Bible Bedrock: Apart from Me you can do nothing
“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.”
(New King James Version)
Activity is not the function of a vessel, but receptivity. Here we reach right down to the roots. Receptivity is the simplest, most child-like human function. In Bible terms, it is not works, but faith. But what we have to re-learn is that receptivity is not a function, but the function. All other functions are by-products. The whole of life is a parable of this. Is not everything some form of the self-giving of God? And do we not totally live by what we receive–food, air, the floor boards beneath our feet, the clothes on our backs? And in most cases something has died to give us life. Life is surely based on receptivity, and the Bible word for receptivity is faith. Can anything be simpler? How wonderfully God has made us: to live, spiritually and materially, by exercising a capacity which is as near as possible to doing nothing–just receiving. Not reaching up to drag things down, but things poured upon us in such abundance that we just open our mouths and they are filled: and the gift of gifts we receive is Himself.
Wait a minute, you may object, but we do have to act also. Certainly, activity is a product of receptivity, but not a substitute for it. But remember we said that we must take extreme measures to expel the human self from its false position before we can replace it in its true one. Certainly, we are real persons. We think, we will, we act. Yet it is not safe or even true for us to regard ourselves as such until first we have “died” to our independent selves, and begun the life of constant recognition (reception) of Another as the Real Self in us. We must start at the bottom and remain forever at the bottom–mere containers, vessels, capable only of receiving, and with no other capability.
Do we see then what this means? Not that we have a life to live with God as our helper. Not that we must pray more, give more, love more, witness more. Not basically that we are God’s partners or fellows or co-workers, but that God Himself is the All in us. He is the One who prays, gives, loves, witnesses. He lives our life, our common everyday life.
When we have really seen this, then we can add to it the other fact–that we humans are obviously more than inanimate pots and pans. We are people! Humanity has spent all the years of its history running amok with the claim to be autonomous selves, like a horse with the bit between its teeth. Therefore again we say, active self must be thrown right out, as it were, and replaced by receptive self, before we can allow the usurper back into favor again. But if the expulsion has taken place once and for all, and the lesson learned, then the self-in-action can be recognized again in its rightful function, although all our lives it will have to be reminded of where it belongs and snubbed when it tries to take over again. Its rightful place and function is portrayed for us by Christ’s parable of the Vine and branch, and Paul’s analogy of Head and body. The Vine and branch truth emphasizes the indissoluble union of Christ and the believer. We are organically one. One tree, one life; yet in that relationship Jesus underlined the fact that we, the branches, are merely channels of the sap form the vine. A branch is more than a channel because a branch is alive whereas a pipe is not, and a branch does absorb and utilize the sap to produce the fruit. It is not entirely inactive, though entirely dependent. But it was the dependence Jesus was pointing to: “apart from Me, ye can do nothing.” So that illustration is taking us one further than the vessel. First, we are merely containers. Then, having absorbed and accepted that fact, we are more. We are united to Him whom we contain in a way a vessel can never be united to the liquid in it. We are united because we are living people as He is the Living Person; yet in that union, as branch to vine, we remain as totally dependent as the vessel. Without the sap flowing through us, we can do nothing. Yet it is this time a living dependence, for we are to “abide in the Vine.”
Once more then, Paul’s illustration takes us further. We are body to head. Again that makes one person, just as it was one Tree. So one that the Bible even speak so the body (not the head) as Christ (1 Cor. 12:12). Yet the body is as solely the agent of the head, as branch of vine. The total dependence is maintained. The union is maintained. But in head and body, the activity of the members comes to the fore. A body is made for action. A head is useless without a body, so the body in Eph. 1:23 is specifically spoken of as the fullness of the head, as the head of the body. They are necessary to each other. So here we come back full circle to active self, but dead, risen and ascended, and thus forever knowing itself as basically containing the Other, motivated by The Other, He living His own life and expressing His own Self through ourselves; yet we freely in action, just as if it was we, thinking, willing, working, laughing, talking, living as normal human beings in normal situations, and the world thinking it is just we, except for something gun unusual they can’t identify about us. What? We know: “your life is hid with Christ in God…Christ our life.”