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The Appearance of this Concept in Holy Writ.

The word “friendship” occurs but once in the Scriptures, and then as a friendship of the world, in James 4:4: “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, 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.” The word, friend, on the other hand, occurs repeatedly in the Word of God, in both the Old Testament and New Testament. In the Old Testament the word appears in Prov. 18:24, II Chron. 20:5-7, Prov. 27:6, and Isaiah 41:8. We read in II Chron. 20:5-7: “And Jehoshaphat stood in the congregation of Judah and Jerusalem, in the house of the Lord, before the new court, and said, O Lord God of our fathers, art Thou God in heaven? and rulest not Thou over all the kingdoms of the heathen? and in Thine hand is there not power and might, so that none is able to withstand Thee? Art not Thou our God, Who didst drive out the inhabitants of this land before Thy people Israel, and gavest it to the seed of Abraham Thy friend for ever?” In Prov. 18:24 and Prov. 27:6 we read: “A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother. … Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.” And in Isa. 41:8 we read: “But thou, Israel, art My servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham My friend.”

The word, friend, also occurs several times in the New Testament. “The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners. But wisdom is justified of her children”—Matt. 11:18; “And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost. . . And when she hath found it, she calleth her friends and her neighbours together, saying, Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost. . . And he answering said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends.”—Luke 15:6, 9, 29; “And the same day Pilate and Herod were made friends together: for before they were at enmity between themselves.”—Luke 23:12; “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are My friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. 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.”—John 15:13-15; “And the Scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. . . .Ye adulterers and adulteresses, 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.”—James 2:3, 4:4.

The Idea of This Concept.

In the first place we would make a few general remarks in connection with these Scriptural passages in which this word occurs. We have already remarked that the word, “friendship”, occurs but once in the Scriptures and then as a friendship with the world. Moreover, the word “friend” does not occur, to the knowledge of the undersigned, in reference to God. The Scriptures speak of Abraham as a friend of God. Jesus calls His disciples His friends. And John the Baptist is called the “friend of the bridegroom”. We do not know, however, of any passages where God is called the friend of Abraham, Jesus calls Himself the friend of His people, etc. However, the very fact that we are the friends of God and also the friends of Christ surely implies that He is also our Friend, and that the idea of friendship is certainly applicable to the relationship between God and us, and is therefore applicable to God Himself. Friendship is, in the very nature of the case, reciprocal. It presupposes two or more persons who know and love one another. That we are friends of the Lord and of Christ Jesus necessarily implies that the living God is our friend.

Secondly, the concept, “friendship”, surely expresses the very heart and core of the covenant idea, which our churches interpret as, essentially, a relationship of friendship. This appears, in the first place, from the word which is translated “friend” or “friendship” in Holy Writ. In the Old Testament we have, first of all, the word, “rea”, which means: a companion, a friend, one with whom one stands on intimate footing. This word appears, e.g., in the Song of Solomon 5:16: “His mouth is most sweet: yea, he is altogether lovely. This is my beloved, and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem”. In this text the word “rea” has been translated “beloved”. It is evident that the word implies a relationship of love, a relationship of the greatest intimacy. Another word which is translated “friend” in the Old Testament is “raah”. This word means, first: to feed a flock, pasture, tend. As such it appears, e.g., in Psalm 23:1: “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want”. The word translated “shepherd”, in this text is “raah”. Properly, the word means: to look upon with pleasure. Hence, the word means: to delight in any person or thing. We should notice the similarity between this word for “friend” and the word for “love” to which we called attention in our preceding article. The word for “love” in the Old Testament also refers to this delight in a person or thing. A third word which is translated “friend” in the Old Testament is “ahabh”. If the readers of these articles have read our article carefully on the “Love of God”, they will probably recognize this word “ahabh”. It is one of the Hebrew words for “love”, which is also translated “friend” in the Scriptures. From this we may surely conclude that the words “friend” and “love”, are intimately related.

In the New Testament we have occasionally the word “hetairos”, meaning: comrade, friend. This word appears, e.g., in Matt. 20:13, 22:12, 26:50: “But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny? . . . And he said unto him, Friend, how earnest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless . . . And Jesus said unto him, Friend, wherefore art thou come? Then came they, and laid hands on Jesus, and took Him”. The word, however, which is generally translated “friend” is “philos”, and this is a word for “love’ ‘in the New Testament, to which we called attention in our preceding article. And the word “friendship”, in James 4:4 is “philia” and this is the same word as “philos”. It is obvious, therefore, from the use of the word “friend”, in the Old Testament and in the New Testament, that the idea of “love” is also the root meaning of “friendship.” In fact, according to Webster, the English word friend, is derived from a word which means “to love”, and refers to one who is attached to another by affection or who entertains for another sentiments of esteem and respect, which lead him to desire his company and to seek to promote his happiness and prosperity.

That the concept, friendship, expresses the covenant of a relationship of friendship and love is also evident from the several Scriptural passages where it appears. Notice, for example, how the word is used, in the first place, to express the idea of affinity, of something which we have in common with one another. This is strikingly evident in a passage such as Matt. 11:19. There we read: “The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners. But wisdom is justified of her children.” The implication of these words is plain. In the context of these words the Lord is speaking of the incorrigibleness of the wicked Jews, who will always have an excuse for their rejection of the Kingdom of Heaven. John, the Baptist, came, we read, neither eating nor drinking, and of him they said that he had a devil. They rejected his word therefore, to repent. Jesus, on the other hand, came eating and drinking. But they also rejected His preaching. Of the Christ they said that He was a man gluttonous and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners. That He was accused of being a friend of publicans and sinners evidently implies a close affinity with these despicable people. He was their friend, hence, He was essentially alike unto them. This same thing is expressed in Luke 23:12. In this text we read: “And the same day Pilate and Herod were made friends together: for before they were at enmity between themselves.” The implication of this passage is also undeniably clear. Until this day Pilate and Herod had been at enmity between themselves. All men are, naturally, rivals, at enmity among themselves. All men seek themselves and therefore are haters of one another. This applied to Pilate and Herod. They were rivals in their seeking after power and glory and the friendship of Caesar. But this day they became friends. And that which united them in their unholy alliance was their common fear and hatred of the Christ. They realized that, after all, they had something in common. And that which they had in common was the fear which they entertained of this Jesus Christ of Nazareth. And this, we understand, will always make friends of the people of this world. Whatever may be their differences, mankind will always see in the Lord a common foe, and the people of this world will band together to destroy the cause of God and of His Christ in the midst of this world.

Secondly, besides this idea of affinity which is expressed in passages such as Matt. 11:19 and Luke 23:12, the word, friend, also expresses familiarity, fellowship, intimate relationship. This certainly appears from passages such as II Chron. 20:7 and James 2:23: “Art not Thou our God, Who didst drive out the inhabitants of this land before Thy people Israel, and gavest it to the seed of Abraham Thy friend for ever? …. And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the friend of God.” Both these passages, we may note, refer to Abraham as the friend of the Lord. In the context of the text in II Chron. 20, Jehoshaphat, the God-fearing king of Judah, finds himself in trouble. The Moabites, Ammonites, and others beside the Ammonites had come against the king of Judah to battle. A great host had come up against the people of God and Jehoshaphat found himself vastly outnumbered. He thereupon proclaims a fast and, standing in the midst of the congregation of Judah and Jerusalem, pours out his soul unto the Lord in prayer and in supplication.

He addresses the Lord, not only as the almighty God who is the God of heaven and rules over the heathen, but also as the God of their fathers. And he mentions Abraham, the father of believers, because unto him the unchangeable Jehovah had given His promise that He would give unto his seed the land of Canaan for an everlasting possession. Neither is it difficult to discern the reason why Abraham is here called the friend of God. A friend is one with whom you stand on a most intimate footing. You confide in him and reveal to him your inmost secrets. Your association with him is that of the most intimate fellowship and communion. This applies also to Abraham. Abraham’s relation to the Lord was most intimate. The Lord revealed unto him the secrets of His heart. He acquainted the father of believers with the fact that He would establish with him His covenant, would make him the father of a mighty people, would give unto this people the land of Canaan for an everlasting possession, would be the God of that people and they would be His people even forever. The same thought also occurs in the Scriptural narrative as it concerns the destruction of the cities of the plain, recorded for us in Gen. 18. In that chapter we hear the Lord say in verse 17: “And the Lord said, Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do?” And the same idea of friendship is revealed unto us in the Scriptures in connection with Noah and Enoch. They, too, were friends of God. Also to them the Lord revealed the inmost secrets of His counsel with respect to the deliverance of His people and the destruction of the wicked world.—see Gen. 6:7, Jude 14, 15.

Beautifully this idea of friendship is expressed in John 15:13-15: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are My friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. 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.” Besides, this text reminds us of that text in Ps. 25:14, does it not: “The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him; and He will shew them His covenant.” To be sure, also the idea of affinity is expressed in the text in John 15. We read, do we not, that we are the friends of Christ if we do His commandments. This does not mean, we understand, that we do what He tells or commands us to do in the sense that a slave obeys the commands of his master. In that case we would not be friends but slaves. But to be the friends of Christ and reveal this fact by obeying His commandments evidently implies an affinity of life; to do the commandments of Christ surely implies that we are partakers of His life, that His life and Spirit are within us. Otherwise it would be quite impossible to do His commandments. But, this text in John 15 also expresses the idea of intimate fellowship and communion. To be servant, according to verse 15, implies that relationship whereby we do not know what our lord doeth. But we are the friends of Christ because He makes known unto us all the things which He has heard from His Father. He reveals unto His people, by His Word and Spirit, the secret counsel of God concerning their redemption and salvation. He leads His people, by His Spirit, into the unspeakably blessed secrets of the life of God itself; He establishes between the living God and His people the most intimate relationship of fellowship and communion. We become friends of Christ and of God.

Our Conclusion.

We would define the friendship of the Lord as that covenant bond whereby the Triune God exercises the most intimate and perfect fellowship within Himself, and with the people of His eternal covenant who are made conformable unto the image of His Son. It is a fact that, also among men, friendship always presupposes two things: essential likeness and personal distinction. It is clear that essential likeness is an indispensable requisite for a relation of friendship. Friendship implies unity, oneness, and the absence of discord, disunity, disagreement. True friends seek the same thing, have the same aspirations, strive after the same goal. It is clear, therefore, that essential likeness is a necessary condition for a life of friendship. But, it is also clear that another indispensable requisite for true friendship is personal distinction. We must all have our own particular name and place, our own particular function to perform, our own work to do. If a league of nations consists of nations who are all equally strong, then their bond or pact of agreement may be due to the fact that they are all equally strong and, therefore, equally fearful of one another. If, on the other hand, this league of nations consists of nations who differ from each other in size and resources, etc., then their life of fellowship must be attributed to the fact that they are really inwardly united. True friendship exists when persons all seek the same goal, strive after the same thing, and do so each in his own way.

This idea of friendship is also prominently taught in the Word of God. This concept implies, in the first place, a bond, an affinity, a spiritual unity, something which attracts us, binds us to one another, which we have in common. And, secondly, this concept presupposes that, because of that bond, affinity, we go out to one another, seek one another, confide in one another, rely on one another, help one another, exercise that fellowship with one another, further and promote, in our own personal way, one another’s interests and welfare. In this sense the Lord is surely the God of friendship. He is that in Himself. For the Lord is the God of infinite perfection. He is a light and in Him is no darkness at all. He is one in all His willing and thinking and seeking and striving, seeking the glory of Himself as the adorable God of eternal and infinite perfection. And, God is Triune. He is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Each Person is personally distinguished from the other; the Father is Father and is never Son or Holy Spirit, and this also applies to the Son and the Holy Spirit. Hence, God is the God of perfect friendship. He is eternally a covenant God. Eternally He seeks and knows and loves Himself as the Triune Lord in the sphere of infinite divine perfection.

Finally, whereas God is God alone and therefore determines all things, all true friendship among men is rooted in the Lord. We read in James 4:4: “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, 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.” Hence, we are friends of the world and then enemies of God, or we are friends of God but then enemies of the world. The friendship of the world, or a friend of the world implies that the world of evil men and all their carnal activity is the sphere of and characteristic of our lusts and desires. There is, therefore, a friendship of the world, an affinity, a union, a fellowship in the sphere of sin. Only, we cannot be friends of God and a friend of the carnal, ungodly world—we are either, or; we love God and then we are antithetically opposed to the world that is carnal and lieth in darkness, or we love this world, which lieth in darkness, but then are the enemies of God. And, mind you, the friendship of the world is enmity against God. The enmity against God, the hatred of God lies at the root of this friendship of the world, and this enmity against God characterizes it throughout.

True friendship is rooted in the Lord. Only then will it fill us, and characterize us, if we become friends of God, are born of Him. Then His life will be our life. Then we will be enemies of whatever would vainly oppose Him and be enemies of the world that lieth in darkness. But then we will also be united with them who, even as we, love the Lord and have been born of Him. And then we will have fellowship with Him who is the light and in whom is no darkness. We will be friends of God and the Word of the Lord Jesus, which He utters in His High-Priestly prayer of John 17, will be realized in us, now in principle and soon in everlasting perfection: “In in them, and Thou in Me, that they may be made perfect in one.”