1 I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch of mine that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. 4 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. 5 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. 6 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. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. 9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 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. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. (John 15:1-11 ESV)
The passage above is spoken by Jesus, and He gives us a glorious promise in it. He promises that if we abide in Him, and if His words abide in us, He will give us whatever we ask. But, what does it mean to abide in Him? How do we abide in Him?
Let’s first look at the word abide. The original Greek is μένω (ménō). Strong’s Greek dictionary defines the word as a verb, meaning to stay in a given place, state, relation or expectancy. Other translations will say ‘dwell’ or ‘live’. Abiding in Jesus requires something other than words in this case. We must abide in Him. We must stay in relation with Him. Jesus tells us how to do this in this passage. He tells us to abide in His love and He goes on to tell us how we do that too! He says in verse 10 that we are to keep His commandments, and by doing so, we will abide in His love.
He doesn’t stop there though. He gives us an example of what He is talking about: the example of His life. He says that we do as He did – “…just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.” (v10). If we do all this, He promises us His joy will live in us and that our joy will be of full measure.
It sounds like a lot, and we may not even know His commandments! We have His example and His word available to us, so we can grow in His love. We can learn to abide in Him. All it takes is the feeding of our spirit with the spiritual food found in His word.
How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! I gain understanding from your precepts; therefore I hate every wrong path. Your word is a lamp to my feet, a light on my path. (Psalm 119:103-105 NIV)
Jesus goes on to say what His commandment is in verses 12-14. He says that His commandment is to love one another as He has loved us. He tells us what the greatest love is, and that it is to lay down one’s life for a friend. What friend do we lay our life down for? He tells us that we are His friend if we do what he has commanded.
This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends. 14You are my friends if you do what I command you. (John 15:12-14 ESV)
There’s a crucial point in those three verses that are often glanced over. Jesus tells us that we are His friends if we abide in Him and His love. If we love one another as He loved us, by laying our lives down for our friends. If we are Jesus’ friend, we should be loving Him as He loved us. We can only do so by the laying down of our life. We die to ourselves, our old self, and pick up our crosses daily. Which means, we die to ourselves on a daily basis. We grow closer to God when we do this, and through time and the feeding of our spirit, we will gain the understanding of God’s word. The understanding we need to follow His commands. It really is an easy process, but can only begin by the laying down of our lives.
There’s a lot that the laying down could mean, but I believe it to mean that we put God’s interests before our own. It truly can be a hard thing to do. If God wants me to do something that goes against my sinful nature, it requires an effort on my part. Eventually, it will become habit but it does require that effort to start. It’s a constant battle between my flesh and myself, between the sin inherent in my nature, and what my accepting Jesus and abiding in Him requires. Paul likens it to a marathon racer who continually buffets his body, or works out, in order to win the race. We should be winning the race. Grow in Jesus so that we can abide in Him. So we can be vitally united to Him, the vine that gives the branches life.
There is more to this passage though, that we don’t want to skip over. There is a warning that if we do not abide in Him, we will be thrown into the fire and burned.
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. (verse 6)
Jesus lets us know what it means to abide in Him. He says that when we abide in Him, the vine, we, the branches, bear much fruit. We are receiving sustenance from Him to bear that fruit. He also says that we prove ourselves followers of Him by bearing that fruit.
The burning of the branches that do not bear fruit reminds me that faith without deeds is dead faith. God is taking away the dead branches and burning them. Those branches are us! We are the branches and it is up to us to ensure that we are not cut off and thrown into the fire!!
What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them?…faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead…As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead. (James 2:14,17,26 NIV)
I am not arguing that we can lose our salvation, just arguing that to gain salvation requires more than just professing faith in Jesus. It requires action, and following commands, otherwise our so called faith is dead and we are not saved. I will not judge anyone, but I will know them by their fruit, and so will you. Your salvation is between you and God, but God clearly states that we need action to be saved. I don’t know what that action is for you, but it needs to be something more than mere words. “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” (James 1:22)
My point here is that we need to abide in Christ, and He needs to abide in us. If our own interests prevent us from abiding in Christ, by keeping us from doing what his word says, we have become our own idol. God detests idols. If we follow idols, and therefore are not doers of the word, how can we be saved? Do you think God will prune us away into the fire? Conversely, if we abide in Christ and diligently seek Him, we will be rewarded with eternal life walking with God. We will have the heart joy of Christ.
I pray that this was written well enough to be understood and that all who read this examine who it is they follow. Are you abiding in Christ or do your interests prevent it from happening? Is your flesh winning the war? Is there more that you can do to win the race; will you grow in Christ?
A comment below brought up a good point that I had left out of my discussion. Works, or good deeds will not bring you salvation.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.(Ephesians 2:8,9 NIV)
I was not trying to say that faith isn’t what saves, for faith is the only thing that will save. Faith in the free and perfect gift found in Jesus’ sacrifice. I was attempting to bring to light what others leave out or do not know – with that faith comes the works. You cannot have faith without works. If you find that you don’t have those works, work out your salvation with God. Faith brings salvation and works should follow.
For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12 NIV)