The Son Can Do Nothing of Himself
Jesus Christ was fully submitted to God His Father. He was filled with the Holy Spirit, and He always did what was pleasing to His Father (Jn 8:29; 2 Pet 1:17). Henry Scougal once wrote, “If I had my choice of anything that might produce happiness in me, I would choose to have my heart filled with love for all men.“ God is love (1 Jn 4:8), and Jesus Christ is God (Jn 1:1), who indwells our hearts by His Spirit (Rom 8:9, 11).
Love is the Law of heaven, and there are no lawbreakers there. If a man loves God and loves His neighbor here on earth, he is fit to love God and His neighbor in heaven. So much of what masquerades for love here on earth is selfish. God’s love is self-giving, for even Christ did not please Himself (Rom 15:3).
Obedience to the love commands is what pleases God (Jn 13:34–35). We love by giving our all in all to others. What we have to give has been given to us by God (Mt 10:8), for of His fullness we have received grace upon grace (Jn 1:16). There is nothing we can give, that is good, that is not from Him.
Grace caused the apostle Paul to labor in the ministry more than anyone else (1 Cor 15:10). It was a labor of love (Jn 15:13; 2 Tim 2:10). Giving one’s life away can either be an act of pride and self-seeking glory, or it can be an act of humble submission. Whatever you do, do all in the name of Jesus Christ (Col 3:17), heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men (Col 3:23). If Jesus could do nothing of Himself, what can you do?
Christians need to position themselves in submission to Almighty God. In this way, our dependence on God, and humility before Him, can be seen by all men. Grace abounds in an environment of submission (1 Pet 5:5). Jesus Christ did have a free will because of His deity. Because of His impeccability, His will could never have deviated from the will of the Father and the Spirit.
The three persons of the Godhead operate in perfect unity. Their diversity of persons does not hinder their unity in thought and action. God the Father was pleased with His only begotten Son (Mt 3:17; 17:5), and the Son knew He always did what was pleasing to the Father (Jn 8:29). No decision could ever be made by one member of the Trinity without it being the decision of the other two members.
The ramification for Christians is significant. Strife in the church is founded on pride and facilitated by living stones not finding their God ordained place to fit in. We must be fitted together in the Temple (Eph 2:21) and fitted together in the body of Christ (Eph 4:16).
The Master stone cutter fits each stone into its place. Jesus is building His church (Mt 16:18), and each Christian has her place (1 Cor 1:30; Eph 2:20–22). The process is called, “sanctification,” by which we are made holy (Rom 15:16; 1 Thess 5:23; 2 Thess 2:13; 1 Pet 1:2). Cutting and chipping are forms of discipline that conform us to the blueprint design, which is Jesus Christ (Heb 12; Rom 8:29). This conforming to godliness (1 Tim 6:3), as Paul identified in marriage, “Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord (Col 3:18).” We must fit in.
When Christians demand their free will, they are clearly not thinking about how God is the Potter, and we are the clay (Jer 18; Rom 9:19–21). When Jesus claims, “the Son can do nothing of Himself (Jn 5:19),” He is establishing our place in Him. We, who are in Christ, can do nothing of ourselves. This is what submission sounds like, “Not my will, but Thy will be done, on earth, in my life, as it is in heaven,” or “the greatest among you will be the servant of all (Mt 23:11).” How do we serve? We give because love gives (1 Cor 13).
Jesus had something He could give away that He could never lose. It was His indestructible, eternal life. Everywhere Jesus went, He gave away His virtue, and as He gave, He lost nothing. Jesus is the ultimate source of everything good.
When Christians submit themselves to God, they are given the very thing which God intends for them to give away to others. What is given away can never be lost because every good and every perfect gift comes down from God the Father of lights (Jas 1:17). In other words, God knows how to give good gifts (Mt 7:11; Lk 11:13). God’s will intersects with our lives when God gives us something good. It should be our Christian prerogative to look for need around us. If we struggle to find needy people, we can find the widow, the orphan, and the poor, who we will always have with us (Mt 26:11; Jas 1:27).
God created the heavens and the earth and all that are in them. He owns absolutely everything, which makes us mere stewards of His gracious supply, allocated to us for ministry to others. Those who hoard money and possessions are idolaters. They have put themselves and their selfish future in front of the needs of others. If you see your brother in need, and close your heart to him, how do you say you have the love of God in you (1 Jn 3:17)? In this God is not glorified.
The Word of God has sufficiently warned the rich, who want eternal life, but simply cannot give away their stored up filthy lucre (Lk 16). The rich fool never thinks, today, is his day of reckoning, in which his soul is required of him, to give an account to God (Lk 12). He may own a camel, but he has no desire to see the miracle of it passing through the eye of a needle (Mt 19:24).
Robert Leighton wrote, “Discipline yourself totally to forsake everything that hinders your relationship with God. If something in your life dishonors God put it aside. Do not hold on to anything that is not God’s will for your life. You will never be able to fully enjoy and appreciate the pleasures of God, until you quit seeking pleasure, by constantly giving in to your sinful lusts.” Jesus showed almost no interest in the things of the world, except when He preached and taught about the dangers of loving the world. The rich man is in danger, and the ascetic has missed the point.
The Son does nothing of Himself in body or soul. God’s will is for His people to live fully devoted to the cause of the kingdom of God and Christ. We take the gifts of God and employ them. We enjoy the fruit of the Spirit of God (Gal 5:22–23). God’s will is found in God’s revealed Word. Christians often miss this truth. We take from the true Vine, the tree of life, and we eat of the life of God, and we share the life of Christ with others by giving it all away.
Do you have two coats? Why? Believe me, the rich man will always justify his need for every one of his toys. Are you justified by greed, or by faith? Does your life give testimony of accumulation or have you made friends by the wealth of unrighteousness for everlasting habitations (Lk 16:9)? Your treasure in heaven, your reward, will be Christ and all those you invested in during your life in earth, for them to enter and grow in the grace of the kingdom by entering through Christ.
Hoarded money and things slow our sanctification, and sanctification is God’s will for us (1 Thess 4:3). Everything in your care and possession requires management. Everything that is managed requires time. While you are busy managing other things, the call to serve in God’s kingdom is slipping away. Far better to take the things you are managing, and offer them up to the Lord, with the request for wisdom on how to give the managed things away to those in need. Is this the road to asceticism? On the contrary, it is the road to abundant re-supply and a river of grace passing through you.
The Sea of Galilee fearlessly releases its water to the lower Jordan River. By providential order, it receives water from the upper Jordan River, which receives water from Mt. Hermon, which receives water from the sky, which receives water from God. Everything participating in God’s designed water/life cycle is alive. Only the Dead Sea refuses to give, and it is dead with its hoarded resources, that must be extracted by others. The wealth of a sinner is stored up for the righteous (Prv 13:22b).
Jesus gave no thought for the morrow, regarding vision, strategic planning, goals, and objectives. He awoke and went to be alone to pray. The plan for the day would unfold as the Spirit led. The task was the same each day: preach the kingdom; heal the sick; teach the disciples and trust the His Father.
Jesus waited on the Spirit. He obediently went where He was directed. He was never frustrated by interruptions, detours, or impossible problems because He knew that with God all things are possible. The kingdom was unfolding before Him, and He suffered as He served. His love was never thwarted by the deceitfulness of riches, the cares of the world, the resistance of worldly men, nor the temptations of the devil.
Before you do anything, would it be too much to acknowledge God in prayer, so He would direct your steps (Prv 16:9)? When He leads you, are you able to know it is God because you know His Word, hence, His will? Are you willing to forsake your own mythical free will in favor of God’s free will (Is 46:9–10)? Do you believe His plans are better than your plans? Can you agree His ways are better than your ways (Is 55:9)? Is it possible for you cease striving with God, who sits in the heavens and does as He pleases (Ps 115:3; 135:6)? Instead of trusting in your works, can you believe in Him, who is in you, working to will and to do His good pleasure (Jn 14:17; Rom 8:9, 11; Phil 2:13)? If you are ready for the adventure of faith, the right answer to these questions is, “yes.” If the Son can do nothing of Himself, neither can the obedient Christian, and this means the rest is up to God.
Spokane Valley, Washington
March 8, 2021