I. THE MEANING OF ABIDING IN THE LORD
A. In the Lord
The experience of abiding in the Lord is based on the fact of being in the Lord. If you are not in the Lord, there is no way for you to abide in the Lord. This fact of our being in the Lord was accomplished long ago. The accomplishment may be divided into two stages. When the Lord finished redemption on the cross, He joined us to Himself, putting us into Him. This is the first stage. Then when we were regenerated, the Holy Spirit came into us and practically joined us to Christ, putting us into Him. This is the second stage.
Romans 6:3 says that we were baptized into Christ Jesus. By this we can see that to be baptized is to be put into Christ. The phrase “believe in the Lord,” according to the original Greek text, should be properly rendered as “believe into the Lord.” The “into” in “believe into the Lord” and the “into” in “baptized into Christ” are the same word. Romans 6 says “baptized into,” and John 3:16 says “believe into.” One is to be baptized into, and the other is to believe into. In baptism you are baptized into Christ, and in believing you believe into Christ. When we believe in the Lord, the Spirit puts us completely into Christ and causes us to have an organic union with Christ. Thereafter, in practicality, we become those who are in Christ. Hence, 2 Corinthians 5:17 says that if any man is in Christ, he is a new creation. Everyone who desires to abide in Christ needs to see the fact of being in Christ. If someone does not see this fact it is useless to exhort him to abide in Christ. It will even be a hardship on him, for no matter how hard he tries to abide in Christ, he can never make it. But if he has the light and revelation that he is in Christ, he will see that to abide is an easy matter. He will realize that it is not necessary to seek abiding, because he is already in. This has already been accomplished by Christ.
Let us give a little illustration. Suppose you are a member of the Jones family. Since your birth you have been in the Jones family. As you were born into the Jones family, quite naturally you live with them. But suppose according to your knowledge, you are an outsider, yet you insist on living in the Jones’s house. That is not easy. First you must see that you are one who is in the Jones family. This is an accomplished fact based on your birth. You are, therefore, one of the Jones family, and all you need to do is to acknowledge this fact. Now what is required of you is that you remain there by living at home. In the same principle, if you desire to abide in the Lord, you must realize a fact. Something has happened to you and you are now already in Christ. Before you were saved you were born in Adam. But after you were saved, God moved you out of the realm of Adam into the realm of Christ. The fact of being in Christ is now accomplished. “In” is a marvelous word.
B. Abide in the Lord
The word “abide” means to remain. Abide in the Lord may also be translated as remain in the Lord. Ephesians 3:17 says that Christ dwells in our hearts through faith. The word “dwells” means to make your home. When you live in a house, that means you dwell there. When you go to a certain place and stay there for ten days, that means you remain there. The word “abide” in the phrase “abide in the Lord” does not mean to dwell or to reside, but it means to remain, to stay. As you are a saved one and you are already in the Lord, what is required of you now is that you do not leave, but remain in Him.
To illustrate, suppose you were baptized yesterday, and you clearly sensed that you had been joined to the Lord and that you are in Him. Last night, however, a friend came and insisted on taking you to a movie. While you were about to go with him, you sensed there was something wrong between you and the Lord. As you were considering what might be wrong, your friend continued to persuade you, and you decided to go with him. At that moment you felt that your fellowship with the Lord had been cut off. You felt that way because you did not remain in the Lord. You may be a saved one and thus in the Lord, but experientially you may not always remain in Him. In your experience it seems at times that you have walked out of the Lord, and your fellowship with the Lord has been broken.
Again, for example, you have just been saved and now you have a clear sense that you are joined to the Lord. But today it so happened that something greatly provoked you. While you were about to lose your temper, you felt something was wrong inside. Nevertheless, you went ahead and lost your temper. And because you lost your temper, you knew within yourself that the fellowship with the Lord had been interrupted. It seemed as if you had walked out of the Lord. This means you did not remain in Him.
To remain in the Lord is to abide in the Lord. When you thus remain in the Lord, you have continuous fellowship with Him. To be in the Lord is a matter of union. To abide in the Lord is a matter of fellowship. Fellowship is made possible by our being put into an organic union with the Lord. To have unceasing fellowship is to abide, and to abide is to maintain this unceasing fellowship.
The theme of the first Epistle of John is fellowship. In the first chapter of that book it tells us that we who have Christ as life do have fellowship with God. The life which we have received in us causes us to have fellowship with Him. The Gospel of John speaks of life, and the first Epistle of John speaks of fellowship. The Gospel of John continuously shows us how the Lord came and entered into men to be their life and to save them. First John continues to speak of the fellowship. As you have been saved and have Christ as life, this life will cause you to have fellowship with God. First John 1 speaks of fellowship, and chapter two speaks of abiding in the Lord. The abiding in the Lord which is spoken of in chapter two is the fellowship spoken of in chapter one. What does it mean to abide in the Lord? It means to have an uninterrupted fellowship with the Lord, not to come out of the fellowship, and to extend the union with the Lord.
(Lessons on Prayer, Chapter 11, by Witness Lee)