Jesus Christ said that without him we can do nothing (John 15:5). Clearly he was speaking of things we may do for the kingdom of God. Without Jesus we are powerless to achieve anything for him or which is pleasing to the Father. But is it really the case, as some insist, that he does it all: that everything we do is only his doing and not ours?
I’ve heard this phrase many times in my Christian life: “It’s all God”. I’ll willingly agree that without Him we can do nothing, and that there is nothing we can do to save ourselves. That really is “all God”. My only qualification there would be that we have to respond to the gospel. Calvinists insist that we can’t even do that, because, they say, that would be “works”. We’ll save that issue for another day. Today we’re asking if we as believers can do nothing whatsoever for God because it’s all God’s doing.
Salvation is by faith, and then the Spirit of God works within us to want to do what’s right, and empowers us to do what’s right. Anything done by or in the flesh or for our own gain is unacceptable to God-it has to be inspired by the Spirit in us and for His glory. However, the Christian life is teamwork. If we make no effort in it, we remain as spiritual babies. We negate the work of the Spirit. We fail to produce spiritual fruit, and we bury our talent so that nothing is gained by it. That’s the fact of the matter. If it were really “all God”, we would be robots and would have no mind of our own. We would not be choosing to follow Christ or choosing to do what’s right: we would be driven to do it by the Lord.
If we as believers fail to help the one in need, or fail to worship the Lord, or fail to turn away from sin, whose fault is it? God’s? Are we failing because God isn’t doing what He should be doing in us? No, it’s our own fault for not walking in the Spirit, for not learning to walk in His ways, and for not making the effort to do what we should do. Believers who have been told that it’s “all God” are more likely to not appreciate their role in the Christian walk.
There are so many ways in which this subject could be approached scripturally. But it seems to me pretty obvious that when Paul told his flock to “walk in the Spirit”, the word “walk” requires some sort of effort on our part. Scripture is full of guidance, advise and commandments to us concerning what we should and should not be doing to live out our Christian faith. If there were no effort required from our own will there would be no need for all those things. Didn’t James say that “faith without works is dead” (James 2:14-26)?
With that in mind, I bring your attention to the words of Peter, who made the matter crystal clear for us:
His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.
For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.
Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3-11).