Abiding: A Rich Theological Concept

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“Abide in Me…..abide in my word…..abide in my love”  (Jn. 15:4,7,9)

Certainly these words of Jesus are worthy of quiet and thoughtful meditation.  I have heard the concept illustrated by the example of staying under an umbrella during a storm.  God’s wrath against sin falls like rain upon the unbeliever, but the one who puts his faith and trust in Jesus abides under the protection of the only Savior and Redeemer.  This is a popular way of presenting the gospel, but is it accurate?

Not exactly.  Perhaps it’s a useful illustration, as far as it goes, but the biblical concept of abiding in Jesus is much more profound.  As believers, we are united to Him.  The scriptural imagery is that of the vine and the branch, not the rain and the umbrella.  It is vibrant, organic. living, deeply intimate.  

Abiding in Jesus means abiding in a relationship.  When used with the preposition “in” and a personal object, it points to the relationship of mutual indwelling of the Father, the Son, and the believer.  Just as the Father has loved Jesus, so Jesus has loved his disciples, and they are to abide in his love.  His life will manifest itself in their lives as they bear fruit, even as his works were the work of his Father.  Apart from him the disciples can do nothing, just as Jesus could do nothing apart from the Father (5:19, 30).  Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels, pg. 2

We could put it this way, now that you’re in Christ as a believer… stay there.  We shouldn’t look back and forth as if something or someone better may come along.  We should be supremely satisfied with our Savior and find our peace resting in him.

Secondly, abiding in Jesus means abiding in what he has revealed.  We should stay in his word.  Never let the Bible become a dull book.  Never let the words of Jesus become distant memory.  Scripture is not simply words on paper, it is living and active.  It is a book that weaves knowledge and experience together, i.e. we gain additional light as God works in our hearts and lives to better understand the text.  Reading the Psalms as a new believer is a much different experience from reading them as a tried and tested saint, for example.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read a verse over and over, only to come to a trial in my life in which I understand the same verse like I never have before. 

Thirdly, abiding in Jesus means abiding in the love with which he has loved us. That sacrificial love which the world cannot understand, and the believer cannot fully comprehend. Stay in that love which is so beautifully displayed in the cross, is characterized by self-denial, and shines forth in service to others. Rainy days and umbrellas are too mundane to illustrate such glorious concepts!

C.M. Granger

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