Facebook , Twitter, My Space, these are all social networking internet sites where one person may designate another person as their “friend”, and thus open up communication through the network. A person can end up with a lot of friends – maybe hundreds or thousands.
But what does that mean? Are all these people really important to me? Are they truly my friend? How could I know?
Intro: “‘Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.’ And he was called the friend of God.” (James 2:23). There are many ways to describe Abraham (faithful, obedient, righteous, blessed, etc) But James tells us that Abraham was a friend of God. What does that reflect? Why is Abraham called a friend of God? Consider the comments of a few:
v John MacArthur: Just as he was the father of the faithful (Rom 4:11; Gal 3:7), he might also be called the father of the obedient, because those two godly characteristics are inseparable. “You are My friends,” Jesus said, “if you do what I command you” (John 15:14).
v Albert Barnes: This was a most honorable appellation; but it is one which, in all cases, will result from true faith and obedience.
Even those who view justifying faith as “faith alone”, apart from obedience, cannot account for Abraham being called a friend of God apart from his obedience to God’s words.
v Guy N. Woods said, “God regarded Abraham as his friend because he was ever faithful to God and always submitted his will to God’s.” (A Commentary on the Epistle of James, p. 146)
1) The word for friend here is a common N.T. word. Maybe you recognize it. Phileo – means a loved one, or dear one, a companion. It depicts affection & close relationship. If someone is your friend you are naturally disposed to be kind to him. The term seems to indicate fellowship by choice. (you can’t pick your family, but you pick your friends)
I. Abraham’s Legacy: This depiction of Abraham as the friend of God is not new. In fact, twice in the O.T. he is described with these words.
v 2 Chron 20:7 – Are You not our God, who drove out the inhabitants of this land before Your people Israel, and gave it to the descendants of Abraham Your friend forever?
v Isa 41:8 – But you, Israel, are My servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, The descendants of Abraham My friend.
A. These O.T. references help us to see the connotation of Friendship. God and Abraham were close, as friends. God made a unique covenant with Abraham (chose him) , and did not hide His plans or intentions from him. Israel is described as God’s people, but Abraham was His friend.
1. There is an event in Genesis that seems to indicate this unique intimate relationship between God and Abraham. God sent 3 strangers to Abraham’s tent to tell Abrham that Sarah would have a child. They come as strangers and Abraham displays hospitality – feeds them and tends to their needs. As they are leaving, they turn their eyes toward Sodom….
v Read Gen. 18:16-25 – “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am doing?” After it was known what God was intending, Abraham felt comfortable pleading with God, based on His own character – He knew who God was.
a. Verse 24 -25 ; 24 Suppose there were fifty righteous within the city; would You also destroy the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous that were in it? 25 Far be it from You to do such a thing as this, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous should be as the wicked; far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?”
- Adam Clarke: As among friends everything is in common; so God took Abraham into intimate communion with himself, and poured out upon him the choicest of his blessings: for as God can never be in want, because he possesses all things; so Abraham his friend could never be destitute, because God was his friend.
b. Jesus chose his apostles to be his friends and made known to them his intentions. He did not hide anything from them. John 15:14-16 – Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. 14 You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. 5 No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I 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 remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you. It is a blessing to know that God has chosen to reveal His plans to you and I through these same apostles. He is our friend as well.
B. God’s character is key to understanding the character of Abraham. God is particular about His friends. Not everyone is so called. You may choose to be His friend, but that does not mean that He chooses you. (many see this as synonymous).
1. The Friend of God is Righteous: God will only associate with those who are right, because God is right. Who then qualifies to be God’s friend? Rom 3:10-12 “There is none righteous, no, not one; There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; They have together become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one.” No one is good enough to be God’s friend apart from God’s mercy. But therein is the glory of our own salvation. God did choose us.
2. Rom 5:6-11 “For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. 7For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. 8But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. 10For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. 11And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.
a. Notice Paul’s emphasis on the timeframe of Christ’s sacrifice. Who were we when Jesus died for us? Certainly not His friends – Ungodly, sinners, enemies. Our friendship with God is based primarily on His choice not ours.
b. His choice is not arbitrary or capricious. He chose us to be His people “in Christ”. He chose a certain type of person (one in Christ) to bless. A righteous person.
II. But return to James 2 – Why was Abraham called the “friend of God”? James 2:23-24 – 23 And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” And he was called the friend of God. 24 You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.
A. Abraham believed God. He implicitly trusted what God said. His willingness to trust God (to the point of obedience to His commands) was credited to his account as righteousness. Abraham was called a friend of God because of his faith (trust) in God.
1. Trust is a characteristic of friendship, isn’t it? Your friend calls you one day and asks to borrow $100. You ask him why and he says “just trust me”. This becomes a test of your friendship, doesn’t it. Not everyone would get the money.
a. Abraham’s intimacy with God was based upon God’s words. Although God did choose Abraham in a unique way, and speak to him directly, the principle applies to us as well. We cannot have an close relationship with God apart from absolute trust in His words. Romans 10:17 – 17 So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
v John 1:11-13 – He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: 13 who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. If we choose to believe in His name (authority) we have the right to be His children.
B. Abraham obeyed God: Notice the context of James statement about Abraham in James 2. James 2:17-22 17 Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. 8 But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe — and tremble! 20 But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? 22 Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? It is evident that Abraham showed God his faith through His obedience. In fact, After he obeyed God in taking Isaac to the altar of sacrifice and raised his knife to slay his own son in response to God’s command, God said, “now I know that you fear Me.” (Gen. 22:12) James says it this way – “by works faith was made perfect.”
1. Notice the comparison between demons and Abraham. Isn’t there anyone in between? You are either a friend or an enemy. You either obey or you do not.
2. Jesus said earlier that those obeyed his commands were His friends (John 15:14)
C. Abraham stayed with God – true friends do not abandon you. They stick with you. Abraham’s faith was for the long haul. Although he did not see the fulfillment of those promises in his own lifetime, he continued to trust in God. There is a friend that sticks closer than a brother (Prov. 18:24)
1. Choosing to have God as a friend always has a price tag. Children learn early on at school that they have to make choices about their friends. If you are friends with this group then those others will have nothing to do with you. You have nothing in common because you’ve cast your lot in with a different crowd, different activities and different goals. Even as adults, If you align yourself with one clique the other is suspicious of you and will give you the cold shoulder. You have to choose. Who will be your friend? God or the world? You cannot serve both. Luke 16:13 – 13 “No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”
2. The testing of our faith becomes just such a choice. Peter had to choose as he anxiously sat around the fire waiting to see what would happen to Jesus. He had voiced his choice in the garden before, but would he give up everything to be a friend of God. The rich young ruler in Matt. 19 had to choose his friends. Daniel had to choose. You have to choose.