Genuine Christians abide in Christ. They cling tightly to their crucified, risen, and ascended Savior. It’s what believers do. Why? Because apart from Jesus Christ, we can do nothing. Indeed, apart from union and communion with Christ—by grace alone through faith alone—we are all spiritually powerless. On our own, we are dead in our sin and unable to produce spiritual fruit (Eph. 2:1–5). Abiding in Jesus, therefore, is essential to salvation and a growing walk with God. Jesus declares:
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. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers … [is] thrown into the fire, and burned. (John 15:5–6)
But what does it mean to abide in Christ? The phrase can seem a bit enigmatic. I was recently asked this question by a member of our congregation. She loves Jesus and wants to faithfully abide in Him. Perhaps like her, you also desire to abide in Christ but aren’t sure how. The following is a brief explanation of what it means to abide in Christ.
Abiding in Christ means making Him the object of your faith. True faith accepts, receives, and rests upon Christ alone for justification, sanctification, and eternal life (Westminster Confession of Faith 14.2). We abide in Christ by exercising faith in Him, and nothing else—not family connections, moral strivings, or religious experiences.
In addition, true faith does not seek Christ in the realm of personal subjectivity. No, genuine, Spirit-wrought faith clings to Christ through objective means—the Word, sacraments, and prayer. God has attached His gospel promises to these means, and through them He communicates Christ and all of His saving benefits to His flock (Westminster Shorter Catechism 88). The early church believed this, which is why they were steadfastly “devoted to the apostles’ teaching, the fellowship, the breaking of bread, and the prayers” (Acts 2:42). To abide in Jesus is to devote oneself to the ordinary means of grace.
When Christians sit attentively under the faithful reading and preaching of the Scriptures, they abide in Christ. We meet Christ in the Word. Indeed, in His Word, Jesus lays hold of us and we lay hold of Him. We abide in His love when we believe His gospel promises and obey His holy commands (John 15:10). We also abide in Christ when we partake of the Lord’s Supper, a clear expression of our union with Christ (1 Cor. 10:16–17). It is at the table that His promises are confirmed to our hearts, and we abide in His unrelenting love. Finally, we abide in Christ when we pray (Heb. 4:14–16). In prayer, we humbly throw ourselves into the arms of our beloved Savior. Therefore, dear Christian, abide in Christ. Devote yourself afresh to the means by which He promises to give you Himself.
Jon D. Payne, “Weekend Devotional April 14–15: Abiding in Christ,” Tabletalk Magazine (Sanford, FL: Ligonier Ministries, Inc., 2018), 48.