Prov. 18:24 reads, “A man that hath friends must show himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.” There are several characteristics or qualities that go into making up a good friend. As we study these characteristics we want to consider that we have one friend who is above all other friends, that is, the Lord Jesus Christ. He is that friend that sticketh closer than a brother. In the scriptures we see him called the friend of publicans and sinners. I for one am glad that he is the sinner’s friend.
In Prov. 17:17 we read, “A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” I have had friends in high school, in college, at the various work places, and at different locations where we have lived. In most cases when we separated ourselves from those institutions or locations we have, in effect, lost contact with those who had been our friends. I have had a few friends, especially amongst the old Baptists who though separated by distance have continued to be good friends. Many things can separate friends such as location, marriage, work environment, sickness, financial status, social status, and other interests. A true friend will love at all times, regardless of our physical or financial condition, location, status, age, or other interests. Jesus loved us even when we were dead in trespasses and sins. He loves us even though we are sinners and he is perfect. He loved us before the foundation of the world and he loved us when he suffered and died on the cross and he will still be loving us when he comes again to claim our bodies in the resurrection. He will never leave us or forsake us. He tells us to cast our care upon him for he careth for us. We can rest assured that regardless of our physical or financial condition or social status that Jesus will still be loving us. Paul wrote in Rom. 8:35, “ Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
36 As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.
37 Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.
38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,
39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
In Prov. 27:6 we read, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.” It is desirable in a friend that he not just tell us what we want to hear, but that he tell us the truth even when it wounds us. A true friend will tell us when our attitude stinks or when what we do or propose to do is wrong. He will tell us when we are hurting his or someone else’s feelings. He will reprove or rebuke us when we need it. He will admonish or encourage us when that is needed. We all at times need to be reproved, rebuked or admonished. We all need to be told when we are hurting peoples feelings or when we are doing something wrong. It is a true friend who will not be deceitful, but will tell us the truth, even when it hurts. Jesus is that friend who will always be honest with us and will reprove us or rebuke us when that is needed. He will chastise us because he loves us. He cares for us and therefore will wound us when we need to be wounded. Never will he be deceitful toward us.
In Prov. 27:9 we read, “Ointment and perfume rejoice the heart: so doth the sweetness of a man's friend by hearty counsel.” One of the characteristics of friends is that they will share one another’s counsel. There have been times in my life that I needed to know how to do something or what to say to someone or how to present something, or what am I doing wrong, etc. A friend will readily and heartily give you his counsel. Friends are there to share with one another and to help one another. Life would be a whole lot more difficult if it weren’t for friends who have shared with me their counsel. No one has shared with us more counsel than the Lord Jesus Christ. He has given us his word. He has revealed to us his truths. According to John 15:15 Jesus said, “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.” Jesus word is a thorough furnisher unto all good works. There just isn’t anything missing that we need. His counsel is also always correct and best for us. Furthermore, we can go to him in prayer and ask for his guidance and leadership in our lives and he will give it and it will be the very best for us. He is indeed our best counselor.
In Song 5:16 we read, “His mouth is most sweet: yea, he is altogether lovely. This is my beloved, and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem.” Other than Jesus, the best friend I have had in this life is my beloved wife. It is indeed a joy when one is both your beloved and your best friend. Jesus has taken us to be his bride or beloved and he is also our best friend. We have the privilege of telling “the daughters of Jerusalem” what a friend we have in Jesus and how he has loved us with an everlasting love. We have the privilege, as the man who had the legions of unclean spirits cast out of him by the Lord, to go home and tell our friends what great things the Lord has done for us and loved us.
In John 15:13 we read, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” Perhaps volumes could be and have been written on this, but Jesus is the greatest example ever of one who laid down his life for his friends. In Rom. 5:6 we read, “For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.
7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.
8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” According to this passage of scripture Christ died for us when we were helpless, ungodly sinners. Jesus not only died for us, but he also lived for us. He came into the world to save his people from their sins. He came not to do his own will, but the will of him that sent him, and this is the Father’s will which sent him, that he should lose nothing, but raise it all up again the last day. Jesus is that great example of how a friend should love. We should also lay down our lives for our friends, especially as we live our lives. There are two ways that we can live our lives. We can live them selfishly for ourselves or we can live them unselfishly for others. Jesus example is total unselfishness.
In John 15:14 we read, “Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.” Abraham was called the friend of God as was Moses. Jesus has said that we also are his friends if we do whatsoever he commands us. I don’t know a better name to be called than Jesus’ friend. We all should strive to be the friend of Jesus. His commands we are told are not grevious. His commands are all about love. We should love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our strength, and with all our mind. We should also love our neighbour as ourself. A third commandment he gave us was to love one another as he loved us. Lord help us to be thy friends.
Finally, the church is to be made up of friends. John wrote in 3 John 1:14, “But I trust I shall shortly see thee, and we shall speak face to face. Peace be to thee. Our friends salute thee. Greet the friends by name.” In the church we are to be one another’s friends. This requires that we get to know one another, that we share our lives with one another, that we reprove, rebuke and exhort one another, that we counsel one another, that we pray one for another, that we bear one another’s burdens, that we lay down our lives for one another, that we love one another at all times, that we show ourselves friendly to one another. It is much harder for Satan to destroy or disrupt a church full of true friends. Lord help us all to be true friends to one another.
Elder Vernon Johnson