The crucial and somewhat unknown doctrine of union with Christ can be described by many metaphors:
- A marriage (Romans 7:1–4; 1 Corinthians 6:15–17; Ephesians 5:22–32)
- The body of Christ (Romans 12:4-5;1 Corinthians 12:12–27; Ephesians 4:11–13; etc.)
- A temple and building (1 Corinthians 3:16–17; Ephesians 2:21–22)
- New clothing (Romans 13:12–14; 1 Corinthians 15:51–54; Colossians 3:9–12)
- A vine with branches (John 15:1–11)
The vine and branches metaphor teaches that we abide in Jesus Christ, the True Vine, like branches abide in and receive life from a vine. God the Father is the vinedresser (John 15:1).
In this article, we will examine what abiding in Christ means, how to abide in Christ, and the results of abiding in Christ.
What does it mean to abide in Jesus Christ?
Definition of Abiding in Christ
“Abiding in Christ means allowing His Word to fill our minds, direct our wills, and transform our affections,” according to Sinclair Ferguson.
Relevant Scripture Passages on Abiding in Christ
- New Testament: John 15:1–11; also see John 8:31–32, John 6:56, and 1 John
- Old Testament background on the metaphor, Israel as God’s vine and means of bearing fruit in the world: Psalm 80:8–16; Isaiah 5:1–7, 27:2-6; Jeremiah 2:21, 12:10–13; Ezekiel 15:1–8, 19:10–14.
Characteristics of Abiding in Christ
While the following characteristics are interrelated, approaching the topic from various angles helps us understand the idea at greater depth.
1. Abiding in Christ means believing in Jesus Christ.
“Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.” John 6:56
In John 6, Jesus calls Himself the Bread of Life (John 6:25–29; see especially 32–40) and equates believing in Him with eating His flesh and drinking His blood. To abide in Christ, one must first take Jesus at His Word that He alone provides spiritual food that can satisfy and living water that can quench our deepest thirst (see John 4:13; 7:37-39). A branch cannot abide in a vine that it doesn’t believe in; faith unites us to Jesus Christ in a living union and makes the benefits of abiding in Him possible. Faith also underlies each of the following characteristics.
2. Abiding in Christ means living in humble dependence on Him for life and vitality.
We lack the ability to bear fruit on our own or do anything at all without the life of Jesus the True Vine flowing through us. Dependence means humility before God and submission to Him and His will.
The abiding life has its challenges, as God’s pruning hand snips off unfruitful branches, often leaving us feeling wounded and exposed. But our heavenly Vinedresser knows what He is doing, and we can trust His gracious snipping will be for our good and His glory.
3. Abiding in Christ means abiding in Christ’s Words.
“If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31–32
“If you abide in me, and my words abide in you…” John 15:7
To abide in Christ is to prioritize His words as the “words of eternal life” (John 6:68). King Jesus’ words give disciples reminders of His love and marching orders for service in His kingdom. The Word of God is living and active (Hebrews 4:12) and actively works in us to “fill our minds, direct our wills, and transform our affections,” as Ferguson noted in his definition. That’s why other Scripture passages like Colossians 3:16 exhort us to, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”
If you want to abide in Christ for deeper communion and greater joy, make His Word a priority in life by making it your constant meditation and greatest delight. You will never be the same and all of the benefits of abiding in Christ will be yours.
4. Abiding in Christ means obeying Christ’s commands.
“Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him… If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” John 14:21, 23
We cannot abide in Christ or His words without obeying His words. When we obey His words, we experience more of God because He will manifest Himself to us more. When we experience more of God, our love for Him will grow, and so will our desire to obey. It’s a glorious cycle that leads into greater worship and delight in God.
5. Abiding in Christ means abiding in Christ’s love.
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 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.” John 15:9-10
Again we see the connection between obedience and abiding. To abide in Christ, we must pursue walking with our Father by His Spirit and avoid quenching His Spirit. Abiding in Christ’s love means loving what He loves and hating what He hates. Warren Wiersbe explains, “The more you abide in Christ, the less you love the world system and the more you love Christ and His people. Conversely, the less you abide in Christ, the more the world will love you, and the less comfortable you will feel with the people of God.”
The Results of Abiding in Christ
1. The abider bears much fruit.
The first eleven verses of John 15 mention bearing fruit six times. Jesus’ words harken back to the Old Testament where Israel is called God’s vine and instrument in the world through which God would bear fruit, pointing back to God’s purposes in creation (the first command of Scripture given to man is to be ‘fruitful and multiply’ in Genesis 1:28). Jesus is the God-given, New Covenant way through which all fruit will be borne in the world.
Jesus does not command us to bear fruit in this passage. The key command of the passage is to abide in Jesus and the result will be bearing much fruit. You can’t manufacture spiritual fruit on your own no matter how hard you try. But when you abide in the Vine, fruit will come naturally.
2. The abider’s prayers become more natural and effective.
“If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” (John 15:7, also see verse 16)
Having God’s Word “fill our minds, shape our wills, and transform our affections” leads us to pray in line with God’s will, and therefore pray effectively (see 1 John 5:14).
“Prayer is both a thermometer and a thermostat in the Christian life,” writes Warren Wiersbe. “It helps to regulate our ‘spiritual temperature’ but it also registers the devotion of our hearts.”
“Prayer is both a thermometer and a thermostat in the Christian life. It helps to regulate our ‘spiritual temperature’ but it also registers the devotion of our hearts.” —Warren Wiersbe
“Prayer is the natural outgushing of a soul in communion with Jesus,” wrote Charles Spurgeon. ”Just as the leaf and the fruit will come out of the vine-branch without any conscious effort on the part of the branch, but simply because of its living union with the stem, so prayer buds, and blossoms, and fruits out of souls abiding in Jesus. As stars shine, so do abiders pray. It is their use and their second nature.”
3. The abider lives in joy, peace, and freedom.
Jesus shared the purpose for teaching on the Vine and Branches metaphor: “that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11).
Later in the Upper Room Discourse, Jesus shares another purpose for His teaching in John 14–17, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33, emphasis added).
Freedom is another result of the abiding life. As Jesus taught in John 8:31-32, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
4. The abider glorifies God the Father.
“By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.” (John 15:8)
When we abide in Christ we bear fruit, and when we bear fruit, we glorify God the Father. The glory of God is the chief end of man and the chief purpose for our abiding.
Wiersbe summarizes the transforming power of abiding in Christ this way, “The more you love Christ, the more you will obey Him. And the more you obey Him, the more you will abide in Him. As you abide in Him, you will bear fruit; and the more you bear fruit, the more you will live!”
A Prayer for Abiding in Christ
Father God, thank You for sending Jesus, the True Vine, to the world. I want to have the life of Jesus flowing through my soul so that I bear much fruit for You and live in obedience. Help me to treasure Your Word more each day and for it to shape my affections to love You more. Deepen my prayers and prune me of everything that inhibits my bearing fruit for You. I want my life to bring much glory to Your name with everything I say and do. In Jesus’ name, amen.
One Powerful Way to Grow
Make John 15 your prayer. Fast so that God will prune unfruitful branches in your life and deepen your faith and love of His Son. Doing this invites sanctified pain into your life but will result in joy, fruit, and a closer walk with the Father.
 Sinclair Ferguson shares this in his book In Christ Alone: Living the Gospel Centered Life on page 114 of the Kindle edition.
 Wiersbe shares this, along with the other quotes of his in this article, in his helpful little book Abide.
 Spurgeon in Encouraged to Pray: Classic Sermons on Prayer.