INTRODUCTION. In John 15.4, we have the divine imperative to abide in Christ when Jesus said, “Remain in me, and I will remain in you.” Either on the way to Gethsemane or still in the upper room, Christ taught the disciples the essential need of abiding in him by employing the metaphor of the vine and branches. “I am the vine; you are the branches” (v. 5). “No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me” (v. 4).
The questions then become: what does it mean to remain in Christ? why should we do it? and, how do we go about abiding in Christ?
WHAT IS ABIDING IN CHRIST. So what does it mean to remain in Christ? The NT verb translated “to abide” or “to remain” is used both transitively and intransitively. The intransitive sense is applicable here and it means to continue in a place or state in which one now is, to reside, to last, especially in the face of trial (cf. Luke 8.27; Acts 27.31; John 15.5; 1 Corinthians 3.14).
From Christ’s metaphor we see that to remain in him means to stay healthily connected to him like a branch to the vine. As the branch stays connected enough to be able to draw upon the life giving nutrients of the vine that lead to bearing fruit, we must stay connected to Christ closely enough to draw upon his resources that lead to our fulfilling our purpose in life.
To remain in Christ is: first, to accept Jesus as Savior by believing in him in the first place (John 6.56); second, to continue and persevere in believing in Jesus as Savior (1 John 2.24); and third, to fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12.2).
WHY ABIDE IN CHRIST. Why should we abide in Christ? As the metaphor emphasizes, we remain in the vine so we are able to bear the desired fruit. “No branch can bear fruit itself; it must remain in the vine” (v. 4). The organic union with the vine means life for the branches. A branch that remains well grafted into the vine will draw upon its life giving nutrients and in turn bear fruit. Apart from Christ, however, we can do nothing (v. 5). Any branch that is not truly connected to the vine withers on the vine, becomes dead wood and will be cut off and thrown into the fire (v. 6).
Moreover, if we remain in Christ and his words remain in us, then “ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you” (v. 7). This can be misconstrued as endorsing a “name it and claim it” mentality. What it actually means is if we remain in Christ and his words in us, then our minds will be “conformed to the likeness of his Son” (Romans 8.29) and our prayers will therefore conform to the Father’s will, and thus what we ask for will be given us.
The fruitfulness of all Christians is to participate in the conversion of souls to the glory of God (Romans 15.16). By our good works, many are brought to glorify our Father who is in heaven, and on that great Day, we will share in the joy of our Lord. In order to be fruitful, we must abide in Christ, we must keep our union with him through faith, and do all we do in the virtue of that union. Indeed, the Father is the Gardner who nurtures and cultivates the Vine (v. 1), and so to be one with the vine is to be one with the Father.
HOW TO ABIDE IN CHRIST. How do we abide or remain in Christ? All believers are motivated by the wonder of Jesus’ love which is patterned after the Father’s love in its quality and extent. “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love” (v. 9). Remaining in Christ’s love may seem mystical but Jesus made it quite a concrete concept. Obedience to the Father’s commands is the same for a believer as it was for the Son. “If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love” (v. 10). To obey his commands, we must attend to his word, pray and serve others. Moreover, we must be willing to be pruned so we can be even more fruitful (v. 2). God disciplines those he loves (Hebrews 12.6), and further does it for our own good, that we may share in his holiness (Hebrews 12.10). Active dependence and loving obedience are the proper paths for all Christians to stay grafted to the vine and bear the desired fruit.
CONCLUSION. The test of whether we are abiding in the vine is whether or not we are bearing good fruit. If we are not abiding, we won’t bear fruit; if we are, we will. Either we are abiding at any given moment, or we are not. There is no in between.
© 2014 by Patrick Lloyd—the WORD runs deep publishing (TWRD Short # 021)