"Friendship" by Romans

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"Friendship" by Romans

Post by Romans » Wed Jan 24, 2018 4:13 pm

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“Friendship” by Romans

In the decades I have been listening to and reading sermons and Bible Studies, I do not recall ever hearing one on the subject of “Friendship.” I certainly have heard various individual verses quoted in support of other related topics, but that's about it. So, with that in mind, I decided to do a Study on the subject of “Friendship.”

While the theme of Friendship occurs repeatedly in God's Word, the actual word, “friendship,” occurs only twice in Scripture: Once in the Old Testament, and once in... yes... the New Testament. In the Old Testament we read in Proverbs 22:24: “Make no friendship with an angry man; and with a furious man thou shalt not go:”

Adam Clarke writes of this: "Spirit has a wonderful and unaccountable influence upon spirit. From those with whom we associate we acquire habits, and learn their ways, imbibe their spirit, show their tempers and walk in their steps. We cannot be too choice of our company, for we may soon learn ways that will be a snare to our soul.”

There is an associated verse in the Book of Psalms. Psalms 1:1: “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.”

In the New Testament, we read of friendship in James 4:4: “... 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.”

Matthew Henry writes of this: Here is a decided warning to avoid all criminal friendships with this world. Worldly-mindedness is enmity to God. An enemy may be reconciled, but "enmity" never can be reconciled. A man may have a large portion in things of this life, and yet be kept in the love of God; but he who sets his heart upon the world, who will conform to it rather than lose its friendship, is an enemy to God. So that any one who resolves at all events to be upon friendly terms with the world, must be the enemy of God. The spirit of the world teaches us to lay up, or lay out for ourselves, according to our own fancies; God the Holy Spirit teaches us to be willing to do good to all about us, as we are able.

The grace of God will correct and cure the spirit by nature in us; and where he gives grace, he gives another spirit than that of the world. How wretched the state of those who make God their enemy! God will give more grace to the humble, because they see their need of it, pray for it, are thankful for it, and such shall have it. Submit yourselves to God, for he is ready to do you good.”

The first part of Proverbs 18:24 reads: “A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly:

John Gill writes, “Friendship ought to be mutual and reciprocal, as between David and Jonathan; a man that receives friendship ought to return it, or otherwise he is guilty of great ingratitude. This may be spiritually applied; a believer is "a man of friends" (b), as it may be rendered; he has many friends: God is his friend, as appears by his early love to him, his choice of him, and provisions of grace for him; by sending his son to save him; by visiting him, not only in a way of providence, but of grace; by disclosing his secrets, showing his covenant to him, and by making him his heir, and a joint heir with Christ.

Christ is his friend, as is evident from his visiting him at his incarnation; and in a spiritual way, by the communication of his secrets to him; by his hearty counsel and faithful reproofs; by his undertaking and doing for him what he has; and especially by suffering and dying in his room and stead. The Holy Spirit is his friend, which he has shown by discovering to him his woeful estate by nature, and the way of salvation by Christ; by working all his works in him; by acting the part of a Comforter to him; by revealing divine things to him, by helping him under all his infirmities; by making intercession for him according to the will of God; and by making him meet for eternal glory and happiness:

Angels are his friends, as is plain by their well pleasedness with the incarnation of Christ for men; and which they express at their conversion; by their ministering to them, their protection of them, and the good offices they do them both in life and at death; and saints are friends to one another: and such should show themselves friendly to God, their covenant God and Father; by frequently visiting him at the throne of grace; by trusting in him; by a carefulness not to offend, but please him; and by a close and faithful adherence to his cause and interest: to Jesus Christ their Redeemer, by a ready obedience to his commands; by owning and using him as their friend; by taking notice of his friends, and showing them respect, his ministers and poor saints;

by cleaving to him, and renouncing the friendship of his enemies: and likewise to the Holy Spirit, by not grieving, quenching, and despising him; but by making use of him, and giving up themselves to his influence and direction; and by acknowledging him as the author of all their grace: also to angels, by speaking well of them, owning their good offices, and reckoning it an honour that they are come and joined to such a company; and to the saints, by Christian conversation with them, by sympathizing with them in all conditions, by hearty counsel, faithful reproofs and admonitions, and by helping them in every distress, inward and outward;”

verse 24 continues: “and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.”

Jesus said in 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.”

The Sermon Bible comments on a friend sticking closer than a brother, “If we could vividly believe that Christ is our friend, it is very easy to see how good and great a friend, (1) Think of His power—His power to help and protect, in work, in danger, in temptation. (2) Think of His sympathy—He can feel for us, He can understand us, and all we are feeling and going through. His might to help us is as of one raised like the stars above us; His understanding of us is nearer than that of one who sits by the same fireside. (3) This best Friend will never disappoint us; as those we thought our good friends here sometimes do. (4) This best Friend is always near. (5) This Friend is never estranged. (6) He will never die. There is no shadow of coming parting to hang, unspoken of, but oftentimes silently remembered, over our communion with Him.”

The Preacher's Homiletical adds: “There is no friendship so firm and enduring as that which is based upon doing the will of God (Mark_3:35), no brotherhood so perfect and lasting as that which has its origin in a common discipleship to Him who is not ashamed to call them brethren (Hebrews_2:11), and who is Himself the “Friend above all others,” whose love can span the distance between His throne in glory and the meanest hovel upon earth, and the greater distance between Divine perfection and human sinfulness, and who was in all things “made like unto his brethren,” that having Himself “suffered being tempted, He might be able to succour them that are tempted” (Hebrews_2:17), and thus prove Himself to be pre-eminently the “Brother born for adversity,” and the “Friend that sticketh closer than a brother.”

Proverbs 27:17: From the International Standard Version, “Iron sharpens iron; so a man sharpens a friend's character.”

FB Meyer writes, “The keyword in this paragraph is friends. Friends, according to the original sense of the Hebrew word, are those who delight in each other’s companionship. Either they are useful to each other because the one possesses gifts that the other lacks, or they have certain tastes in common. It is in friendship that we get to know ourselves, as a man sees his face in the mirror of calm water.

We unfold to each other; our friend elicits traits of which we were hardly aware. Our sympathy and tenderness are drawn forth by our friend’s troubles, as our laughter flashes out to awaken or to answer his high spirits. We shudder to think what cold and undeveloped beings we should be without the sharpening of friendship. Why not find equal confidence and sweetness in the greatest Friend of all?”

Solomon writes of the benefits of friendship in Ecclesiastes 4:9-10: “Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up.”

The Preacher's Homiletical writes, “Society, friendship, and love assuage our sharpest grief, and pierce the thickest gloom with a kindly ray. To be a helper to the fallen is one of the noblest uses of society—it is the joyful sound which fallen humanity hears in the Gospel. In Christian society, mutual help has the highest motive, and the most splendid reward.”

Besides piercing the thickest gloom, having noble uses and a joyful sound motivated by the highest motives and most splendid reward, being a friend to someone in need, being a neighbor to a total stranger is at the very heart of what Jesus expects of us as His followers.

Well, expectation is not the right word, either:

Jesus tells us in John 13:34-35: “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”

Alexander MacClaren writes, “He called this a ‘new commandment,’ though to love one’s neighbour as one’s self was a familiar commonplace amongst the Jews, and had a recognised position in Rabbinical teaching. But His commandment proposed a new object of love, it set forth a new measure of love, so greatly different from all that had preceded it as to become almost a new kind of love, and it suggested and supplied a new motive power for love.

This commandment ‘could give life’ and fulfil itself. Therefore it comes to us as a ‘new commandment’-even to us-and, unlike the words which preceded it, which we were considering in former sermons, it is wholly and freshly applicable to-day as in the ages that are passed.

Every Christian man is under the obligation to recognise his kindred with every other Christian man-his kindred in the deep foundations of his spiritual being, which are far deeper, and ought to be far more operative in drawing together, than the superficial differences of culture or opinion or the like, which may part us. The bond that holds Christian men together is their common relation to the one Lord, and that ought to influence their attitude to one another.”

Matthew Henry writes of this: “This intimates the strength of those bonds by which we are bound to each other and which we ought to be sensible of. 1. Friends must be constant to each other at all times. That is not true friendship which is not constant; it will be so if it be sincere, and actuated by a good principle. Those that are fanciful or selfish in their friendship will love no longer than their humour is pleased and their interest served, and therefore their affections turn with the wind and change with the weather. Swallow-friends, that fly to you in summer, but are gone in winter; such friends there is no loss of.

But if the friendship be prudent, generous, and cordial, if I love my friend because he is wise, and virtuous, and good, as long as he continues so, though he fall into poverty and disgrace, still I shall love him. Christ is a friend that loves at all times (Joh_13:1) and we must so love him, Rom_8:35. 2. Relations must in a special manner be careful and tender of one another in affliction: A brother is born to succour a brother or sister in distress, to whom he is joined so closely by nature that he may the more sensibly feel from their burdens, and be the more strongly inclined and engaged, as it were by instinct, to help them.

We must often consider what we were born for, not only as men, but as in such a station and relation. Who knows but we came into such a family for such a time as this? We do not answer the end of our relations if we do not do the duty of them. Some take it thus: A friend that loves at all times is born (that is, becomes) a brother in adversity, and is so to be valued.”

Friendship covers a wide territory. Besides the satisfaction of spiritual fellowship and enjoying other things in common, it involves the risk of revealing to others who we are and who we are not. It also involves being willing to draw a line, and taking a stand against inappropriate actions or words of a friend, risking the very friendship itself.

Solomon wrote in Proverbs 27:6: “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.”

There are times when we have both the opportunity and obligation to intervene when a friend has veered from the strait path.

In the Old Testament when David was on his roof and saw Bathsheba bathing, it seems like he immediately ran downstairs and inquired about her to his servants. I love how one of David's servants responded to his inappropriate interest in this woman. He doesn't tell David who she is,
he responds in the form of a question in 2 Samuel 11:3: “Is not this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?”

First, by putting it in the form of a question, he attempted to make David respond in the affirmative... to have to say, “Yes... this is Eliam's daughter... yes... this is the wife or Uriah the Hittite.” Naming Eliam as her father would have meant nothing if David did not know who Eliam was. And he certainly know who Uriah was! How many Hittites could there have been fighting in the Israelite Army?

But this servant tried to derail David from departing from God's Tenth Commandment to not covet another man's wife.

In the Book of Genesis, we are told in that Adam was with Eve when she sunk her teeth into that piece of forbidden fruit. Why was there not even an attempted intervention? Why didn't Adam take the fruit from Eve's hand and throw it as far across the Garden as he could, and then take his wife and escort her away from the forbidden Tree and the serpent?

We need to be like David's servant. When we see or hear something taking place that is offensive or clearly against God's Commands, we need to be a friend and intervene.

Jesus gave us a Plan of progressive steps to take when a brother in Christ is not walking according to what is right.

From the New Living Translation, we read beginning in Matthew 18:15, “If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back. But if you are unsuccessful, take one or two others with you and go back again, so that everything you say may be confirmed by two or three witnesses. If the person still refuses to listen, take your case to the church. Then if he or she won't accept the church's decision, treat that person as a pagan or a corrupt tax collector.”

In the above scenario, you start are privately... one on one in the hopes of bringing to your brother's attention that he or she did something they should not have done. Escalate to other witnesses. Then the church. Then you cut off fellowship in order to prevent the entire church from being negatively influenced by this person's inappropriate behavior.

Step by step, it is done in an effort to be a friend to the offender. Besides shielding the church from a bad influence, cutting off fellowship is not motivated by revenge or hatred of the individual. Paul tells us in 2 Thessalonians 3:14-15: “And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed. Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.”

There are times when witnessing inappropriate behavior cannot follow that step-by-step Plan that Jesus outlined. We read such an account in Galatians when Paul intervened when Peter had clearly jumped the track, and caused others to follow him in his error.

Paul writes of it beginning in Galatians 2:11: “But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision. And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation {hypocrisy}. But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?”

Albert Barnes explains why this was not a situation where there could have been a private, one-on-one talk about an offense: He writes, “The instance before us is one of faithful public reproof; and every circumstance in it is worthy of special attention, as it furnishes a most important illustration of the manner in which such reproof should be conducted. The first thing to be noted is, that it was done openly, and with candor. It was reproof addressed to the offender himself. Paul did not go to others and whisper his suspicions;

he did not seek to undermine the influence and authority of another by slander; he did not calumniate him and then justify himself on the ground that what he had said was no more than true: he went to him at once, and he frankly stated his views and reproved him in a case where he was manifestly wrong. This too was a case so public and well known that Paul made his remarks before the church Gal_2:14 because the church was interested in it, and because the conduct of Peter led the church into error.”

If we become aware of a brother practicing sin, or returning to a besetting sin after the habit has already returned, the Apostle Paul wrote in Galatians 6:1-2: “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.”

Of this Albert Barnes writes, “Bear with each other; help each other in the divine life. The sense is, that every man has special temptations and easily besetting sins, which constitute a heavy burden. We should aid each other in regard to these, and help one another to overcome them.
And so fulfil the law of Christ - The special law of Christ, requiring us to love one another. This was the distinguishing law of the Redeemer; and they could in no way better fulfil it than by aiding each other in the divine life. The law of Christ would not allow us to reproach the offender, or to taunt him, or to rejoice in his fall. We should help him to take up his load of infirmities, and sustain him by our counsels, our exhortations, and our prayers.”
Scripture provides for us Examples of True Friendship,

In Ruth 1:16, we read of Ruth's loyalty and friendship to her mother-in-law Naomi: “Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God:”

In 1 Samuel 18:1 we read that “the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.”

When Jesus spoke of returning to Judaea because Lazarus had died, Thomas said in John 11:16: “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” Jesus said in John 15:14: “Ye are my friends if ye do whatsoever I command.”

And then in John 15:13, he said: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

Albert Barnes writes of this: “No higher expression of love could be given. Life is the most valuable object we possess; and when a man is willing to lay that down for his friends or his country, it shows the utmost extent of love. Even this love for friends has been rarely witnessed... It greatly enhances the love of Christ, that while the instances of those who have been willing to die for friends have been so rare, he was willing to die for enemies - bitter foes, who rejected his reign, persecuted him, reviled him, scorned him, and sought his life. It also shows us the extent of his love that he gave himself up, not to common sufferings, but to the most bitter, painful, and protracted sorrows, not for himself, not for friends, but for a thoughtless and unbelieving world.”

The Bible has much to say about friendship. I hope I have shed some light on this subject, and given you cause to meditate and respond to some of these verses and comments.

The circumstance where we might have to lay down our lives for our friends may never come. But there is another opportunity for personal sacrifice that occurs with much greater regularity that we should not pass up: We read of it in Romans 12:1: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.”

The Sermon Bible comments, “Let us avail ourselves of the light which is shed on the nature of sacrifice by the term which is here employed. "A living sacrifice." The presenting ourselves a living sacrifice is the first act of a true man’s life. Carry on the association sacrifice with life rather than with death, and it will help you with the second principle. Our highest and holiest relations begin when we make the sacrifice of the whole heart of selfishness to God. This presenting ourselves a living sacrifice is the ground of all true rendering of duty to the Church, the family, and the whole world of man.”

Next week we will cite and examine in greater detail these and other specific friendships.

This concludes this Evening's Discussion, “Friendship.”

This Discussion was originally presented “live” on January 17th, 2018.

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