Things Man Cannot Do

By Tommy L. McClure

During the last one hundred years many great and good accomplishments have been made by man. Life expectancy is much longer due to the advances in medical science. In the field of travel, advancement has been made from the “ankle-express” and horse-and-buggy methods to space flights. The electronics industry with all its computerized systems is enough to stagger the imagination. One might think: There is nothing man cannot dol Lest we become “carried away” with all of man’s wonderful accomplishments, let us pause to reflect upon things man cannot do!

Man Cannot Overthrow The Work Of God

The Jewish council, angered because the apostles had preached Jesus Christ in spite of their prohibition, discussed ways and means of putting than to death (Acts 4:18-20; 5:27-33). Then Gamaliel, a respected doctor of the law in apostolic times, wisely said:

Ye men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what ye intend to do as touching these men. . . .Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel of this work be of men, it will come to nought: but if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God (Acts 5:35-39).

Note: “If it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it.”Gainaliel was never more right in his lifel Pharoah tried to hold the Israelites in bondage, contrary to God’s will; Pharaoh failed (Ex. 5-14)! Sanballot, Tobiah and Geshem tried to stop the re-building of the wan of Jerusalem; they failed (Neh. 4-6)1 Nehemiah said, “. . . they perceived that this work was wrought of our God” (Neh. 6:16). The Jews tried to rid the world of Jesus Christ by crucifixion; they failed (Mt. 27,28)! They later tried to stamp out the church and the declaration of the gospel of Christ by bitter persecution; they failed (Acts 8:1-4)1 Every man who has oppressed the work of God has failed, every man who opposes the work of God will fail! ff it be of Go4 ye cannot overthrow it!

Man Cannot Get Away From God

The Psalmist said:

Whither shall. I so from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there thy hand shall lead me, And thy right hand shall hold me (Psa. 139:7-10, ASV).

When God gave Jonah the unpleasant task to “go to Ninevah, that great city, and cry against it” because of its wickedness, “Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord” (Jon. 1:1-3). Did he succeed? No! When the fish vomited out Jonah upon the dry ground, God was there with the same instruction! “And the word of the Lord came unto Jonah the second time, saying, Arise, go unto Nineveh, that great city, and preach unto it the preaching that I bid thee” (Jon. 3:1,2). Jonah could not flee or hide from God! “Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do” (Heb. 4:13). Though men cry for mountains and rocks to fall upon them (Rev.6:16,17), though they attempt to flee from His presence (Rev. 20: 11), both small and great will stand before God and be judged according to their works (Rev. 20:1215; Acts 17:30,31; Rom. 14:10-12; Eccl. 12:13,14). Friend, try as you may, you cannot get away from God!

Man Cannot Please God Without Faith

“But without faith it is impossible to please him; for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Heb. 11:6). Men who were pleasing to God in Bible times were, without an exception, men of faith! Unbelief has always been displeasing to God! Faith is the motivating power which causes men to do what God commands and be what God wills. Faith comes by hearing the word of God (Rom. 10:17). Therefore, one who acts by faith acts in accord with God’s word, the expression of His will. The man of faith does not put his will up against the will of God. His attitude is: “Not my will, but thine be done” (Lk. 22:42). The one who says, “I know the Lord said, ‘He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved,’ but I think man can be saved without baptism, “is setting his will up against the will of the Lord. Such indicates unbelief, not faith! The person who, in religious matters, acts without authority from God is acting by opinion rather than by faith! Nadab and Abihu who made an offering which God had not commanded them were so displeasing to God that they were devoured by fire from the Lord (Lev. 10:1,2, ASV). Yet, some preachers — false apostles, deceitful workers, ministers of Satan pretending to be ministers of Christ (see 2 Cor. 11: 13-15) — will tell people they do not need authority from the Lord for what they do in worship and religious work!

Man Cannot Serve Two Masters

“No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon” (Matt. 6:24). “Mammon” refers to riches to which many have become servants. If they think they are the Lord’s servants while serving mammon, they have some more thinking to do!

One cannot serve the Lord and the devil at the same time. Paul said, “Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the -cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord’s table, and the table of devils” (1 Cor. 10:21). If one cannot have fellowship with the Lord and devils at the same time, he certainly cannot serve both at the same time. Friend, are you trying to hang on to the Lord with one hand and the devil with the other? You may as well try to ride two horses running in opposite directions at the same time — the Lord and the devil are not going the same way!

Man Cannot Love God And Not Love His Brother

“If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God loveth his brother also” (1 Jn. 4:20,21). The person who hates his brother does not love God! If he claims that he does love God, he is a liar, according to John! John also tells us that the destiny of “all liars” is “the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death” (Rev. 21:8). It is, therefore, a very serious matter to claim love for God while harboring brotherly hate in the heart.

Man Cannot Truly Love And Not Give

But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth (1 Jn. 3:17,18).

Note John’s question: “How dwelleth the love of God in him?” That is a rhetorical question in which the answer is evident and implied. The evident, implied answer is: The love of God does not dwell in the man who has ability to help his needy brother but refuses to do so! Love is measured by giving. God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that man need not perish (Jn. 3:16).Jesus so loved the world that He gave his life a ransom for many (Mt. 20:28). The man who truly loves his wife will give to her that which she needs-and more! Love which goes no further than the tongue or lips is not truly love. True love expresses itself in deeds and gifts, not just words of “sweet nothings.”

Man Cannot Escape Death

“What man is he that liveth, and shall not see death? Shall he deliver his soul from the hand of the grave?” (Psa. 89:48) “There is no man that hath power over the spirit to retain the spirit; neither hath he power in the day of death. . .” (Eccl. 8:8). In Adam all die (1 Cor. 15:22). It is appointed unto men once to die, after which comes the judgment (Heb. 9:27). Friend, do not think you will live on this earth eternally! You will die, just as the millions before you have diedl What then? Are you ready to pass from this world into eternity? The foolish farmer was not prepared for God’s pronouncement: “Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee. . . ” (Lk. 12:20). The rich man at whose gate Lazarus was laid was not ready for death, but he I also died, I as did Lazarus, “and in hell (Hades) he lifted up his eyes, being in torments. . .” (read Lk. 16:19-31). If we could know, surely and certainly know, that we will die one minute before midnight this day, would we make any changes? If the answer is, “Yes,” we had better get busy making those changes, for we don’t know that we won’t die then or before! Like David and Isaac said: “. . . there is but a step between me and death” (1 Sam. 20:3), and “I know not the day or my death” (Gen. 27:2).

Man Cannot Succeed Without Christ

Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (Jn. 14:6). Orthodox Jews and others who claim to believe in God while rejecting Jesus Christ are headed for serious failure! Jesus said, “He that honoreth not the Son honoreth not the Father which hath sent him” (Jn. 5:22). He told His disciples, “He that heareth you heareth me; and he that despiseth you despiseth me; and he that despiseth me despiseth him that sent me” (Lk. 10: 16). One who honors not the Son honors not the Father, regardless of all contrary claims! One who despises the Son despises the Father, regardless of all his declarations of love for God!

A study of this matter which does not include what Jesus said about the vine and the branches would be incomplete. To His disciples, He said, “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 ye can do nothing” (Jn. 15:5). Just before this, He had told them, “As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me” (Jn. 15:4). Friend, without Christ (which includes entering into and abiding in Him by doing what He says) we cannot succeed! He is our life (Col 3:4), savior (Matt. 1:21), hope (1 Tim. 1:1; Col. 1:27), light (Jn. 8:12), way to the Father (Jn . 14:6), mediator (1 Tim. 2:5), high priest (Heb. 4:14), example (1 Cor. 11:1; 1 Pet. 1:21), spiritual healer (Mt. 13: 1; 9:10-13), fortification against temptation (Heb. 2:18), peace (Eph. 2:11-17), victor (Rom. 7:21-8:4; 1 Cor. 15:53-57), source of living water (Jn. 4:10-14), bread of life (Jn. 6:48), advocate (1 Jn. 2:1), propitiation (1 Jn. 2:2), shepherd (Heb. 13:20; 1 Pet. 5:4), helper (Heb. 13:5,6), law-giver (Jas. 4:12; 1 Cor. 9:21; Heb. 1:1,2), etc., and He will be our judge (Acts 17:30; Mt. 25:31-46; Rom. 14: 10; 2 Cor. 5: 10) and His word will be the standard (Jn. 12:48)1 Succeed without Him? In the words of the good song:

Without Him I could do nothing; Without Him I’d surely fail.

Without Him I would be drifting like a ship without a sail.

Without Him I would be dying; Without Him I’d be enslaved.

Without Him life would be hopeless, But with Jesus, thank God, I’m saved

(Songs Of 7he Church, 363).

Man Cannot Carry Anything Out Of This World

“For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out” (1 Tim. 6:7). If a man were to acquire all the sold and silver this earth contains, not one ounce will he take with him when he departs this life. The story goes that a multi-millionaire died. During his funeral, which was elaborate indeed, one man asked another,”Do you know how much he left?” The answer was as truthful as it was terse. “Yes, all of it!” Bonds, stocks, mansions, ranches, off wells, office buildings, gold, silver, precious stones, Cadillacs and Lincoln Continentals — he left them all?

If one thinks he can buy his way into heaven with earthly wealth, he is sadly mistaken. “Riches profit not in the day of wrath: but righteousness delivereth from death” (Prov. 11:4). Redemption comes not by means of silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Christ (1 Pet. 1:18,19)!

Man Cannot Tame The Tongue

“For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind: But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison” (Jas. 3:7,8). After reading this passage, some have erroneously concluded that James is teaching that it is useless to attempt to control the tongue. This conclusion is at variance with many other plain passages! “Keep thy tongue from evil. . .” (Psa. 34:13). “Whoso keepeth his mouth and his tongue keepeth his soul from troubles” (Prov. 21:23). “1 said, I will take heed to my ways, that I sin not with my tongue: I will keep my mouth with a bridle, while the wicked is before me” (Psa. 39:1). James himself said, “If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain” (Jas. 1:26).

Surely, then, James is not teaching that the tongue cannot be controlled, he is teaching that it cannot be tamed! Animals have been tamed to the extent that they will not harm us, even though they are uncaged and unguarded. Not so the tongue-though kept under restraint for years; in an unguarded moment, it will leap forth and do untold harm! Let’s bridle our tongues and keep them bridled-keep them under restraint, under control, and never leave them unguarded for a moment. After all, God has given us an excellent cage for the tongue-the front teeth!

Men Cannot Hide His Sins From God

To the men of the tribes of Reuben and Gad, Moses said, “. . . . be sure your sin will find you out” (Psa. 32:23). The Psalmist said, “O, God, thou knowest my foolishness; and my sins are not hid from thee” (Psa. 69:5). Solomon said, “For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good or whether it be evil” (Eccl. 12:14). The Hebrew writer said, “Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do” (Heb. 4:13). The Lord, through Jeremiah, said, “Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? saith the Lord. Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the Lord” (Jer. 23:24). And, “For mine eyes are upon all their ways: they are not hid from my face, neither is their iniquity hid from mine eyes” (Jer. 16:17). The “bottom line” is: sinners will not get away with their evil deeds! God sees! God knows! God will judge! And, that judgment will be right-in righteousness (Acts 17:31)!

Man Cannot Please God In The Flesh

“So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God” (Rom. 8:8). What does “in the flesh” in the above passage mean? Obviously, it does not refer merely to being in the fleshly body; otherwise, no one could please God in this life. The Bible shows that some have pleased God while in their bodies of flesh-Enoch (Heb. 11:5), John and others (1 Jn. 3:22), Jesus (Jn. 8:29). Paul’s prayer for the Colossians was: “That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work. . . ” (Col. 1:10). Surely, Paul’s prayer was not idle, wishful thinking!

Some have told us that “in the flesh” refers to the unregenerate or unconverted state. One such man stated in debate that if the unconverted man pays his debts, it is a sin, but if he does not pay his debts, it is a worse sin! Everything the unconverted does — whether he rocks his baby, loves his wife, ploughs his field, or paints his house — is sin, according to these religionists! Then, the same religionists will turn around and contend that after one is converted, becomes a child of God, his sins will not damn his soul-that all the sins he might commit, from idolatry to murder, will not jeopardize his soul! Swallow it if you are so determined; but it smells too much like “‘turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness” (Jude 4), to suit me!

The text under consideration concerns those who “mind the things of the flesh” (Rom. 8:5). These are said to be “carnally minded” as opposed to being “spiritually minded” (Rom. 8:6). While “carnally minded” — while they “mind the things of the flesh” — they are opposed to God, not subject to His law, and cannot be (Rom. 8:7)! Why? Because, following the lead of the “carnal mind,” they engage in the works of the flesh, catalogued by Paul, as follows: “Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revelings, and such like. . . ” (Gal. 5:19-2 1). Anyone, alien sinner or child of God, who does such is not pleasing to God and cannot please God while so engaged! He is “in the flesh” because he is engaged in the “works of the flesh” and “they that are in the flesh cannot please God” (Rom. 8:8).

Man Cannot Change His State After Death

In the Lord’s account of Lazarus and the rich man (Lk. 16:19-31), the Lord taught that when the beggar died he was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom and there comforted, but the rich man in hell (Hades) lifted up his eyes in torment. He requested that Lazarus be sent to dip his finger in water to cool his tongue. The request was denied and the rich man was told:

Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivest thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence (vv. 25,26).

A great gulf fixed! No crossing it in either direction!

Friend, if you think you can leave this world in a sinful condition, and later be paid and/or prayed out of the fires of a supposed “purgatory” (?), you need to re-think the matter in the light of the Lord’s plain statement-a great gulf (chasm, or broad, yawning space) is fixed (set forth, made fast or firm), and none can cross it (the chasm cannot be bridged)! Nor will hell (Hades) be vacated of its guilty millions, and its miserable inhabitants be received into heaven, as the doctrine of Universal Salvation asserts.

Charles Taze Russell, the founder of the movement in which people incorrectly style themselves “Jehovah’s Witnesses,” taught that man will have a second trial or chance and the second will be more favorable than the first (Studies In The Scriptures, Vol. 1, pp. 143-153). If so, the text (Lk. 16:19-31) would have been a fine place to teach it I Father Abraham should have told the rich man, “Patient, my son! A second, better chance awaits you!” Of the five brothers, he should have said, “No need for concern! If they come to that place of torment, they will later have a second, better chancel” No such thing was said- rather the very opposite! Destiny is determined in this life, not after death. Now is the accepted time; now is the day of salvation (2 Cor. 6:2). Today is the time to hear His voice (Heb. 3:7). The dead are to be raised to life or damnation, not to a second, better chance (Jn. 5:28,29). We will be condemned or rewarded for the deeds of this life (Mt. 25:31-46). The wicked shall go into everlasting punishment (Mt. 25:46) and suffer the second death (Rev. 20:11-15), not to be offered a second chance!

Man Cannot Avoid The Judgment Of God

Speaking to those who condemned others for sins of which they themselves were guilty, Paul said, “And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God?” (Rom. 2:3) Criminals may escape the judgment of our judicial system, but none will escape the judgment of God! He has appointed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness (Acts 17:31). All shall stand before the judgment seat of Christ, and every one shall give account of himself to God (Rom. 14:20-12). God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil (Eccl. 12:14). Before the Son of man shall be gathered all nati6ns for judgment (Mt. 25:31-46). This, friends, is the meeting we all will attend! Let us wisely use the time God has granted to prepare for it!


Thus, in spite of all of the wonderful accomplishments man has made in the physical realm, and in spite of all the high estimates he may place on his abilities, there are many things man cannot do. The list has not been exhausted in this study. It is hoped that this writing will spur the readers to further study, greater work for the Lord, more sober thinking, and more godly living!

Guardian of Truth XXIX: 16, pp. 483-484, 500-501
August 15, 1985