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Is it possible for humans to do greater things than the Almighty?

John 14:12 New International Version says 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.

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    Seems pretty clear that he's talking about just the works that he has been doing then, not all the works of God by all persons of the Trinity at all times ever. – curiousdannii Apr 14 '20 at 8:36
  • Please clarify "that he's talking about just the works that he has being doing then, not all the works of God by all persons of the Trinity at all times ever" and specify. – user35499 Apr 14 '20 at 9:27
  • Yes as @curiousdannii comments, the text is very clear. I don't see a real question here. – Nigel J Apr 14 '20 at 12:34
  • The question makes sense, from the perspective of a "non-expert." Perhaps the question should be moved? – Steve11235 Apr 17 '20 at 2:43
  • Is your question formed in consideration of the 2nd half of the verse: "because I am going to the Father? – Sam May 7 '20 at 19:37
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The text of John 14:12 makes an important distinction between two types of works that Jesus does:

  1. The works that Jesus had been doing during His earthly ministry. This included things like (according Jesus' own declaration) "to preach good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor." (Luke 4:18, 19). Thus, Jesus was preaching the good news, healing the sick and preparing people for the Kingdom of God.
  2. What Jesus would do when He returned to the Father (Matt 26:64, 27:38, Mark 14:62, 16:19, Luke 23:33, Acts 7:55, 56, Rom 8:34, Col 3:1, Heb 1:3, 10:12, 1 Peter 3:22, etc).

Note that Jesus is actually saying that the disciples would be doing greater works than they had seen Jesus doing, that is, type #1 works above. Jesus works in heaven (#2 above) were to enable the disciples to do the type #1 works.

Ellicott correctly observes:

He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also.--He that by faith becomes one with the Son shall have the Son, and therefore also the Father, dwelling in him (John 14:11; John 14:20; John 14:23), and shall himself become an instrument through which God, who dwelleth in him, shall carry into effect His own works. He shall, therefore, do works of the same kind as those which the Son Himself doeth.

And greater works than these shall he do.--Comp. Notes on John 5:20, and on Matthew 21:21-22. The explanation of these greater works is not to be sought in the individual instances of miraculous power exercised by the apostles, but in the whole work of the Church. The Day of Pentecost witnessed the first fulfilment of this prophecy; but it has been fulfilled also in every great moral and spiritual victory. Every revival of a truly religious spirit has been an instance of it; every mission-field has been a witness to it. In every child of man brought to see the Father, and know the Father's love as revealed in Jesus Christ, has been a work such as He did. In the world-wide extent of Christianity there is a work greater even than any which He Himself did in the flesh. He left His kingdom as one of the smallest of the influences on the earth; but it has grown up as a mighty power over all the kingdoms of the world, and all that is purest and best in civilisation and culture has found shelter in its branches.

Because I go unto my Father.--The better reading is, because I go unto the Father. The words are to be connected not with one clause only, but with all the earlier parts of the verse. They are the reason why the believer shall do the works that Christ does, as well as the reason why he shall do greater works. The earthly work of Christ will have ceased, and He will have gone to the Father. The believers will be then His representatives on earth, as He will be their representative in heaven. Therefore will they do His works, and the works shall be greater because He will be at the Father's right hand, and will do whatsoever they shall ask in His name.

So, did the disciples do "greater works" that Jesus? In some respects they did. Here are a few examples:

  • Peter preached a sermon (Acts 2) that resulted in the baptism of 3000 people. (Jesus never had that sort of success)
  • Peter was also the first to preach the good news to gentiles (Acts 10) and baptised a gentile family
  • Paul travelled widely and was probably responsible for thousands of conversions to Jesus (via the work of the Holy Spirit); far more than Jesus.
  • Paul and other disciples established new Christian communities around the world which Jesus, while on earth, never did.
  • Collectively, the disciples performed far more signs and wonders that Jesus could in the limited time He had during His earthly ministry (Acts 2:43, 4:30, 5:12, 6:8, 8:13, 14:3, 15:12, Rom 15:19, 2 Cor 12:12, Heb 2:4, etc.)

Thus, Jesus' prophecy in John 14:12 came true and is still being fulfilled to this day.

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  • Good point, that Jesus empowered the Apostles, and others, as he reigned in Heaven. Ultimately, they are all Jesus/God/the Spirit's works. – Steve11235 Apr 14 '20 at 21:29
  • Please specify the things Jesus did as a man and the things he did as the Almighty God. Is he 100% man and 100% God Almighty? Was he equal to the Almighty God and also 100% man when he said these words in John 14:12? – user35499 Apr 15 '20 at 4:17
  • That is what my answer did - Jesus did many things including preaching, teaching, healing and setting an example. Your other question about the nature of Jesus is the subject of another question; suffice to say here that He was 100% human and 100% divine. He was Jehovah God almighty, the great I AM. – Dottard Apr 15 '20 at 5:52
  • So how can humans do greater works than their Creator?. Where in the bible did he say that he was 100% human and 100% divine and that he was Jehovah God Almighty, the great I AM? – user35499 Apr 16 '20 at 8:46
  • THAT, is another question. See John 8:58, Isa 9:6. – Dottard Apr 16 '20 at 9:45
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To the question, "How is John 14:12 to be interpreted?" I would first answer, "Not in isolation."

Jesus is referring to the works that He did on earth, as a man.

If you refer to the two verses that follow, we read:

Whatever you ask in my name, I will do it, that the Father may be glorified in the Son; if you ask anything in my name, I will do it

What Jesus is saying is that whatever works He, Jesus, did as a man, others will be able to do - and still greater works - provided they believe in Him. The miracles we see in the Acts of the Apostles and in the various lives of the Saints bear this out.

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  • Please specify the things Jesus did as a man and the things he did as the Almighty God. Is he 100% man and 100% God Almighty? Was he equal to the Almighty God and also 100% man when he said these words in John 14:12? – user35499 Apr 15 '20 at 5:26

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