By Roland W. Keith
What does it mean to abide in Christ? The idea of abiding in Christ has been described by some as having a personal relationship with Jesus or feeling His presence in our lives, among other things. But these are mere concepts. Some in His generation were privileged to meet our Savior in the flesh and have a truly personal relationship with Him. However, that does not happen today. When the Bible speaks of our relationship with Christ it is based on things that are spiritually concrete, and that require personal activity on our part, but does not consist in an actual personal friendship. To abide in Christ means to actively engage Him when we encounter Him in our lives. Today this happens through the word. Christ came into the world as the Word incarnate (John 1:1, 14; I John 1:1-4), and it is through the word that we encounter Him and come to know Him. Moreover, it is through the word that He abides in us and we abide in Him.
In his first letter the apostle John wrote, “Let that therefore abide in you, which ye have heard from the beginning. If that which ye have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, ye also shall continue in the Son, and in the Father. And this is the promise that He hath promised us, even eternal life. These things have I written unto you concerning them that seduce you. But the anointing which ye have received of Him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in Him” (I John 2:24-27). Insofar as we know the word of God we know the will of God, and insofar as we incorporate the will of God into our lives the closer we become to the Lord. In other words, the closer we want to get to God the more we will study His word, and the greater our knowledge and understanding of His word will become. In addition, the more we apply His word to ourselves the more we will find Christ manifested in our lives.
John also quoted these words of Jesus, “I am the true vine, and My Father is the husbandman. Every branch in Me that beareth not fruit He taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, He purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in Me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without Me ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in Me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. If ye abide in Me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you” (John 15:1-7). Again, we see here the connection between Jesus’ words abiding in us and our abiding in Him. There is another element in the relationship revealed here also. The understanding that those within whom Christ dwells are fruitful members of His body. And how are we fruitful? Through the word— by learning it, sharing it and living it.
As Paul exhorted his young protégé, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (II Timothy 2:15). It is the one who studies and keeps God’s word that draws near to the Lord and finds approval. According to John, “hereby we do know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He that saith, I know Him, and keepeth not His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth His word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in Him. He that saith he abideth in Him ought himself also so to walk, even as He walked” (I John 2:3-6). Are we walking as Christ walked? To make an accurate assessment of that we find that we must once again return to the word that God has given us to lead us along that path, in order to gauge how well we are doing.
As the psalmist said, “With my whole heart have I sought Thee: O let me not wander from Thy commandments. Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against Thee. Blessed art thou, O LORD: teach me Thy statutes. With my lips have I declared all the judgments of Thy mouth. I have rejoiced in the way of Thy testimonies, as much as in all riches. I will meditate in Thy precepts, and have respect unto Thy ways. I will delight myself in Thy statutes: I will not forget Thy word” (Psalm 119:11-16). At this point it is safe to say that at least one truth has been revealed in our study. That is— those who abide in Christ love the word of God! Paul told his readers to “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly…”, as he encouraged them to teach and admonish one another (Colossians 3:16-17). If we invite the word of God into our hearts we arm ourselves against Satan and temptation (Ephesians 6:10-17), enabling us to withstand his onslaughts. As James wrote, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and He will draw nigh to you” James 4:7-8).
Christianity is not really a touchy-feely, warm fuzzy-feeling sort of thing as some tel-evangelists or best-selling writers make it out to be. Certainly, it brings a cause for rejoicing into our lives, but that rejoicing often comes with many trials and tribulations (just look at the life of Paul). Christianity requires more of a “Lets roll up our sleeves and get to work” type of mentality. It’s a “climb to the mountaintop” kind of joy that the true Christian seeks. The more we accomplish for the Lord along the way the more we feel Him working in our lives, and the greater becomes our rejoicing. And all of this comes from knowing the word, living the word (“let your light so shine”), and sharing the word with others. As Peter wrote we should desire the word of God as a newborn baby craves milk (I Peter 2:2). It is necessary for us to grow and survive. But as James noted it is not enough to be hearers (or readers) of the word only, we must be doers of the word for it to be of true value in our lives (James 1:22).
Jesus came to earth for a reason— to draw people to Him, and thus to God the Father. He was manifested in the flesh to take away our sins (I John 3:5-6). If we are His followers in truth we will do all that we can to abide in His word, so that He may abide in us, and we may have confidence before Him (John 15:7; I John 2:24, 28). And, one might add, confidence in defeating the devil (James 4:7). As John wrote, “Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son” (II John 1:9). The Bible speaks in various verses of the Holy Spirit dwelling within us, as well as the Father and the Son. The simple fact is if we dwell in the word of God, that is faithfully seek God in His word, and obediently apply it to our lives, then God will dwell with us. As Paul wrote in Hebrews, “Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. For if the word spoken by angels was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward; How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard Him" (Hebrews 2:1-3).
The word of God has been confirmed through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. It has been attested to by trustworthy witnesses. It has withstood the test of time, and all critical analysis without fail. Moreover, the word calls each man to test it for himself. The word tells us that the way to truth and eternal life with God is through His Son, Jesus Christ. And, to abide in Christ is to allow Him to abide in us through the word.
Hi! I'm Roland. I began writing after retiring from the Navy in 2015. I believe that we each should strive to learn from one another, by sharing our thoughts and ideas. As a writer my goal is to help other seekers of truth to find and grow in Christ.