Let’s consider a verse in the Bible that even many serious Christians probably don’t have a clear understanding about, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father” (Jn.14:12).
What this verse seems to clearly tell me is that true Christians today will do the works that Jesus did; but not only that, we will do even greater works than what Jesus did. I’m sure most of us will readily agree that it is pretty hard to think of ‘works’ we can do that can be greater than our Lord’s. If we go to a remote village and bring thousands of villagers to believe in Jesus Christ who become His disciples, would that be a greater work than that of Jesus? He had only 12 disciples, and we were able to draw 1000! I don’t think so. I don’t think numbers have ever mattered in God’s kingdom. God can do a whole lot through even a few people like David, Joshua, Caleb, Gideon and his mere 300, etc.
If Jesus meant what He said and that we truly can do a greater work than even Jesus did, then it must be something that is greater in God’s eyes. This work that we do should be something that Jesus could not do as well as we can.
What then is this greater work?
The first thing to recognise is that the reason we are able to do greater works than what Jesus did is mentioned at the end of this verse, “because I am going to the Father.” It is only because Jesus went to the Father that we are capable of doing greater works than He did.
And what happened when Jesus went to the Father? Well, it was only after He went that the Holy Spirit could come and dwell inside us. This underlines the reality that it is only through the ministry of the Holy Spirit that we are able to do an even greater work than what Jesus did.
But that’s still not the full answer, because Jesus was always full of the Holy Spirit, and we definitely do not have access to a greater Holy Spirit than He did. If we have the same Holy Spirit, how do we get to do a greater work?
I find the full answer in John 17:20-23, “I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me. The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me.”
As Jesus neared the end of His life, His biggest burden for the disciples, as well as for all those who believed in His Name, was that we would be one with the Father and the Son, and with one another. It was this unity in love that Jesus desired most of all. But it was this unity that Jesus simply could not accomplish while He was on this earth.
Even at the last Supper, after Jesus had washed their feet, and after Jesus had said that He was going to offer up His body to be broken for them, the disciples began to argue about which of them was the greatest. There was no enduring unity among the disciples when the soldiers came for Him. And the disciples were not united among themselves either. Even after listening to the greatest preacher for 3+ years revealing the greatest truths about God, they still could not be one with God or with one another.
But it was not purely their fault. Because of the deep-rooted selfishness that resides in every human heart, no human being is able to truly unite with God or other humans as God desires. It is only through the power of the Holy Spirit dwelling within us that we can be one with the Father and the Son, and that we can be united with the same kind of unity with other like-minded people. It is only the Holy Spirit within a believer who can do the work of uniting an individual believer to the Father and the Son. And it is only the Holy Spirit within two believers who can unite them with a divine bond as well.
It is with this core passion for unity (with God and one another) that the fruit and gifts of the Holy Spirit are best understood.
Fruit Of The Holy Spirit
The primary passage that describes the fruit of the Holy Spirit is in Galatians 5:22-2, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”
Now picture for a minute how fruit grows on a tree. Do you see the branch groaning and sweating and trying to bear fruit? Not so much! If the branch simply remains connected (united) to the tree, it will bear fruit.
This is exactly what Jesus also says about how we would bear fruit. “I am the Vine” (Jn.15:5). This abiding – where I am in Him and He is in me – is what will cause me to bear much fruit. More and more, we will automatically (instinctively) bear the fruit of the Holy Spirit as we stay united with Jesus. This is why it is so crucial to talk to God often (praying without ceasing), and always staying close to Him (abide in Me).
The secret of the wonderful virtues that constitute the fruit of the Holy Spirit is not my own will-power and my own self-control. Let me make sure we understand this point.
One of the aspects of the fruit of the Holy Spirit – self-control – is very different from a self-control that comes from my self-will. Self-control that comes from my will-power is my moral compass that tells me what is right and wrong. And since I desire to do what is right, I use my will-power to have self-control in any area (not to commit adultery, not to retaliate, etc.). Self-control that comes as the fruit of the Holy Spirit makes Jesus so enjoyable and magnificent in my eyes, that I don’t want to do anything that will make Him sad, or will make me have to part ways with Him. The company of Jesus is so enjoyable that I long to always be close to Him. As I walk every day with this as my primary desire, I find over time that I more naturally choose not to flirt with my co-worker or retaliate against my neighbour. But it is all so that I can remain close to Jesus.
So, it is the motive behind my choice that determines whether it is just my self-effort or whether it is the natural fruit of the Holy Spirit working in me. (Remember, as I mentioned last month, the Holy Spirit wants to make Jesus more and more enjoyable to me).
Gifts of the Holy Spirit
The gifts of the Holy Spirit are mentioned in Romans 12:6-8, 1 Corinthians 12:27-30, and Ephesians 4:11-16. The overall reason why these gifts are given in the first place to us is so that we can be united with one another.
The passage in Ephesians 4:1-16 is very instructive in showing this. I will highlight certain phrases in this passage that stand out to me. “There is one body and one Spirit… but grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift” (vv.4a, 7). “For the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ” (v.12). “Until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ” (v.13). “Speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ” (v.15).
Here’s how I would summarise these verses in my own words. God provides the overall leadership in the church (v.11) so that every member of the local church can be equipped for helping build the Body of Christ (v.12). And every member must keep labouring until all attain the unity of the faith and are mature in the faith – even to the fullness of Christ (vv.13-14). Every member is to grow up in every way into Christ (v.15). The Body of Christ (represented in the local church) is built up when every member works properly in its individual tasks (v.16).
Every single member of the Body of Christ must seek God for the gift that God wants to give him. Nobody is excused from doing his part, because every member of the Body is precious and valuable. The purpose of our individual gift is not to impress other people, or to start our own ministry. Sadly, this is what people think the gifts of the Holy Spirit are for. The Holy Spirit comes with gifts for each of us only so that we help build up others – even as we ourselves strive to remain individually united to Christ in His Body.
As we become rooted and grounded in our love for Jesus, we will more and more naturally bear the fruit of the Holy Spirit – the character of Jesus. Let us seek to view our local church as the place to actively use the gifts of the Holy Spirit to build others up.
May we constantly remind ourselves that this is a most holy calling (doing an even greater work than what Jesus did) through the magnificent power of the Holy Spirit.
Your fellow pilgrim in this journey towards Christ,