Word of the Week
December 5, 2021
Menō: Staying Put
I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing.
Have you ever helped a child plant a few seeds in the garden? The next day, Sean or Susie are out there checking to see if a green shoot has appeared yet. And you’ve probably had at least one kid who dug up the seed to see if anything was happening!
If growth is slow to appear, a youngster wants to try something different that will speed up the process. Seasoned gardeners realize that you just need to let the seed stay where it can get water and nutrients; the growth will happen at the right time.
Sometimes we wonder why we aren’t experiencing spiritual growth. In John 15, Jesus used a word picture from the field to explain the secret. “Do you want to produce fruit? Then you must abide in Me.”
Abiding sounds simple, but it can be hard to translate into concrete steps of action. How do you really do it?
We can begin answering that question by uncovering the meaning of the Greek word that Jesus used.
The word for “abide” is menō, which is commonly translated as “abide, remain, continue.” It’s a common word, appearing over 100 times in the New Testament.
The core idea is to stay put, to continue or remain in the same place.
Sometimes menō means to set up residence in a physical location.
Paul stayed with Philip for a few days en route to Jerusalem (Acts 21:8).
The newly pregnant Mary stayed with her relative Elizabeth for three months (Luke 1:56).
When John the Baptist identified Jesus as “the Lamb of God,” two listeners went to Jesus and asked, “Where are you staying? He responded by inviting them to spend the rest of the day with Him (John 1:38-39).
Jesus told His disciples to go from village to village and stay with a hospitable family in each place (Matthew 10:11).
In each of these examples, a person specifically chose a place to stay for a certain period of time. It might only be a short visit, or it might be a long-term resident like Paul’s two-year house arrest in rome (Acts 28:16).
Sometimes menō includes the idea of choosing to stay somewhere when it might seem easier to leave.
Jesus asked His disciples to remain with Him in the garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:38).
Paul demanded that everyone remain on the ship that was caught in a frenzied gale (Acts 27:31).
These verses add an element of determination, staying put even when it is hard or frightening.
Sometimes menō describes a situation rather than a physical location.
The apostle Paul instructed the Corinthians Christians that those who were married should stay married. Those who were single could remain single. Both slaves and free could continue in the same status (1 Corinthians 7:8, 24).
The emphasis here is on time, not place. The person who “abides” sticks with the same relationship over a period of time, rather than switching to something else.
The most important use of menō is in the writings of John, where it describes the intimate connection between the believer and God or Jesus.
Over half of the appearances of the word are in the Gospel and epistles of John.
We are supposed to abide in Christ (John 15:4-7) and He promises to abide in us (John 15:4-5).
We can abide in God the Father and He promises to abide in us (1 John 3:24).
It involves abiding in the word of God (1 John 2:14), the words of Christ (John 15:7; 1 John 2:24) and the love of God (1 John 3:17).
What does it mean to menō in Christ?
You can draw dozens of rich parallels between vine-growing and the growth of godliness. But one in particular stands out when you consider the Greek word menō. If you want to grow, you have to stay put. You have to remain connected to the vine, because that’s the source of life.
There may be all kinds of spiritual disciplines you can use as fertilizer. And there are certainly ways to enhance the environment to make it more conducive to growth. But in the final analysis, you will grow if remain connected to Jesus.
You don’t have to dig up the seed to check for growth; you simply have to stay in an intimate relationship with the Master so that His Spirit will go to work in you with His life.
When a word occurs over 100 times, you probably don’t have time to examine every reference in depth. That’s the time to lean more heavily on the professional sources. Use the lexicon, consult books like Strong’s and Vine’s, and check Web sites like Bible Hub or Blue Letter Bible. If you have access to commentaries or software like Logos Bible Software, you can supplement your basic study.
I recommend that you go ahead and look up at least a few of the references to see the actual ways the word is used. You can get a complete list of all the verses where menō appears at this link: https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/g3306/kjv/tr/0-1/ – just scroll down the page until you find the list of references.
Q – I notice that 1 Peter 4:15 lists “meddler” along with murderers and thieves as a harmful thing. What’s the idea behind that word?
A – Peter is preparing Christians for persecution and suffering. One of his key admonitions is “Make sure that you don’t bring suffering on yourself by your own bad behavior.” You will suffer, he predicts, but you should realize that we are often to blame for our troubles. Bottom line: “If you suffer, make sure that you suffer solely because you are a Christian, not because you are a murderer or thief or evildoer . . . or even a troublesome meddler.”
The origins of the word “meddler” paints a colorful picture: it comes from two Greek words, allotrios and episkopos. The word episkopos means “overseer, supervisor,” and it is the source of our English word episcopal. Allotrios comes from the word for “another, other.” Put them together and you get the idea of someone who sets himself up as the overseer of someone else’s affairs. Peter isn’t talking about anything illegal, but he gives a good description of someone who gets in trouble for sticking his nose into someone else’s business!
Christmas is coming, and it’s time to consider some words that go with the season. Next week we will look at the Greek word for “virgin” and deal with some efforts to explain away the Virgin Birth.
©Ezra Project 2021