From ‘The Mast’  the monthly publication of Lutheran Church of the Master, Corona del Mar, CA 

 In John 15 our Lord Jesus Christ has said, “I am the vine, you are the brances. Apart from me you can do nothing.”

Hold that thought.

We are a culture of movers and shakers. We are told constantly that we must make it happen…whatever ‘it’ may be.

This kind of hard- driving individualism is what built this country…and many others. We are not alone in our dedication and hard work and self-reliance.

Then Jesus speaks the words that began this article.   ‘Nothing?’  Does He really mean ‘nothing?’  Well, yes.   And that brings us to Pentecost.

When Jesus appeared to His disciples, following the resurrection, Luke tells us that he said this; “And behold, I am sending forth with the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with the power from on high.”

“Stay in the city”, he said.  Or, if we may state what was, perhaps our Lord’s intention, ‘Don’t even think of leaving here until you have received power from on high.’

This is a hard word to hear for many within the church who run with the hard chargers on the ladder of success and self-reliance.  No, we can do nothing.  Salvation is God’s doing – alone.  He is the One who empowers, through Word and Sacrament, calling, gathering and enlightening His people into faith.

The work of the Church is not a self-help enterprise depending upon our self-generated efforts to bring about ‘success’.  The work of the Church is God’s work being done through us…and frequently through the weakest and, to all appearances, the least effective of us.

Luther put it this way,

‘Did we in our own strength confide our striving would be losing.  Were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing.’

Without Him we can do nothing.

With Him, everything is done already.  Thanks be to God!

                                       – Pastor Mark Anderson


For me, this has been a “hard word”.   Although, the longer I am in Christ, the more I realize the fact of it.
How about you?  

26 Responses

  1. It’s 100% true…and yet we also have the Holy Spirit living inside of us as believers. And yet both Paul and the author of Hebrews (Appolos? who knows) tell us to run a race as if to win and endure. We don’t just sit on our keesters. We read the Word and pray. We have fellowship with other believers (church–the bride of Christ) and become sensitive to the Holy Spirit. That’s what WE do. Then we are able to allow the Spirit to do the work.

    Good stuff.

  2. Without Him we can do nothing.
    With Him, everything is done already. Thanks be to God


  3. Many years ago in the UK, there used to be a 3-wheeler “bubble” car, which was great fun, but had a very troublesome flaw (which is why they stopped making them) –
    the vehicle had no reverse gear and only one point of access – a door at the front, which meant that if you drove up to a wall, you couldn’t get out!
    That’s how I think about what we’ve done – put ourselves somewhere dreadful – so the only hope is total rescue.

    We can only really understand the ‘work’ that matters when we see it is all (His splendid handiwork, His astonishing salvation) His doing. When we gain the proper perspective – mercy through Jesus Christ – it will be truly marvelous in our eyes.

  4. Coming from a fundigelical background where after you are saved it is all up to you this is still very refreshing.

  5. According to St.John, the first words spoken to the disciples after His resurrection were: Peace be unto you. He still today gives us whom He chooses that peace which passeth all understanding. We only have to accept it.

  6. “Without Him we can do nothing.”

    “With Him, everything is done already. Thanks be to God!”

    OOOOOH, the Lawyers won’t let these words stand for long. The protestant Sanhedrin shall descend upon you swiftly. The “christian” lawyers will surely immediately be filing a theological law suite against such a Gospel.

    Then once filed the legional army of “christian” fruit police, fruit gestapo, fruit detectors, fruit stazi, fruit inspectors, good works blood hounds will descend like Hell itself.

    You are surely in trouble now Steve!!! You have just done worse than cuss out loud like in “Good Fellas”.


  7. Larry,

    Don’t look at me! I didn’t say it!

    (but I wish I had)

  8. It is 100% true. It is also true that faith w/o works is dead.

  9. When someone has been given the Holy Spirit and faith, there will indeed be works.

    But no one will be able to put their finger on them and say, “now that is a Christian work”.

    For the unbelievers can and do, accomplish everything that we can and do accomplish, outside of Word and Sacrament.

  10. “Grace doesn’t get rid of works, it produces them. It doesn’t make them unnecessary, it makes them possible.”

    Bonhoeffer said something like: “if I seek to know my own goodness & love, it ceases to be good or loving”

    We as Christians don’t need to engage in spiritual navel gazing or looking for the fruit we bear… but rather look to Christ alone… Grace alone… Word alone… . Fruit will naturally appear.

    God may I rest in you and recognize the fruit that others bear and may I be oblivious to my own.

  11. Every time i try to move out on my own, the wheels fall off my wagon, when i move with His Grace and Power I coast right along.

  12. Patrick,

    Nicely put. The works Sanhedrin simply is blind to this, the old adam has NO comprehension of this fact and is dead to it. When it hears ‘works’ threatened it chokes to death, it is shear moralism, damnable and the very opposite of love. Luther even said love, that is that which parades itself around as love, must give way to faith always and without exception, WITHOUT exception for all apart from faith is damnable, damned and already condemned. Cursed are all works that clean a man up apart from faith, whoever they come from. There are no kind ways of stating this for the Cross is an utter and absolute polemic against all human effort, even that which camoflauges itself under “grace alone” but does not really mean it.

    I make no apologies for it, confess it, and to hell with all else.


    • “good work” 😉

    • Now that I am done with classes for a bit, I have to stir the pot. Larry,
      Every time I see you start this “rant” I have the compulsion to ask, but I never catch it in time. As Christians, we will end up doing something in Christ. It seems as though you are determined to say that anytime anyone does anything good it is from sin. What exactly is the point of Ephesians 2:8-10?
      I am not talking here about salvation or working for salvation, which should be obvious from the chosen verses. I am talking about living the Christian life.

      • Jeofurry,

        It is NO rant. I’ve answered plentiously that Christians DO something, and have here as well, but it exudes from grace not from “the Law” and in context that is EXACTLY what Eph. 2:8-10 is stating.

        It’s the difference in the protestant version of “faith formed by love” (false and fallen religion), and “faith from Christ for you”.

        But the old Adam doesn’t see nor comprehend this. What you basically want is the over cooked husks of moralism served with a thin sauce of religion.

        All apart from faith, says Paul, IS sin.


  13. My confirmation verse. It’s one I’ve needed to remember many times, too! Good post, Steve!

  14. Larry,
    I put the word rant in quotes to try and keep it good natured, it wasn’t meant to offend. Surely you haven’t forgotten me so soon. By the way, you can call me Jeff if you want.

    But the old Adam doesn’t see nor comprehend this. What you basically want is the over cooked husks of moralism served with a thin sauce of religion.

    I hope you are not presuming this about me as nothing could be further from the truth. In fact I wholeheartedly agree with your last statement. All apart from faith in indeed sin.

    • Jeff,

      I have not forgotten you and I was not offended just clarifying for the other readers.

      By “old Adam” I mean the old Adam in ALL of us. The Gospel’s shock is just as much a shock to me as it is to anyone when I hear it/receive it afresh. My own gravity is TOO the way of the law and such, I’m quite conservative myself.

      One has to be careful with the subtle protestant versions of “faith formed by love”. When many quote say James on this, that’s exactly what they mean. Faith is not formed by love nor any such thing, it is singularly caused, strengthened and sustained by Christ for you…it is finished…nothing left to do. And THAT faith does works, in fact as Luther says it is nothing but busy and cannot help to be so.

      Those who talk much about works and fruit and do much the same reveal a false faith that in the end, for its sweat and doing, does nothing.

      Living faith talks and speaks much of Christ and what He’s done and without trying it does everything. Or Luther put it in his HD Thesis 25, “He is not righteous who does much, but he who, without work, believes much in Christ.” AND 26, “The law says, “Do this,” and it is never done. Grace says, “believe in this,” and everything is already done.”

      I can hardly state it better.



  15. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”

    Steve, I hope you and your family are well.

    God bless you always †

  16. Magdalene,

    What a pleasure to hear from you!

    My family and I are well (good and bad days…you know how it is). Thanks for asking.

    I too, hope and pray that you are well.

    The Peace of our Lord be with you, my friend!

    – Steve

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