Abiding in Christ -- By: S. Lewis Johnson, Jr.

Journal: Emmaus Journal
Volume: EMJ 04:2 (Winter 1995)
Article: Abiding in Christ
Author: S. Lewis Johnson, Jr.


Abiding in Christ

S. Lewis Johnson, Jr.1

An Exposition of John 15:1–17

Introduction

Our passage in this study contains the last of our Lord’s “I am” statements. That is quite fitting, since abiding in Christ is the divinely intended everyday experience of the enjoyment of eternal life in our bodies of flesh. And, after all, is that not John’s purpose in the writing of the book? He would like for all his readers to come to the knowledge of Jesus, the Christ, the Son of God, and in that knowledge to the possession of eternal life. And surely it is important for the recipients of eternal life to know the joyous experience of it in the here and now, as well as in the then and thereafter.

In the course of developing the theme of abiding in Himself, and in that the theme of eternal life, our Lord lays to rest some unsatisfactory emphases in the Christian life. Thomas à Kempis wrote a famous book many years ago, entitled The Imitation of Christ. Now let it be said immediately that it is a biblical injunction that we be imitators of Christ in our Christian living (cf. 1 Cor. 11:1; 1 Pet. 2:21). However, it is the express teaching of our Lord in this passage, as well as the teaching of the Apostle Paul in many passages, that the Christian life is not only an imitation of Christ, it is a participation in Him (cf. Phil. 1:21). “For me to live is Christ” is Paul’s description of his life, and the relation that he sets out between the Lord and himself is a far deeper one than simple imitation.

It was Jowett who said, “There are some people who visit Christ. There are others who abide in Him.”2 The latter is the thrust of this paragraph.

The theme of the selection, it seems to me, is fruit-bearing. Abiding is a term that relates to that concept, not to the concept of vine-planting (cf. 14:16; 15:6). The word fruit occurs about eight times in verses one through sixteen, and only

two times elsewhere in John. That gives us a clue to the theme of the passage.

It is not easy to trace our Lord’s flow of thought through the section. The Greeks loved connecting conjunctions to indicate the flow of thought in their writing, and ordinarily the New Testament authors followed suit. ...

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