As a young, maturing child of God, you have surely experienced the true blessing of God in the gift of friends. Who are your friends? What is a friend? Webster’s Dictionary gives us this meaning: “friend: (n) a person whom one knows well, and is fond of; an ally, supporter, or sympathizer,” and, “friendship: (n) the state of being friends; intimacy united with affection or esteem; mutual attachment, goodwill.” You, being God’s precious child, have a far more beautiful definition of friendship. Let’s take a closer look.
As you well know, friendship is nothing new. In God’s perfect wisdom, He has created this bond, this intimacy we call friendship. God himself, in all eternity, dwells in perfect friendship and unity with himself as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And, having created man in his own image (Genesis 1:26) he created man capable of experiencing the joy of the friendship bond. When we, through Adam, fell into sin, we lost the right to fellowship with God.
How dreadful and miserable we would be if we were to stop there! But, thanks be to God for his unspeakable gift (II Corinthians 9:15)! In his perfect wisdom he has chosen you to be his adopted child. “Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will” (Ephesians 1:5). Being his child you are partakers of Christ (Hebrews 3:14), having again the joy of fellowship with God. “For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement” (Romans 5:10-11). And, I John 1:3: “And truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.” God has called you into covenant friendship with himself. How, then, does this friendship with God show fruit in our earthly friendships?
In the very same chapter of I John 1, we read in verses 6 and 7: “If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: but if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanest us from all sin.” So, not only do you have a covenant friendship with God and Jesus Christ, but you are commanded to have fellowship, friendship, with your fellow believers. Jesus himself had friends during his time here on earth. Luke 12:4 and John 15:15 speak of Jesus calling his disciples his friends. And in John 11:11 Jesus calls Lazarus his friend. The Old Testament records many friendships for us: II Samuel 15:37, and II Samuel 16:16 (the friendship of David and Hushai); I Samuel 20 (the friendship of David and Jonathan); and throughout the entire book of Job (the friendship of Job and Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar).
There is no doubt that friendship plays a vital role in the life of the child of God. We are commanded repeatedly in God’s Word to choose our friends wisely. II Corinthians 6:14-15 tells us: “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? Or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?” Although we must not completely cut ourselves off from the world in which we live, we must never choose to be friends with the unbeliever. As God’s child, your interest, your desire, your goal, your purpose is to honor and glorify God in all that you say, think, and do. That is the exact opposite of the interests, goals, and desires of the unbeliever.
Reading further in II Corinthians 6, we find in verses 17 and 18: “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; And I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.” Matthew Henry explains it in this way in his commentary on this passage:
…keep at a due distance, to be separate, as one would avoid the society of those who have the leprosy or the plague, for fear of taking infection, and not to touch the unclean thing, lest we be defiled. Who can touch pitch, and not be defiled by it? We must take care not to defile ourselves by converse (walk, vc) with those who defile themselves with sin; so is the will of God (command of God, vc). …God has promised to be a Father to them, and that they shall be his sons and his daughters; and is there a greater honour or happiness than this? How ungrateful a thing then must it be if those who have this dignity and felicity should degrade and debase themselves by mingling with unbelievers!
We find the same command in Ephesians 5:7: “Be ye not therefore partakers with them” (verse 6 describes “them” as the children of disobedience); and again in Ephesians 5:11: “And having no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.” And yet another passage, James 4:4: “Know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.” There is no “gray” in this text. We cannot have a little of both. If we befriend the world, we are the enemy of God. What a powerful, powerful warning!
Finally, one more warning found in Proverbs 22:24-25: “Make no friendship with an angry man; and with a furious man thou shalt not go: lest thou learn his ways, and get a snare to thy soul.”
Now that we’ve looked at the warnings of the kinds of friendships to avoid, let’s look at what God’s Word tells us about the joy of having friendships with fellow believers. We must begin by looking at the perfect friendship of Christ our Lord. John 15:13: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friend.” (Jesus is speaking to his disciples here at the Last Supper.) The commentary of Matthew Henry is helpful here:
The highest proof of love is laying down one’s life for a friend to save his life.… The life which others have laid down has been but of equal value with the life for which it was laid down, and perhaps less valuable; but Christ is infinitely more worth than ten thousand of us. Others have thus laid down their lives for their friends, but Christ laid down his for us when we were enemies (Rom. 5:8, 10).
Let’s look at the verse just preceding, John 15:12: “this is my commandment, that ye love one another, as I have loved you.” In the context here, Christ speaks of himself as the vine, and his elect as the branches, who must bring forth fruit. Christ’s love should direct our love toward each other in our friendships.
What do you look for, strive for, in your friendships? Is it your comfort, your pleasure, your well-being, your honor? Or rather, is it first to bring honor and glory to your God, and in so doing, seek the well-being (spiritual as well as physical) and comfort of your friend? Proverbs 17:17: “A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” That last part of this verse may be confusing; some commentators explain it in this way: “a friend that loves at all times is born—that is, becomes—a brother in adversity, and is so to be valued.” Friends must be constant to each other, whether in riches or poverty, health or sickness, prosperity or affliction. Proverbs 18:24: “A man that hath friends must show himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.” The bond of friendship proves to be stronger than the natural bond of a brother. The child of God encourages, comforts, exhorts, and admonishes his friend in humility. He doesn’t ignore the sin of his friend, nor does he gossip to others about it. He humbly goes to his friend, seeing the need for sorrow and repentance. Nor does a child of God desert his friend when the friend is in need. In an article in the Standard Bearer (Vol. 52, Issue 13) Rev. Kortering points out four qualities of true friendship: companionship, protection, loyalty, and honest correction. Can these be said of you in your friendships?
One final passage; Proverbs 27:9: “Ointment and perfume rejoice the heart: so doth the sweetness of a man’s friend by hearty counsel.” The friendships that have God’s Word as their foundation will be joyful and rewarding. Pray for godly friends. Pray that God will strengthen you to be a godly friend. Pray for God’s blessing on your friendships. Together, with your friends, walk with God.