The word “abide” (Grk: meno) occurs 18 times in the first epistle of John. The only other New Testament book where it occurs more often is in the gospel of John in which it occurs 33 times. Consistently in the Johannine writings the idea conveyed in one of continuity, of continuing on, of remaining. In the first epistle of John one of the central ways that this term is deployed is in relation to the original proclamation of the gospel that the Johannine Christians have heard. Consistently reference is made to “that which you have heard from the beginning” (1 John 1:1; 2:7; 2:24; 3:11; 2 John 6). The fundamental admonition being that the readers should continue to remain faithful to the message of the gospel that they have had since it was first preached to them.
However, the theological twist on this lies in the Johannine concept of the relationship between continuing on in faithfulness to the gospel and living the koinonial life of the Father and Son. “Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you will abide in the Son and in the Father” (1 John 2:24). And similarly, “God abides in those who confess that Jesus in the son of God and they abide in God” (1 John 3:15).
So, in first John there is an intricate pattern of lingering indwelling, of ongoing abiding that characterizes the life of discipleship and faithfulness. In remaining faithful to the message of the gospel, we in fact are indwelt by and indwell the life of the Father and Son. First John can in fact be taken as an elaborate reiteration of the dynamics of divine grace. We are liberated into the very life of God in hearing and remaining bound to the Word which has been spoken to us, the gospel of Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection. Thus, for the elder, we participate in the Trinitarian life of love itself insofar as we abide within the proclamation of the gospel, insofar as we indwell the story of Jesus.