The abiding in Christ in described John 15 is the same as being filled with the Spirit mentioned in Ephesians 5 and is the same as letting the Word of Christ dwell in you richly found in Colossians 3. These three passages show that the essence of Christian living is conscious, active and persistent dependence on God to obey Him for His glory.
Abiding in John 15 is explained as “abiding in His word and His word abiding in you.” This connection with Colossians 3:16 seems obvious, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly with all wisdom.” The Word abiding in you and you abiding in the Word is the same as the Word dwelling in you richly. The relationship of Colossians 3 with Ephesians 5 is unmistakable. The instructions of Paul to the Colossians are nearly identical with his instructions to the Ephesians. The significant difference between the pertinent portions of the two letters is the activity which produces edifying singing. “Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in … hymns.” In Colossians the result of the indwelling word is singing that teaches. (Colossians 3:16) Ephesians says, “Be filled with the Spirit; speaking to yourselves … hymns.” In Ephesians the result of the filling of the Spirit is singing that teaches. (Ephesians 5:18-19) The indwelling word and the filling Spirit produce the same results. Paul is using the indwelling of the Word and the filling of the Spirit as synonyms. Therefore, Abiding in Christ is letting the Word dwell richly in you and abiding in Christ is being filled with the Spirit.
The filling of the Spirit is a yielding of control and direction to the Holy Spirit. The Spirit filled person is moved through life by the power of the Spirit. The close connection of Ephesians 5 to Colossians 3 shows that the filling of the Spirit is not a life directed by internal impressions, but a life directed by the clear teachings of Scripture. The abiding Christian lives under the Spirit led direction of the Word of God.
John 15 also adds, “If ye keep my commandments ye shall abide in my love.” “Ye are my friends if ye do whatsoever I command you.” This shows that obedience is directly related to abiding in Christ. Obedience is abiding.
The connection of these three passages is significant because it takes guesswork and emotionalism out of abiding in Christ. How does a person know if he is abiding in Christ? By evaluating his relationship to the Word of God. If the Word fills the heart and mind, then abiding is happening. How does a person know if she is abiding in Christ? By evaluating her obedience to the work of the Holy Spirit through the Word of God. If the Christian is diligently obeying the Word in reliance on the power of the Holy Spirit, then abiding is happening.
John 15, Ephesians 5 and Colossians 3 all show that abiding in Christ is humble, Spirit-dependent obedience which recognizes your responsibility to be careful in obedience and your inability to actually obey apart from His power working in you.
These three ways of describing abiding are not different paths of the Christian life. They are the same road known by three different names. Each adds a little more information to help us better understand what it means to abide in Christ. In short, you abide when you obey.