I am trying to spend more time reflecting on the sermons that are proclaimed to us each Sunday. I love the preaching at our church but too often by the time it’s Tuesday I can’t even remember what the sermon was on. So I think I am going to begin reflecting on the our church sermons as an occasional series on this blog.
Today’s sermon was on the various metaphors for discipleship: salt and light (Matt. 5), fishers of men (Matt 4:19/Mk 1:17) but most significantly the true vine and branches (John 15). As John 15 was read in the sermon today I couldn’t help but notice the prevalence of the word ‘remain’ (μενω). This is possibly because I was trying to follow along in my Greek New Testament and I at least knew the word μενω. But it could also be because of the 118 uses of the word μενω in the NT by far the most occurrences are in John, 40 in fact. Of those 40 occurrences in John, 11 are in chapter 15 alone, that means a over 9% of all the uses of μενω in the NT are in this chapter alone!
In John 15 the phrase ‘remain in me’ (μείνατε ἐν ἐμοί – vv. 4, 5, 6, 7) is repeated. The first occurrence is the command to remain in Christ (μείνατε, v. 4) followed by the promise that whoever remains (ὁ μένων) in Christ and Christ in them, will bear much fruit (v. 5). Then we are warned that whoever does not remain (ἐὰν μή τις μένῃ) in Christ will be thrown into the fire (v. 6) because, it is implied, they do not bear fruit. All this is finally capped off with the final promise that whoever remains (ἐὰν μείνητε) in Christ and has His words remain in them also will be granted whatever they ask for (v. 7).
The question that came most readily to mind in this text was: how are we to remain in Christ?
This question is first answered for us. In v. 4 Christ commands us to remain in Him (μείνατε ἐν ἐμοί – imperative use of μενω) even as (κἀγὼ – combination of και and εγω) Christ remains in us. In other words, we are to live in the reality that Christ remains in us! This reality is easy to affirm but difficult to inform our daily living. If we lived our life as if Christ was truly dwelling in us, I really believe we would live much different lives.
The second answer to this question is given in v. 7. There we are told that our prayers will be answered if we remain (μείνητε) in Christ and his Word remains in us (τὰ ῥήματά μου ἐν ὑμῖν μείνῃ). Thus we remain in Christ by letting His word (ρημα – I don’t have time here to go into the difference between ρημα and λογος, perhaps that is worth another post another time) remain in us.
So as I go about this week, my goal is to remain in Christ by 1) living in the reality that Christ remains in me, and 2) intentionally letting God’s Word remain in my heart. If those two things do not change the way I go about my week, I don’t know what will. These things are worth thinking on.