Before Jesus departs from his disciples on the night of his arrest and trial, he assures them of his love. His love for his disciples—and for believers in every age—is as the Father’s love for him: “As my Father hath loved me, so have I loved you” (v. 9). What beautiful words to cheer the troubled souls of the disciples and to comfort our fearful hearts!
We have seen the beautiful affirmation of Christ’s love for us. We have heard Christ’s exhortation to abide or continue in his love. We now come to the most controversial aspect of the text, for Jesus connects our abiding in Christ’s love to the keeping of his commandments in verse 10—“If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love” (v. 10). On the face of it, Jesus seems to be teaching conditional salvation or (at the very least) conditional experience of salvation. Does Christ’s use of the word “if” indicate a condition that we must fulfill in order to abide in his love?
We are familiar with Christ’s beautiful figure of a vine and its branches in John 15. However, what is less familiar is the idea of “abiding” found in the same chapter. To “abide” is to remain, to stay, or to continue, where the verb “abide” (translated in various ways) occurs eleven times in vv. 1–11. Jesus speaks of different kinds of “abiding.” First, there is Christ’s abiding in us (v. 4–5)—that is fundamental. Second, there is the abiding of Christ’s words in us (v. 7). Third, there is our abiding in Christ (vv. 4–5, 7). Finally, and the subject of this blog post, there is our abiding in Christ’s love.