Abiding in Christ.

John 15:1-8.

In the Fourteenth Chapter of the Gospel of John the disciples of Christ are viewed in connection with the sovereign grace of God that opens to us the Father's house, makes known to us the Fathers heart, presents Christ as the One Who is coming to receive us into that home of bliss, and tells us of the coming of the Holy Spirit to lead our hearts into our heavenly privileges.

That chapter ends with the significant words, "Arise, let us go hence." Christ and His disciples pass from the privacy of the Upper Room into the outer world. At once the truth presented is in character with this change of scene. For, the disciples are now viewed as in this world in their responsibility to bear fruit for God, and to witness before men in a world from which Christ is absent. We cannot have privileges without responsibilities. If it is our privilege to have part with Christ in heaven: it is our responsibility to live for Christ on earth.

To set forth this responsibility the Lord uses the figure of the vine and its branches. In a vine the fruit is not found in the root and stock, but in the branches; but the vine is the source of the life that enables the branches to bear fruit. The Lord can say of Himself, "I am the true vine" and of His disciples, "Ye are the branches." It is only as we abide in Him that we shall be able to carry out our responsibility to bear fruit for the Father and witness for Christ.

Different meanings may attach to the word fruit in different Scriptures. In this passage fruit is not, surely, preaching, or any form of service, nor the converts that may result from ministry, but rather the moral excellencies of Christ reproduced in the believer. This fruit, viewed in connection with the Spirit, and in contrast to the works of the flesh, is spoken of in Galatians 5, as "Love, joy, peace, long-suffering, goodness. Fidelity, meekness, self-control." These moral excellencies were exhibited in perfection in the life of Christ on earth. If in our inner lives we express some of the moral excellencies of Christ under the Father's eye, we shall surely exhibit something of Christ before men, and in this measure answer to our responsibility to bear fruit before the Father and to be a witness before men (verses 8 and 27).

Again, let us remember, that it is what we are, not simply what we say, that is the witness before men. The apostle could say. "For me to live is Christ." It is the life that is the true and most impressive witness to Christ. At the birth of Christ the religious leaders in Jerusalem had a very correct knowledge of Scripture, and could direct the wise men from the East to Christ, but they had no heart for Christ, and never took the way themselves. Their words witnessed to Christ but not their lives. Alas! it is possible to become a mere finger post that for ever points the way but never takes the path.

What then is the secret of living in any little measure the life of Christ? Is it not summed up in the Lord's own words, repeated four times in this passage, "Abide in Me"? This being so, we may ask, What is implied in these words? Do they not suggest a life lived in attachment of heart to Christ; in dependence upon Christ, and in communion with Christ?

Is not the first thought implied in the Lord's words of verse four, "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"? Obviously there can be no fruit in a branch unless it remains attached to the vine. In like manner, unless the believer individually retains attachment of heart to Christ he will not exhibit the excellencies of Christ before God. "We love Him, because He first loved us:" how good then to seek to realise and enjoy His love that our hearts may cling to Him in love, for the Lord's words imply that it is only in the measure in which we abide in Him that He will be seen in us.

The second truth connected with abiding in Christ is set forth in the Lord's words, "He that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without Me ye can do nothing." If then we can do nothing without Christ, we are entirely dependent upon Christ. To abide in Christ, then, implies a life of constant dependence upon Christ, that confides in Him, as unable to do anything without Him. Forgetting the Lord's words we, in our self-confidence, may often attempt to meet the little difficulties of life without reference to Him, only to find that they become occasions for some exhibition of the flesh rather than calling forth the excellencies of Christ. The Lord's words imply that left to ourselves, the smallest difficulties, and the greatest trials, are alike too much for us to meet in our own strength. How good, then, to cultivate a life of continual dependence upon Christ, and thus, "Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus" (2 Tim. 2:1). So living we should realise the truth of the Lord's words to the apostle Paul, "My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect in weakness (2 Cor. 12:9). This would lead us in our little measure to enjoy the experience of the apostle, when he said, "I have strength for all things in Him that gives me power (Phil. 4:13 N. Tn.).

Thirdly, have we not the thought of communion with Christ implied by the Lord's words, when He says, "If ye abide in Me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto yon" (Verse 7)? If our thoughts are formed by His word, we shall surely think with Him according to His revealed mind. Does this not imply communion with Him which Mary enjoyed when we read of her that she "sat at Jesus' feet, and heard His word"?

To abide in Him, then, supposes not only the practical surrender of our wills, and distrust of ourselves, but clinging to Him in love, depending upon Him in our weakness, and communion with Him in His thoughts as made known in His word.

Moreover, the very word "abiding" supposes continuance. Alas! too often we are content with an occasional taste of His love; with turning to Him in some great emergency; and with knowing a great deal more of Martha's activity, even in His service, than of Mary's communion at His feet.

Further, let us remember that to abide in Him is not a matter of attainment only possible for an aged and mature saint, nor is it something that is limited to gifted servants. It is the privilege of the youngest believer, for the outstanding exhortation given by a servant of the Lord to some young converts was that "with purpose of heart they would cleave to the Lord" (Acts 11:23). To "cleave to the Lord" is surely to abide in Christ.

Furthermore, let us remember that to abide in Christ is wholly individual, and a privilege that remains in a day of ruin. The apostle John having reminded us that we are living in the "last hour," when there are many anti-christs, instructs us how to escape those who would lead us astray by exhorting us to "abide in Him" (1 John 2:18, 26, 28). The distinctive name of Anti-christ is "the lawless one" (2 Thess. 2:8 N.Tn.). The outstanding mark of the present age is lawlessness. One has truly described lawlessness as: "a want of respect for everything that is above self. A determination to have one's own way. … It is what will characterise the whole of Christendom. Now it works in individuals, and it works largely in whole companies, but it will become the reigning spirit." The only safeguard against the intrusion of lawlessness into our individual lives, or into the companies of God's people, will he found in each one abiding in Christ. We might think that our safety lies in continuing in a particular company. There are, indeed, privileges to be enjoyed by two or three who meet together in the Name of the Lord, and we are exhorted not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together. But no individual, in any company of saints, however scripturally gathered, will be safe unless abiding in Christ.

Further, let us remember, that to abide in Christ speaks of the inner life lived before God. The effect of the life will, indeed, be manifest before men as proving we are disciples of Christ: but attachment of heart to Christ, dependence upon Christ, and communion with Christ, all speak of the secret experiences of the soul. This is of the deepest importance for all the ruin of the church in responsibility, and the corruption of Christendom, can be traced back to departure from Christ in heart. The Lord's words to the church in Ephesus are, "Thou hast left thy first love." If we fail to abide in Christ, and thus cease to live the inner life before God, it will not be long before we cease to be a witness before men. The Lord has to say to the church that left first love to Himself, "I will come unto thee, and will remove thy candlestick out of His place." As the love grows less before Christ, the light grows dim before men.

Let us remember that this loss of heart attachment to Christ commenced among true Christians of whom the Lord has much to commend as far as the outward life was concerned. We are thus warned that it is possible to be active in christian works and yet lack the true secret motive for all service — love to Christ, or abiding in Christ. This outward life of service, without the inner life that clings in heart to Christ, leads at last to the self-complacency of Laodicea combined with indifference to Christ, and the greater the zealousness of the outward works without the inner life the greater will be the self-satisfaction. If the beginning of the church's fall is found in that saints did not continue to give Christ the first place in their hearts, the end will be a vast christian profession that will be spued out of Christ's mouth.

Christendom is only repeating the history of Judaism. When the Lord Jesus was here, the Jews were boasting in the law at the very time they were rejecting Christ, their promised Messiah. Today the civilised world boasts in Christianity while utterly indifferent to Christ. It sees the marvellous effects that have been produced in the world by the profession of Christianity, the mitigating of human misery, and the check that it is to the grosser evils of heathendom; and for the purposes of civilisation, and in the effort to make a better and brighter world it is prepared to make a profession of Christianity, to observe Christian ordinances and go through religious ceremonies, but it is indifferent to the Person and work of Christ. Even as Judaism ended in an outward religious profession while rejecting the Messiah, so Christendom ends in a profession of Christianity without Christ. To use the figure of the vine, the great mass make a profession of being branches but they are dead branches with no vital link with Christ the true vine. Such will be cast forth" as branches and come under judgment.

In these last solemn moments of the church's history on earth, when the signs of the approaching apostacy of Christendom are clearly manifest, and lawlessness increases on every hand, is not the Lord recalling believers to Himself? His last words to the churches are addressed to the individual as He says. "Behold, I stand at the door and am knocking: if any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to Him, and will sup with him, and he with Me. Will not one that responds to the Lord's word, and opens the door of his heart to Him, get back to first love, and enjoy communion with Christ, and thus answer to His words, Abide in Me, and I in you?

Such will not get back to any great public testimony that marked the Church in Pentecostal times, but he will get back to first love that marked the Church in the past; he will be lifted above the lawlessness that marks Christendom in the present; and he will look for the coming of Christ in the immediate future. In response to the Lord's words. "Surely I come quickly," he will reply, "Amen, even so come Lord Jesus."

May it then be our earnest desire to cleave with purpose of heart to the Lord: to walk in dependence upon Him, and in communion with Him, and thus answer to His own words, "abide in Me, and I in you."
H. Smith.

'Tis only in Thee hiding
We feel ourselves secure:
Only in Thee abiding,
The conflict can endure
Thine arm the victory gaineth
O'er every hateful foe:
Thy love our hearts sustaineth
In all their cares and woe.