather the unfolding plan of redemption. Thus, the thing we can do greater than that which Christ has done is lead others to Him.

Further analysis of the context of John 14 shows that this statement by Jesus appears right before he promises to give the Holy Spirit. That is crucial to note for we can do nothing apart from the power of the Holy Spirit. It is only through the power of the Holy Spirit that we can have the love of Christ in our hearts enough that we do indeed share the gospel with people. Thus, while we do get to partner with God in the work of leading others to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ as Lord- we only do so by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Sadly, counterfeit revivalists like Todd Bentley and the Prophetic Movement (or as I like to call it the PATHETIC Movement) with which he is aligned have taken this passage out of context to justify their belief that there will be a great end time army that will do miracles greater than those performed by Christ in the Gospel. A close look into the ministry of Bentley reveals that he barely even mentions the Gospel. The presentation of the Gospel when I heard him live was very skewed- to the degree that he used his presentation to justify his frequent claims of angelic encounters and to further validate his alleged "healing ministry," which by now has been clearly demonstrated by a couple of news outlets and Christian researchers as having virtually no credibility.

In the live of the disciples after Christ, miracles are present. They can not be denied throughout the book of Acts. But they always take a back seat to the presentation of the gospel.. I am not at all opposed to the thought that miracles, signs, and wonders take place today as well. But they must always be secondary to the prcolamation of the gospel and they are not needed among us today to confirm the gospel.

While people like Todd Bentley, Benny Hinn, Rick Joyner, Bob Jones etc often accuse their critics of having a spirit of religion- there in truth is no greater spirit of religion than to believe that we need any more of a miracle, sign, or wonder than what Christ has already given us in his death, burial, and resurrection. We would do well to remember the words of Jesus in Luke 11 and Luke 16 in reference to people looking for signs.

Finally, looking at the context of the words of Jesus and the underlying topic of John 14- we find that the disciples are disheartened because they know that Jesus is leaving them to go and be with the Father. That is the underlying significance of the passage is that though Jesus is going to be with the Father, the Holy Spirit is being sent to them as a guide and as their comforter. What is emphasized more than anything else in the context of this passage is the importance of obedience to God through the keeping of his commands.

So in saying that we shall do things as great as He, Jesus was saying that the Holy Spirit would empower to live out His commands for our lives. In saying that we will do even greater things than He did- He was referring to our role as His ambassadors to the world called to draw people to Him by the power of the Holy Spirit guiding us. Take special note of the fact that in this very passage- miracles, signs, and wonders are nowhere mentioned. What is mentioned is obedience through the keeping of God's commands by the enabling of the Holy Spirit. The most important command of all is love- for it is love that is the driving force which will lead us to share our faith with others so that we may offer to them through Christ the gift of eternal life.