Apart from God, nothing

man readingAs one of Jesus’ last words to his disciples before his arrest, he said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit. Apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).


He didn’t mean apart from him we can’t bear fruit. He meant we can do nothing.

He didn’t just mean his followers. He meant anyone at all.

Consider the simple act of sitting in a chair reading a book. “Through him [Jesus, the Word of God who is God] all things were made; without him nothing was made that was made” (John 1:3). What all did God have to make for me to sit in a chair and read a book?

Consider me (and you)

  • I can see the book because God made light.
  • He made me, and made my body to be sensitive to light.
  • I can not only see, but because God gave me a mind that can communicate with written language, I can read.
  • I can read because God put people in my life who taught me.

I would be able to exist and see without considering other people. It takes at least two people for there to be any communication with language. When I sit in a chair reading a book, how many more people have to be involved to make it possible?

Consider the book as an object

  • Physically, the book is paper with ink on it. At least, that’s enough to think about now. In fact, the paper is wonder enough.
  • It is made from trees. God made the tree.
  • It requires a saw, nowadays a power saw, to cut it down. God made the metal for the saw, the gasoline to operate it, and the people who cut down the tree. And whoever thought of making a saw.
  • It requires some kind of transportation from the forest. God made material for the trucks, and whatever else carries the logs. He made the river that floats the logs and whatever becomes the surfaces for the truck to move on. And people to perform every aspect of that transportation. And whoever thought of all of that.
  • The logs end up as wood chips in a paper mill. More raw materials. More creativity to invent equipment and processes, more people to work them.
  • Oh, and since we’re dealing with large corporations these days, all of this work requires executives, mechanics, secretaries, janitors, and so on. Plus a lot more tools, machines, and different kinds of power.
  • People transport the paper to the printer.
  • People operate the printing press and assemble the book.
  • People transport the book to the store (physical or online) where other people sell it and, if necessary, ship it.

Do I need to add all the steps that provided me with the chair and the house it’s in? Do I need to add all the raw materials and the accumulated wisdom of how to make chairs in general and mine in particular?

Consider the contents of the book

  • Someone wrote it.
  • The author had life experiences that involved lots of other people.
  • Those experiences also include reading other books, some perhaps written centuries ago.
  • Getting it published requires a publisher, probably more than one editor, and perhaps an agent—for the traditional way of publishing.
  • Nowadays people can also self-publish electronic books for Kindle or some other device. That requires a lot of technology and a lot of people to make it possible.
  • No one will buy the book without someone to market and sell it.

How many people throughout space and time had some role in creating the book in my hands, my chair, and my house?

Truly, apart from God orchestrating every detail of people, materials, processes, creativity, and education, not to mention every detail of physics, chemistry, biology, and so on, I could not sit in a chair and read a book.

By the way, I think you would enjoy one of my Kindle books. Check it out!

Understanding Our Covenants with God: God’s Grace, Judgment, and Promise to Restore Human Perfection, from Adam to Moses to Jesus

Photo credit Some rights reserved by David, Bergin, Emmett and Elliott.

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