Abiding: A deed done, something sharp, inside, within or amid.
In earlier chapters I have gone to great lengths to stress the importance of foundations.
Indeed, the previous 11 chapters form the foundation for now looking, in detail, at the words spoken by Yeshua in John 15:1-2.
“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.
Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.”
We have already considered the far-reaching meaning of the words in Verse 1. Yeshua is the True Vine, as opposed to satan who is the false vine. Yeshua is a planting of God the Father who is the Divine Gardener, fully controlling everything that happens within His Garden. Indeed, it is God the Father who ordains that branches should be cut free from the false vine and grafted into the Life of His Son Yeshua, the True Vine.
Also, we have noted the centrality of fruit-bearing in the plans and purposes of God the Father as the Sovereign Gardener. However, this is the first time we have come face to face with the reality of what will happen if we fail to produce in our lives, as branches, the fruit of the Spirit. Yeshua expresses these consequences in more detail in Verses 6:
"If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.
There has been a popular notion at large amongst Christians known as, “once saved always saved”. Naturally, this notion leaves no place for these straightforward words of Yeshua. His words leave us in no doubt that anyone having been cut to the heart, cut free from the false vine, circumcised in heart and grafted into Christ the True Vine and yet remain unfruitful will be cut off and cast into the fire of hell!
Hebrews 6:4-6 For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame.
Why would the writer to the Hebrews have stated these things if it were not possible for the Divine Gardener to cut off those branches that He has grafted in?
Romans 11: 17-21 And if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive tree, were grafted in among them, and with them became a partaker of the root and fatness of the olive tree, do not boast against the branches. But if you do boast, remember that you do not support the root, but the root supports you. You will say then, "Branches were broken off that I might be grafted in." Well said. Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Do not be haughty, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either.
Indeed, why would Paul write such words to the Romans if they were not a true reflection of Yeshua’ words in John 15?
You see it isn’t even enough to have been cut free, circumcised and grafted in. Unless all these things lead to a steady flow of the law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Yeshua into, and through, our lives every moment of every day, to the end that the Holy Spirit can produce His Fruit upon our lives, then we are in very great danger of being cut off as unfruitful branches.
This is a harsh reality, but a reality nonetheless. It is a reality that Christendom needs to face, rather than trying to conjure it away with theological slight of hand.
You would think that the reverse side of this coin ie. fruit bearing, would be much more pleasant to our ears, but it is not. Yeshua says that those branches that are fruitful will be pruned!
As has already been established, being cut to the heart, being cut free from the false vine and circumcised in heart are all painful experiences. So, too, is the process of being pruned.
Sadly, we have been so indoctrinated with an expectation of a “trouble free, `bless me’ life in Christ” that we can barely stomach the ramifications of what Yeshua is saying.
Yet, the Apostle Paul, together with the other Apostles and many of the believers in the First Century Church, understood with the greatest clarity what this pruning involved.
2Corinthians 11: 23-31 Are they ministers of Christ? I speak as a fool; I am more: in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often. From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness; besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to stumble, and I do not burn with indignation? If I must boast, I will boast in the things which concern my infirmity. The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is blessed forever, knows that I am not lying.
Hebrew 11: 35-40 Women received their dead raised to life again. And others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented; of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth. And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us.
God the Father has one purpose in pruning and that is to render us more fruitful.
In the natural, a pruned branch must draw even more strongly on the life of the vine, or it will die. So too, when God the Father prunes us we must learn to draw on the life of Christ, which is in the Holy Spirit, the Life-giving Sap of the True Vine.
There are many ways in which the Father can choose to prune us. Yeshua mentions one way when He says:
John 15: 3 “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.
The Word of God, both the written Word and the Living Word are pruning shears in the hands of God the Father. And pruning cannot be separated from our need for continued cleansing. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth and as He flows through us He will reveal the inner-most secrets of our hearts, He will uncover anything of our sinful flesh that would compromise our abiding. But once these things are uncovered it is up to us to yield to the pruning of the Divine Gardener.
Even though Aaron and his sons were cleansed at their consecration into the priesthood, there was also a continual cleansing required as they fulfilled their office as priests unto God. We are very foolish if we think we can serve as Priests under the order of Melchisedek, who is Christ, and yet not be subjected to the continual cleansing, which comes through our being pruned.
Another pruning tool in the hands of God the Father is satan! This is a truth that very few Christians wish to embrace. How could a loving God use satan, His enemy, to prune us, the people He loves? The answer is very straightforward. God the Father is the SOVEREIGN GARDENER!
Both Peter and Paul learnt the reality of being pruned by satan.
Luke 22: 31-32 And the Lord said, "Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. "But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren."
1Corinthians 12: 7-10 And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." Therefore, most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore, I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
The sole reason for the fruitfulness of the life and ministry of Peter and Paul lies in their understanding of, and acceptance of, the pruning that took place in their lives under the watchful eye of the Divine Gardener.
The key purpose of God the Father in pruning His saints is that we might abide in Christ more completely and that we might be fruitful and become even more fruitful.
John 15: 4-5 "Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. "I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.
John 15:8 Herein is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit; so, shall you be my disciples.
Not only is fruit-bearing the purpose of God the Father in pruning our lives, it is also how we become mature disciples.
Kenneth Wuest, in his translation of the NT, expresses Verse 8 of John 15 as follows:
“In this My Father is glorified, namely, that you are bearing much fruit. So, shall you become My disciples.”
It is also worth noting here that even though the branches bear the fruit the credit and the glory is always attributed to the Gardener. You never hear people praising a vine, or the sap or the soil, or even the branches for the wonderful fruit they have produced. No, people praise the gardener. As in the natural, so in the spiritual. All glory and praise and worship are due to God the Father, as the Divine Gardener, for the fruit that is produced on our lives, as branches that are abiding in Christ the True Vine.
Yeshua is making a vital statement here, which Christian communities in general have not heeded. Not even Yeshua is to receive the glory for the fruit produced, nor is the Holy Spirit, even though they both play a vital role in rendering us as fruitful branches. The glory must always go to the Father!
When we set this alongside another clear statement made by Yeshua it should prompt a great deal of heart-searching regarding what passes for worship in Christian communities of our day.
1John 4:23-24 But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.
You see, worship as far as Yeshua is concerned, must have as its foundation our abiding in Christ. But the object and recipient of our worship must always be the Father.
Philippians 2:11 And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Let us turn our attention for a moment to look at several key words in John 15. As you read this passage you will quickly notice that the word “abide” is the central theme of this passage.
The Hebrew word picture meaning, which you read at the start of this chapter is: “a deed done, something sharp, inside, within or amid”. To my mind this definition encourages us to always relate abiding to the realities that we have been grafted in and we will experience ongoing pruning.
Both grafting and pruning involve a deed done, (by the Divine Gardener) with something sharp, to position us inside or within Christ the True Vine (grafting) or, to remove something unfruitful inside, within or amid our lives (pruning).
In the Greek, the word abide means: to stay (in a given place, state, relation or expectancy); to abide, continue, dwell, endure, be present, remain, stand.
I particularly like the rendering of this word provided by Kenneth Wuest. In his translation of the NT, he uses this phrase: “maintain a living communion”.
This phrase captures more fully what it means to abide in Christ, who is the True Vine. It is a union in which both the Vine and the branches share something in common and the basis of this common-union is that both the Vine and the branches share the same life. As it is in the natural, so it is in the spiritual. If God the Father has grafted us into Christ, then we have the actual life of Christ flowing through us, just as surely as a natural branch has the life of its new parent vine flowing through it. This is accomplished through the ministry of the Holy Spirit who becomes to us “the law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Yeshua”.
However, our ability to maintain a living communion with Yeshua is a matter of co-dependance. We must learn the reality of Yeshua’s words in Verse 5 when He states: “for without me you can do nothing”. This means that outside of being in union with Yeshua there is no life that has any eternal value. Sure, you can live a full and meaningful life in the eyes of the world, but if you are not abiding in Christ then your life amounts to nothing! Outside of abiding in Christ I cannot consider myself to be a Christian, I cannot consider myself to be a husband, a father, a Bible teacher, an intercessor or anything else you might want to add to the list. Yeshua says: “without me you can do nothing” and I for one believe He means NOTHING!
This is a hard pill for us to swallow, especially if we have been exposed for any length of time to the passive teaching of many a denomination and movement (which we referred to in Chapter 1) that we are in fact most useful to God. All we must do, according to this passive teaching, is keep busy in some form of ministry and we’ve got it made.
There is an element of truth in the fact that we can be useful to God, but this element of truth has been grossly overemphasised and distorted in most denominational settings.
We are useful to God only because He has grafted us into Christ so that we might produce fruit. Remember the Gardener cannot bear the fruit, the Vine cannot bear the fruit, and neither can the Sap bear the fruit. Only the branches can bear fruit. But the fruit is the result of the branches depending on the Gardener, the Vine and the Sap. Therefore, abiding in Christ, maintaining a living common-union with Him is foundational to the life of a saint.
Unless the fruit produced by our lives is the direct result of our abiding in Christ we are useless rather than useful, as far as God the Father is concerned.
Another key word in John 15 is the word OBEY.
The Hebrew word picture meaning for the word obey is: to see the name.
You will recall that when we looked at the symptoms of hardness of heart the first symptom was an unwillingness to obey. That is, an unwillingness to hear clearly and to put into practice what has been heard.
One of the key ways, then, in which we maintain a living common union with Yeshua and keep our hearts free of hardness, is through obedience.
John 15: 10 “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love.
John 15: 14 “You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.
John 15: 17 “These things I command you, that you love one another.
Love is the summation of the life of Christ and it is the primary fruit that should be evident on every branch abiding in the True Vine. If we are maintaining a living common union with Yeshua through obedience to the words He has spoken to us, then the result will be the love of Christ flowing through us and touching the lives of those around us.
John 15: 9 “As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love.
But, here again, our obedience must be built upon the right foundation.
John 15:14-15 “You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.
"No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.
There was a time when the disciples were servants. The meaning of this word is: a bondman, bondservant.
A slave is totally dependant on his master for food, clothing and shelter, as well as instructions as to what to do next. Slavery is tied-in with the realisation that outside of Christ we are nothing. It is only when we have understood our slavery to Christ that we can progress, through obedience, to being called His friends. However, we are very foolish if we ever forget that our friendship with Christ continues to depend upon our foundational understanding that apart from Him we can do nothing (we are like slaves).
But to truly abide in Christ’s love we need to learn yet more about our role in maintaining our living common union with Christ through Communion or the Lord’s Supper.
Armour: All God’s Hand
There is little doubt that the weightiest passage in Scripture regarding spiritual warfare and spiritual armour is found in Ephesians 6:10-18
Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.
Put on the whole armour of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the whole armour of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints;
Spiritual warfare has come into “fashion” over the past 15-20 years. Consequently, a great deal has been written and said about this passage in Ephesians. Like most modern-day disciples of Jesus Christ, I have had my fair share of attempts at striving in spiritual warfare, but the lack of long-term fruit has left me wondering about the whole concept of spiritual warfare; as we have understood it and practiced it in the past. I guess I still have serious doubts as to whether we have yet grasped what the Holy Spirit is seeking to communicate to the Body of Christ through these important verses of Scripture.
There is so much in these verses that it is difficult to know where to start. So, as we have been seeking to do all along, let us focus on the connection between these verses and what it is to abide in Christ.
One of the recurring themes in these verses is summed up in the word “stand”. The meaning of this word is both powerful and revealing: abide, appoint, continue, establish.
Yes! The word “stand” as used here by Paul means to abide!!!
Here, in one word, we have the whole foundation of spiritual warfare and the armour of God. The foundation is found in our maintaining a living common union with Christ and Christ maintaining a living common union with us.
Following on from this fact we might well ask the question: What is the soldier, in Paul’s illustration, suppose to stand on? The answer is found in these words: “and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace”.
Whatever you put on your feet you will end up standing on.
Whilst this is not the first piece of armour mentioned, we dare not overlook the use of the word “preparation” in reference to what the spiritual soldier will end up standing on and therefore taking his abiding from. If we trace the meaning of this word “preparation” we discover that it refers to “internal fitness”.
How are we to become “internally fit” for spiritual warfare? Through the Gospel of Peace!
Here we need to turn aside one moment and ponder afresh these words spoken by Jesus to His disciples:
John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.
We all know that there is a difference between the peace the world gives and the peace that Jesus gives.
Have you ever noticed that when we see “peace talks” taking place somewhere in the world, in an attempt to resolve conflict between countries or factions within a country, they are always conducted around the widest table you have ever seen! The physical distance kept between the parties is enormous and flies in the face of the meaning of the word peace. Nevertheless, this is the world’s version of peace: a lot of talk from a great distance.
The meaning of the word peace in the Scriptures is radically different to what we see played out in the world. It means to join, set at one again, quietness, rest.
The Hebrew word picture meaning for peace is: to destroy the authority that establishes chaos.
You see peace is yet another word that the Scriptures use to describe what it is to abide in Christ. Peace means unity, the sharing of a single life (the Life of Christ) and being at rest in the knowledge that the resources of Christ, the True Vine, are all sufficient.
It may seem to you like a contradiction to talk about rest in the context of spiritual warfare, but I believe the Word of God teaches this as the secret of our success!
Only God Almighty would give the following instructions to His army:
2Chronicles 20: 17 ‘You will not need to fight in this battle. Position yourselves, stand still and see the salvation of the LORD, who is with you, O Judah and Jerusalem!' Do not fear or be dismayed; tomorrow go out against them, for the LORD is with you."
Only the life of abiding in Christ can prepare us internally for spiritual warfare.
The foundations of a building generally remain unseen, so too with our spiritual foundations or our internal preparedness. This is unseen, but it is the foundation of our success or failure in spiritual warfare.
Acts 9:13-17 Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists took it upon themselves to call the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, "We exorcise you by the Jesus whom Paul preaches." Also, there were seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, who did so. And the evil spirit answered and said, "Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?" Then the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, overpowered them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. This became known both to all Jews and Greeks dwelling in Ephesus; and fear fell on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified.
The seven sons of Sceva are a good example of people lacking internal preparation
(ie. abiding in Christ) for spiritual warfare. These men had all the external preparations in place, they had religious standing, as the sons of a Chief Priest, and they had the right words to speak. However, all this proved to be no substitute for the internal preparation of the Holy Spirit (the Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ), the Sap of the True Vine, flowing through their lives.
All of this should bring us to the realisation that the Spiritual Armour is not something we put on and take off. The Spiritual Armour Paul is referring to is the Person of our Lord Jesus Christ who is the focus of our life of abiding.
It is for this reason that I treasure Charles Wuest’s translation of Ephesians 6:13
On this account, take to yourself at once and for all, the complete armour of God in order that you may be able to resist in the day, the pernicious day,
One of the errors that has manifested itself as we have tried to understand spiritual warfare and the use of the Spiritual Armour, in isolation from the foundation of abiding, is the practice of taking off and putting on the Spiritual Armour like a set of clothes.
There is an important difference between putting on the Spiritual Armour and maintaining our relationship with the Spiritual Armour. It’s like the difference between buying a car and maintaining a car. You don’t have to buy your car every morning before you can use it. But you do have to maintain your car day by day for it to be functional and useful. Our abiding is once and for all time, but Jesus makes it clear in John 15 that we must maintain our abiding in Christ.
If we are maintaining a living communion with Christ, then we always have the Armour of God on. As I have already said the Spiritual Armour Paul talks about is the person of Jesus Christ.
Let me show you how Scripture proves this.
The first piece of Armour is the Belt of Truth.
John 1: 17 For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
John 14: Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.
Ephesians 4: 20 & 21 But you have not so learned Christ, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus:
The second piece of Armour mentioned is the Breastplate of Righteousness.
Jeremiah 23:5-6 "Behold, the days are coming," says the LORD, "That I will raise to David a Branch of righteousness; A King shall reign and prosper and execute judgment and righteousness in the earth. In His days Judah will be saved, And Israel will dwell safely; Now this is His name by which He will be called: THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.
1 Corinthians 1: 30 But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God; and righteousness and sanctification and redemption;
Phillipians 1:9-11 And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.
The third item of the Armour is the sandals of Peace.
Isaiah 9: 6 For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
2 Thessalonians 3: 16 Now may the Lord of peace Himself give you peace always in every way. The Lord be with you all.
The fourth item of Armour is the Helmet of Salvation.
In Hebrew the name which is translated Jesus in English is Yeshua. The name Yeshua is also the word translated into our English Bibles as salvation.
Isaiah 12:2 Behold, God is my salvation (Yeshua); I will trust, and not be afraid: for the LORD JEHOVAH is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation (Yeshua).
Hebrews 5: 8 & 9 Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him;
The fifth item of Armour is the Shield of Faith.
2 Samuel 22:3 & 4 The God of my strength, in whom I will trust; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge; My Saviour, You save me from violence. I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised; So, shall I be saved from my enemies.
Romans 1: 16-17 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.
For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, "The just shall live by faith."
The sixth item of Armour is the Sword of the Spirit.
John 1-5 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.
Hebrews 4: 12 For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
Revelation 1: 16-18 He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength. And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me, "Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last. "I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death.
So, in effect we can summarise Ephesians 6:10-18 by saying, if we are in Christ and actively maintaining a common union with Him, then we are clothed with the Spiritual Armour of the Person of Jesus Christ and we are ready for spiritual warfare.