Abiding in Christ: What Does it Mean? part 7 of 9: Exposition of John 15:4-5
4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.
The aorist imperative “abide” here indicates the characteristic of the whole life of the saint, not a momentary action, or repeated points of faith-decisions to surrender to Christ; cf. the aorists of meno in Matthew 10:11; 26:38; John 1:32. Commenting on the like form in v. 9, A. T. Robertson in his Word Pictures stated that meinate is a “Constative first aorist active imperative of meno, summing up the whole.” A similar aorist for keeping Christ’s commandments appears in John 14:15. Remaining, continuing, persevering, or abiding as a characteristic of the whole life is the mark of the genuine convert, John 8:31. He will abide because Christ and the Spirit dwell or abide in him, and thus make certain his continued perseverance or abiding, 1 John 2:24, 27. “Abide in me” means to continue in Christ’s word and commandments, John 15:7 and 10, to remain united to Him. The true convert, because he is in Christ and Christ is in him, will persevere in unity with the Lord, and one would expect him to remain in unity with His church, which is His body, as well. There is also a connection between the second half of the command, “and I in you,” v. 4, and Christ’s words abiding in believers, v. 7. One notes that the imperative in v. 4 covers both halves of the abiding; saints are responsible for both the “abide in Me” and for the “and I in you.” Advocates of the position that only Christians that have received the “higher life” abide typically do not say that Christ only indwells those on the higher plane—but here those that abide in Christ are those who Christ abides in Himself. It is noteworthy that the commands here are all plural, addressed to the corporate pre-Pentecost church. Is there not a corporate, assembly requirement here for the church to be abiding in Christ, and Christ in the assembly, and His Words in her, as well as an individual application to do the same? In any case, the individual aspect is certainly found in Scripture, 1 John 3:24—the individual who abides or dwells in Christ individually keeps His commandments by the power of the indwelling Spirit.
No spiritual fruit, no good works, are possible without a living union to Christ, without abiding or dwelling in Him, a state brought about by regeneration (cf. also Hosea 14:8; Galatians 2:20; Philippians 1:11). On its own, “the branch cannot bear fruit of itself,” for the unregenerate man cannot in any way please God (Romans 8:7-8). However, saints can and do bear fruit, for they do abide or dwell in Christ.
That Christ commands His saints to abide or remain in Him does not require the possibility that they will fail to do so; rather, as has been demonstrated above, their continuing to abide is guaranteed by the Spirit’s dwelling or abiding in them (1 John 2:24, 27). Only those who overcome will enter into life (Revelation 2:7, 10, 17, 26; 3:21), but all believers will overcome (1 John 5:5; 4:4). Their continuing to abide in Christ is as certain as Christ’s continuing to abide or dwell in them.
Note that Christ was in them; contrast Judas, who had Satan in him (6:70; 13:27), and consequently went into open apostasy. Christ is in His saints, and there He controls them and leads them to do righteousness and continue faithful to His Words, so they will not go into apostasy, but will abide in Him. The Lord Jesus does this in part through His sending of the Spirit, the Paraclete, who is such a prominent part of the discourse of John 14-16which surrounds the teaching of John 15:1ff. The Lord also guarantees the saints’ perseverance through His high priestly ministry (John 17, the postcontext of John 15). Christ’s High Priestly intercession guarantees believers both God’s preservation of their souls unto eternal life (John 17:24) and their perseverance in obedience (John 17:17).
5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.
The believer, who will abide (present tense) or remain faithful to Christ’s Word and commandments as a pattern of his life, will bring forth much fruit; good works are the certain consequence of spiritual union with Christ (John 3:19-21; 8:31; 10:27; 12:24-26; Mark 8:34-36; Matthew 13:23; Romans 6:22; Galatians 5:18-24; Ephesians 2:10; Colossians 1:6). In contrast, the unregenerate man cannot bear any spiritual fruit or do any good works. The “much fruit” phrase is found here in v. 5 and in v. 8, as “more fruit” appears in v. 2 (and “fruit” with “more fruit” certainly looks like “much fruit”). The only previous appearance of the phrase in the New Testament is in John 12:24, where “much fruit” is a result of Christ’s death. Living union with the Christ who died and rose again, a position in the vine, results in the bearing of much fruit. Those who are united to Him bear much fruit and are disciples, saved people, John 15:8.
See the complete study on meno or "abiding," which includes the passages not only in the KJV but also in the Greek NT (not present in this series of blog posts), by clicking here.