In the Greek New Testament there are several words that express the idea of love, fondness, affection, or friend; the most common of these words is philos. Philos is found in many compound forms, giving us lovers of God, lovers of contention, lovers of pleasure, lovers of wisdom, lovers of children, lovers of honor, and lovers of preeminence. We will deal primarily with philos, which can have a broad range of meanings, such as friend, associate, or companion, indicating various degrees of closeness.
The Hebrew Old Testament has basically two words that express friendship and affection. One has a wide range of meanings, much as philos above. The other is very much restricted in its use to indicate intimate love and a close relation of friendship. We must appreciate these nuances of meaning in the original languages, lest our English translations lead us to a certain amount of confusion and untenable conclusions.
The words we examine here are extremely important to a proper conception of the covenant of grace. It is not an exaggeration to say that there can be no correct understanding of the covenant of God with us and with our children unless Scripture’s own emphasis upon friendship is appreciated and included.
First, then, a number of passages that show that there is a natural friendship between members of the human race, and that sometimes the term friend can mean only acquaintance or associate. David was deeply grieved that his own familiar friend had lifted up the heel against him (Ps. 41:9). A whisperer separateth friends, in the church or in the world (Prov. 16:28). Wealth maketh many friends or associates (Prov. 19:4). Business acquaintances are called friends; “Friend, I do these no wrong; didst thou not agree with me for a penny?” (Matt. 20:13). Political friendships are formed for selfish reasons. Pilate and Herod became friends because they discovered that they both hated Jesus and His kingdom (Luke 23:12). The Jews threatened Pilate with the loss of his political appointment, saying, “If thou let this man go, thou art not Caesar’s friend” (John 19:12). And, during the famine in Tyre and Sidon, the citizens of that area made Blastus their friend, that the king might supply nourishment (Acts 12:20).
Of more importance to us are the passages that reveal a more intimate, deeper, and lasting kind of friendship. We begin with Abra-ham, with whom God established His covenant (Gen. 17:7), and whom we know as the father of all believers. God drove out the inhabitants of Canaan, “… and gavest it to the seed of Abraham thy friend for ever” (II Chron. 20:7). Israel is assured of God’s help: “But thou, Israel, art my servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham my friend” (Is. 41:8). Abraham was called the friend of God (James 2:23) — not once or twice in the Old Testament was he called this, but that was the well-known, common description of him, so called by believers and unbelievers. And we can add that humble servant of God, Moses, with whom the Lord spoke face to face, “as a man speaketh unto his friend” (Ex. 33:11).
Why were such children of God as Enoch, Noah, Abraham, and Moses the friends of God? Because they walked with God (Gen. 5:22; 6:9), because they believed in God, because all enmity between them and God was removed by Jesus Christ (James 2:23), because God chose them in eternity and loved them (Eph. 1:4, 5), and because God embraced them in His redeemed family as Father. The knowledge of faith regarding such truth is the basis of friendship with God!
Are you a friend of God? Every believer is in the covenant of grace and experiences friendship with God! Jesus is the Friend of publicans and sinners (Luke 7:34). He called Lazarus His friend (John 11:11). Most beautiful of all, in my estimation, is John 15:15: “Henceforth I call you not servants, for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.” Clearly, the covenant relation of friendship thrives in the most intimate possible way, upon the basis of knowing God. This is eternal life!
The friendship that we enjoy with God in Jesus Christ is a friendship that we also share with all other believers. The Apostles’ Creed calls this the communion of saints. A friend loveth at all times (Prov. 17:17), sticketh closer than a brother (Prov. 18:24), will point out our sins and faults (Prov. 27:6), and even shows how great his love for us is by being willing to lay down his life for his friends, using Jesus as the example (John 15:13).
Covenant friendship with God implies that we walk antithetically before Him. We are the friends of Jesus according as we keep His commandments, rejecting all that is contrary to them. We know that the friendship of the world is enmity with God (James 4:4). As God is light, so we strive to walk with Him as children of light (I John 1:5-7).
Rev. Dale H. Kuiper (Wife: Velerie nee Miersma)
Ordained: September 1967
Pastorates: Randolph, WI - 1967; Pella, IA - 1970; Home Missionary - 1974; Lynden, WA - 1976; Hope, Isabel, SD - 1985; Immanuel, Lacombe, AB - 1987; Southeast, Grand Rapids, MI - 1992
Taken to glory: Sept.21, 2014 at age 78Website: www.sermonaudio.com/search.asp?speakeronly=true&currsection=sermonsspeaker&keyword=Rev._Dale_Kuiper
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