What Did Jesus Mean When He Said to "Remain in Me"?

Contributing Writer
What Did Jesus Mean When He Said to "Remain in Me"?

“If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” (John 15:7).

With such an important verse of Scripture as this one, what immediately comes to my mind and hopefully yours, is why? Why is this verse, “if you remain in me and my word remains in you,” so important? There are two important reasons that address this question.

1. Living Power

As a believer, Christ is your source. There is no salvation without Christ and there is no living this Christian life without Christ. Earlier in this same chapter (John 15:5) Jesus himself said “apart from me you can do nothing.” So in order to live an effective life you need help that goes beyond yourself or your ability. You receive that help when you remain in Christ.

2. Transforming Power

The second part of that verse, “my words remain in you,” highlights the importance of the word of God. Simply put, the word of God teaches you how to live, and Jesus, through the power of the Holy Spirit, helps you live out what the word of God teaches. God uses the word to transform how you believe, how you think, and ultimately how you act or live.

Do you want to live a transformed life that represents Jesus well in this world? To do that you must remain in him and allow his word to remain in you.

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What Does This Verse Mean?

Man holding a Bible charged with electricity

To remain means to abide or to dwell. The implication is not that this is a one-time occurrence, but that this is something that is ongoing. Think of anything electric you have in your house. For that item to work properly, it must be connected to the power source. As great and smartly designed as that device is, if it has no power it doesn’t work.

You and I are the same way. As fearfully and wonderfully made as you are, you cannot accomplish the things of God if you are not connected to the source of power. 

Jesus is calling you to dwell or continue in him and for his word to dwell or continue in you – the two are intertwined. You cannot dwell in Christ apart from his word and you cannot truly dwell in his word and remain apart from Christ. One feeds naturally into the other. In the same way, the appliance can’t work without remaining connected to the power. Also, the appliance can’t refuse to work either once it is connected to the power. The two work together and are intertwined. (Now if the appliance is broken that is a whole different story and the subject of another article.)

How Does the Word Remain in Us? 

Let’s dwell for a moment on part of this verse and why it is important. “If you remain in me and my words remain in you.” How does God’s word remain in you? The answer is probably something you already know. As much as people try to get away from the basics, they will always be foundational to your walk with God. Here is how you do this:

Read, meditate, memorize, obey.

Joshua 1:8 says “Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.”

There is power in reading God’s word. There is power in meditating on God’s word. There is power in memorizing God’s word. Ultimately there is power in obeying God’s word. The good news is when you remain in Jesus, he gives you the desire to walk in obedience to his word.

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What Is the Context of John 15?

Illustration of Jesus and the disciples

This portion of John 15 is part of a longer discourse that began in John 13. Consider John 13:1:

“It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.”

From this point forward, through John 17, Jesus proceeds to give his disciples some final instructions. Knowing the hour was at hand, it’s like he wanted to remind them of the most important things to remember when he was no longer here.

Think of a person who is terminally ill with only days to live and they have a conversation with you about what’s important and what you need to focus on. Chances are those words would have greater meaning to you. These are among the last instructions and encouragements Jesus gave his disciples, so it puts added weight on why it is important. “If you remain in me and my words remain in you” were not light words then, and they certainly aren’t light words now.

What Does the Rest of This Verse Mean?

So far, we have focused on the first part but there is a second part of this verse and we must consider why it is important.

“If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” (emphasis added).

Wait a minute – did Jesus just say we can ask for whatever we want and it will be done? You did read that correctly, but this requires some context. This is another example of these truths being intertwined together. If you really think about it, this is an incredible statement, so let’s understand how this works.

As we discussed earlier, when you remain in Christ that is the source of your power to live. When God’s word remains in you that is what God uses to transform your life and your way of thinking. When these two things are operating correctly and effectively in your life then you can ask for whatever you wish because it will be in line with Christ in you and the word of God in you.

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Does This Verse Support a Prosperity Gospel?

stacks of money with crown on top god of money

This verse does not and here is why. God does not answer prayers that are born out of wrong, selfish, or greedy motives. Consider these verses in James:

“What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don’t they come from the evil desires at war within you? You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it. And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure” (James 4:1-3).

When it comes to God answering your prayers, motives matter. Let me be clear – God has no problem blessing people, in fact he enjoys doing that. The problem comes when people are more interested in receiving the blessings, without wanting the one who blesses.

Notice the order of things in John 15:7. Before you ask, the first thing you do is remain in Christ where he becomes your source. The next thing you do is allow his word to remain in you where you line up how you believe, how you think, and how you live with what he desires. When you have aligned your life in this fashion, then your prayers will change. They will be in line with his desires because you have aligned yourself with Jesus and his word. When this happens then God will answer your prayers because they will be in alignment with what he wants to do in your life.

“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him” (1 John 5:14-15).

When you are in Christ and Christ’s words are in you, you will pray according to God’s will. When your prayers line up with what God desires to do you can be certain that you will have what you asked for. However, you can only get to this place by remaining in Him and his words remaining in you.

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What Does This Verse Mean for Our Everyday Lives?

Woman reading Bible outside

There is one word this verse means for our everyday lives. That word is fruit. Consider these earlier verses in John 15:

“Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. ‘I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:4-5).

It is really quite simple and at the same time it is easily missed. Ask yourself this question: Do you want to bear much fruit for the Kingdom of God? If the answer is yes there is only one way to do that, you must remain connected to the vine. There is no other way. The more connected and tied you are to Jesus, the more connected you are to his word in your life and the more fruit you will bear. Quite honestly, you won’t be able to help it because it will be the natural result of the connection. More remaining, more connection, more fruit. It really is that simple.

Fight to Remain in Him

The victory is in remaining. The blessing is in remaining. The productivity and the fruit are in remaining. However, so is the challenge of remaining. While remaining in Christ and his words remaining in you is simple to understand, it is sometimes harder to execute. That’s why you must fight for it.

There will be many things to distract you and pull you away from your place of remaining. You must resist them and fight to remain. Remember that outside of the vine there is no power, no productivity, and no fruit. I encourage you today to do whatever it takes to remain connected to Christ and his word. This may require you to unplug yourself from some other things, but I think you would agree that the fruit you will bear and the life you will live will make that sacrifice worth it all.

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Clarence Haynes 1200x1200Clarence L. Haynes Jr. is a speaker, Bible teacher, and co-founder of The Bible Study Club.  He is the author of The Pursuit of Purpose which will help you understand how God leads you into his will. He has also just released his new book The Pursuit of Victory: How To Conquer Your Greatest Challenges and Win In Your Christian Life. Do you want to go deeper in your walk with the Lord but can’t seem to overcome the stuff that keeps getting in the way? This book will teach you how to put the pieces together so you can live a victorious Christian life and finally become the man or woman of God that you truly desire to be. To learn more about his ministry please visit clarencehaynes.com