Introduction

The command to “remain in Jesus” is another facet of a saving faith.  As we have said in each of these articles describing facets of a saving faith, each facet is an integral part of a saving faith just as the facet of a diamond is an integral part of the diamond.  Each facet of a saving faith has a recognizable characteristic – it is characterized in Scripture as essential for salvation.  Whatever is commanded must be present in our lives or we will not be saved.  If the command forbids certain behavior, we will not be saved if that forbidden behavior is present in our lives.

Remain In Jesus

This facet of a saving faith comes from the 15th chapter of the Gospel of John where Jesus tells an analogy of himself as the true vine and his Father being the gardener.  Those of us who are in Jesus are branches in the vine.  Let’s look directly at Jesus’ description:

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me” (John 15:1-4).[1] 

A Salvation Issue

The two underlined portions (above) must be read together to understand that this is a salvation issue.  God the Father will cut off every branch in Jesus that bears no fruit.  From this we see clearly that bearing fruit is a required activity of every believer who will be saved.  Jesus then goes on to tell us that the only way we can bear fruit (found in the second underlined portion) is to remain in him.  Thus, if we do not remain in Jesus (and do not bear fruit, as a result), God the Father will cut us off from Jesus.

In the next portion of this passage, Jesus reiterates the message again.  God apparently is very desirous that Jesus’ disciples understand:

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples” (John 15:5-8). 

In verse 5, Jesus makes sure we know who the players are in this analogy.  Jesus is the vine.  We are the branches.  Then Jesus repeats the message we looked at before:  If a man remains in Jesus and he in that man, the man will bear much fruit.  BUT apart from Jesus we can do nothing.  If we are apart from Jesus we have not remained in him.

Then Jesus makes sure we understand that the result of not remaining in him is condemnation.  Jesus is not suggesting that we will simply have a difficult time, not be as happy as we might otherwise be, or not have an abundant life.  He says that those who do not remain in him will be like a branch that is thrown away (cut off from the vine) and withers.  What happens to such branches?  They are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.  What happens to former believers who do not remain in Jesus?  They are cut off from Jesus by the Father, thrown away and wither, then ultimately thrown into the lake of fire – the second death (Revelation 20:14; 21:8). 

Jesus encourages the believers by assuring them that if they remain in him and his words remain in them, they can ask whatever they wish and it will be given to them.  I suspect we have little grasp these days of the blessings of remaining in Jesus.  It is my hope we will both gain a greater understanding as we proceed article by article through the facets of a saving faith.  You will see the depth of commitment the Lord Jesus requires of those who will be saved.  You may question this if it is contrary to what you have been taught, but please remember we are looking only at God’s Word, not the opinions of men.  You will not be saved because you did what your preacher said.  You will be saved if you are obedient to what God’s Word says.

A Sign Of a Disciple

You and I (and God) can see whether a person remains in Jesus.  The persons who remain in Jesus (and he in them) will bear much fruit!  Bearing much fruit is evidence that a person is in Jesus and he in them.  Jesus said, “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples” (John 15:8).  What does bearing much fruit show?  That we are disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ.

What about the millions attending church who do not show fruit in their lives?  Jesus said, “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).  Bearing no fruit is evidence that a person is not in Jesus.    We know (and God knows) he is not in Jesus because he bears no fruit.  He may once have been, but he is no longer.  Even though he once had been in the vine, God examined his life, found no fruit, and cut him off from the vine – from Jesus.

 

Can a Person Once Cut Off Be Grafted Into the Vine Again?

God used Paul to answer that question.  Paul wrote the Romans about God’s view of the Jews and the Gentiles.  He explained how they were once divided; the Jews stumbled over their own Messiah.  Let’s read Paul’s explanation:

If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, 18 do not boast over those branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you. 19 You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in.” 20 Granted. But they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but be afraid. 21 For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either.

22 Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off. 23 And if they do not persist in unbelief, they will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. 24 After all, if you were cut out of an olive tree that is wild by nature, and contrary to nature were grafted into a cultivated olive tree, how much more readily will these, the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree! (Romans 11:17-24). 

Aren’t the parallels amazingly similar to the earlier teaching by Jesus about himself as the vine?  Instead of vine and branches, Paul speaks of the tree root and branches.  In both cases the passages speak of branches being cut off or broken off, in the first instance for lack of fruit; in the second instance because of unbelief.  Just as in the scripture regarding the vine and the branches, which we saw were requirements to remain in Jesus, to persevere, and to bear fruit, so this passage states a person will experience God’s kindness, “provided that you continue in his kindness” – a warning to persevere – or sternness to those who fall (who are broken off).

Instructions On How To Remain In Jesus

Those we must personally resolve to remain in Jesus, we do not remain in him simply because we have a mental state whereby we assure ourselves that we are remaining in Jesus nor because we have a theology that tells us we will always remain in Jesus if we once made a sincere, adequate confession of faith.  Jesus told us how we remain in him:

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you.  Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love” (John 15:9-10). 

Jesus changed the language slightly to speak of remaining in his love.  If we obey his commands, we will remain in his love.  This is sounding familiar, isn’t it?  Everything Jesus did, everything he commanded, and every teaching of Jesus is the will of God.[2]  Thus everything we learned in the article “Do the Will of God” applies here.  Jesus’ commands are the “law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2).  Christ’s law is what the New Testament believer is to obey.  Note how similar Jesus’ following statement is to what he said before: 

“Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him” (John 14:21). 

Our obedience to Jesus’ commands is evidence of our love for him.  John said the same in his first epistle:  “This is love for God: to obey his commands” (1 John 5:3).  Jesus is not asking for the world’s kind of warm feelings that pass for love.  No, he wants us to set our wills to obey everything he has commanded us as evidence of our love for him.  Love for our Lord Jesus is love through our wills, evidenced by our obedience to his teachings and commands.

Perseverance

Jesus’ command to remain in him is a command to persevere.  He emphasized this as a salvation condition when he discussed the times ahead:  “All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved” (Matthew 10:22, Mark 13:13).  Later, when Jesus was asked about the end times, he reiterated the requirement for perseverance:  “Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved” (Matthew 24:12-13).

Paul warned Timothy:  “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Timothy 4:16).

Other authors speak of rewards for those who persevere:  You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised (Hebrews 10:36).

Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him (James 1:12).

Who Must Act?

Who must do what is commanded by Jesus and the writers quoted above?  Jesus said “Remain in me.”  It is you and I that must remain.  It is our duty.  We are commanded by Jesus to remain.  Further, Jesus tells us how to do it:  “If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love” (John 15:10) and the salvation promises are for “he who stands firm to the end.”  Paul commanded Timothy to “Persevere in them.”  The rewards are for “the man who perseveres.”  Who is to persevere is made clear when it is said, “You need to persevere . . .”

I remind you of this because of false doctrines that claim that salvation is all of God and nothing of man.  Those false doctrines place the responsibility on God for our salvation whereas Scripture clearly says that God has provided the way but requires our actions to implement the gift of salvation God has freely given.  The facets of a saving faith command or teach that we must take certain actions if we would be saved.  For example, we must do the will of God, be conformed to the likeness of Jesus, and remain in Jesus.

Draw Near To God

Let’s use another example from Scripture to prove that God requires us to act:  Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water (Hebrews 10:22).  This verse tells us that we are the ones who are to draw near to God.  Then it tells us how we are to do that.

James gives us the authoritative finish to the discussion.  He said:  “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you” (James 4:8).  James tells us we are to act first and what will happen when we act.  We are to draw near to God.  In response, God will draw near to us.  Who is to move first?  We are! 

The false doctrines that claim we are to do nothing to gain salvation also teaches that if we seek to do anything to gain salvation we are trying to be saved by our works.  Hopefully you have seen adequate evidence that such doctrines are false.

False Doctrines

Calvinism

Calvinism has a doctrine of perseverance, but it is based on a series of other false doctrines, most notably the false doctrine of predestination.  Calvin’s false doctrine of perseverance states that a person who “God has accepted in His Beloved, effectually called and sanctified by His Spirit, can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace, but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved” (From “The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination” by Lorraine Boettner, page 182).  

It is not hard to understand the connection in Calvinism between Predestination and Perseverance.  Calvinism teaches that before the foundation of the earth, God chose those he would save and those he would damn.  If you are one of those to be saved, if necessary you will be overwhelmed with “irresistible grace” so that you come to believe and be saved.  On the other hand, if you are one of those predestined to be damned, there is nothing you can do to be saved, even if you want to be saved, because God has decided in his wisdom to damn you.  If a person is predestined to be saved (according to Calvinism), naturally that person would persevere in the faith.  How could one be predestined to be saved and not persevere? 

Each of the five premises of Calvinism is false.  As to the Doctrine of Predestination, I refer you to my articles on the website: www.bereanpublishers.com | False Doctrines | “Foreknowledge or Predestination,” “Foreknowledge:  Jacob and Essau,” and “The Doctrine of Predestination” and to David Servant’s “The Five Points of Calvinism Considered.”  The truth of Scripture is that God foreknows those who will come to a saving faith and will persevere (1 Peter 1:1-2).  He does not predestine anyone to damnation.  That would be contrary to God’s nature and his Word: God wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4).

Once Saved, Always Saved

The false doctrine of unconditional eternal security, often known as “once saved, always saved,” claims that once you have made a sincere profession of faith (according to the instructions of those who advocate that doctrine) you were saved and will always be saved and cannot fall away. 

The false doctrine is more extreme than many realize.  Perhaps the best-known spokesman for that false doctrine is Dr. Charles Stanley.  He says, “It is not lying, cheating, stealing, raping, murdering, or being unfaithful that sends people to hell.”[3]   But Paul warned: 

But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.  4 Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.  5 For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a man is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.  6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient (Ephesians 5:3-6).   

Dr. Stanley writes:  “But if a man or woman who has been rescued once from a state of unforgiveness need not worry.  For once 100 percent of a man’s or woman’s sins have been forgiven, the potential for being unforgiven has been done away with.  The risk factor is zero.  There are no more fires from which the believer needs to be saved.”[4] [Emphasis added.] 

The proponents of this false doctrine declare that once you have asked for forgiveness of sins, your sins are forgiven – all sins, including those you will commit in the future. 

Dr. Stanley goes even further.  He wrote:  

“The Bible clearly teaches that God’s love for His People is of such magnitude that even those who walk away from the faith have not the slightest chance of slipping from His hand.”  On other occasions he taught, “Even if a believer for all practical purposes becomes an unbeliever, his salvation is not in jeopardy and “. . . believers who lose or abandon their faith will retain their salvation . . . .”[5]  [Emphasis added.] 

We have learned in this article that only he who remains in Jesus, and Jesus in him, will be saved.  Those who do not will be cut off the vine (Jesus) and thrown into the fire.  We saw that Jesus taught repeatedly that only those who persevere in the faith will be saved.

Other articles that give a far more complete discussion and many scripture proofs of the falsity of the doctrine of eternal security can be found at www.bereanpublishers.com | False Doctrines | “Proofs of Conditional Salvation,” and “Is the Believer Eternally Secure?”

Conclusion

The command to remain in Jesus is another condition of salvation.  Those who do not remain in Jesus will not be saved.  According to Jesus, they will not produce fruit, they will be cut out of the vine, thrown away like a branch and withered, then gathered up, thrown into the fire and burned.  Jesus told us how to remain in his love:  “Those who obey my commands will remain in my love.” 

We are left without excuse.  We are told we must remain in Jesus.  We are told how to remain.  If we do not, there is no one else to blame but ourselves.  We are the ones who are responsible for remaining, just as God tells us to draw near unto him and he will draw near unto us. 

Almost every facet of a saving faith contradicts false doctrines just as this facet, “Remain in Jesus,” contradicts Calvin’s false doctrine of Perseverance, the widely held false doctrine of unconditional eternal security, and false claims that we are to do nothing in order to be saved.

 


Footnotes:


[1]The Holy Bible : New International Version. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1984.

[2] See www.bereanpublishers.com | Salvation Issues | “Do the Will Of God.”

[3] Stanley, Charles, Eternal Security Can You Be Sure? (Nashville, TN: Oliver Nelson, 1990), page 70.

[4] Ibid, pages 79-80.

[5] Ibid, Pages 74, 93, 94.