Our Dependence on Christ
November 6th, 1988 @ 10:50 AM
OUR DEPENDENCE UPON CHRIST
Dr. W. A. Criswell
11-6-88 10:50 a.m.
You are now a part of our dear First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the message entitled Our Dependence Upon Christ. It is an exposition of a wonderful word of our Lord in the first eight verses of the fifteenth chapter of John. In our preaching through the Gospel of John, we are in the very Holy of Holies, chapters 14 through 17 [John 14:1-17:26]. And in chapter 15 our Lord said:
I am the true vine, and My Father is the husbandman.
Every branch in Me that beareth not fruit He taketh away: but every branch that beareth fruit, He purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.
Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except you abide in Me.
I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without Me you can do nothing.
That is the text—
If a man abide not in Me, he is cast forth as a branch, is withered: men gather them, cast them into the fire, they are burned.
If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you shall ask what you will, and it shall be done unto you.
Herein is My Father glorified, that you bear much fruit;
Herein it is My Father glorified, that you bear much fruit; so shall you be My disciples.
And the text: “For without Me you can do nothing” [John 15:5]. Without Christ, we are helpless. But in Him, all things are possible. “Without Me you can do nothing.”
When I was in the university, there were eighteen of us that made a journey to North Carolina, to Ridgecrest, to our Southern Baptist assembly there. And on the way to North Carolina we stopped in Tuskegee, Alabama, and visited in Tuskegee Institute, George Washington Carver. He was an old black man. He was the greatest chemist that America has ever produced; born as a slave, and traded for a horse. We stood in that chemical laboratory and looked at the miraculous things he had wrought out of red Alabama clay and out of Alabama peanuts. It was miraculous, the things he had created out of those two common substances. And after his lecture and his presentation, we gathered round that old white-headed black chemist and asked, “How is it you’re able to do these miraculous things?” And the old Negro took his hand, raised his arm and pointed to God in heaven and quoted this text: “For without Me you can do nothing” [John 15:5].
It is the whole passage, a marvelous presentation of our Lord. It involves our forever relationship with Christ, our union with Him. It is a picture of our spiritual life with God our Father as the husbandman, and with Jesus as the vine, and with all of us who are His branches. There is a union we have with our Lord that is inseparable in quality and in character. Separated from Him we are nothing; we wither away and die. But in Him, all strength and blessing flow aboundingly and abundantly into our souls.
It’s a remarkable, wonderful thing, our union with Christ. Not adventitiously joined, not occasionally with Him, not in Christ on Sunday and out of Christ on Monday and the days of the week. Not in Christ at the Lord’s Supper table, as we shall commune with Him this solemn evening hour at seven o’clock—not with our Lord just at the table of communion, but with our Lord in the marketplace, just joined to Him in every area and facet and fortune of life.
We are one plant in Jesus. Whether it be down toward the root or whether the branch be toward the top; whether it be the saints at Pentecost, or the saints at the consummation of the age, we are all one in Him. Whether it be that glorious company of martyrs and apostles, or whether it be the tribulation children of God at the end time; we are all a part of the general assembly and church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven [Hebrews 12:23].
Throughout the centuries and the generations, all of us are one in Him [Ephesians 4:5-6]. And the purpose is that we might bear fruit [John 15:8]. We are as necessary to our Lord as He is to us. The fruit is not borne on the stem, it’s borne on the branches. And if there is no fruit, He takes us away. We wither and die. And He says, “Men gather them up, and burn them in the fire” [John 15:6].
Think of bundles of ministers, pastors and preachers that are burned in the fire. Think of deacons, bundles of deacons that are burned in the fire. Think of church members, bundles of church members that are burned in the fire. They are useless. They are separated from God. But oh, how wonderful: He will say, “We bear fruit” [John 15:8]. Then He will say, “We bear more fruit.” Then He will finally say, “We bear much fruit.” We glorify God bearing a wonderful ministry full of wonderful works for Him.
Do you notice the word “do”? “For without Me you cannot do anything” [John 15:5]. Poiein, that’s one of the words in this Greek New Testament that you’ll meet again and again, poieō , the infinitive form, poiein, to work, to accomplish, to achieve, to do. In the tenth chapter of the Book of Acts, Simon Peter sums up the ministry of our Lord with that word. “He went about doing good” [Acts 10:38]. In the fourteenth chapter of this beautiful passage, verse 12 our Lord says, “Greater works than these shall you do; because I go unto the Father” [John 14:12].
I often think, Lord God in heaven, as marvelous as the ministry of our Savior, could it be true that we do greater things than He? For He went away, and we are here. Do you remember the word of the apostle Paul in Philippians 4:13: “I can do all—I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me.” Do, doing, working, producing for God: that would imply that down these aisles come these converts we have won to the Lord. That would imply the great missionary outreach, preaching the gospel of Christ to the nations of the world. We send them out. They preach the gospel in our name, a great work; doing for God. That would imply our tremendous stewardship program in which we are now involved; doing a great work for Jesus.
You know, if I work for somebody and he gives me a hundred dollars for the day, that hundred dollars represents a day of my life. And if I bring that hundred dollars and give it to God, that represents a day of my life I’ve dedicated to Him, and when we come into the Lord’s house with our coined lives, our coined days, our coined strength and vigor, and give it to God, that is we dedicating our lives to Him; doing for God. You know, it’s a great thing to feel, I’m out here working, and I’m working to support myself, but I’m also working for God. I’m doing this for Him too. It sanctifies and hallows the labor of our hands; doing for God.
The Book of Hebrews says we are not to forget, to fail to assemble ourselves together [Hebrews 10:25]. On the Lord’s Day, here in God’s house, we’re teaching those little children you saw in the name of the Lord in the way of Christ. We are encouraging our young people. And we’re singing His praises. God is pleased with that. Here in this Book out of which I preach are one hundred fifty songs that God inspired, praising His glorious name [Psalms 1-150]. It pleases God for us to assemble, to pray, to read His Book, to encourage one another in the faith; doing it for God.
And when we think in terms of doing nothing, the very thought is offensive to us, and how much more so must it be to the Lord in heaven; doing nothing. One of the most dramatic things that I can read in the Bible is in the Book of Exodus, when God brought His people out of the bondage of Egypt and they came finally to the Red Sea [Exodus 14:13-14]. What would they do? They were now facing and pressed against the sea itself and stood there; nothing. And Moses was crying unto God. And do you remember the word?
And God said unto Moses, “Why criest thou unto Me? Speak unto the children of Israel, that they march!” [Exodus 14:15]. That they go forward! Get going! “But good God in heaven, there’s a sea in front of us!” What is a sea to God? When the Lord says, “Move”; when the Lord says, “Go”; when the Lord says, “Do”; sea or no sea. And when they put their feet in the water, God’s Book says the sea parted, it divided [Exodus 14:21-22]; doing for God.
Of course, so many of us are familiar with our lack of strength before the tremendous opportunities God lays before us. That’s why the text: “Without Me ye can do nothing” [John 15:5]. We need our Lord. I could not think of a more tragic word than that; without Christ, without Him; Christianity without Christ. How many preachers there are who enter the pulpit without Christ! The sermon they deliver could as equally been delivered in a Mohammedan mosque as in a house of the Lord God. It could be delivered in an infidel university in a secular class in economics, just as well as it could have been delivered in the pulpit. It is without Christ. Maybe highly intellectual; maybe socially sensitive; maybe delivered with charm and grace, but God is not in it. There’s no Christ in it.
How desperately we need the Lord God in what we do, in the Sunday school class to teach, in the organized life of the church, carrying on the work of our Lord, we need Him. I cannot think also of a more lovely, or precious, or gracious, or prayerful, or endearing thing in this world than to invite Christ into your work. Lord, this pulpit is Yours, Lord. You stand here. You speak here, Lord. You lead these people in love and in grace. Lord, come into this pulpit. Do it, Lord. May we sense and feel Your holy presence. Come into our Sunday school classes. And come into all of the efforts of our congregation. Be with us, Lord, in the pews. You be there. You come down these aisles. You sing in this choir. You do it, Lord. You sanctify and hallow this orchestra. You be here, Lord. O God, our absolute Savior and King, our infallible Teacher, our enthroned and mighty God; Lord, You be with us.
Our organized life and our efforts are nothing without Him. The strength and the power is not in the weapon. It’s in the hand that wields it, wills it. So Lord, we are nothing without Thee. “Without Me you can do nothing” [John 15:5].
How much is that pressed upon our hearts in the daily life that we live and in the world that is yet to come? My sin; what shall I do with my sin, with the wrong that I’m conscious of in life? Who can wash it away? How I need Christ!
What can wash away my sin?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
What can make me whole again?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
Oh, precious is the flow
That makes me white as snow.
No other fount I know.
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
[“Nothing But the Blood,” Robert Lowry]
Sweet people, in my studying—and as you know, I study all the time. In my studying, I came across this in the life of Cyprian. Cyprian was a wonderful, great preacher. He was pastor of the church in Carthage, North Africa, when all of North Africa was solidly Christian. And Carthage as you know rivaled Rome. Do you remember Cato every time he stood up to speak at the Roman Senate closed his address with “Carthado dilendes”: “Carthage must be destroyed,” which finally, of course, they did. Well, Carthage was a city like Rome. And the pastor of the church there was Cyprian, a great glorious preacher. He was martyred, as you know, in 258 AD under Valerius, under the Valerian persecution.
Well, in the lifetime and in the ministry of Cyprian was the Decian persecution. And in the Decian persecution, they were those faithful Christians who were sent to the mines. And Cyprian wrote a letter to those slaves. They were Christians sold into slavery to work in the mines. And this is the letter that he wrote to them.
In the mines the body is refreshed, not by beds and pillows, but by the comforts and joys of Christ. Your limbs, wearied with labor, recline upon the earth, but it is no punishment to lie there with Christ. Your bread, scanty though it be, reminds us that we live not by bread alone but by the Word of Christ. You are in want of clothing to defend you from the cold, but he who has put on Christ has clothing and ornament from heaven. Even though my brethren, you cannot celebrate the communion of the Lord’s Supper—such as we’re going to do tonight—your faith need feel no want. What triumph in your hearts, where you can walk through the mines, your bodies enslaved but your souls conscious of triumphant mastery. When you know that Christ is with you, you are walking in His footsteps into the kingdom of eternity.
My soul, how would you defeat a man like that? Slaves working in the mines, but walking with Jesus. Lying down with the Lord, raised in His love and grace, and looking forward to being part of His eternal kingdom.
May I close? It is a joy and a gladness on our part to give Christ all the praise and the glory. If we did it, the praise would be ours; the glory, ours. It would belong rightfully to us. I forgave me my sin and washed the stain out of my soul. I did it. I raised me from the dead. I wrestled with the great enemy, and I overcame him. I did it. And I opened the gates of heaven and entered in triumphantly, I did it; all praise and glory to me.
How willingly, how lovingly, endearingly, preciously, O God, do we give the praise and the glory to Thee. You, Lord, washed the stain out of my soul. You, Lord, stood by me in the hour of my death. You, Lord, raised me from the grave. And You, Lord, opened the door for me into heaven.
Is that not the text of the Revelation? “Unto Him who loved us, and gave Himself for us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and His Father: unto Him be glory forever and ever. Amen” [Revelation 1:5-6]. And again, in that same glorious Apocalypse:
I saw a vast throng gathered around the throne of God. Their number was ten thousand times ten thousand and thousands—
Greek of it—
muriades, muriadon; uncounted thousands, and thousands, and thousands.
And they sang with a loud voice: Worthy is the Lamb . . . Worthy is the Lamb to receive honor, and glory, and dominion, and power.
[Revelation 5:11, 12]
“For He hath redeemed us by His blood, out of every nation, and tribe, and family in the earth” [Revelation 5:9].
And the four living cherubim, said, Amen. And the four and twenty elders fell down and worshiped Him for ever and for ever. To Him be the glory and the honor, the praise, ever and for ever.
Do you like John the Baptist? “He must increase, but I must decrease” [John 3:30]. “He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, standing by, rejoices to hear his voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled” [John 3:29]. All praise to the Lord Jesus!
All hail the power of Jesus’ name.
Let angels prostrate fall.
Hail Him who saves you by His grace
And crown Him Lord of all.
Let every nation, every tribe
On this terrestrial ball
To Him all majesty ascribe
And crown Him Lord of all.
[“All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name,” Edward Perronet]
Jesus, our blessed Savior, our eternal Friend and our hope of heaven. Now may we pray?
OUR DEPENDENCE UPON CHRIST
Dr. W. A. Criswell
11-6-88I. The text (John 15:1-8)
A. Our union with Christ is inseparable in quality and character
1. One plant
2. All one – those closest to the root, those closest to the top
B. The purpose is to bear fruit
1. We are necessary to Christ (John 14:12)
2. If no fruit, cast into the fire (John 15:6)
3. Joined to Christ, the spiritual life will bear fruit, more fruit, and much fruit (John 15:2a, 2b, 5, 8)II. The word “do” (Acts 10:38, John 14:12, Philippians 4:13)
A. Bringing lost souls to Jesus
B. Our stewardship program
C. The assembling of ourselves together (Hebrews 10:25)
1. Those who do nothing (Exodus 14:15)III. Apart from Christ, our inability and incapacity
A. “Without Me” – a terrible, tragic thought, a Christianity without Christ
1. Come to the pulpit without Christ
2. We need Him in the organized life of the church
B. “Apart from Me” – without the Savior
1. Our sin: who can carry it away?
2. Letter from CyprianIV. Happy to declare it so