I was asked a question this week by a member of my congregation about John 8, a passage I preached from a couple weeks ago. Her question was specifically about v31 and what it means to abide. John 8:31-32 reads "So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (ESV) She had looked it up in the dictionary and found "to wait, to stay, to remain stable"
It is a reminder of two things 1) the Bible is not originally written in English and 2) Though some of the brightest and most godly men in the world pour themselves into translation work, language (and especially English) is a moving target. As such, some translations use words that are in the process of falling out of use. (side note: modern translations such as the NIV, ESV, NASB, HCSB, NLT are all good translations, none are perfect but all have been done diligently by men and women who have devoted much of their lives to such work and all of these translations can be trusted! That said, each translation is governed by a particular translation philosophy which influences decisions that must be made. That is why it is often good to check more than one translation if you're stuck on passage.)
The word that is in the Greek is "meno" and it has a broad range of meanings including abide, remain, stay, continue, belong, hold, keep on, dwell, and other ideas in that stream. "Abide" is one of those words that we just don't use much any more. The NIV translates it in this verse as "hold to" the NASB as "continue in" all of which are reasonable choices. What I find interesting is that just a couple verse later the same word pops up twice, translated as 'remain' "35 The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever." John 8:35 (ESV) There is clearly a sense of permanence in this passage.
As I thought about it more, I'm not surprised that a perfectly good word like 'abide' would be falling out of use. How many people 'abide' in the same home for their whole life? How many people are 'abiding' in their marriages with a sense of permanence, of sticking to it and holding on? How many of us have 'abiding' employment? We live in an increasingly temporary society and yet Jesus tells us to abide in His word. To hold firm to our faith in Him. To recognize e are not slaves who have no permanent place in the family, rather, we have been given the PERMANENT status of sons and daughters of GOD!
May we all learn to hold on, to stay firm, to stick to it, to abide.