“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 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.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. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. 17 These things I command you, so that you will love one another.”
Do you know that Jesus always speaks the truth because He is the Truth (John 14:6)? He doesn’t use hyperbole, He doesn’t exaggerate, and He doesn’t say things just to make you feel better. He speaks the truth. He said, we are His friends, no longer servants, but friends, peers. The word Jesus used was filoj; it means companion, dear close friend, a friend who is part of the family, and friend of the bridegroom who has important parts to play in the wedding ceremony. In today’s lingo it means, “brother from another mother.”
Jesus gives part of the implication of being His friend in this passage. He says that there is no greater love than someone lay down his life for his friends. Jesus showed us that love and since we are to love in the same way He did (John 13:34), we are to be ready to give up our lives for Him, for one another, and for the world. That is a big deal and worthy of deeper study. Today, our study will be wider rather than deeper. So just take a minute and reflect and ruminate that the love of Jesus calls us to be willing to give up our lives for Jesus and others.
Secondly, Jesus said that as His friends, we are in on His plans. We can work with Him, not just receiving orders to carry out without knowing the reason, but knowing why we do what He calls us to do. We’re in on the plan; we know the Father’s will. We have the entire Bible, all the prophecies, the law, and the manifestation of the Father’s will in Jesus, the Word of God.
The next thing Jesus says about this friendship is that He called us friend first. He chose us! He consciously and thoughtfully picked us to be His friend. He did it with reason. He appointed us, that is gave us the job, the special vocation to go and bear fruit, to produce results that will abide, which is to last, to be permanent. He gave us the ability to do the job too. He said because He appointed us, whatever we ask the Father in His name, the Father would give it to us.
Let’s see what else it means to be called friends. What does the Bible say about friendship and about being a friend of God. Abraham was called a friend of God. What made him a friend of God? He carried out his faith in obedience. He put God above everything and everyone else. He trusted God to keep His promises. He believed God. The belief Abraham had was lived out in action. James said it this way in James 2:18-23,
But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! 20 Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; 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.
It was Abraham’s faith that was counted as righteousness, not his works. It was his belief that made him God’s friend, but his belief and faith were demonstrated by his obedience to God. Isaac was the personification of God’s promise to Abraham. He had waited for that son for many years, he adored his son; but he adored God more and he trusted that though God said to sacrifice his cherished son, He would bring him back or otherwise keep the promise that through Isaac, Abraham would be the father of many nations, that his descendants would outnumber the stars he could see.
Do you trust God enough to obey Him, even when what He says makes no sense to you? Can you obey the difficult commands? Can you obey when it means giving up things that mean so much to you? Could you give up your bank account, home, spouse or child if God told you to? You could if you knew God as His friend, because as His friend you know God well enough to know that He wants good for you (Jeremiah 29:11), He restores (Deuteronomy 30:3), He provides (Matthew 6:33), and He will never leave you (Hebrews 13:5).
Proverbs tells us many things about friendship. These verses can clarify what it means for you to be friends with God and what it means for God to be friends with you. Remember, He is the one who initiated this friendship.
Proverbs 16:28 says,
A dishonest man spreads strife,
and a whisperer separates close friends.
In other words, friends are honest with each other, they tell each other the truth and they don’t gossip about one another. They don’t say one thing in the presence of a person and another behind his back. Jesus tells you the truth, always. What He says abut you, to you, He says to the Father and anyone else who hears him. God wants you to be as honest with Him as He is with you! He wants you saying the same thing to your neighbor about Him as you say to Him. Do you say to God, “You are awesome and wonderful, you give me breath and life, I praise you,” but to your neighbor give credit for your life to yourself?
Proverbs 17:9 reads,
Whoever covers an offense seeks love,
but he who repeats a matter separates close friends.
A friend forgives and when he commits some hurt, some mistake, he doesn’t repeat it. He doesn’t keep on hurting his friend, knowing that his friend will forgive him. Sin offends God. 1 John 3:4-9 puts it this way,
Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. 5 You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. 6 No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. 7 Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. 8 Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. 9 No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God's seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God.
Proverbs 17:17 says,
A friend loves at all times,
and a brother is born for adversity.
Nothing can make a friend stop loving, he loves through thick and thin, he loves regardless. And a friend sticks with you, he fights by your side, he “has your six.” Let’s look a bit closer at what it means to love. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a gives a beautiful profound description of love, of who Jesus is and who we should be with His Spirit indwelling us to conform us to Jesus’ image.
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never ends…
So if a friend loves at all times, then this is also how friends treat one another.
We know that a brother, Jesus, our Friend, and our brothers in Christ is born for adversity, will fight by your side through hardship, misfortune, and harsh conditions. God has said numerous times He will fight for us. One of my favorite verses about this is Exodus 14:14.
The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.
The Christian life is difficult, we often have to fight and doggedly pursue our relationship and sanctification. We have to fight for one another through prayer and relationship. 1 Timothy 6:11-12 reads,
But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 describes holding one another up,
9 Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. 10 For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! 11 Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? 12 And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.
Jesus lived out His friendship to people in full view, regardless of what that meant to his reputation. Others could clearly see his care and concern for people and they called him a friend of tax collectors and sinners (Matthew 11:19). They didn’t mean it as a compliment, but Jesus would not stop spending time with his friends because He is the ultimate and perfect friend.
Jesus told a parable about persistently asking God for what you need, He put heavenly concepts into human language. He helped us understand the relationship of prayer with God in terms of friendship. Luke 11:5-14
And he said to them, “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves, 6 for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’;7 and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything’? 8 I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence he will rise and give him whatever he needs. 9 And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. 11 What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; 12 or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
In other words, even if it is seemingly inconvenient, even if it is difficult to ask, we can ask, we can bang on the door at midnight and our friend, our Father will open the door.
Who do you consider your best friend in the world outside of Jesus? When someone hurts them, hates them, or opposes them, what do you feel and do? If you’re like me, you stand up with your friend, hurt with your friend and have animosity toward the one who hurt them. If you’re like me, your friends and you often share a few goals, walk along life together, and position yourselves together.
This means that friendship with God means something similar. We are going to oppose those who oppose Him and stand with Him. We are going to choose the things of God. As we delight in the Lord, our heart’s desires will align with His. We will no longer want the things of the world, the earthly treasures, but instead we will want the will of God and the heavenly treasures. James said it this way in James 4:1-5,
What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? 2 You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. 4 You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. 5 Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”?
If we hold onto our friendship with the world, we not only cannot be friends with God, we will not be able to maintain friendship with the brethren, because it will be our own desires we seek, not God’s, not the good of the Kingdom or the Church or the Name of Jesus, but our own.
Believer, you are a friend of God. And look at how wonderful that is! You have Jesus on your side, you have His ear, you have His love, and He has your ear, He has your back, and He has blessed you beyond what you can fathom.