Nothing vs All Things

There are a pair of contrasting statements made by Jesus and Paul where we’re told we can do “nothing” and we can do “all things.” (John 15:5, Philippians 4:13) Both of these statements are hinged on the Person of Jesus Christ, because “nothing” happens without Him and “all things” happen because of His presence and strength.  Now, the Bible critic would like to use verses like this to either prove a contradiction in Scripture or posit that false theology is the result of verses like these.  It is inescapably clear from the Bible and personal observation that someone “without Christ” is not incapable of activity whatsoever, and the child of grace is not given strength for all activities under the sun.  Rather, the inference based on the character of Christ is that we can do nothing that is good without Him, and through His strength, we are capable of all manner of righteousness and good deeds.

What these two verses actually show is the condition of someone based on their position.  When someone has the position of being simply a child of Adam without Christ, they cannot do – condition – anything that is good because of their position – sinner by nature.  Just as a pecan tree does not put forth pecans to become a pecan tree, so a child of nature does not sin to become a sinner.  Pecan trees put forth pecans because they are pecan trees.  Sinners sin because they are sinners.  Likewise, no one does righteous deeds to become a child of God; we do righteous deeds because we are children of God.  So, our righteous deeds that we commit – condition – is because of our position – redeemed by the blood of Christ.

How far does this carry?  These verses teach us they carry far further than we many times contemplate or would like to admit.  On both ends.  The reach of these concepts is vast.  How black and dirty is a child of Adam capable of being?  I fear and shudder to think of the depth of that dark cavern.  Without Christ, there is no little shred or spark of anything that is good.  As Romans 1 declares, the eventual end of a condition outside of Christ is even going against nature itself.  Man’s depravity is so foul, that nothing worthy or worthwhile is seen in it or coming from it.  The very best state our nature has is altogether vanity. (Psalm 39:5) And, but for the grace of God would go I, so would I stay forevermore.

But what about the other end?  The weight, reach, and hold of these all things is strong.  What good thing could we truly say we are not capable of performing?  Paul’s manner of life had seen all ends of the spectrum: full, hungry, up, down, etc.  Through all of those pendulum swings, he declared that no good thing was unattainable when Christ’s strength was present.  False teachers would like to say, “I couldn’t help it,” “the devil made me do it,” or some other foolish notion.  Paul profoundly set forth the power of God’s grace here in this time is capable of heights that not only rival the depths of depravity but far outshine and excel.  God’s grace always abounds greater than sin, and while we oftentimes contemplate that in an eternal sense – position – consider that the condition we find ourselves in is a result of our position.

Some might say, then why do we still sin?  Because we have not ceased to be children of Adam.  In this world, no good thing dwells in our flesh.  However, in this world, no bad thing dwells within our soul and spirit.  They are polar opposites and perpetually at odds with one another.  We continue to be children of Adam as broken vessels of clay.  However, we are today and right now children of the King who have been blessed with power to all manner of righteousness with honour.  May we like Paul – regardless of time, place, and circumstance – uphold the grace of God’s goodness through our decorum and never undersell the great peaks that can be attained.  While we continue to come short of perfection, may we strive for it all our days to do all things by and through His strength.

In Hope,

Bro Philip

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