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Monday, September 13, 2010

"Abide" in the Gospel of John

The word “abide” is a term that occurs often in the New Testament. As a verb, we understand that abiding does not always depend on an object; that is, in its range of meaning, to “remain, stay, dwell, lodge, remain, last, persist, continue to live, wait,” can be literal or figurative.

This becomes clear as we appreciate the depth of meaning by examining in John’s Gospel the one doing the action as well by investigating where the action is performed. Categorically speaking, the action of abiding is accomplished by God the Father (14:10), God the Son, Jesus (1:38-39; 4:40; 6:56; 7:9; 10:40; 11:6, 54; 12:24, 34; 14:25; 15:4-5; 19:31), and the Holy Spirit (1:32, 33; 14:17). God’s Word is described as abiding (5:38; 15:7). The disciples, Jesus’ mother and his brothers, even John (the disciple whom Jesus loved), are observed to “abide” (in some form of the word) where Jesus was (1:39; 2:12; 21:22).

Considering eternal matters, we find positive and negative aspects of abiding. Positively, eternal life (6:27), fruit (15:16), and believers (6:56; 8:31; 8:35; 12:46; 15:4-5, 7, 9-10) abide. Negatively, God’s wrath abides (3:36), as does guilt (9:41) and anyone who “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.” (15:6)

There is great significance in noting where the action is occurring, for the narratives also communicate more than mystical, or spiritual principles. Geographically, we see Jesus abiding at Bethany beyond Jordan on more than one occasion (1:28, 38-39; 10:40; 11:6). We also find Him abiding in Capernaum (2:12), Sychar (4:40), Galilee (7:9), Ephraim (11:54) and in Jerusalem, on the cross, specifically (19:31). The earth is the place of abiding (12:24, 21:22-23) and all the inhabitants of the world (12:46).

The words and works of Jesus underscore the relational necessity of abiding “in” and/or “on” Jesus Himself (1:32-33; 6:56; 14:10), God Word (8:31; 15:10), and eternal life (6:27; 8:35; 12:34; 15:16). We also find that we are the place of abiding for God’s Spirit (14:17), even Jesus Himself (14:25, 15:4-7). This is accomplished through His love (15:9-10).

Those who are without this love relationship with God in Christ Jesus must understand there is another kind of abiding that occurs in them, the recipients of God’s abiding wrath (3:36) because of their unbelief and guilt (5:38, 9:41).

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