From now on I call you not servants; for the servant knows not what his lord does: but I have called you friends…
When a blind man was asked what he thought the sun to be like, he replied, "Like friendship." And truly friendship is a sun, if not the sun, of life. All feel it to be so. Most strange is it that men should wonder that the gospel has not enjoined so good a thing. It needs no injunction. It grows best of itself. It is as unnecessary to command men to cultivate friendship, as to command them to eat and drink. Let us —
I. LOOK AT THE EXPRESSIONS EMPLOYED AND THE GENERAL SENTIMENT WHICH THEY EMBODY.
1. Both slavery and friendship represent our relations to our Lord and Saviour. "For he that is called in the Lord, being a slave, is the Lord's freeman: likewise also he that is called, being free, is Christ's slave." Freedom and bondage go together, and we are not free till we are bound. Here servitude is the sign of friendship. As inferiors, as creatures, we can be friends of Jesus only "if we keep His commandments."
2. When Christ says, "All things that I have heard of My Father I have made known unto you," He can mean only all things intended for them, for in the next chapter He remarks, "I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot hear them now." Their intimacy with Him was progressive. And so now His people pass from one degree of fellowship to another; become less and less slaves, and more and more friends, and the honours and privileges of friendship increase with its spirit.
3. Confidence is the sign of Christ's friendship. There are but two essentially different ways of treating men as friends, or as slaves. We must be ruled either by force or by reason; we must be watched or trusted. Selfishness, ignorance, prejudice, fear, tyranny may say, "Treat him as a slave"; but reason, love, justice, hope, and all in Christ Jesus, say, "Treat Him as a friend." The world is learning this. Severity, though the way to govern men, as Dr. Johnson said, is not the way to mend them, and in the school, the State, the Church, and even the mad house, they are being treated more as friends, and less as slaves. Who knows not that, even among children, not to believe is to excite to falsehood, to be always watching to be sure to prompt to go astray, and want of trust to beget unworthiness? And if it is so with children, it is still more so with men.
II. ILLUSTRATE THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SLAVERY AND FRIENDSHIP, AND SHOW THAT CHRIST TREATS US NOT AS SLAVES BUT AS FRIENDS. This is seen —
1. In the position which Christ assigns us, and the spirit which He excites within us. Being reconciled, we receive "not the spirit of bondage again to fear, but the spirit of adoption." Thus the state and the temper of slavery are both abolished. We are "joined unto the Lord" and are "one spirit" with Him. When John, king of France, lost the battle of Poictiers, though he had been beaten by a force one eighth only of his own, though he himself was taken prisioner, he was overpowered by the courtesy and chivalrous kindness of the Black Prince, his foe, "the tears burst from his eyes, and mingled with the marks of blood upon his cheeks." It is thus that God moves the heart. In seeking His high ends, He does not beget a crouching spirit, but treats us generously. And I do not know how the heart of man is to be reached in any other way, how its enmity is to be slain and its love drawn out.
2. In the nature of Christ's communications to us. "The servant knoweth not what his Lord doeth," etc. In like manner God spake of Abraham, His "friend:" "Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do?"(1) It is true of us as of them. Christ has given us information as to what He intends to do, and "the wise shall understand"; He has given us notices of His general purposes respecting the world and the Church: not a minute prophetic history, but a grand idea of the destiny of systems and of men. But we have a more glorious revelation than this. In the text Christ means the whole counsel of God's will. He had opened to them His mind and heart; and, if they saw but little, the fault was in the eye, not the object. He has entered into frank and friendly communication with us, opened His counsels, explained His objects and His methods, told us His desires and designs, and has thus given us an interest not only in what we do, but in what He does.
(2) And if this confidence is seen in what He communicates, it is seen also in what He withholds. A friend is not bound by a clear and particular direction in respect of everything; trust is reposed in him, he has to exercise his own skill and feel his own responsibility. And so, on no subject is the gospel a full rule, except as to principles. If the heart be not right, such a rule would be useless; if it be right, such a rule is unnecessary. When the heart is "ready to every good work," a hint will be enough to set all its powers in active and pleasant motion. "I will guide thee with Mine eye," says God to His people: that look of God will speak volumes to a friendly heart, and supply its own best motive to obedience.
3. In the manner in which Christ employs us. For the gospel idea of saints is that they are not merely to do His commandments, but to engage in His work, and He attaches the greatest importance to their service. He works out His gracious will on earth by the instrumentality of redeemed men; He puts His Spirit into men, and draws out their powers in grateful, cheerful labour. His object is not only to secure the effects of their service; but as a Father, though needing not His children's labour, makes a work to please and honour them. This is seen very striking in the constitution of His Church. Christian Churches are societies of friends.
4. In the extent to which Christ blesses us. No one can look at the gospel and not perceive that it deals with all that believe in the way of the greatest bountifulness. It is not meant to meet a mere necessity, but to gratify our utmost desires and hopes. Are we not treated as friends?
III. A FEW OBVIOUS THOUGHTS BY WAY OF APPLICATION. If this is Christ's friendship —
1. Let us realize and rejoice in it. He is more deeply interested in us than we are in ourselves: He wishes our welfare as we have never wished it. Why should we not therefore tell Him our perplexities, trials, gladness? Why should we not pass our life in free and familiar intercourse with Him? Friendship cannot live in an atmosphere of distrust and suspicion. "He that hath friends must show himself friendly"; and if Christ confides in us, we must confide in Him. Nothing is more important than our being frank and faithful with Him. As among men, a few honest words may prevent a world of mischief, so with Christ, long seasons of trouble and sin may be prevented by the prompt and ingenious acknowledgment of faults and doubts and difficulties.
2. Let us be worthy of it. There are men not at all remarkable for integrity or gratitude who would feel the force of this claim. The appeal to honour they would respond to, though to all other appeals they would be deaf. Christ makes His appeal to your honour. If He treats you in the way we have indicated, shall it not move you to the utmost zeal to please and glorify Him? Will you abuse His confidence, and answer His grace with gracelessness? Answer His trust with fidelity; His love with obedience. Sin in you is not mere transgression; it is ingratitude, it is sacrilege, it is treachery.
3. Let us imitate Him in our treatment of others. This is the right way, the way most in accordance with human nature. Some, perhaps many, may prove themselves unworthy of it — there was a traitor among Christ's friends — but many also will respond to it; or, if they do not, they will not respond to anything. Let it be your method in your treatment of your friends, in the education of children, in the Church.
(A. J. Morris.)
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.