“I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing … Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples” (John 15:5, 8).
“Without me ye can do nothing” are words that cut deep into the self-reliance of the flesh, for it seeks to work its own way to Heaven through good deeds and religious duty. The word “nothing” is absolute, no ifs, buts or exceptions. It is not only reference to spiritual matters, but also involves the secular too since we began to abide in Christ. The teaching of the Lord in these verses have no borders or limitations, for He means exactly what He says, without Him we can do absolutely nothing worthwhile that could in any way please God.
It may be missed, but this truth is entirely within the scope of our relationship with Christ. If we abide in Him then “nothing” is taken out of the equation, but the moment a believer separates from Him it removes all chance of anything we do being acceptable to God. It comes down to whether we actually believe Christ enough to be totally and unreservedly dependant upon Him and His word. “Without faith it is impossible to please him” (Hebrews 11:6). We see how “nothing” and “impossible” are connected in relation to faith in the Lord. But when true faith is in evidence, manifested in our abiding in Christ, then “nothing” and “impossible” loss their strength. “For with God nothing shall be impossible” (Luke 1:37). “If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you” (Matthew 17:20) … “If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth” (Mark 9:23).
It all then depends on our relationship with God, and this is not dissimilar to that enjoyed by the Father and the Son. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself.” This statement reveals that Jesus did not operate according to His own agenda or outside of the will of His Father, but indeed He went on to say, “but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise” (John 5:19). Everything Jesus said and did was totally within the will of the Father and the Holy Spirit, that is, He did nothing independent from them. “Father, art in me, and I in thee” (John 17:21) … “My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work” (John 4:34). If the Son of God could do nothing without the Father, it is certain that we can do nothing if we live any area of our lives apart from Christ. If we were totally committed and reliant upon the Lord, then along with the apostle Paul we could declare, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13). We may be helpless but we are not hopeless, “For it is God which worketh in [us] both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). Once we accept these facts we will know what it is to have a happy and blest life.
If not abiding in Christ causes us to achieve nothing worthy, then it is certainly a product of disobedience on our part. We shall come to the topic of obedience more fully in a later study, but in our opening verses we see the need to be a disciple of Christ if we are truly to glorify God. This is not claiming to be a follower, but actually and wholeheartedly being so in our words, thoughts and deeds. “Whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him” (Colossians 3:17).
True disciple bear good fruit, so those who produce no or rotten fruit are not Jesus’ faithful disciples. The great figures throughout the ages that have brought nations to repentance, and the church to revival, are the ones who produced fruit that glorified the Lord. They were His true disciples that obeyed His commands, yet they did not achieve anything through their own will or personal charisma, instead it was Christ doing the work through them. “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. 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. So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God. And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following” (Mark 16:15-20). They were not a special class of believer, instead they chose to abide in Christ and take Him at His word. He can do the same for us if we would be His true disciples.
Our heart desire ought to be concentrated on bear “much fruit” so the Father is glorified, for such is the evidence of true discipleship. Our trust can never be in our own strength to get things done, but in the power of the Holy Spirit which is given to all who obey Him. “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). God gives us His strength to do what He commands. “Thy God hath commanded thy strength: strengthen, O God, that which thou hast wrought for us” (Psalm 68:28).
We should not hesitate about taking our God-given position in Christ, for it is the only place where we can be abundantly blessed. If we want a fruitful life and to be full of the Spirit of God, then we must desire nothing less that unbroken abiding in Him, close union, perfect holiness and unreserved obedience. Are we followers trying to live apart from Christ, or are we disciples that constantly abide in Him?