ELDER GILBERT BEEBE – DEAR BROTHER: – Having been a reader of the SIGNS forty-six years, and never having troubled you, I now request you to give your views on John xiv. 12, especially the last clause. I remain your brother in hope of eternal life.
Old Alexandria, Mo., Jan. 21, 1880
“Verily, verily I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.”
REPLY: – These gracious words of our Lord were addressed to the eleven apostles, after Satan had entered into Judas, and he had left them and gone out to betray him. The trying time, and all the surroundings of the occasion on which these words were spoken, give additional solemnity and significance to them. Though troubled and amazed himself, because the dreadful hour for which he had come into the world had arrived, and his own soul was exceedingly sorrowful, even unto death, yet he was not unmindful of the strong support and comfort they would require to bear them up in the terrible hour when their faith in him as the true Messiah, and his ability to accomplish the great work of salvation, should be put to the severest test; when they should see him arrested, tried, condemned, mocked, scourged, crowned with piercing thorns, nailed to the cross, crucified, and put to death in the most cruel manner that men or devils could invent. By his foreknowledge he could anticipate their sinking spirits, their waning confidence, their trembling faith, their growing fears, when they should see him, on whom all their hope for life and immortality depended, condemned to suffer an ignominious death and be laid in the grave. They did not, could not know or realize as yet the dreadful reality of what they were so soon to realize. But even now, instead of asking sympathy or aid from them, he gently reproved the impulsive proposition of Peter to shield him from impending violence. Peter’s sword could not avert, nor his burning zeal and courage roll back, the flood of suffering which must now submerge the soul of the holy, harmless Lamb of God. In the course of the terrible tragedy Peter was to be sifted as wheat, and to act a very different part from that of protecting his Lord and Master.
But Jesus, knowing the weakness of their flesh and willingness of their spirit, said unto them, “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.” How often have we thought, that if from his blessed lips we could have the same assurance that we truly believe in God, and that our faith in God is genuine, we could endure all things for his sake, and like Peter say, “I will lay down my life for thy sake;” but before the scene of trial is over, like him, have we denied him in shameful way or form, for which after he has again looked upon us, we have wept bitter tears of shame and anguish. The trying ordeal through which they were about to pass might not drive them to atheism, but it would challenge their faith in him as the Son of God and Savior of his people. It was calculated to make them doubt that he was the embodiment of the supreme Deity, that the Father was in him, and he was in the Father, and that the work which he performed and the word which he spake were performed and spoken by the Father which dwelt in him. It was not by any power of the fleshly nature in which his eternal Godhead was mantled that his mighty works were wrought, for his has said, “What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before? It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.” – John vi. 62, 63. “The words that I speak unto you, I speak not of myself; but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works. Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me; or else believe me for the very work’s sake.” The works which the Father wrought by him fully justified and demonstrated the truth which he had told them, that he was in the Father, and the Father was in him, and that he and the Father are one. In this connection he adds the words of the text on which our friend desires our views: “Verily, verily I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.” He that believeth on Jesus, as we are assured, hath everlasting life. – John vi. 47. And as this everlasting life is in Christ, and with him hid in God, “He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, hath both the Father and the Son.” – 2 John 9. As the Father and the Son are one, no man can have the Father and not the Son, neither can any have the Son and not the Father and the Holy Ghost, for these three are one. – John v. 7.
Now therefore, as all the fullness of the Godhead dwells bodily in Christ, and was manifest in his flesh in the days of his incarnation, and wrought all the works which he performed, so the Father and the Son dwells by his spirit in all who believe on Christ, and performs all the works of righteousness in and by them which God approves, and which give evidence that they are one with Christ, even as he is one with the Father.
As the works which the Father wrought by the Son when he was here in the flesh testified of him that he was the Son of God and one with the eternal Father, so all our works, which God hath wrought in us as his sons and heirs in Christ, are a conclusive evidence that “God worketh in us both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” – Isa. xxvi. 12; Phil. ii. 13. With him working in us, we can do all things; but without him we can do nothing. Even as Jesus said, “of himself,” or independently of his indwelling Godhead, he could do nothing, for it was the Father which dwelt in him that doeth the works which testified of him that he is the Son of God, who came in the flesh to do not his own will, but the will of him that sent him, and to finish the work; so also the children of God, identified with him in his Sonship, begotten of the Father, are made partakers of flesh and blood in like manner as he was, and as that eternal life which was in the Son eternally with the Father, was given to us in the Sonship of Christ, as the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth, is in his Son, and as both the Father and the Son dwell in every member of Christ who believes on him, “Jesus answered and said unto him [Judas], If a man love me, he will keep my words; and my Father will love him, and WE will come unto him, and make our abode with him.” – John xiv. 23. Jesus was now about to leave the disciples, and to ascend up where he was before he came in the flesh, and in his flesh they should know him no more forever, for he was to be glorified with his Father’s own self, the glory which he had with the Father before the world began; but he would not leave them comfortless, for he would send them another Comforter, even the Holy Ghost, who should abide with them forever. “These things [said he] have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you. But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father shall send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance whatsoever I have said unto you.” – John xiv. 25, 26. This is undoubtedly the spirit of the Lord God which was upon him, (Isa. lxi. 1; Luke iv. 18,) which was given him as our Mediatorial Head without measure, (John iii. 34,) and which is given to all the members of his mystical body by measure.” – Rom. xii. 3; 1 Cor. ii. 7. Thus we learn that the “three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost,” dwell in Christ, and Christ dwells by his spirit in the church, which is his body, and in every member of his body; for “If any man have not the spirit of Christ, he is none of his. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the spirit is life because of righteousness.” – Romans viii. 9, 10. The dwelling of Christ by his spirit in the hearts of all the vessels of his mercy, whom he has redeemed from the family of the first Adam, is the power by which they shall do the works which Christ doeth; for without him they can do nothing, and yet they can do all things through Christ who strengthens them. Thus all their works, by which they are made manifest as the sons of God, are wrought in God, who worketh in them both to will and to do of his good pleasure. This is the work of God (not of our flesh), that we should believe on him whom the Father hath sent. – John vi. 29.
The particular points on which we presume our brother and many others desire to be enlightened, are, how believers on Christ shall do the works which Jesus does, and what are the greater works than these which they shall do. The different degrees of greatness in the works of Jesus implied in this assurance, and what are the works of less magnitude, and what the greater, seem to involve a mystery, to our limited understanding, which can only be solved by that Holy Comforter who shall teach the disciples all things, and bring to their remembrance all things whatsoever Jesus had said unto them. There is such an infinity in all the works which Christ has performed as to overwhelm our little minds when we attempt to measure or compare them. As he said when he had washed the feet of his disciples, “What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter.” – John xiii. 7. The works which he in his supreme Godhead had performed, and his providential control and government of the universe, we do not understand to be the works of which he speaks in our text; but that he is here speaking of his Mediatorial works, in doing the will of the Father, and finishing the work which the Father gave him to do, as the Head of the church, which is his body, and the fullness of him that filleth all in all. Now, as the Father, in all the fullness of his eternal Godhead, was manifest in the person of Christ, and all the works which he performed in the days of his flesh were by him attributed to the Father which dwelt in him, and in whose name they were all performed; so the Son, in all the power and glory of the Father, dwells in his body, the church, and without him his members can do nothing. As he says of himself, “The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.” – John v. 19, 30. So he saith to his disciples, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the Vine, ye are the braches; he that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.” – John xv. 4, 5. This very illustrative figure seems to us to clearly teach that as the indwelling Godhead, the Father in him, and he in the Father, and oneness or identity of the Father and the Son, makes him the efficient Mediatorial Head and Savior of his body, the church, and all the efficiency of his Mediatorial work comes from the Father, as a vine proceeds from its root, so all spiritual blessings come to the church from God the Father through Jesus Christ, just as the vitality and fruitfulness of the vine proceeds from its root. The vital principle that causes the vine to shoot out its branches, and the branches to bear fruit, must have been hidden in the root, just as the life of the church is hid with Christ in God. All proceed from God the Father, through Jesus Christ the Son, else we might as well look for grapes from thorns, as from the true vine. Jesus says in this connection, “Here in is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit.” The root would not be glorified if it did not fructify the branches. It is well known that if a branch is severed from the vine, or the vine from its root, neither the vine could bear branches, nor the branches bear fruit. So if it were possible to separate us from Christ, or Christ from his eternal Godhead, no fruit could be borne either by the Vine or any of its branches. “As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you; continue ye in my love. If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; EVEN as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.” Thus, as the works which Christ has done in his Father’s name are the works of God, (John xiv. 10,) so also all the works which he hath wrought in us as his members are wrought in him, and the works which he has wrought in us our works, the same as the fruits of the root are the fruits of the vine and of the branches of the vine.
The works which Jesus did while here in the flesh in obedience to the will of the Father, will include, if we understand, the miracles which he wrought in healing the sick, opening the eyes of the blind, casting out devils, and in raising the dead. All these were in demonstration of his identity with the Father, and he repeatedly referred to them as witnessing his Messiahship; and we are informed in the faithful record that his disciples, especially his apostles, performed the same wonderful miracles in his name, in demonstration of their high and holy calling. After his resurrection from the dead, and before he ascended to the Father in a cloud, he gave commandment to the disciples to go into all the world and preach the gospel, and said unto them, “And these signs shall follow them that believe: In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.” “And they went forth, and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following.” – Mark xvi. 17, 18, 20. “And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you; but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.” – Luke xxiv. 29. After the apostles were endued with power from on high we find them performing those works of which Christ had spoken, and they performed them by the name of Jesus. “And his name through faith in his name hath made this man strong, whom ye see and know; yea, the faith which is by him hath given him this perfect soundness,” &c. And, “If we this day be examined of the good deed done to the impotent man, by what means he is made whole; be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole.” – Acts iii. 16; iv. 9, 10. “And now, Lord, behold their threatening: and grant unto thy servants that with all boldness they may speak thy word, by stretching forth thine hand to heal: and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy child Jesus.” – Acts iv. 29, 30. Certainly the works they performed by the name of Christ verified the declaration, The works that I do shall he do also; but still the question remains in regard to the words, “and greater works than these shall he do: because I go unto my Father.” Surely the crowning work of our Redeemer was that of his going to his Father. Had he failed in this, the whole work assigned him in his Mediatorial relations must have utterly failed. Had the heavens refused to receive him, had not the everlasting gates been lifted up that the King of glory might enter in, the salvation of the church must have failed, and we today would be without an Intercessor in heaven, and all the works which he performed in his incarnation would have proved a failure. But,
“Behold, he mounts the throne of state,
He fills the Mediatorial seat,
And millions bowing at his feet
With long hosannas tell,
Though he endur’d exquisite pains,
He led the monster, death, in chains,
Ye seraphs, raise you loudest strains,
With music fill bright Eden’s plains,
He’s conquered death and hell.”
The resurrected Savior said to Mary, at the vacated sepulcher in which he had reposed, “Go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.” – John xx. 17. Blessed message! cheering news! joyful tidings! The Lord has triumphed gloriously. The Lord is risen indeed, and become the first fruits of them that slept; and because he lives, they shall live also. He has entered into heaven, as the head and recognized representative of his body, the church, including all her members, are included with their victorious Head. They were all of them buried with him by baptism into his death when he died for them; then were they all dead. “Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ.” Although the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth, it can pursue him no further. And being risen with Christ, his members are to seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Having been crucified with Christ, we are also risen with him to newness of life and being presented to God in the perfect righteousness of our adorable head and representative, without spot or blemish, we are accepted in the Beloved. All this, or these works, which excel the miracles performed as signs which attested the Redeemer’s identity with the Father, and our vital unity with Christ, Jesus says, “because I go unto my Father,” these greater works shall be by them performed; that is, as we understand, his going to his Father, bearing all his sheaves or members with him, we also go unto our Father, and find access to him by and through his death and resurrection. This vital union of Christ and his people, as the head and body of the church of the living God, is expressed by Moses, “Yea, he loved the people; all his saints are in thy hand.” “For I lift up my hand to heaven, and say, I live forever.” – Deut. xxxii. 40; xxxiii. 3. We heartily accept the strong language of Mr. Kent on this subject, as expressed in hymn No. 206 of our Baptist Collection:
“Before the day-star know its place,
Or planets went their round,
The church in bonds of sov’reign grace
Were one with Jesus found.
In all that Jesus did on earth
His church an int’rest have;
Go, trace him, from his humble birth,
Down to the silent grave.
‘Twas for his saints he tasted death;
All glory to his name;
Yet when he breath’d his dying breath,
With him his saints o’ercame.
With him his members, on the tree,
Fulfill’d the law’s demands;
‘Tis ‘I in them, and they in me,’
For thus the union stands.
Since Jesus slept among the dead,
His saints have naught to fear;
For with their glorious suff’ring Head
His members sojourn’d there.
When from the tomb we see him rise
Triumphant o’er his foes,
He bore his members to the skies;
With Jesus they arose.
Ye saints, this union can’t dissolve,
By which all things are yours;
Long as eternal years revolve,
Or Deity endures.”
We can hardly expect to escape the unkind criticisms of those who lie in wait to accuse us of heresy; but why should we shrink from reproach for his dear sake, who endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, who endured the cross and despised the shame? If he who is the brightness of his Father’s refulgent glory, and the express image of his person, was reproached and buffeted, why should a trembling mortal, just on the verge of his final and everlasting destiny, worn down with age and infirmity, just ready to step across the narrow line which divides the heavenly land from these earthly shores, ask or desire exemption from the reproaches of the enemies of the cross, and the censures of mistaken friends? We have been asked for our views, and feeble as they are, we dare not withhold them; we express them candidly, with such ability as we have, to be examined carefully by our readers, and with no desire on our part that they shall be accepted only so far as they are sustained by the unerring scriptures of truth. Wherein we are right, may God be praised; and in all wherein we err, may God forgive, and brethren forbear, and as light may be given, show us the better way.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Signs of the Times
Volume 48, No. 14
July 15, 1880.