by Mike Ratliff
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 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. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 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. (John 15:4-10 ESV)
For the first 20 or so years of this walk I was in a very immature spiritual state. I was utterly convinced during that time that my worth as a disciple depended upon my performance, my learning, my obedience. With that mind-set it was a very horrible experience at times since I was on a roller coaster ride of obedience and backsliding. What amazed me during that period was that I was looked at as one of the more mature believers at our church. I knew better. That all changed in 2004 and 2005 as God drew me into the light and drastically changed that ‘mind-set.’ It was as I learned and held to the truth that our salvation is all according to God’s will not ours that I began to have peace and freedom. He chose us according to the good pleasure of His will, not according to our abilities or any other inherent attribute we may have. With this remaking of my mind-set came the ending of that cycle of obedience and backsliding. It was as if it had been put to death.
During that wounded period of my Christian walk I thought that I was abiding in Christ while I was obedient, but not abiding while I was backsliding. That was a misconception on my part for those who abide in Christ are those who remain in Him. All genuine believers abide. The Greek word translated as “abide” in John 15 and 1 John 4 is “μένω” or “menõ.” It means “to remain” or “to dwell.” In John 15 the command to abide in Christ is in aorist tense, imperative mood, and active voice, however, the description of our abiding such as in v5 (Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing) is a present active participle. This means it is describing continual repeated action. However, present participles are used to signify action that is contemporaneous with the leading verb in the phrase. What is the leading verb in this passage? There is only one verb in this passage and it is translated as “bears” in the ESV. The KJV translates this verb as “bringeth forth.” This Greek word is “φέρω” or “pherō.” It means “to bear” or “to bring” or “to sustain” or “to uphold.” It is used in the New Testament several ways, but in this context it is referring to bearing the fruit that is “the fruit” of abiding in Christ.
We are commanded to abide in Christ. Those who do remain in Him because Christ abides in them do bear much fruit. The believer does not produce this fruit. The believer abides and bears the fruit that comes from abiding. Remember the vine is Christ. We are the branches. The branches bear the fruit that the vine produces. How do we know that this fruit is not our doing? How do we know if we are really abiding in Christ? Remember, those who abide are genuine Christians while those who are not genuine do not abide. There are three proofs that we can look at that show if we are truly abiding in Him.
By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. (1 John 4:13 ESV)
The first proof is that we have the Holy Spirit. How do we know if we have the Holy Spirit? Notice that John does not say that it is our experience of the Spirit, but the objective reality of the presence of the Spirit in our lives. Also notice that John says Jesus “ has given us of his Spirit “. Jesus does not give us an impersonal force, or another spirit like His. He gives us a share in His very own Spirit. We belong to Him because we share in His spirit–the very same Spirit that He has. So our assurance comes from who God is and what He has done, not from what we do or have done. Do you see how imperative it is for our assurance to be based on what God has done and who He is rather than in ourselves and what we have done?
And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. (1 John 4:14-15 ESV)
We know if we are abiding in Christ by the objective reality of our confession that we believe in the Apostolic testimony of Christ. Again, do you see how our genuiness is not based in what we have produced, but in the fact that we believe the veracity of the Gospel? We must never forget that the unregenerate DO NOT believe this. None of us did until God regenerated us, giving us living faith so that we were able to believe. Those who believe confess that Jesus is the Son of God. This is more than just saying one believes it. This is actually believing and confessing it, which is a product of abiding in Christ through the supernatural work of the living faith given to us at salvation.
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. (1 John 4:16 ESV)
We know if we are abiding in Christ if we have an active love, which stems from faith in God. Again, this is that saving faith, that supernatural faith that was a gift from God (Ephesians 2:8,9) at our salvation. All who have this faith abide in love (ἀγάπη). This is “agapē,” which is not a form of love that any human can produce. This comes from God alone. He produces it in those who abide in Christ.
The affects of walking in these truths are truly liberating my brethren.
By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us. (1 John 4:17-19 ESV)
When we walk in these truths we have confidence in the Day of Judgment. We no longer fear what is coming. We look forward to being with our Lord forever. We know that our sins are forgiven because of what God has done through the cross. All who are in Christ have been saved from the penalty for their sins. We are free from fear of God as judge. We see Him as our Father in Heaven, our Saviour, and our helper who walks with us day by day. Yes, we must still walk in that reverential awe in the understanding that we are to be obedient to all of our Lord’s commands. We learn to rejoice in His love and because we have the Holy Spirit we also are being conformed unto the image of Christ and so are able to love with the same love of the one who loved us while we were unlovable.
My brethren let us turn from any notion that our salvation and our abiding come from our own abilities and actions. We are in God’s hands so let us simply love one another in obedience as we bear the fruit He produces through us. Yes, the world will never understand this and many professing Christians will scoff and sneer, but that is okay. Our focus must be on Christ and His will as we walk in these truths.
Soli Deo Gloria!