5.Without me you can do nothing. This is the conclusion and application of the whole parable. So long as we are separate from him, we bear no fruit that is good and acceptable to God, for we are unable to do anything good. The Papists not only extenuate this statement, but destroy its substance, and, indeed, they altogether evade it; for, though in words they acknowledge that we can do nothing without Christ, yet they foolishly imagine that they possess some power, which is not sufficient in itself, but, being aided by the grace of God, co-operates (as they say,) that is, works along with it; (80) for they cannot endure that man should be so much annihilated as to do nothing of himself. But these words of Christ are too plain to be evaded so easily as they suppose. The doctrine invented by the Papists is, that we can do nothing without Christ, but that, aided by him, we have something of ourselves in addition to his grace. But Christ, on the other hand, declares that we can do nothing of ourselves. The branch, he says, beareth not fruit of itself; and, therefore, he not only extols the aid of his co-operating grace, but deprives us entirely of all power but what he imparts to us. Accordingly, this phrase, without me, must be explained as meaning, except from me.
Next follows another sophism; for they allege that the branch has something from nature, for if another branch, which is not fruit-bearing, be engrafted in the vine, it will produce nothing. But this is easily answered; for Christ does not explain what the branch has naturally, before it become united to the vine, but rather means that we begin to become branches at the time when we are united to him. And, indeed, Scripture elsewhere shows that, before we are in him, we are dry and useless wood.
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