“And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he has given us” (KJV, 1 John 3:24)
“And he that keepeth his commandments”
Here, we see that John personalizes the topic of abiding. He starts with the word “he.” In saying, “he that keepeth his commandments,” John wanted to stress the importance of everyone’s individual walk with Christ. People are not saved because of their associations or because of whom they know. People either know God personally, or they do not.
John tells us that everyone must be highly concerned with his own relationship with God and his own conduct before God. John goes on to speak of every individual’s need to keep the commandments of God. Scripture says, “Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates of the city” (Rev. 22:14) . Those who do the commandments of the Lord will surely be the blessed ones.
When John speaks of the commandments of God, he uses the Greek word entole, which denotes authority. The Greek word entole is used frequently in the New Testament and is used most of all by the apostle John. Thus, John was highly concerned with the authoritative commands of God.
Breaking the commands of God is not an option for the Christian. Simply because God is gracious and patient with the believer does not make obedience optional. Paul addressed this matter when asked the question as to whether the Christian should continue in sin so that the grace of God may abound. The answer was an obvious one. The Christian must never think in this manner; he must never view the commands as optional simply because God’s grace abounds to the Christian.
Instead, we can read the words of Jesus: “If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love” (John 15:10) . It should be noted that Christ is the example, and it is in His path the Christian must walk.
“dwelleth in him, and he in him”
John moves to a telling statement. Those who keep the commands of God are the ones united with God. The word that John uses for dwelleth is the Greek word meno, which consists of the idea of staying in a single place or staying in relation to something. The Greek word is also used to depict abiding, dwelling, continuing, enduring, and remaining. Meno is also the same Geek word that is used later in I John 3:24, in which the KJV translates the word meno as abideth.
To abide in Christ is to be united with Christ. To abide in Christ is to have Christ abiding within, as well. In John chapter 15, Christ uses an illustration to depict the spiritual reality of the believer’s abiding in Christ.
We read in John 15 that Christ is like a vine whose branches are people. Those that do not bear fruit are taken away. However, those who truly abide in Christ (thus, remain in the vine) are the ones who will bear much fruit.
It is at this point that it must be noted that there is no such thing as a Christian who does not abide in Christ. Christians will abide in Christ and will keep the commands of God. John tells us this when he says, “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God” (1 John 3:9) . When God’s seed abides in the believer, the inevitable conclusion is obedience to God’s commands. This does not mean perfection, but it certainly does mean direction.
John has already told us that the Christian must confess his sin. In addition, John has already told us that if anyone says that he is without sin, that person is a liar. Moreover, John has already told us that he was writing his letter so that we would not sin – but if we do sin, we have an Advocate in Jesus Christ. Sin will be present in the life of the believer, but it will not characterize the believer’s life. The believer will be united with God and will thus be imparted with a new nature.
“And hereby we know that he abideth in us”
But do you know this? Do you know that the Christian has God abiding within? John went to great lengths in his epistle to combat the heresies of false teachers during his day. John was the leader and overseer of many churches during the time of 1 John. The churches of which John had oversight are mentioned in the first few chapters of the book of Revelation.
John was headquartered in Ephesus with many neighboring cities as ministerial grounds for the Lord’s work. He lived in Asia Minor, which was a place of major travel and commerce during his day due to its geographical location. It was in this setting that false teachers sought to lead away John’s flock.
John wanted to stress the fact, time and time again in his epistle, that he knew what the truth consisted of.
“by the Spirit”
But how can we know that God abides within? John tells us that we can know that God abides within by the Spirit. The Spirit in reference is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is seen in the books of Acts, 1 Corinthians, and Romans (to name a few) as the One Who baptizes the believer into Christ.
In the book of Acts, we see the Spirit’s work beginning in a new and fresh way. The Holy Spirit is poured out upon God’s people in greater measure and in much power. The New Covenant was unique in many ways, and one of the ways consisted of the Spirit’s ministry to the believer.
Romans chapter 6 is a helpful chapter to reference on the topic of the Spirit’s ministry. In Romans chapter 6, we read of the way that it is by the Holy Spirit that the believer is baptized into Christ. Thus, the baptism of the Holy Spirit unites, identifies, and immerses the believer into Christ.
Paul also tells us in Romans 6 that it is through the baptism of the Holy Spirit that the believer is united with Christ in Christ’s death, burial, resurrection, and newness of life.
But did you catch John’s wording? The Christian can know that Christ abides within by the Spirit of God. This means that whoever has the Spirit of God is abiding in Christ and Christ in him due to the vital union that the Spirit brings. Thus, all Christians are abiding in God and are said to be in Christ due to the Spirit’s work.
However, there is something that must be understood. The Bible speaks of many matters that are gifted to the believer, but which the believer also needs to grow in walking in them to make the most of them. For instance, righteousness is gifted to the believer, but then the believer must walk in it. Holiness is given to the believer, but then the believer must walk in it. In the same way, abiding is true of the believer, but the believer must also stay near to Christ to experience many of the rich benefits.
“which he has given us”
God is a gracious giver, and the Christian must recognize God as such. God has given the Christian His Spirit, and it is by the Spirit of God that the Christian abides in Christ. God has given His Son, and it is by the Son that the believer is forgiven for his sin.
Father, I thank You for Your abiding presence in my life. Please help me to stay near to You each day. You are worthy of my devotion. I pray that You would work in me by the power of Your Holy Spirit. Show me what it means to have Christ within. In Jesus’ name, Amen.