This week you may have written down some resolutions, or even chosen a word for the year. I’ve seen Christians highlight the word “abide”, which comes from John 15—but what does it mean? Before we adopt this word, it’s important to understand what Jesus meant when He used it, and what He was telling His disciples to do.
First of all, the Greek word menō, which the ESV translates as “abide” and the NIV translates as “remain”, simply means to stay or dwell in a specific location; to wait for; to continue. We may think “abide” means living in a nourishing Christian spa, regularly soaking in prayer and being renewed by Jesus’ presence, but the definition is more straightforward.
Throughout the Old Testament, the nation of Israel was often referred to as a vine. The Lord repeatedly laments that He cleared land for the vine (Israel) and lovingly tended it, but that it “turned degenerate and [became] a wild vine” when the people chased after foreign gods and foreign people (Jeremiah 2:21-28).
The people of Israel were supposed to remain in relationship with God, but they failed to do so. So, in John 15, Jesus wants His disciples to know that He is the true vine. He is the representative of Israel, who has kept His Father’s commandments, therefore He remains (abides) in His Father’s love (John 15:10).
In return, Jesus tells His disciples to remain (abide) in Him in order to bear fruit. How? By allowing His words to remain within them (John 15:7). “If you keep my commandments [Jesus says], you will abide in my love… This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:10-12).
So to remain (abide) in the vine, means to stay connected to Jesus, the true vine. If you are a Christian, God has grafted you into this vine (Romans 11:17-24), and you bear fruit by keeping His commandments and allowing His words (the Bible) to remain in you. You abide by relying on Him and continuing to be in relationship with Him, rather than abandoning Him. You abide by loving other Christians as Jesus loved you.
A few verses later Jesus says, “I have said all these things … to keep you from falling away” (John 16:1). Our prayer is that, this year, you would not fall away, but instead remain (abide): stay with, wait for, and continue on with Jesus, the true vine.