2

Often times I have had or come across the thought of "Without God I could do nothing" in a general sense, not something as specific as doing good nor our ability to fix ourselves (i.e. I'm not talking about total depravity but about all actions).

The primary Biblical evidence I can find possibly backing this is the following:

  1. The fact that God created humans with all of their abilities/being/situation/etc. so as such without God at all we would never be able to do anything because we could never exist
  2. Jesus' quote "By myself I can do nothing" in John 5:30 (how much more so can we do nothing)
  3. "I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." in John 15:5
  4. The fact that God ultimately controls the world and has the power to destroy us or do whatever He wants

The first potential problem that I see with these supporting the general claim that "without God I can do nothing" is that 1. doesn't really address the issue of our ability to do something now but rather the past (meaning yes, without Him we wouldn't exist, but since we do exist it doesn't determine if we can do something). The second potential problem is that 2. and 3. might only be implying a more specific case such as "apart from me you can do nothing good". The third is that in 4. if God didn't do anything ("without God") then Him stopping us wouldn't happen.

Is there any other Biblical basis for the general claim of "Without God I could do nothing"? Or is the evidence above generally enough to convince most theologians that this claim is true?

  • One that believes in God would more than likely believe this statement 100% with the idea of #1. Without God there is nothing. Something I don't think many can actually comprehend. Not even I :P – NealC Nov 17 '15 at 12:30
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    Another way to interpret "without God I could do nothing" could be "without God I could do nothing of any eternal significance" (given that our mortal lives are a blip in eternity, few things we do during our time here really matter in the long run, so if we don't do things that matter it's as if we didn't do anything). – Samuel Bradshaw Aug 27 '16 at 22:22
5

Here is an answer extracted and slightly edited (and with a new final paragraph added) from my article, "Christian Beliefs that the Bible Does Teach":

As we go about our daily lives, doing this or that for our fellow human beings, we naturally suppose that we are doing it by ourselves and from our own power. There’s nothing wrong with that as long as we don't think it’s really true. Because the reality is that by ourselves, we can't do anything at all.

Our very life comes from God. Without the spirit and life of God within us we are nothing but dust:

Then the Lord God formed a human from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the human became a living being. (Genesis 2:7)

God didn't just breathe life into us in the beginning. God breathes life into us every moment. When that breath from God is withdrawn, our life is over:

When you take away their breath, they die and return to their dust. (Psalm 104:29)

Psalm 127 recognizes poetically that everything we do, if it is anything at all, must come from God:

Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord guards the city, the guard keeps watch in vain. (Psalm 127:1)

In the Gospels, both John the Baptist and Jesus Christ himself tell us that everything we have, everything we do, and everything we are is given to us from heaven—which means that it comes from the Lord our God:

John answered, "No one can receive anything except what has been given from heaven." (John 3:27)

Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:4–5)

The fact is that every good thing we do comes from God, and is done by God's power working through us. When we take credit for our good works, we are stealing the credit from God, who actually does the works. This is what Jesus meant when he said:

The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does the works. (John 14:10)

We could not even do evil without God, for the simple reason given in the first two Bible quotes above: without God we would not exist, and therefore could not do anything at all. This does not, however, mean that the evil itself comes from God. Only the ability to do evil comes from God. But that is a different question.

  • Depending on what one considers "The Bible", I would certainly include Wisdom 11:25 supporting the idea that God sustains us all our lives: "How could a thing remain, unless you willed it; or be preserved, had it not been called forth by you?" – Matt Gutting Nov 18 '15 at 13:18
4

What's the Biblical basis for “Without God I could do nothing”?

As has been pointed out there are two ways this can be taken, ”I could do nothing at all” and “I could do nothing good” (the “good” being implied).

To support the first view we need to consider that we exist and our existence is sustained by God.

Psalm 127:3 Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.

Colossians 1:17 And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.

To support the second view we can take the inverse;

Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.

We can also see the nature of man without God’s work;

Romans 3:12 They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.

Genesis 6:5 And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.

  • The Colossians verse is spot on – Zach Saucier Nov 17 '15 at 17:58
1

A couple things in your question kind of popped out at me.

One Thing: Stewardship

One thing concerns your first point. The word you didn't mention (but alluded to) is stewardship, a concept which is taught throughout Scripture in many and varied ways. A steward (an old-fashioned term for a servant, or employee, who is in charge of some aspect of his boss's business) is accountable to his boss for what he does with the boss's stuff, be it real estate or any other asset which has been entrusted to the steward.

The clear teaching of Scripture is that you and I have nothing which was not given to us (1 Corinthians 4:7). Put positively, all we possess is a gift from God. Whether our genetic makeup, our talents and spiritual gift-mix, our possessions, or the very next breath we take, all these things and more are gracious gifts from God (see Acts 17:24-28, especially v.28).

To be sure, God has given us all things richly to enjoy (1 Timothy 6:17), but ultimately, accountability will always be an aspect of who we are and what God has entrusted to us. Moreover, God expects and deserves faithfulness of his stewards. Even if he seems to have given us what from our perspective is very little, he nevertheless expects and deserves a return on his investment. Not to put too fine a point on it, Jesus bought us outright at the cross. He demonstrated his love for us at Calvary despite our being sinful, rebellious, lost, condemned, disobedient, unrighteous, helpless, and objects of his wrath (Romans 5:1-9). We therefore owe him a debt of love and gratitude we can never fully repay.

Another Thing: God's Sovereignty

Another thing concerns your fourth point about God ultimately being in charge of all that is, and God being free to do whatever he pleases with what is his. The term theologians use in this regard is sovereignty. While there is tremendous disagreement among Christians as to how God's sovereignty is exercised here on earth, we can all agree God is in fact sovereign. No authority is higher than his, no one's will can ultimately triumph over his will, and no one (no person, power, or malignant influence) can prevent his ultimate victory over sin, death, and hell. Toward that end, all of humanity is headed, and while God's timetable for having the last word is unclear to us, we nevertheless know it will be spoken:

The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever (Revelation 11:15b NASB Updated).

All this to say, if God's children truly want his will to be done "on earth as it is in heaven," then the duty incumbent upon us is to accomplish his will in his way. His way involves our complete trust in his strength, power, and ability. Yes, we can attempt to do his will in our own strength--in the strength of our flesh, but at the Judgment Seat of Christ those attempts will be burned up and we will suffer loss.

On the other hand, those things we do in the strength and love which God himself provides will survive the fire of Christ's judgment and be rewarded handsomely (see 2 Corinthians 5:9-11). Moreover, God alone will be glorified both now and then, for his glory is really the ultimate good. Yes, we his children are blessed when we do his will and do it in his way, but we do it all for God's glory, not ours:

For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen (Romans 11:36).

By the way, notice the verse which follows Romans 11:36; namely,

Therefore, I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship (12:1).

In light of God's mercies toward us sinners, we can do nothing less than give back to God everything he has entrusted to us, plus interest (see Matthew 25:1 ff.)!

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    While this is useful information, most all of it doesn't seem applicable to the question I'm asking – Zach Saucier Nov 17 '15 at 19:18
  • @ZachSaucier: You could be right. Nevertheless, I've been on my faith journey for a long time (58 years and counting), so there might just be a nugget or two in there if ya look hard enough. Don – rhetorician Nov 18 '15 at 1:25
1

Without God I could do nothing.

Psalm 121:1-8 (A song of ascent) says:

I lift up my eyes to the mountain where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip - he who watches over you will not slumber; Indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD watches over you - the LORD is your is shade at your right hand; The sun will not harm you by day,nor the moon by night The LORD will keep you from all harm - he will watch over your life; The LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forever more. ...........This is the song of David

He believed that at moment "without God he could do nothing" He put all his trust unto the LORD. He believed that arrows and the warriors without God are useless.

One important reference again is Psalm 136 for what the LORD did in the life of the Israelites to let them understand that without Him God they could do nothing to get to the promise land. Thus without God we could do nothing.

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