As in the Gospels, so in Acts and Ephesians we find both the local and the ethical connotations of this word, which in almost every case is used to render μἐνω or one of its numerous compounds (ἐπι-, κατα-, παρα-, προς-, ὑπο-). With the purely local usages we have here no concern; but there is a small class of transitional meanings which lead the way to those ethical connotations which are the distinctive property of the word. Among these may be mentioned the several places in 1 Co 7, where St. Paul, dealing with marriage and allied questions (? in view of the Parousia), speaks of abiding in this state or calling. In the same Epistle note also 3:14 ‘If any man’s work abide,’ and 13:13 ‘And now abide faith, hope, love.’* Similarly we are told of the persistence (a) of Melchizedek’s priesthood (He 7:3), (b) of the Divine fidelity even in face of human faithlessness (2 Ti 2:13), and (c) of the word of God (1 P 1:23).
It is, however, in the 1st Ep. of John, as in the Fourth Gospel, that we get the ethical use of abiding most fully developed and most amply presented. But, while in the Gospel the emphasis is laid on the Son’s abiding in the Father and Christ’s abiding in the Church, in 1 Jn 2:24, 27 the stress is rather on the mutual abiding of the believer and God (Father and Son). Note the following experimental aspects of the relation in question.
- The believer as the place of the abiding.—A somewhat peculiar expression is found in 1 Jn 2:27, where we read: ‘The anointing … abideth in you.’ By χρῖσμα is meant the gift of the Holy Spirit (cf. 2 Co 1:21), whose presence in the heart gives the believer an independent power of testing whatever teaching he receives (cf. ‘He shall take of mine and shall show it unto you,’ Jn 16:15).† In 1 Jn 2:14 it is said that the word of God abideth in ‘young men’; but it is also the meaning in v. 24; while in 3:24 Christ is mentioned as abiding in them ‘by the Spirit.’ In each passage we have a subtle instance of the perfectly natural way in which the operation of the risen Christ on the heart is identified with that of the Spirit. The believer’s soul is thus mystically thought of as the matrix in which the Divine energy of salvation, conceived of in its various aspects, is operative as a cleansing, saving, and conserving power, safeguarding it from error, sin, and unfaithfulness.
- The abiding place of the believer.—In 1 Jn 2:24 we have the promise that ‘if the [word] heard from the beginning’ remains in the believer’s heart, he shall ‘continue in the Son’ and in the Father (cf. 3:6). This reciprocal relation between the implanted word and the human environment in which it energizes is peculiarly Johannine. Secondary forms of the same idea are found in 2:10 (‘he that loveth his brother abideth in the light’), and in 3:14 (‘he that hateth his brother abideth in death’). In 2:6 we have the fact that the believer abides in Christ made the ground for a practical appeal for consistency of life, and in v. 28 the reward of such living is that the believer ‘abideth for ever,’ i.e. has eternal life. As a general principle, in the use of this word we find a striking union of the mystical and the ethical aspects of the Christian faith.
Literature.—G. G. Findlay, The Things Above, 1901, p. 237; G. H. Knight, Divine Upliftings, 1906, p. 85; F. von Hügel, Eternal Life, 1912, p. 365f.; and also the art. ‘Abiding’ in DCG, and the literature there cited.
* Popular opinion, based on a well-known hymn (Par. 4913f.), very erroneously makes faith and hope pass away, only love abiding.
† As indicated in HDB i. 101b, the words of 1 Jn 2:27 gave rise to the practice or anointing with oil at baptism.
DCG Dict. of Christ and the Gospels.