In both 1John 2:27 – ‘remain in him’, and 2:28 – ‘continue in him’, John uses the verb meno, which means to live, to continue, to remain; it refers to living in our habitual dwelling place. In both verses the verb is in the present tense. The on-going stance/attitude of our lives as children of God is that we are ‘in him’, that is, ‘in Christ’. This is not a departure point from which we move on to something else, but our present and permanent position in the presence of God: we live in the presence of the Father always, ever and only in the Son – trusting in his atoning sacrifice (2:2) and his advocacy (2:1) for our life with God and our acceptance with God. We ‘live’ – we ‘remain’, we ‘continue’ – in Christ. As Jesus stated in John 15:5: ‘If a man remains in me, and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.’

This relationship that every child of God has with the Father is referred to by Jesus in John 15:1 – 8, where he described himself as ‘the vine’ and those who believe in him as ‘the branches’ – with a mutual inter-connectedness: we in him and he in us. Jesus referred to this in terms of us remaining in him and he remaining in us. It is not that some Christians ‘remain’ in Christ, and some Christians don’t: all who are genuine Christians remain, that is, live, in Christ. A person who is not ‘in him’ is simply not a Christian. The Christian lives only in Christ: apart from Christ they have no spiritual life, they have no relationship with God, they can do nothing.

This parallels Jesus’ other ‘I AM’ claims that John reported:

‘I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty’ (John 6:35). The coming and the believing are essential; without them Jesus can do nothing for a person.

‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life’ (John 8:12). The following is essential; without it the person is in darkness and does not have the light of life.

‘I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved’ (John 10:9). The entering is essential; without it there is no salvation.

‘I am the good shepherd ... my sheep know me’ (John 10:14). The knowing is essential; without it a person will not follow the shepherd.

‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies’ (John 11:25). The believing is essential; without it a person has no spiritual life.

‘I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’ (John 14:6). The coming is essential; without it a person has no connection to the Father.

Then in John 15 Jesus speaks of remaining in him:

‘I am the vine ... If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing’ (John 15:5). The remaining – the living in Christ – is essential; without it a person is disconnected from Christ, the source of life, and can do nothing of any spiritual value.

This remaining (living, continuing) in Christ parallels the coming, believing, entering, following and knowing in the other ‘I AM’ claims. Each of these, including the ‘remaining’ are different ways of referring to the right response to Jesus Christ, without which a person cannot be saved.

There is a close association between remaining, that is, living in Christ, and the word of Christ.

In John 15, where John uses meno nine times in the first ten verses, this association is expressed by Jesus in the phrases ‘You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you’ and ‘If you remain in me and my words remain in you ...’ and ‘if you obey my commands, you will remain in my love’ (verses 3, 7, 10).

In the context of his first letter, John’s commands ‘remain in him ... continue in him’ are urgent. False teaching was attempting to lure believers away from the real Jesus to a lesser Jesus, and therefore to a lesser salvation. So John wrote strongly about the critical importance of God’s truth:

‘See that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father. And this is what he promised us – even eternal life’ – 1John 2:24, 25.

© Rosemary Bardsley 2022