II. The Key Factor
Abiding in Christ, vs. 4, vs. 5
â€œAbide 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.â€
Christ is quite clear: the only way fruit can be borne in our lives is to abide in Him. As we mentioned before, bearing fruit is vital to the believer because it glorifies God which is the highest aim of our lives.
To understand Christâ€™s symbol weâ€™ll have to dig in to its components. The symbol-within-the-symbol to understand first is what â€œfruitâ€ refers to. I realize that many of you have a good understanding of what the fruit symbol means but in the interest of keeping us on the same page weâ€™re going to look at the subject briefly.
Fruit, in the Bible, can refer to:
1. Literal fruit (Numbers 13:26)
2. Offspring (Psalm 128:3)
3. Aspects of Human Nature Expressed Outwardly in Words and Actions (Matthew 7:15-17).
4. The Spiritual Results of Ministry (Romans 1:8 â€“ â€œNow I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that I often planned to come to you (but was hindered until now), that I might have some fruit among you also, just as among the other Gentiles.â€)
5. The Products of the Spiritâ€™s Control of a Believerâ€™s Life (Galatians 5:22 â€“ â€œ..the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.â€)
In our passage it is most likely that Jesus has in mind both of the second aspects. Both of these kinds of â€œfruitâ€ are to be desired by Christians and they are both only accomplished by Christ, thus this dual understand would fit Christâ€™s â€œabide in Meâ€ instructions.
The second important issue for us to understand in this section of the passage is what Christ means when He uses the word â€œabideâ€. To get a better grasp of what He had in mind we need to again look at other portions of scripture.
1. Only Believers Can Abide
(A) John 7:41-60 – Ultimately this passage teaches that there must be an embrace of the shed blood and broken flesh of the Lord if one would come to Him. Christ says that the one who does so â€œabidesâ€ in Christ as does Christ in the person.
(B) John 15:5 â€“ Christ says in this verse that the one who abides in Him He abides in as well: â€œHe who abides in me, and I in himâ€¦â€
Notice the intimacy. If you look at a branch off of a vine or a tree you notice the distinction between the two. However, once you look at where they intersect it becomes hard to tell where the vine ends and the branch begins. Such is the intimacy between Christ and His people.
To think that Christ would have this level of intimacy with anyone other than those who have been declared righteous by His death is a thought approaching blasphemy. By that I mean the Holy One of Israel cannot be linked intimately to anything impure, unrighteous, and sinful. Thus we conclude that Christ is here speaking of His church.
2. Abiding Begins with Dwelling on the Word
Christ first mentions abiding in verse 4 where He says â€œAbide in Me, and I in youâ€. Then, in verse 7 He says almost the same thing, changing one part of the statement by inserting what I believe is an explanatory note: â€œIf you abide in Me, and My words abide in youâ€¦â€ Did you see that? What was first â€œI in youâ€ is changed to â€œMy words abide in you.â€ The formula is simple: part of what it means for us to abide in Christ and Him to abide in us is the presence of His words in us – in our hearts and our minds, expressing itself in changing our thoughts, speech, and actions to line up with what He has said.
“Christ abiding in us is interchangeable with his words abiding in us because Christ never comes without his authoritative views on things. To have him abiding is to have all his views abiding in us. If he abides, his views abide. If he abides, his priorities abide. If he abides, his principles abide. If he abides, his promises abide. If he abides, his commandments abide. In short, if/when Christ abides in us, his words abide in us.” – John Piper
3. Abiding Depends on Remembering Christâ€™s Love
â€œJust as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love.â€
We need to be very clear here: the issue here is not us maintaining our affections for the Lord. Our love for the Lord is fickle and unstable. Our hearts often run from our Lord. You know who we are? We are the people in the 3rd verse of Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing. We look into our hearts and say: â€œProne to wander, Lord, I feel it, Prone to leave the God I loveâ€¦â€
What is needed for us then is not to dwell on our affections for the Lord (although they should be there) but rather the love of Christ for us. Once we have the reality of His patient, eternal, enduring, sacrificial love fixed in our minds our affections will respond as they should. Our love is fleeting and feeble; His is eternal and powerful.
â€œOh the deep, deep love of Jesus, Vast unmeasured, boundless, free! Rolling as a mighty ocean in its fullness over me! Underneath me, all around me, is the current Of Thy love
Leading onward, leading homeward to Thy glorious rest above!â€
This deep, deep love of Jesus should be a continual object of our attention. When it is we abide in His love.
4. Abiding in Christ Requires Obedience.
â€œIf you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Fatherâ€™s commandments and abide in His love.â€
This verse not only opens our eyes as to what Jesus has in mind when He commands us to abide in Him but also helps us understand how works function in a believerâ€™s life.
In our relationship to Christ He is Lord and we are servant. Far from being an oppressive arrangement, we serve at the pleasure of the kindest and most wonderful Master that could be conceived of. However, we have the opportunity to abuse this relationship through sin. This sin doesnâ€™t sever our relationship but does alienate us from God. Thus we donâ€™t function as we should. The relationship can be restored through repentance and asking the Lordâ€™s forgiveness.
Our aim though is to experience the full blessing of our relationship with the Lord. If we keep His commandments we remain connected to Him with no interruption or alienation. Forgiveness is wonderful and is useful in restoring the relationship. Our aim, however, is to walk in obedience to the Lord and thus experience the greatest level of intimacy that we can.