gospelJohn 15:7-8, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.”

Jesus’ teaching on abiding in Him is of great importance as seen not only by the fact that He taught on so pivotal an occasion as the night of His departure but also in the extended treatment He gave on the subject. It is clearly important for Christians to understand what it means to abide in Christ. The Greek verb meno means “to dwell or remain.” J.C. Ryle explains how it speaks of our relationship with Christ:

To abide in Christ means to keep up a habit of constant close communion with Him, to be always leaning on Him, resting on Him, pouring out our hearts to Him, and using Him as our Fountain of life and strength, as our chief Companion and best Friend. To have His Words abiding in us, is to keep His sayings and precepts continually before our memories and minds, and to make them the guide of our actions, and the rule of our daily conduct and behavior.” (J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the gospels: John, 3 vols. (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1999), 3:16-17.

Jesus amplifies His own teaching by relating our abiding in Him, first, to our resting in His love. John 15:9, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.” This informs us that the Christian who abides in Christ is one who believes, trusts, relies on, and rests within Christ’s love for His own.  Even while Christ’s love for His disciples is unbroken, it is still possible to “live without being mindful of Christ’s love for them and so break the closeness of their fellowship.” (Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, rev. ed., New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995). This is why Jesus urges us to remain in His love. John wrote of this in His first epistle in 1 John 4:16, “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.” To be a Christian is to know the love of God in Christ, who died on the cross for our sins. To abide in Christ is to rely on that love, so that in all things we draw near to Him, look to Him in faith, and confidently expect His saving grace to be at work in our lives. Jesus has proved His love for us forever on the cross; now we are to abide in His love.

Jesus points out to us an analogy between His relationship of love with the Father and our relationship of love with Him. John 15:9, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.” This reminds us that Jesus’ love for us consists of more than mercy and compassion, since the Father does not pity the Son but rather delights in the Son approves of His Son, and desires the fellowship of His Son. Likewise, then, Jesus delights in His people, approves of those who are cleansed by His blood (1 John 1:7), and delights in those whom he takes as His disciples.

How many Christians are paralyzed in their spiritual lives by a dread of Christ’s disfavor and disapproval? They see a constantly frowning face in heaven. But Jesus says that his love for us is like the Father’s love for Him. We might say that Jesus not only loves us but likes us. Indeed, the primary biblical metaphor for Christ’s love for the church is that of a groom for His bride. A groom longs for His bride with great delight and piercing joy. The Bible tells us that since believers are robed in the perfected imputed righteousness of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21), then “as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you” (Isa. 62:5). No man marries a woman simply because he feels sorry for her, and Jesus’ love for us is one of joy in fellowship, delighting in our redeemed persons for His own sake.

Christians who know and rely on Christ’s love will respond by obeying His commands. This is the second relationship that Jesus identifies with abiding in Him. John 15:10, “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.”

Jesus is not saying that we are saved by obedience, since we are saved by faith alone in His perfect saving work for us. What He is saying is that as we rely on His love for us and respond with loving obedience to his commandments, the result is that we are drawn near to abide in His love. Ours should be the grateful, devoted attitude of David in Psalm 40:8,”I desire to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.” The source of this submitted will is our knowledge of God’s love for us, and its effect is our abiding in Christ.

These very words were ascribed to Jesus in the New Testament (Hebrews 10:7). Jesus’ obedient love to the Father sets the pattern for our obedient love to Him: “just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in His love” (John 15:10). Jesus took great pleasure on earth in showing His love to the Father by obeying His commands. Likewise, our love for Christ and our abiding in Him involves the submission of our will to his will, so that on the path of obedience that Jesus Himself walked we have close fellowship with Him. Realizing this, we are warned against thinking that abiding in Christ manifests itself in mystical experiences. Instead, abiding in Christ manifests itself in devoted obedience to His Word.

Jesus is describing a lifestyle of abiding in Him that moves from love to love. In the fourth chapter of his first epistle, John enlarges on this theme stating in 1 John 4:9, “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.” Or defining reality as Christians, he says, is God’s love for us in Christ and Christ’s love for us on the cross. Both the Father and the Son continue to love us so that believers live through Christ, abiding in His love, living for His pleasure, and accepting His will as our own. John sums up the Christian life saying in 1 John 4:19, “We love because he first loved us”, and the way that we show our love is through joyful obedience to Jesus’ commandments.

This mentality was displayed by the aged bishop Polycarp, when the Roman proconsul urged him to renounce Jesus in order to escape being thrown to the beasts in the arena. Polycarp answered, “Eight and six years have I served him, and he never did me any injury: how then can I blaspheme my King and Savior?” Every Christian should reason likewise: what wrong has Jesus ever done so that I might disobey the commands of Him so loved me?

Next Post: Abiding in Christ: Bearing the Fruit of Living in the Spirit

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