Learning to Abide in God from 1 John
by Jason Ruis
Cultural Bible Passages
Bible passages are dangerous when taken out of context. One passage I hear regularly ripped out of context is, “God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” (1 John 4:16, ESV). People love this passage because it talks about love—which makes us feel warm and fuzzy.
The problem is, when I hear people share this verse, they disconnect it from the other twenty-four times “abide” is used in 1 John. They often make it seem like “abiding in love” is passive—like “basking in the warm glow of love.” Yet, when we look at the variety of ways 1 John talks about “abiding in God,” we quickly realize it isn’t passive.
Meaning of Abide
“Abide” is a translation of the Greek word μένω. This word has a range of possible translations, including: to remain, to stay, to lodge with, to wait for, to keep on, to continue to exist, to persist, to reside, to tarry, to stand fast, to stand firm in battle.
Abiding is active. To abide in love means to persist in love, to stand fast in love, to stay put in love. It’s a firm commitment.
1 John answers the question, “How do we abide in God?” If abiding is active, what do we do?
Begins With Faith
The answer to that question comes right before the “God is love” passage. We read, “Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.” (1 John 4:15, ESV). If you want to abide in God, you need to confess that Jesus is the Son of God. This is an act of faith. “Abide” means a firm commitment of faith, standing fast in your confession of faith.
There is no abiding in God without confessing our faith in Jesus.
Continues With Repentance
John has more to say about what it looks like to abide. Earlier in the book he says, “No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him.” (1 John 3:6, ESV). In other words,if we are abiding in God, we will be regularly turning away from our sin. Of course, there will be momentary lapses where we fall into sin. However, we will not “keep on sinning.” We will regularly turn away from sin because we abide in God—because we’ve made a firm commitment of faith to follow and trust him with our life.
There is no abiding in God without the regular practice of repenting from our sin.
Extends With God’s Word
Earlier in 1 John, we read, “Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father.” (1 John 2:24, ESV). If you have God’s Word abiding in you, then you will abide in God.
Having God’s Word abiding in us means more than reading it occasionally. To abide in God’s Word means to stand fast in God’s Word, to dwell in God’s Word, to persist in God’s Word. It means we are soaked and saturated with God’s Word, standing fast in its truth.
There is no abiding in God without God’s Word penetrating deep into our hearts, minds, and lives.
Endures By Perseverance
Finally, 1 John teaches us that true abiding in God results in perseverance. We read, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.” (1 John 2:19, ESV). Those who truly abide in God will persevere until the end. John talks about those who came into the church for a while, showed passion and excitement, but eventually wandered away. He says they wandered away because they were never truly part of the Body—not truly abiding in God. If they were truly abiding in God, they would have continued abiding in God until the end.
There is no abiding in God without standing fast and persevering to the end.
Putting It Together
If “abide” only means “remain” or “stay,” we will not fully grasp its meaning. We can passively remain or stay in a particular place—like sitting in a chair—but abide means more than that. Abiding is an active, firm commitment.
This is what 1 John teaches us: If you want to abide in God…
You need to make an active, firm commitment of faith, confessing that Jesus is the Son of God.
You need to make an active, firm commitment to flee from sin and turn to Christ regularly.
You must make an active, firm commitment to read God’s Word, meditate upon it, and allow it to affect every part of your life, standing firm in its truth.
You must make an active, firm commitment to stand fast and persevere to the end.
Jason Ruis was ordained in 2018 and has faithfully served as lead pastor to Faith Community Church in Beaverdam Wisconsin ever since.