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Synonyms in Sanctification

July 3, 2012
Several popular phrases have been used to describe the source of growth in the believers life and the dependence on God we should express in our growth. Two of the most popular are abiding in Christ and being filled with the Spirit. For many (most?) believers, these two phrases are rather vague and uncertain in their meaning. Leaving out the faulty charismatic interpretation of being filled with the Spirit, we are still left with questions of what this means and how it applies to our daily Christian walk. Some of the most pertinent to answer are how does this work and what does this really look like fleshed out in the normal believers life. Unfortunately, many use these Biblical phrases to describe the Christian walk as purely mystical, or worse yet, as all about our feelings. A right understanding of these phrases and principles inevitably leads one to a very practical, objective definition of how to live the Christian life.
Abiding in Christ is most notably mentioned in John 15.
John 15:4
“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.”
John 15:7
“If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.”
Beginning with the absolute inability of the believer to be fruit bearing apart from Him, Christ then expresses some consequences of not abiding (v. 6) and some results of abiding (v.7). Of particular note is the fact that Christ equates abiding in Him with His Words abiding in you. He is saying they are the same thing. If the Word of Christ is dwelling within you then you are abiding in Christ. That truth leads us to Colossians 3.
Colossians 3:16
“Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.”
To the believers in Colosse Paul commands them to let the Word live within them, overwhelmingly and abundantly live within them. The result of such a dwelling, dare I say such an abiding, is the instruction of believers through singing and the offering of our song as a gift to the Lord. That verse is nearly identical with a couple other verses in the Bible, Ephesians 5:18-19
“And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.”
In Ephesians 5 Paul says the result of being filled with the Spirit is the exact same as the being filled with the Word. Why? Because they are essentially the same thing. One cannot be filled with the Word without being filled with the Spirit and one cannot be filled with the Spirit without being filled with the Word. For the purposes of understanding our Christian walk, they are equal. Christ said abiding in Him is the same as His word abiding in you. Paul said, His Word abiding in you is the same as being filled with the Spirit. Abiding in Christ is His Word dwelling in you richly and is being filled with the Spirit. Lest you think I making too much out of similarity in phrases and concepts, let me offer one other passage, 1 John 2.
1 John 2:24
“Let that therefore abide in you, which ye have heard from the beginning. If that which ye have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, ye shall also continue in the Son, and in the Father.
1 John 2:27
“But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in Him.
1 John 2:28
“And now little children, abide in him; that when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming.
In the span of five verses, John refers to abiding in each of the three fashions which are used in John 15, Colossians 3 and Ephesians 5. In verse 24, John speaks of the Word abiding in you. Those things which they had heard were the truths of Christ communicated through the apostles, the doctrines and truths of the gospel which are now given to us in the Word. In verse 27 John refers to an anointing abiding in you. That anointing is the Holy Spirit (see John 16:13-15) filling them and directing them. In verse 28, the command is simple, abide in Christ. John associates all three of these concepts together. If we are going to rightly apply these ideas to our Christian walk, we cannot separate them and treat them as if they are three different steps in the growth process. We must recognize that they are all the same thing. That recognition will have an extensive influence on your Christian life.
This article has run on long enough, so I will leave the rest unsaid for now. If you want to study ahead for next week’s article, start by pondering John 15:10.
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