What Does it Really Mean to Abide in Christ?
- Jessica Brodie Contributing Writer
- 2021 17 Feb
It sounds so comforting: “abide in me” (John 15:4). Christ invites us to “abide” in Him and in His word and love. It’s a more old-fashioned word, abide, and the meaning offers such peace, rest, and safety that many people can’t help but equate it with good and restful notions such as home and security. What does it mean to abide in Christ? Here, we explore the term and what it looks like to achieve this for today’s Christian.
'Abide in Me' Meaning
In the Gospel of John, Jesus talks quite a bit about the opportunity we have to abide in Him. He particularly emphasizes this in John 15, where He compares the peace, rest, and rejuvenation that we find in Him to the symbiotic and life-giving relationship between a vine and its branches. As Jesus tells His disciples in John 15:4-5, “Abide in me, and I in you. 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. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (ESV).
If anyone does not abide in Him, Jesus says, they will wither and be discarded, “thrown into the fire, and burned” (John 15:6). But connected to Him, they will thrive and ultimately have eternal life. In other translations, the word “abide” is translated as “remain” (NIV, NLT) or “live” (The Message), but the meaning is much the same. The word “abide” comes from the Greek menó, which according to Strong’s Concordance means stay, abide, or remain. Others liken the word to “dwell” or “rest.”
Abiding, or remaining, in Christ means believing, trusting, or welcoming Christ. It is fully attaching ourselves to Him and drawing our necessary life force from Him. The Bible talks about abiding in Christ throughout the New Testament. In John 6:56, Jesus tells the Jews in the synagogue that those who eat His flesh and drink His blood remain or abide in Him, and Him in them (this is much like the “living water” analogy Jesus uses with the Samaritan woman in John 4:10). In John 8:31, Jesus tells of the importance of abiding in His word.
In 1 Corinthians 13:13, the apostle Paul writes about how faith, hope, and love abide when we are rooted in the Lord. And in the 1 and 2 John epistles, a number of references to “abiding in Christ” pepper the text. For example, John writes in 1 John 2:28, “And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming” (ESV). In 1 John 4:16, he writes, “So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” And he writes in 2 John 9, “Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.”
Abide in Me Verses
Below are some verses that talk about abiding in Jesus:
John 15:4: "Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me."
1 John 2:6: "Whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked."
1 John 3:4: "Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us."
Colossians 2:6: "Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him."
How Do We Abide in Christ?
Drawing from His word—believing it, clinging to it, resting in it, focusing your life upon it—is like constantly refreshing ourselves with living water. We are renewed and have eternal life because of it. First, we have to receive the word and believe it. Then we have to live within its parameters and stay in connection with our Savior Jesus so we continue to draw that life-giving sustenance from Him. The vines-branches analogy in John 15 gives us the closest instructions on how we are to abide in Christ. As the verses indicate, we are to abide in Him, abide in His love, and keep His commandments. The evidence that we are abiding in Him is in the fruit we bear.
Three Keys to Abiding in Christ:
The first key to abiding in Christ is receiving and believing Him. Jesus tells us He is “the way and the truth and the life” and says no one comes to the Father except through Him (John 14:6). But receiving Him isn’t just a mindset. Abide is a verb. We must choose to receive and believe, choose to live our lives in Him and for Him. We see this in the story of Mary and Martha, Lazarus’s two sisters. Luke 10 tells how Jesus visited their home, and Martha was scurrying around preparing the meal while Mary sat at His feet, absorbing His presence and teachings—essentially, she chose to abide in the Lord. And, as Jesus tells Martha when she complains, her sister Mary has chosen the better way (Luke 10:42).
The next key is abiding in Christ’s love. When we bask and dwell in the love of Jesus, we understand that we are all part of Him. We love God more than anything, and we love our neighbor as ourself. We don’t put ourselves first before others or put other things before the Lord. These are the two “greatest commandments” Jesus lifted up when He was questioned by the Pharisees in Matthew 22:34-40, and when we heed those commandments, prioritize and live by them, we are abiding in Christ. Love comes first, Jesus says—love for God, then love for others.
The third key is abiding in Christ by abiding in His word. Jesus tells us if we remain in Him, then His words remain in us. This means spending intentional, focused time in the word of God, whether by reading the Bible, engaging in prayer or other relational communions with God, worshipping Him, or meditating upon His word and His ways. If we do this, and God’s word remains in us, then Jesus says there will be fruit. Indeed, He says, you can “ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” (John 15:7).
In Matthew 17, Jesus had given the disciples authority to perform miracles in His name. However, in the case of one demon-possessed boy, they could not drive out the demon; Jesus had to do this. When the disciples asked Jesus privately why they could not cast it out, Jesus said it was because of their lack of faith. “For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you” (Matthew 17:20 ESV). Fruit is an indicator we are abiding in Christ and Christ, in return, abides in us.
The world constantly clamors for our attention, trying to drown out God’s voice, God’s word, and God’s will amidst the chaos that is culture and worldly treasures. Abiding in Christ means choosing to live in Him, walk in His ways, heed His Word, and reflect His love. “Abide in me” is both an invitation and a command. And for today’s Christian, it’s a must. What steps are you taking to abide in Christ? What could you be doing differently to live fully in the Lord?
Photo credit: Unsplash/ilvano
Jessica Brodie is an award-winning Christian novelist, journalist, editor, blogger, and writing coach and the recipient of the 2018 American Christian Fiction Writers Genesis Award for her novel, The Memory Garden. She is also the editor of the South Carolina United Methodist Advocate, the oldest newspaper in Methodism. Learn more about her fiction and read her faith blog at jessicabrodie.com. She has a weekly YouTube devotional, too. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and more. She’s also produced a free eBook, A God-Centered Life: 10 Faith-Based Practices When You’re Feeling Anxious, Grumpy, or Stressed.
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