Friend of God – What does it mean?

friendofGodA friend of God.  This is an often heard sentiment in the church, we say it, it is preached, and, we write and sing songs about it.  But what does it really mean?  What is it to be a “friend of God”?  Do we really get this concept, friendship with God?

I do not think that we really grasp this concept.  I know I didn’t…until recently.  Until I devoted myself to a study of what it means to be a friend of God.  I was humbled, and spiritually renewed by the full implications of what friendship with God truly means.

In John 15:14-15 we read these words,

You are My friends if you do what I command you.  I do not call you slaves anymore, because a slave doesn’t know what his master is doing.  I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything I have heard from My Father.

Throughout scripture there are three people who God specifically calls out and refers to as “friends”.

  • Moses
  • Abraham
  • Lazarus

By looking at these lives we have an example of what “friendship with God” should look like.  We see in their lives the fulfillment of John 15:15.

Moses

These words are spoken of Moses in Exodus 33:11,

The Lord spoke with Moses face to face, just as a man speaks with his friend.

The Hebrew word for “friend” used here is the word, rea (H7453). This word suggests intimacy, companionship, and reciprocal relationship.

Numbers 12:8 says this of Moses,

I speak with him directly, openly, and not in riddles; he sees the form of the Lord

Throughout the life of Moses we see over and over again, this open conversation with God.  It is important to note, that this level of relationship/friendship requires intentionality and regular communication.  Moses did not only speak to God once in a while, or only when he needed something, but as a friend, he maintained regular and open communication with God. [for more on this see the post, Finding Gods Will]

When Moses is forced to flee Egypt he ends up in Midian at the home of the priest of Midian, Jethro (to become his father-in-law).  The family name of Jethro is, Reuel (Ex. 2:18).  In Hebrew the name Reuel means, “friend of God” (H7467).  The years spent working for Jethro (priest of Midian) were formative to Moses understanding of who God is.  Moses was able to do what he was called to only after his time spent learning who God is, and establishing this friend relationship. I find it interesting that the man who would be known as a friend of God, Moses, spent more than 40 years learning of God at the feet of a man whose name is, “friend of God”, Reuel.  This has a lot to say about the people we allow to influence our lives.

Abraham

In 2 Chronicles 20:7 we read,

Are you not our God who drove out the inhabitants of this land before Your people Israel and who gave it forever to the descendants of Abraham Your friend?

And again in Isaiah 41:8,

…descendant of Abraham, My friend –

In both instances the Hebrew word for friend is, ahab (H157). This terminology represents a deep love for another.

In the New Testament, we see another reference to Abraham’s relationship with God. James 2:23 says,

Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him for righteousness, and he was called God’s friend.

‘Friend’, used here is the Greek word, philos (G5384).  This is the same word that would be used of the type of relationship that a ‘best man’ at a wedding would have with the groom.  The best man, is typically someone who has known you for a long time, that has been with you through it all.  The best man is the one that you can always count on.  This word, philos, is this relationship.

Lazarus

John 11 tells the story of Lazarus, specifically of his death and resurrection.  His friendship is first referenced in verse 11, using the same word, philos (G5384), as was used to describe Abraham in James 2:23.  John 11:11 says,

Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I’m on my way to wake him up.

An even more vivid picture of the relationship between Jesus and Lazarus is seen in verse 35, of the same chapter,

Jesus wept.

In this short verse, we see much about the Christ.  We see that he let himself be emotionally moved by the “sleeping” of his friend.  He was also moved by the hurt that the death of Lazarus left on those around him.  But, we also see disappointment.  Jesus had an intimate relationship with Lazarus and his sisters, Mary and Martha.  However, when Lazarus died they doubted that Jesus would raise him.  They wondered why he wasn’t there in time to make things right.  Jesus wept, because in His intimacy with them, they should have known not to doubt, they should have known that He was in control, and would do what was best.

What does this mean for us?

Let’s go back to where we started, John 15:14-15,

You are My friends if you do what I command you.  I do not call you slaves anymore, because a slave doesn’t know what his master is doing.  I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything I have heard from My Father.

Moses, Abraham, Lazarus, are all considered God’s friends, because of their obedience, because of their intentionality, and because of their open and free-flowing communication.

As I read this passage, the best modern-day example that I can come up with (and it drastically pales in comparison) is the following.   The President of the United States, or the King of you country, is your best friend.  What would that look like?  As the best friend, you would work on his campaign, you would promote his ideas and agenda, you would have open access anytime, for anything.  Items of personal importance to you would become important to the President. How would one expect the President (or King) to treat their best friend? You would always be welcome to the Presidents house, you would be treated with the same level of respect and authority as the President himself, perhaps you would even be given a position of power, authority, and responsibility.

Jesus has called us to more than servant-hood.  As Christians, we have the servant part down pretty good.  A servant/master relationship is not what Christianity is all about, and it is not the relationship that Christ desires to have with those who are His.  Christ desires a deep, intimate relationship.  He wants to speak to us clearly and face-to-face.

A servant is not privileged to the same rights, powers, and authority as the master. A servant does not have the ear and attention of the master. However, an intimate friend does.  It is God’s will that we access His power.  There is a marked lack of signs and wonders in the American church.  These things should not be.  When we regain and walk in intimacy with God, we have direct access to the power and authority that belongs to Him.

A servant serves out of duty.  A friend serves out of devotion.  As intimate friends we should want to spread the message of God.  We should want to share the ideas, and life application that is present in His Word.

A servant does not always know all of the masters plans.  Intimate friends, can forecast the plan because they know how the other thinks.  It is only through constant communication that we can know someone at this level.  So many times, we complain about not knowing God’s will, but the reason is because there is sin in our lives.  Sin will always prevent us from having open and free communication with God. Without this communication we will not know, “everything I have heard from My Father.” Another reason that we struggle with knowing God’s will, is when we know what God’s will is, but we just don’t like it.  We prefer God to bend to our will.

Buddy-ChristJesus doesn’t want servants, He desires intimate friendships.  Jesus doesn’t just want our requests when we are in need, He wants regular, frequent, open communication.  He desires a deep, intimate, mutually beneficial relationship.  The thing is we have nothing to offer, nothing to bring to the table.   He wants us to freely take what is offered. He just wants us, not as a servant, but as an intimate friend.

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3 Responses to Friend of God – What does it mean?

  1. Brian says:

    Good thoughts

  2. Joyce Ewing says:

    It’s so very easy to get caught up in the works of doing “church”, and miss the whole point of Jesus coming to save us. Religion robs you of your friendship with God. I am gradually getting “dechurched” and am going through the wilderness experience of detoxing from religion and works. The process is one that will bring me closer to God and truly learn what it is to have a Friend. So right about the servant/master relationship vs a friendship relationship. Thanks for the post.

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