Abide in Me (John 15:4-5)
If you are destroyed because you don’t bear fruit (15:2,6), and the only way to bear fruit is to abide in the vein (15:4), you better abide in the vine (15:4). Therefore, we need to understand what it means to abide.
We read, in John 15:4, “abide in me.” John uses meno, which is the underlying Greek word that is translated as abide in this passage (ESV). The New Testament authors use this word 118 times. The synoptic authors employ this word twelve times. Paul uses this word 17 times throughout all his epistles. Luke uses the word 13 times throughout Acts. But John uses this word almost 70 times (67 times) throughout his gospel and epistles, and of those, eleven are used in this chapter. All to say, John considers the idea behind meno as particularly important and chapter 15 appears to be the primary chapter in which the idea is developed.
Jesus states that we are to abide in a relationship with him, which implies that a relationship already exists. Translators use other words in translating this word, such as stay, continue, endure, wait, and remain. Each of these implies that you are already present within something that is to continue. Your already existing relationship is to be continued. This ongoing relationship begins, from our perspective, at the moment of our genuine belief.
Defining & Describing Abiding
Defining & Describing Abiding
We believe in Jesus. Abiding begins with belief. Abiding becomes much more than belief, but abiding is never less than genuine belief. Even the branches, not bearing fruit and taken away, are said to be “in him” indicating minimally a surface level of belief. Therefore, to abide includes belief that Jesus Christ is God and that he provides salvation and the forgiveness of sins through his death, burial, and resurrection. This belief as well includes the acceptance that the Bible, in which Jesus Christ is revealed, is true. This genuine belief in Jesus and the Bible that reveals him anchors the branch into the vine.
We care what he says. Abiding includes ongoing acceptance of His words. In verse 4, Jesus says, “abide in me.” Just a few verses later, Jesus says, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you” (Jn 15:7). In this statement, Jesus connects our abiding in him to his words abiding within us. We remain in fellowship with Jesus by observing his teachings. Additionally, John writes in his first epistle, “Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father” (1 Jn 2:24).
We do what he says. Abiding includes ongoing adherence to Jesus’ commands. Jesus continues a few verses later, “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” (Jn 15:10). Therefore, those who abide in the vine, obey Jesus’ commands. Earlier in the gospel, Jesus told a group of Jews that are characterized as having believed in him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples” (Jn 8:31). “[I]f ‘remaining’ in Jesus is a metaphor for continuing in fellowship with and loyalty to him, then obedience to his commands is clearly important.”
Jesus abides with us. Abiding includes Jesus abiding with us. With these last three, we offer descriptions more than further definition. When we continue to believe in Jesus, continue to care what Jesus says, and continue to obey what Jesus says; Jesus remains with us. The connection to the vine endures. Jesus had been physically present with his disciples but had just informed them that he would be leaving them. He encourages them with the promise, that even though he would leave, he would not leave them alone.
If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. (Jn 14:15–17).
Jesus continues in verse 23, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him” (Jn 14:23).
I want to be careful about adding to the vine analogy, but I think it is fair to consider that if Jesus is the vine in which we are connected, the Holy Spirit is the sap that brings us strength, nourishment, and produces fruit in our lives. In so doing, God abides with us as we cling to the vine.
We bear spiritual fruit. Abiding is evidenced by our fruit. Many commentators acknowledge that the “fruit” spoken of in this analogy either refers to (1) the fruit of the Spirit or righteous living (Galatians 5) or (2) the results of sharing the gospel. I would propose that Jesus does not intend to limit fruit to one specific understanding. I see no reason why we should not understand “fruit” to refer to all the manifesting results of Jesus and the Holy Spirit working through the life of a believer. Evangelistic fruit would be included, and so would the fruit of the Spirit in one’s life. Paul writes of this fruit in Galatians, “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law” (Gal 5:22–23).
Abiding is for the glory of God. In verse 8, Jesus states the purpose and end goal for all the abiding happening in this chapter. “By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples” (Jn 15:8). Let me offer two ways by which the Father is glorified. (1) The Father’s plan to redeem people back to himself becomes manifest. All of life falls within the grand story of redemption. God created all things and sovereignly rules over all. Despite his rule, and under his allowance, man sinned, resulting in division between mankind and God. Christ came, lived a perfect life, died as our substitute, and gloriously rose defeating sin and death. Christ humbled himself to this work in order to redeem people. When we bear fruit and reflect the character of Jesus in our lives, God’s purpose throughout his redemptive story becomes real. And in this, God is glorified. (2) Also, God’s character is revealed as Jesus, the vine, produces the fruit of godly character in the lives of believers. People, having no ability inherently to produce Christlike character in their lives, are transformed by abiding in the vine. In so doing God is glorified.
In coming to this text, I do not necessarily struggle in grappling with the meaning of abiding, but I do struggle grabbing hold of what that might look like. Bear with me as I attempt to offer an example of abiding in a different context. And, let me acknowledge up front that you may have to struggle through this a little bit.
Let me start with a question. Why is common sense not so common? What appears to be common to one person probably appears to be common due to a prolonged exposure to a specific way of thinking. When you draw a conclusion in a certain moment of life, you probably are not cognizant of the hundreds of conversations and statements you were present for that resulted in you drawing such a conclusion. Your worldview has been firmly set around dinner table conversations, comments amid a newscast, office or classroom chats, shared social media post, and hopefully church messages and bible studies. Thousands of these moments, over the course of your lifetime have developed what you would consider to be common sense. Let me attempt to prove this point by asking you to respond to the following statements with either true or false.
Abortion is murder.
We should outlaw homeschooling.
Most news is fake news.
Most authorities in our lives abuse their authority.
The government should mandate vaccinations.
Individual and systemic racism has been a problem in our country since its founding.
Open borders are a problem. We should build a wall.
College should be free.
Immorality only matters if its present in the democratic party. Republicans can be immoral as long as they make the decisions we like.
The government should increase regulations to prevent climate change.
We should ban all plastic products and mandate paper straws.
Each of you probably had an immediate response to every one of those areas, not because you considered some evidence in front of you but because of the myriad hours of contemplation, conversations, and consumption of media.
I think I could accurately guess most of your positions on those statements. You have surrounded yourself with people and opinions that reflect your belief system. The answers to those questions/statements seem obvious to you. You would likely consider the responses to those statements as common sense.
Vastly, those responses fall along party lines – not entirely, but in large part.
How one interprets the Constitution.
How one views our American heritage.
What news outlets you watch or prefer – Fox for Republicans, MSNBC for Democrats.
Even social media tends to fall on these lines – Twitter for Democrats and Facebook for Republicans.
Where in the country you live – highly populated areas are Democrat, less populated areas tend to be Republican.
Our lives are consumed with a way of thinking. We think a certain way. We surround ourselves with people who think a certain way. We follow media that bolsters our way of thinking. And, the fruit of our way of thinking is displayed as we post social media, choose where to live, and select presidential candidates.
This is equivalent to abiding in a political party. In fact, we would probably question the validity of someone’s adherence to a political party based on certain positions they held. If you were to state you were a Republican but rejected free speech online, many would doubt whether you were a Republican. If you stated you were a Democrat but held a pro-life position, many would doubt you were a Democrat. You might prove to be a branch that does not produce Democratic or Republican fruit (ie. talking points) and be removed from the political vine.
So then, you may think I am trying to make a political point. I am not – even a little. What I hope for within this church, is that the evidence of our life would not point so obviously to a political party but instead a spiritual relationship. Instead of people concluding we must watch Fox because of our Facebook post, they conclude we must be consumed with Scripture because Scripture guides all our responses to life. Instead of people assuming we love the second amendment because we show up at a protest with long guns, they conclude we follow Jesus because at every opportunity we treat others kindly and graciously.
Do the people we purposefully surround ourselves with think biblically? Are we pursuing more and more time to understand God’s Word? Do we wonder how Christ would react in certain circumstances? Is the fruit of our life described by the fruit mentioned in Galatians 5?
I fear our social media reveals that instead of abiding in Christ, we are abiding in one side or another on the current culture war. Our arguments tend to reveal our adherence to a political party and an interpretative grid for the Constitution more than an awareness and knowledge of Scripture.
Someone threatens to take my gun I can confidently, boldly, and publicly site the second amendment . . . but if someone wrongs me, I wouldn’t have a clue how to biblically process forgiveness.
We consume our time with news and social media. Our daily emotions flux from joy to depression based on whether or not our preferred party’s position seems to be winning. And yet, be ye kind to one another seems to find no place in our day. If it is possible within you, live at peace with all men – nope – I would just prefer to fight for my constitutional rights.
I purposefully placed this discussion at the end of the message. If I had started with this, I may have lost some of you throughout the message. Your mind may be arguing counterpoints to all I have said. I understand that I cannot appropriately address the nuances of each of those mammoth discussions in a brief concluding point. I get it. You may argue that you can abide in Christ and still fight for constitutional rights. And, I agree. You can abide in Christ, and appropriately and respectfully protest a tyrannical governor.
But that is not my point. My point – this brief potential soap box is intended to communicate that your life reflects what you abide in. I could have got up on a professional sports soap box or an online gaming soapbox or . . . What do you abide in? What consumes you? Where does your heart reside? Where do you feel at home?
The concept of abide is tightly connected to the idea of home. Where is home to you? Where is your heart at rest? Where are eager to get back to? Where are you comfortable? With whom are you comfortable?
Deffinbaugh. Home is a place of safety and security. Home is where you bring your friends when you wish to have fellowship with them. Home is our base of operations; it is at the center of what we do. Home is where you find your strength for life; it is where you eat and sleep. Home is where the people and the things we love the most are found.
Isn‘t this what Jesus Christ should be for the Christian? Shouldn‘t He be our place of refuge and security? Should He not be the source of our life and strength? Shouldn‘t He be the reason for our fellowship with others? Shouldn‘t He be where our heart is?
He is – if we abide in Him.
Purpose Statement. Abiding is persistent adherence and ongoing development of a way of thinking. Therefore, abiding in Christ, involves our ongoing pursuit of a knowledge of Christ, as revealed in His Word, and a persistent adherence to his expectations.
 Colin G. Kruse, John: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 4, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 313.