4 Simple Ways to Understand and Apply the Command to Abide
When a word gets repeated often in a text, it is one that should be noted, especially in the Bible. In particular, the word should be noted if it remains consistent across translations and versions. “Abide” is such a word. The Scriptures are full of statements about abiding with God, and Him abiding with us. Understanding the context and meaning of the word can help grow individuals in their walks with God, and with seeking peace in His presence.
The dictionary definition of abide has five uses of the verb: “to remain; continue; stay”, “to have one's abode; dwell; reside”, “to put up with; tolerate”, “to endure, sustain, or withstand without yielding or submitting”, and “to wait for; await”. In the Bible, the word takes on a greater intimacy, and is often used to show the need to rely on the Lord in every aspect of one’s life.
So abiding is about being in a place where one remains close, where a relationship is sustained, and there can be an element of waiting as well. The sense of dwelling and enduring is one that is seen often in the Bible as well. There is also an element of not abiding with sin or the sinful in the Bible as well.
Where Is the Word "Abide" Mentioned in the Bible?
There are many places in the Bible where one can find the word abide. Looking at how and where it is used in God’s Word can help us understand the ways in which the Lord abides with us, and how we can abide with Him.
Psalm 125:1 “Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be moved, but abides forever.”
Here, the word abide gives us insight into the nature of God, and how He strengthens those who trust Him. God endures, staying the same, and those who walk with Him get to remain in His strength and His mercy.
John 6:56 “Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.”
This statement from the Lord Jesus Christ comes after the feeding of the five thousand. Many followed Him and tried to get more food, but Jesus wanted to offer them something better - eternal life. In this verse, He states in symbolic language that those who are willing to put their faith in Him, as well as in His death, would have a personal, lasting relationship with Him.
John 15:4-7 “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 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; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”
This verse emphasizes the personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Here, abiding is a need for the Lord, incorporating Him into daily life, and depending on Him. Abiding with Jesus Christ is where the believer grows in righteousness, where that individual begins to do good works for the Kingdom of God, and where a deep relationship with God grows. Abiding involves maintaining that special relationship with the Savior.
Galatians 3:10 “ For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, ‘Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.’”
Here, in context, abide emphasizes the inability to maintain the law within one’s own power. One cannot dwell perfectly in the law, and anyone who tries to do so has brought condemnation upon himself. The law of the Old Testament was not a relationship like the one in John 15. Here, abiding by the law means perfectly maintaining the standards of the Mosaic and Levitical law. Doing this is not possible, and thus, abiding by the law brings condemnation, where abiding in Christ brings salvation.
Abide is a word that is typically translated the same into English, with few exceptions. Generally, the root English word accurately reflects the meaning of the root words.
The Hebrew word in the Old Testament is וַיֵּ֥שֶׁב - yashab. Its definition encompasses the same ideas as the English one, but it includes concepts of interpersonal relationships about being in a shared space: “...habitations, haunt, inhabit, make to inhabit, inhabitant, make to keep house, lurking, marry, marrying, place bring again to place.”
Understanding these ideas adds to the understanding of abide as a deep and personal relationship. It is more than resting in one place, it is maintaining personal connections.
The Greek word used most frequently in the New Testament was menō - μένω. This word encompasses many of the same concepts as the English: “to stay (in a given place, state, relation or expectancy): - abide, continue, dwell, endure, be present, remain, stand, tarry (for), thine own.” The relational element of abiding is still there, but as part of concept of “staying.”
What Does It Mean to Abide in Christ?
As seen in John 15, abiding in Christ is the key to salvation and developing a strong relationship with God. One abides with Christ primarily by being in proximity with Him through fellowship and being sustained by Him while partnering with His work for the Kingdom of God. The believer strives to be steadfast and faithful in the relationship, while partnering with the Lord for His glory. Unlike the covenants of the Old Testament, such as the one between Abraham and God in Genesis 17, each party was obligated to achieve their half of the agreement.
God fulfilled our obligations to the Law through Jesus’ sacrifice. Instead of meeting obligations in order to try and maintain one’s own righteousness, we are invited to have a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Seeking this relationship is abiding with Christ.
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Four Ways We Can Abide in Christ and His Word
1. Set time every day to pray.
Having consistent time to go to God with thanksgiving and requests is an important element to abiding with the Lord. Just like relationships with friends and family, speaking with the Lord regularly and honestly is key to growing in His love.
2. Read the Bible.
God preserved His Word for every generation. Spending time learning more about who He is and what He has done for His people will expand the personal knowledge one has of the Lord, strengthening the relationship.
3. Get involved in ministry.
When Jesus speaks about abiding with Him, some of it involves partnering with the Lord for His glory and for the Kingdom of God. Investing in the things of God means investing in eternal things. Working for the Lord requires one to lean on Him more and grow a deeper relationship with Him.
4. Actively seek the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is the Comforter sent to indwell - and abide - within each believer. Upon accepting salvation, the Spirit begins to transform the individual. The Holy Spirit cultivates the good fruits and character traits, convicts the individual of sin, and produces transformation. Seeking this element of God that actually abides with us teaches us to better abide with Him.
Abiding with God is a special relationship that He offers to each individual. After the miracle of salvation, people can grow close to the one created them, saved them, and with whom they will spend eternity.
Abide with the Lord, and receive the blessing of knowing God personally.
Strong, James. Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible. Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers Marketing, 2007.
Walvoord, John F. and Roy B. Zuck. The Bible Knowledge Commentary. United States of America: Victor Books, 1985.
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Bethany Verrett is a freelance writer who uses her passion for God, reading, and writing to glorify God. She and her husband have lived all over the country serving their Lord and Savior in ministry. She has a blog on graceandgrowing.com.