For several weeks the fifth chapter of John has haunted me. This chapter tells of Jesus confronting the Pharisees after he healed the man by the pool of Bethesda on the Sabbath. Jesus enrages the Jewish leaders by saying, “My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working” (v.17). He is announcing a shift change. It is not that the Father has clocked out; it is that now Jesus has clocked-in. Now the Father is working through his Son, Jesus.
Jesus enlarges on this shift throughout the rest of the chapter. He explains that He does nothing on his own initiative, but only what “he sees the Father doing (v.19). He explains that just like his Father, the Son “also gives life to whom He wishes” (v.21). He pleads that if they won’t accept the witness of John the Baptist, they would at least look at the works he is doing and believe the Father has sent Him.
So far so good. I can dismiss this failure to accept the shift from Father to Son as part of the general villainy of those terrible Pharisees. But what Jesus says to the Pharisees in verse 39 is startling:
You search the Scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is these that bear witness of Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me, that you may have life. (v. 39—40)
This rebuke of the Pharisees worries me because as an evangelical with a high view of the authority of Scripture, I have always thought that if I just stick to the Scriptures, I will be okay. I won’t miss anything essential. These Pharisees knew Scripture but missed the shift of ministry from the Father to His Son Jesus. They were blind to the obvious fact that the Father had now chosen to do His works through his Son, Jesus.
This failure of the Pharisees raises the possibility that I, and other evangelicals, could miss a major shift in God’s ministry even though we are devoted to Scripture. And here is the scary part, there actually was another shift—one that Jesus prepared for his disciples in chapters 14—17 of John. In chapter five Jesus told the Pharisees that “the Father loves the Son and shows Him all things that He Himself is doing; and greater works than these will He show Him, that you may marvel” (v. 20). In chapter fourteen Jesus uses similar language about “greater works” to announce the next shift:
Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he shall do also; and greater works than these shall he do because I go to the Father. (v. 12)
He is announcing the next shift of ministry where the Father and Son abiding in believers will do the works of God. He explains this will be possible because when He goes to the Father he will send the Holy Spirit who was abiding with them but would be in them (v. 17).
Jesus declares that it is actually to the advantage of the disciples if he goes away because if He doesn’t the Holy Spirit (the Helper or Comforter) won’t come (16:7). In other words, without the Holy Spirit we can’t clock-in and begin doing the works of the Father.
We see the shift in action after Pentecost. In the Book of Acts we see Peter, Philip, Stephen, Paul all getting busy doing the works of the Father and Jesus. Peter and Paul were obviously of apostolic stature, but Phillip and Stephen were deacons appointed to distribute food to the widows. In I Corinthians 12 Paul describes how the church as the Body of Christ has been equipped by the Holy Spirit with gifts that empower it to do the works of Jesus. So doing the works of Jesus seems to be the work of the whole church not just the apostles or the anointed few. Of course, in different ways the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have always been clocked-in and at work in the story of redemption, but I think we often miss this last shift in the paradigm of ministry because it is here that the full trinity begins to work in and through us—the Body and Bride of Christ.
So how well have we accepted this Pentecostal paradigm shift? Not so well. Some evangelicals have essentially said all the gifts were only for that period. We can pray for God to heal people, but healing isn’t central like it was in the ministry of Jesus or of Peter and Paul. We might pray that God would deliver others from evil, but never consider that the ministry of casting out evil spirits has now shifted to us.
We like the Great Commission in Matthew 28:19 but ignore the First Commission to “heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons” (Matthew 10:8). Like the Pharisees, many evangelicals have justified this by exalting the Scriptures while at the same time ignoring the Pentecostal paradigm shift clearly announced by Scripture.
What would acceptance of this paradigm shift look like? First, every believer would understand that a decision to follow Jesus is a decision to do the works of Jesus by proclaiming the gospel, healing the sick, casting out evil spirits, and raising the dead. Second, all training for ministry would include both instruction in Scripture and in equipping the saints to heal the sick and cast out evil spirits. Third, churches would devote the same time and energy to the ministries Jesus did: proclamation of the kingdom, healing of the sick, and casting out evil spirits. Fourth, the lack of the ministry of Jesus in our congregation would not be accepted as the norm but be seen as a reason for desperate intercession and “tarrying in Jerusalem” until we over-flow with the Holy Spirit. Last of all, we would refuse all false choices between God’s Word or God’s Spirit, the fruit of the Holy Spirit and the gifts of the Spirit. We would hear the call to be who Jesus was and do what Jesus did.
It is time, through the power of the Holy Spirit, for the church to clock-in and get to work. It is our shift.