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In church and while reading scripture, you’ve most like come across the phrase “Abide in Him.” Have you ever wondered what it means when Jesus said, “abide in me”?
Jesus used a powerful illustration of a vine and branches to show how a relationship with him should be. Just as the branches of a vine cannot bear fruit unless they abide in their upholding Vine, believers can only glorify God through fruitful lives if we abide in Him.
Jesus instructed his disciples about their calling and mission as he prepared them for His death. He made it clear that they were completely dependent on him, even in the face of impending tragedy or hardship. As Jesus says in verse 5,
First, let’s look at what abide means.
The Hebrew word for abide in the Old Testament is וַיֵּ֥שֶׁב – yashab. It is defined the same way as the English word abide, but it also includes concepts of interpersonal relationships about being in a shared space: “…habitations, haunt, inhabit, make to inhabit, inhabitant, make to keep house, lurking, marry, marrying, place bring again to place.”
The Hebrew definition gives us a deeper understanding of abiding. It reflects a deep, personal relationship and personal connection.
The Greek word for abide used most frequently in the New Testament was menō – μένω. This word is translated much the same as the English definition: “to stay (in a given place, state, relation or expectancy): – abide, continue, dwell, endure, be present, remain, stand, tarry (for), thine own.” The relational element of abiding is still there, but as part of concept of “staying.”
Jesus is the True Vine and God, the Vinedresser
One of the most memorable and powerful metaphors that Jesus used related to a believer’s relationship with Him is the vine and branches.
Unpacking the Metaphor of Vine and Branches
What does this picture mean? It’s so filled with layers and meanings that we can’t help but want to dive deeper. Jesus is the vine, and we are its branches. The Father refers to Jesus as the vinedresser. He says that he takes care of his branches, which are those who believe and follow Him. He prunes the fruitful branches so they will bear more fruit, and takes away any unfruitful ones to throw them into a burning fire.
The unfruitful branches seem to be nominal disciples: people who outwardly follow Jesus for a time, but fail in their commitment and yield no fruit.
Think, for example, of Judas Iscariot. The fruit we are called to bear probably includes both the fruit of transformed character (similar to “the fruit of the Spirit” in Galatians 5:22-23) and fruitfulness in evangelism as we bear witness to Jesus and his work.
In the same way that branches can only bear fruit if they abide in the vine, the only way that Christians can glorify God is by living fruitful lives by abiding in Jesus.
We can find this in John 15 when Jesus is instructing them about their calling and mission as His disciples. He is emphasizing their absolute dependence on him.
In verse 5 of John 15, Jesus says:
What Did Jesus Mean to “Abide in Me”?
Let’s examine this scripture to better understand what it means to abide in Him.
The vine is Jesus, and believers and disciples are the branches. The Father, Jesus says, is the “vinedresser”. Other translations refer to Him as the gardener (NLT) or husbandman (KVJ). He is the one that cares for and tends the branches.
The vinedresser (our Father) prunes the branches that bear fruit so they will bear more fruit, removes the unfruitful branches, and throws them into the fire.
The branches that are unfruitful are the lukewarm believers. The people that may go to church on Sunday and live a worldly life Monday through Saturday. They are the people who outwardly follow Jesus for a time but fail to bear fruit.
An example would be Judas Iscariot. The fruit we are called to bear most likely includes both the fruit of a transformed character (such as we would find in “the fruit of the Spirit” in Galatians 5:22-23) and fruitfulness in evangelism as we bear witness to Jesus.
Three Characteristics of Abiding in Him
What does it look like for us to abide in Jesus as branches in the vine?
There are three things that we need to abide in Him. These things are Union with Christ, Thirst for Christ, and Constancy with Christ.
1. Union with Christ
To abide in Him means that we have a life-giving connection to him. A branch is connected to the vine and a vine to the branch. This is our “union with Christ”. The union, this connection, is mutual.
We abide in him, and he abides in us. If the vine is cut from the branch, there is no connection, and, therefore, the vine cannot bear fruit.
2. Thirst for Christ
As mentioned above in the translations for the word abide, abiding is dependence. This facet of abiding, unlike connection, is not mutual.
While the branch is dependent on the vine, the vine is not dependent on the branch. The branch receives its life and growth from the vine. Without the vine, the branch is useless, lifeless, and dead.
Sap flows from the vine to the branch, supplying it with water, minerals, and nutrients that make it grow. And believers receive the “sap” of Christ’s grace through our life-giving connection, or thirst to and for him.
We are completely dependent upon Jesus for everything in life, especially our spiritual fruit (verse 4). Apart from him, we can do nothing (verse 5).
As the branch thirsts for the water and nutrients the vine provides, we are to thirst for Jesus in the same way.
3. Constancy with Christ
Abiding also involves constancy. As we learned above, “abide” in Greek means to remain, stay or continue.
Consider, for example,
Two of the disciples asked him, “Where are you staying?”. They wanted to know where Jesus lived. The word “staying” is the same word translated as “abide” in John 15. To abide is to reside. To abide is to continue, to stay, to remain.
This shows us that another aspect of abiding in Him is remaining in Him. This simply means that we go on trusting, that we keep on depending and that we never stop believing – we are constant in our faith in Jesus.
To abide in Jesus is to persevere in Jesus and his teachings. This is what Jesus is referring to in John 8:31-32, when he says, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
To abide in the vine means to be in union with Jesus, to thirst for Jesus, and to be in constant relationship with Him.Warrior Women: Creating a Custom War Binder for a Powerful Prayer Life
Bible Verses with the Word “Abide”
There are many places in scripture where we can find the word abide. Looking at how and where it is used in God’s Word can help us understand the ways in which the Lord abides with us, and how we can abide with Him and His Word.
In this verse, the word abide gives us a glimpse into the nature of God, and how He strengthens those who trust in Him. God is constant, He endures, staying the same, and those who walk with Him get to remain in His strength, mercy, and grace.
This verse, a statement from Jesus, comes after feeding the five thousand. Many in the crowd followed Him and tried to get more food, but Jesus wanted to offer them something even better – eternal life.
In this verse, He uses a metaphor, truly symbolic. Those who put their faith in Him would be rewarded with a personal, lasting relationship.
In John 15:4-7, an intimate relationship with Jesus is emphasized. There is an abiding need for God and walking in fellowship with Him in our daily life. In depending on Him and thirsting for Him.
When we abide in Him, we grow in righteousness, and our relationship with Him and bear a desire to do good works for the Kingdom of God. Abiding involves maintaining that special relationship with our Savior.
Galatians 3:10 emphasizes that we cannot follow the law with our own power. One cannot perfectly follow the law, and anyone who tries to do so will be cursed. The law of the Old Testament was not a relationship like the one Jesus described in John 15.
In this verse, abiding by the law means perfectly maintaining the standards of the Old Testament law. It is not possible, in fact, to bring condemnation, whereas, on the other hand, abiding in Christ and Him brings salvation.
A few more Bible verses containing abide:
Four Ways We Can Abide in Christ and His Word
That leads to a final question: how do you abide? If abiding in Jesus involves ongoing daily dependence on him, what does that look like? Jesus himself tells us. We abide in Jesus by letting his words abide in us and by abiding in his love.
To put it simply, abiding in Jesus doesn’t require advancing beyond the gospel to something else. It doesn’t demand a crisis decision or a mystical experience. It just means keeping the words of Jesus in our hearts and minds, so that they are renewing and reviving us, shaping and sanctifying us, filling and forming us. And it means keeping ourselves in his infinite, enduring, sin-bearing, heart-conquering, life-giving love.
1. Make Prayer a Priority
Having regular, daily prayer time, a time to talk with God. To give Him thanks and present our requests to Him is critically important to abide in Him.
Just like relationships with friends and family, talking with the Lord consistently and honestly is key to growing in His love.
2. Read the Word of God
God preserved His Word for every generation. Spending time learning more about who He is and what He has done for His people will expand the personal knowledge one has of the Lord, strengthening the relationship.
You can only do this by reading your Bible. This is a major key to abiding in Him.
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3. Serve Others
When Jesus talks about abiding in Him, He is also speaking of serving the Lord by serving others for His Kingdom.
Investing in the things of God means investing in eternal things. Working for the Lord requires one to lean on Him more and grow a deeper relationship with Him.
To abide in Him is to see others through God’s eyes and serve others with love for His Kingdom.
4. Actively Seek the Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit is the Comforter sent to “indwell” and abide within each believer. Upon giving your heart to Christ and receiving salvation, the Spirit begins to transform the individual.
The Holy Spirit cultivates good fruits and character traits, convicts the individual of sin, and produces transformation. Seeking this element of God that actually abides with us teaches us to better abide in Him.
Abiding with God is a special relationship that He offers to each of us. After the gift of salvation, we can grow close to the one who created us, saved us, and with whom we will joyfully spend eternity.
To abide in Him is a special relationship. We don’t just want to “be right” with God, we want to be “with God”. We have been made new creations in Christ, freed from sin and worldly pursuits to abide in him. And he gives us just what we need to do this by giving us himself.
Do you sincerely desire to say as David did, “Earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you”? If so, may the Lord Jesus Christ richly bless your efforts. Remember that abiding in Him is a process that we must continually work at. As we do, we will find His presence more and more sweet and refreshing. In addition, as we abide in Him, He will increasingly use us to accomplish great things for His kingdom.
Abide with the Lord and receive the blessing of knowing God personally.
You may enjoy this video by Pastor John of Desiring God:
Or one of these recommended resources to dig deeper into abiding in Jesus:
Are you abiding in Christ? I’d love to hear how you are walking with Him.
Because He Lives,
ESV – “Scripture quotations are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”