Doing the Works of Jesus:

The increasing presence of the kingdom was not only being realized in Jesus’ Person and his words, but would be further manifested and modeled by his works (John 14:10; Acts 1:1), as Jesus obediently performed the “will of him who sent me” (John 6:38). Dramatically and dynamically, He demonstrated the kingdom’s internal and external, spiritual and physical characteristics by:

  • the life He led
  • by his relationship with the Father
  • by his dependence upon the Father
  • by forgiving sins
  • by healing the sick
  • by casting out demons
  • by taking authority over nature
  • by performing miracles
  • by releasing the oppressed
  • by taking care of physical needs.

Jesus regarded all these as essential and intrinsic elements of his kingdom. Thus, his kingdom affected the whole person. It produced both spiritual transformations and physical blessings or consequences. But one of Jesus’ most prominent works was the casting out or exorcism of demons, which He interpreted as clear proof that “the kingdom of God has come upon you” (Matt. 12:28; Luke 11:20; Matt. 8:16-17; Mark 1:32-34).

Theological Problem:

Using oath language, Jesus also made this dramatic and radical statement: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall you do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father” (John 14:12 KJV).

So if we claim to believe in Jesus and are not doing the works He did, why shouldn’t we be considered in the ranks of the unbeliever?  (The “greater works” will be covered next.)

What Scripture Says:

Jesus made this same radical demand of his first disciples when He called together the Twelve, and later the seventy, empowered them, and sent them out. As his representatives, they were to proclaim the same gospel of the kingdom and perform its same mighty works exactly as He had been doing. He “gave them authority” to:

  • Preach this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’
  • Heal the sick.
  • Raise the dead.
  • Cleanse those who have leprosy.
  • Drive out demons.
  • (Matt. 10:1, 7-8; Luke 9:1-2, 6; 10:1-17)

Additionally, in his Great Commission, Jesus not only commissioned his first followers to “baptize” and “make disciples of all nations,” but He also commanded them (and us today) to “teach them to obey everything I have commanded you to do” (emphasis mine, Matt. 28:19-20). Jesus’ “everything” certainly included the preaching of the kingdom and the performance of its miraculous, merciful, and fruit-producing works. But this understanding is in sharp contrast with the contemporary teaching that “witnessing” only involves telling the message of Christ and salvation. Practically speaking, the tendency of many scholars and pastors is to ignore, downplay, or try to explain away the full meaning of Jesus’ Great Commission.

Darrell Guder laments this great-omission tendency this way:

In spite of Jesus’ admonition at the end of Matthew’s Gospel . . . to “teach the nations all that I have commanded you,” our reductionism with regard to Jesus’ concrete teaching . . . has been massive (Guder, The Continuing Conversion of the Church, 195).

Lastly, and completing a scriptural “threefold witness” (see Matt. 18:16 from Duet. 19:15; 17:6; also 2 Cor. 13:1; 1 Tim. 5:19; Heb. 10:28) are these two verses in 1 John:

“But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him [in Jesus]. Whoever claims to live in him [Jesus] must walk as Jesus did” (1 John 2:5-6).

“Walk as Jesus did” is an idiomatic expression that means “do what Jesus had been doing—i.e., the works of Jesus.

The bottom line here is this. While many of us profess faith in Jesus, we hesitate or simply do not want to do what He had and has plainly commanded them and us to do. Perhaps, the Great Commission is much greater than most of us have been led to believe. Dallas Willard poignantly bemoans that, most Christians “do not really understand what discipleship to him . . .is, and it [the Kingdom Among Us] therefore remains only a distant, if beautiful, ideal” (Willard, The Divine Conspiracy, 291).

Elaborations:

  • What is true biblical Christianity?
  • Do you find this offensive?
  • Settling for a ‘lower calling?’
  • Onto the greater works.

Sources:

  1. A Once-Mighty Faith (future book – est. 2014-15) by John Noe
  2. The Continuing Conversion of the Church by Darrell L. Guder
  3. The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard
  4. The Great Omission by Dallas Willard
  5. Pagan Christianity by Frank Viola and George Barna