John’s Gospel: Chapter 14:7-17 (“greater works than these”)

(John 14:7 NET) “If you have known me, you will know my Father too. And from now on you do know him and have seen him.”

I prefer the NET Bible’s choice of “have” to “had,” as in the ESV. The NIV also gets it right, I think —

(John 14:7 NIV)  “If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”

The manuscript evidence is ambiguous, but it’s very unlikely that Jesus is intending to accuse the disciples of not really knowing him.

No, Jesus is simply saying that, because they know him, they already know the Father. To know and see Jesus is to know and see God the Father.

(John 14:8-9 ESV)  8 Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.”  9 Jesus 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’?”

Philip, however, doesn’t get it. He wants to see God! Really!

Jesus is a little exasperated. He repeats himself — listen!

(John 14:10-11 ESV)  10 “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.  11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.”

Jesus is “in” the Father. The Father is “in” Jesus. Jesus speaks on behalf of the Father, by his authority. Jesus is indwelt by the Father.

Jesus then begs Philip to take his word for it — or to believe because of the miracles — but believe!

You see, to believe in Jesus — to have the faith that Jesus compels and demands — is to believe that Jesus is God, that he is part of the Godhead, that his relationship with God is interwoven, interconnected, and ultimately inseparable.

What on earth does this mean? Well, it’s not an easy thought. It’s easy enough to imagine God dwelling within Jesus through the anointing of the Spirit. But that would make him very much like us in our relationship with God. Too much like us.

How is that Jesus is himself “in” God? Surely, it means that God does not exist separate from Jesus. Their existences are mutually intertwined.

(John 14:12-14 ESV) 12 “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.  13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  14 If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.”

The NET Bible translators comment —

After Pentecost and the coming of the Spirit to indwell believers in a permanent relationship, believers would be empowered to perform even greater deeds than those Jesus did during his earthly ministry. When the early chapters of Acts are examined, it is clear that, from a numerical standpoint, the deeds of Peter and the other Apostles surpassed those of Jesus in a single day (the day of Pentecost). On that day more were added to the church than had become followers of Jesus during the entire three years of his earthly ministry. And the message went forth not just in Judea, Samaria, and Galilee, but to the farthest parts of the known world. This understanding of what Jesus meant by “greater deeds” is more probable than a reference to “more spectacular miracles.” Certainly miraculous deeds were performed by the apostles as recounted in Acts, but these do not appear to have surpassed the works of Jesus himself in either degree or number.

That makes sense to me.

Now, this would be a great place to discuss Cessationism, that is, the question of whether miraculous gifts of the Spirit ended a generation after the apostles. But I’ve covered all that before and before that, too.

(John 14:15 ESV)  15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”

This is, of course, a famously popular prooftext of certain legalists — who argue that someone who worships incorrectly, even though innocently, is damned for not loving Jesus — which is absurd and an embarrassment to logic and language.

The logic is “love Jesus” –> “keep Jesus’ commandments.”

Obviously, those who love Jesus can and will keep his commandments as they understand them — and they’ll get even those wrong some of the time. We all make mistakes.

Jesus is not repudiating grace. I mean, can’t you imagine one of those wishing to stone the adulterous woman spouting, “If you love God, you’ll keep his commandments!” Well, those commandments include —

(Eph 4:32 ESV)  32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

(Gal 5:1 ESV) For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

Those verses seem to have missed the tract-rack list of commandments necessary to love Jesus.

(Sorry, I’ve seen the pain and destruction of contemporary Church of Christ legalism. It gets under my skin at times.)

(John 14:16-17 ESV)  16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever,  17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.

Jesus explicitly defines the Helper (Paraclete, Advocate) as the Spirit of truth. He is, of course, referring to the Holy Spirit. He is the “Spirit of truth” because he will speak the truth about Jesus (as Jesus will soon tell us).

The NET Bible translators explain the difficulty of translating parakletos

Or “Helper” or “Counselor”; Grk “Paraclete,” from the Greek word παράκλητος (parakletos). Finding an appropriate English translation for παράκλητος is a very difficult task. No single English word has exactly the same range of meaning as the Greek word. “Comforter,” used by some of the older English versions, appears to be as old as Wycliffe. But today it suggests a quilt or a sympathetic mourner at a funeral. “Counselor” is adequate, but too broad, in contexts like “marriage counselor” or “camp counselor.” “Helper” or “Assistant” could also be used, but could suggest a subordinate rank. “Advocate,” the word chosen for this translation, has more forensic overtones than the Greek word does, although in John 16:5-11 a forensic context is certainly present. Because an “advocate” is someone who advocates or supports a position or viewpoint and since this is what the Paraclete will do for the preaching of the disciples, it was selected in spite of the drawbacks.”

Thayer’s defines the word: “one who pleads another’s cause before a judge, a pleader, counsel for defense, legal assistant; an advocate.” BDAG offers “one who appears in another’s behalf, mediator, intercessor, helper.”  (I rather like that choice of “Advocate,” which means, of course, “lawyer” — hence, the “forensic overtones.”)

Notice that Jesus calls the Spirit “another Helper.” He defines the Spirit in part by reference to his own ministry on behalf of his disciples.

Only Christians may possess the Spirit. The possession is a mark of salvation.

And the Spirit will be “in” the disciples. The disciples won’t have the identical relationship Jesus enjoys with the Father, but they’ll be drawn to something that can become close to it. Just as the Father is in Jesus, the Spirit will be in the disciples — and that’s the context and, I’m confident, much of the point Jesus is making.

Obviously, a personal indwelling is in mind. This not about reading and applying the words of the Bible. Not a word of the New Testament had been written when Jesus spoke these words, and yet Jesus could — proleptically — speak of the Spirit already being with the disciples. It would happen decades before the New Testament.

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About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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