The Gospel According to John – μένο (meno) / abide / continue / remain / dwell

μένο, (meno) in its various forms occurs 34 times in John’s gospel. The verb translated into the King James Version is primarily expressed as abide, remain, or dwell among, along with other uses. It is key in our understanding of some of the theology within John’s Gospel as well as being an integral part of our faith. Through the examination of μένο’s usage in John we can understand the greater implications brought by our adoption in Christ. In Christ in whom we abide we have new life and access to the Kingdom of God, there is salvation in no other name. Without our abiding in Christ, we can do nothing of ourselves and stand in enmity with God.

John begins his usage in chapter 1, where the Holy Spirit descends like a dove from heaven and “ἔμεινεν” upon Jesus, translated “it abode” (Jn. 1:32, KJV). It follows in verse 33 the spirit “μένον,” descending and “remaining” on him. This is of great importance to both Jesus’ ministry and the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. John, in this statement, tells us of not only the identity of Christ but also the means by which He exercised His authority and power. The identity is revealed by the fulfillment of prophecy by the sign of the Holy Spirit descending and anointing Him (Isa. 11:2, 61:1). It also illustrates the means by which He would achieve the things set out for Him to accomplish. It was the “μένον,” the indwelling, and remaining presence of the Holy Spirit within Him that sustained Him on earth living as man while still fully God.

The next major instance of “μένο” in John’s gospel occurs at the end of John the Baptist’s testimony, immediately following Jesus’ interaction with Nicodemus. “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him,” is a concise restatement of Jesus’ revelation to Nicodemus and a summation of chapter 3 (Jn. 3:36). Here John the Baptist is explaining that apart from belief in Christ “the Son”, we have no access to “everlasting light,” and shall never see life in the “kingdom of God” (Jn. 3:36, 3:5). This clearly points to the indicatory reality of Christ as Lord, and that belief in Him is a necessity for us entering His kingdom. The need for Christ as a present reality within us is contrasted with the alternative, a life under God’s wrath and us not “seeing life” or true everlasting life in God’s kingdom (Jn. 3:36).

Jesus confirms this using similar imagery in dealing with a crowd of Jews accusing Him of transgressing the law and holding Himself equal to God in John 5. “And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen, and you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent” (Jn. 5:37, 38). These verses again affirm Christ’s identity, but also introduce the idea of the “word (itself) abiding in you”. The necessity for belief and recognition of Jesus as Lord is to have the word abiding within you. It means to hear and receive the voice of God and the Spirit of God in you. Here Jesus shows us the necessity of faith and belief in Him as Christ, is to be “born again” and have God’s word (logos) abiding within you (Jn. 3:7, 5:38).

The pattern of revelation of Christ’s identity and the call to abide in Him is repeated throughout John’s gospel. In John 6:32-35, Jesus reveals Himself as “the bread of life,” in reference to the mana Moses ate in the wilderness. Jesus follows this saying, “Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him” (Jn. 6:56). The same call to faith is given and the response is indicative of the indwelling of the Spirit held by true believers and disciples. In speaking to Jewish believers, He says, “… If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples… ” (Jn. 8:31). In the same way Israel was called to “remain”, trusting in the provision of God in the wilderness through their obedience on the 7th day, we too are called to hear and abide in God’s word in obedience to Him (Ex. 16). If you abide in His word by listening in obedience, you are truly His disciple.

In John 15, as part of Jesus’ farewell discourse, Jesus presents the clearest illustration and emphatic call for us to abide in Him (Jn 15:1-17). In it, He presents Himself as the “true vine”, in a fitting reference to the “root of Jesse” in Isaiah 11:10 and His Father the vinedresser/husbandman (Jn. 15:1). We are the branches whom the Father prunes to be more fruitful or casts out if we do not bear fruit (Jn 15:5, 2). We are commanded to abide in him that we would bear much fruit for the glory of the Father (Jn. 15:8). We are warned that without the vine, the branch cannot bear fruit of its own and withers and dies being eventually thrown into the fire (Jn. 15:5). We are given the promise and indication that if we are abiding in Christ, our prayers will be answered (Jn. 15:7). Through our obedience we shall abide in His love, just as He abides in the Father’s love (Jn. 15:10). The promise that if we are abiding in Him and Him in us, we will produce fruit and our fruit will also remain (abide), in Him (Jn. 15:16). This allegory for our Christian walk further explains the reality of following Christ as He is manifested in our lives, as well as, the consequences of obedience and refusal of Him. We can see that we need to abide in Christ in order that we may bear fruit. One can easily recognize that the bearing of fruit is not easy and will result in pruning, a fitting allegory for our process of sanctification and refinement. Without Christ, we are unable to produce “fruit”, or disciples for His kingdom and in turn we
wither and die to be cast into the fire. These promises are clearly seen but only scratch the surface of what it means to abide in Christ.

Abiding in Christ is about a continual reliance upon Him and His word in all that we do. This continual reliance is a response to the overwhelming love Christ has shown towards us, through His obedience to the Father by His death on the cross. “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (Jn 15:13). Christ though we were an enemy to God died, so that we may be called “friends”, brothers and sisters. By Him calling us, and our responding to His love, we are able abide in Him and His love. We can only love because Christ first loved us, because He laid down His life for us who He now calls friends though we were once enemies (1 Jn. 4:19, Jn. 15:13, Col. 1:21). He made a way for us to be with Him and we can either accept of reject His calling. Through Him we have been given access to experience this love through an ongoing relationship with Him. By continually encountering Him in prayer and through His word we experience His amazing love.

Our obedience to Christ is out of the love He has shown and lavished upon us. We partake in “abiding in his love” through obedience out of the continual adoration we have toward Him because He loves us in such a powerful and awesome way. The promise for us to receive all that we ask for in prayer, is out of our desire to be obedient and our abiding in His love, which transforms our desires to align ourselves to His will. Our
abiding in Him causes Him to abide and dwell within us. This makes the things that I desire through my continual relationship with Him really the desire of Him through my continual abiding in Him and His indwelling. Abiding in Jesus means continually relying upon God through prayer, and through His word, and continually saying “yes” to His commandments, “that our [your] joy might be full” (Jn. 15:11).

The calling to be continually dependent upon Christ through our abiding in Him is at the core of what is referred to “redemption” within our Reformed worldview. Our ability to bear fruit and make disciples in this world as part of God’s redemptive plan, so that we may “glorify the Father”, is only possibly through our abiding in Christ (Jn. 15:8). We exist to serve Him and we do so by abiding and remaining in Him, in order that
we may bring the message of redemption to broken and fallen people. We have been chosen and “ordained” to “bring forth fruit” for His kingdom, and we can only do so through our abiding in Christ (Jn. 15:16).

I chose this keyword because I felt that in this season “abiding” was what I was struggling with the most in my personal walk with Christ. It seems that all to often I attempt to find balance in my life through my own selfish efforts. I end up seeking my own will above God’s will by way of idolatry, rooted in my own egotism and pride. I am quick to forget the amazing provision God has given me, even just the opportunity to go back to school is amazing, but to be studying His word is something I take for granted. My pastor warned me about falling into studies and falling out of encountering God, but I had taken it at face value. In that instance my prideful self was saying, “that will never happen to me”. Sure enough, I found myself being busier and busier, neglecting my relationship with God for the demands of this world, be it school, church, or my social life. I knew ahead of time that this study would be revealing to my own broken character, because ultimately that is what I desire. In order to reveal the deficiencies and darkness within ourselves we must abide in Him to illuminate the darkness we hold on to. It is how our character is transformed into Christ, the “pruning” brought by hardship struggle is made joyous and complete in the love of Christ.

That is what it means to mevnw. Being so in love with Christ that our desires are not of ourselves but of God. We partake in His love towards us, we hear the call, and we cannot help but be obedient. We seek him so earnestly that even our hardships turn to joy, and we are met with a greater and fuller understanding of the character and amazing love He lavished upon us as we continually abide, by seeking Him in all things.

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