I once saw a cartoon that pictured a mother chastising her young daughter for something she had done. The little girl obviously didn’t like her mother speaking to her in that way. So she said to the mother, “You’re not my friend anymore!” Her mother, to make a point, replied, “I’m not your friend! I’m your mother!” It didn’t mean of course that the mother wasn’t going to be friendly towards her daughter. It simply meant that her daughter had to recognise that her mother had authority to correct her when necessary. Indeed the daughter would learn to recognise eventually that in normal families there can be a no greater human friend in a girl’s life than her mother.
GOD AS ALMIGHTY GOD AND AS A “FRIEND” IN THE OLD TESTAMENT
It is quite amazing to read in the Old Testament that God as the ultimate authority was nevertheless willing to be seen as a friend to His people. For example in Job 29 we have these words, (1) “And Job again took up his discourse, and said:(2) “Oh, that I were as in the months of old, as in the days when God watched over me,(3) when his lamp shone upon my head, and by his light I walked through darkness,(4) as I was in my prime, when the friendship of God was upon my tent, (5) when the Almighty was yet with me, when my children were all around me” (ESV). The phrase “the friendship” is a Hebrew word (sod) and means intimacy or confidentiality. Job recognised that God had been a friend to him in caring for him. That is seen also in the Greek version of the Old Testament which has the word (epískopos) meaning oversight or a reference to God visiting or covering His people for good.
In Psalm 25:14 we have these words, “The friendship of the LORD is for those who fear him, and he makes known to them his covenant.” Again this is the word for intimacy (sod) seen above in Job 29:4. As Keil and Delitzsch comment on this verse, “He opens his mind without any reserve, speaks confidentially with those who fear Him.” Here is the sense of God’s friendship in speaking openly and making known the truth of the covenant. In the Greek version however the word comes from (krataioō) which means to be strong or made strong. So various translations have these words, (HCSB) The secret counsel of the LORD is for those who fear Him, and He reveals His covenant to them. (NASB) The secret of the LORD is for those who fear Him, And He will make them know His covenant. (NIV) The LORD confides in those who fear him; he makes his covenant known to them. (NRSV) The friendship of the LORD is for those who fear him, and he makes his covenant known to them. The over-riding thought is that God, as the friend of David, expresses His friendship in caring for David and revealing to him the secrets of His covenant.
God is seen as a personal friend in Exodus 33:11, ”Thus the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend”. In the Greek version of the Old Testament the word for “friend” is (philos). We find that the same word is also in used in the Greek New Testament to describe various types of friends.
GOD AS A “FRIEND” IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
In the New Testament the word for “friend” (philos) is used in a number of ways in referring to Jesus.
1). It Was Used By Jesus’ Enemies To Describe Him As Being A Friend Of Sinners
Mat 11:19 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ (Also Lk 7:34)
2). It Was Used By Jesus To Describe His Sacrificial Death For His Friends
John 15:13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.14 You are my friends if you do what I command you.
3). It Was Used By Jesus To Describe The Close Relationship He Had To His Followers.
Jesus said that His disciples were His friends. Luke 12:4 “I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do.”
Jesus saw Lazarus as His friend. John 11:11 After saying these things, he said to them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him.”
Jesus saw that His disciples were not just His servants. They were also His friends. John 15:15 “No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.”
4). It Was Used To Describe Abraham As A Friend Of God. James 2:23 “and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God.”
OTHER EXPRESSIONS THAT SHOW THAT GOD (AND JESUS) IS A FRIEND TO HIS PEOPLE
“Beloved”. It should not be surprising to us that the followers of Jesus are described as the “friends” of God and of Jesus. They are God’s “beloved”, the same term that is used of Jesus as God’s “beloved” Son. For example Paul used the word (agapētos = beloved) to describe believers in Rom 1:7 “To all those in Rome who are loved (beloved) by God and called to be saints.” He used it to describe those Gentiles who would trust in Christ and become members of the same family of God as Jewish believers, Rom 9:25 “As indeed he says in Hosea, “Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’ and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.'” (The Jews who refused to believe in Jesus were still loved by God as part of His covenant people. Rom 11:28 As regards the gospel, they are enemies for your sake. But as regards election, they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers.)
Paul also challenged those who had become the children of God by faith in Jesus, to respond to God’s love by imitating Him. They were “beloved children” and needed to show their gratitude for His love by living in the way He wanted them to live, Eph 5:1 “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.” There is a similar injunction in Colossians 3:12 where Paul describes his readers as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved. “Beloved” here comes from a similar word, the verb form (agapaō). Those chosen by God to belong to him, set apart for him and loved by him were to respond by putting on compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness and patience. Col 3:12.
In 2Thess 2:13 we see God’s initiative at work in the lives of the Thessalonian believers. Paul describes them as brothers who are “beloved by the Lord”. This is the same word as in Colossians 3:12 (agapaō). The evidence of that love is seen in the fact that God chose them as the firstfruits to be saved. He did it by sanctifying them by the Spirit and by setting them apart to belong to Him. They took hold of what He was offering in love as they believed in the truth about Him. Another reference to that same word (agapaō) is to to be found in Jude 1:1 “Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James, To those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ.” Again we see God’s initiative at work in calling them to Himself and keeping them safe for Jesus Christ.
Children of God. It is a wonderful thing when people act in a friendly way towards us and even become our friends. But how many of those friends would be willing to adopt us as their own children? Probably very, very few! But God did! His welcoming love is described in 1John 3:1 “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.” God’s love was seen in His offering of His Son Jesus to be our Saviour. We responded to His love by receiving His gift, John 1:12 “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”
God’s love is sacrificial. It is far deeper than even the very best of our friends can extend to us. As John writes, 1Jn 4:10 “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins,11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”
There are other terms we could investigate to show that God is a friend to His people. Jesus has told us in no uncertain terms that His followers are His friends. But it is also true that we are to regard Jesus not simply as some nice “buddy” or “pal” we can have a chat to at any time, (though we can!). Rather we are to see Him as a Friend who has done for us what no other friend could ever have done. And to see Him as One who can do in and through us what He longs to do to help fulfil His purposes in the world He created and came to redeem.
As Paul reminds us about our obligation to be a true friend to Him, 2Cor 5:15 “he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.” As Jesus told us, Joh 15:14 “You are my friends if you do what I command you.”
Jesus the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, says to us as believers, “You are My friends”.
Blog No.165. Jim Holbeck. Posted on Monday 23rd November 2015