What does it profit, my brothers, though a man say he has faith, and have not works? can faith save him?…
Abraham was called the Friend of God because he was so. The title only declares a fact. The Father of the faithful was beyond all men "the Friend of God," and the head of that chosen race of believers whom Jesus calls His friends. James says not only that this was Abraham's name, but that he was called by it. Among the Jewish people Abraham was frequently spoken of as "the Friend of Goal." At this present moment, among the Arabs and other Mahommedans, the name of Abraham is not often mentioned, but they speak of him as Khalil Allah, or the "Friend of God," or more briefly as of Khalil, "the Friend." It is a noble title, not to be equalled by all the names of greatness which have been bestowed by princes, even if they should all meet in one. Patents of nobility are mere vanity when laid side by side with this transcendent honour. I think I hear you say, "Yes, it was indeed a high degree to which Abraham reached: so high that we cannot attain unto it." We also may be called friends of God. Jesus Himself invites us to live and act, and be His friends. Surely, none of us will neglect any gracious attainment which lies within the region of the possible. None of us will be content with a scanty measure of grace, when we may have life more abundantly. The other day there lauded on the shores of France a boatful of people sodden with rain and salt-water; they had lost all their luggage, and had nothing but what they stood upright in: they were glad, indeed, to have been saved from a wreck. It was well that they landed at all; but when it is my lot again to cross to France, I trust I shall put my foot on shore in a better plight than that. I would prefer to cross the Channel in comfort, and land with pleasure. There is all this difference between being "saved so as by fire," and having "an abundant entrance ministered unto us "into the kingdom. Let us enjoy heaven on the road to heaven. Why not? Aspire after the best gifts. Grow in grace. Increase in love to God, and in nearness of access to Him, that the Lord may at this good hour stoop down to us as our great Friend, and then lift us up to be known as His friends.
I. Look at the name, "Friend of God," and regard it as A TITLE TO BE WONDERED AT.
1. Admire and adore the condescending God who thus speaks of a man like ourselves, and calls him His friend. The heavens are not pure in His sight, and He charged His angels with folly, and yet He takes a man and sets him apart to be His friend. In this case the august Friend displays His pure love, since He has nothing to gain. You and I need friendship: we cannot always lead a self-contained and solitary life; we are refreshed by the companionship, sympathy, and advice of a like-minded comrade. No such necessity can be supposed of the All-sufficient God. We know how sweet it is to mingle the current of our life with that of some choice bosom friend. Can God have a friend? It cannot be that He is solitary: He is within Himself a whole, not only of unity, but of tri-personality — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit — and herein is fellowship enough. Yet, behold, in infinite condescension the Lord deigns to seek the acquaintance of His own creature, the love of man, the friendship of Abraham. Friendship cannot be all on one side. In this particular instance it is intended that we should know that while God was Abraham's Friend, this was not all; but Abraham was God's friend. He received and returned the friendship of God. Friendship creates a measure of equality between the persons concerned. When we say of two men that they are friends, we put them down in the same list; but what condescension on the Lord's part to be on terms of friendship with a man! Again, I say, no nobility is comparable to this. Parmenio was a great general, but all his fame in that direction is forgotten in the fact that he was known as the friend of Alexander. He had a great love for Alexander as a man, whereas others only cared for him as a conqueror and a monarch; and Alexander, perceiving this, placed great reliance upon Parmenio. Abraham loved God for God's sake, and followed Him fully, and so the Lord made him His confidant, and found pleasure in manifesting Himself to him, and in trusting to him His sacred oracles. O Lord, how excellent is Thy lovingkindness, that Thou shouldest make a man Thy friend!
2. I want you also to note the singular excellence of Abraham. How could he have been God's friend had not grace wrought wonderfully in him? A man is known through his friends: you cannot help judging a person by his companions. Was it not a great venture for God to call any man His friend? for we are led to judge the character of God by the character of the man whom He selects to be His friend. Yes; and, though a man with like passions with us, and subject to weaknesses which the Holy Spirit has not hesitated to record, yet Abraham was a singularly admirable character. The Spirit of God produced in him a deep sincerity, a firm principle, and a noble bearing.
3. Follow me while I note some of the points in which this Divine friendship showed itself.
(1) The Lord often visited Abraham (Genesis 15:11 17:1; 18:1, etc.).
(2) In consequence of these visits of friendship paid to Abraham, secrets were disclosed (Genesis 15:13-16; Genesis 17:16-21; Genesis 18:17-19). Abraham, on his part, had no secrets, but laid bare his heart to the inspection of his Divine Friend. Visits were received, and secrets were made known, and thus friendship grew.
(3) More than that, compacts were entered into. On certain grand occasions we read: "The Lord made a covenant with Abram." Once with solemn sacrifice a light passed between the divided portions of the victims. At another time it is written that God sware by Himself, saying, "Surely, blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thee." The two friends grasped hands, and pledged their troth.
(4) This friendship resulted in the bestowal of innumerable benefits. The life of Abraham was rich with mercies. He was singularly favoured in all things to which he set his hand. The Lord is a Friend who can never know a limit in blessing His friends. Having loved His own He loves them to the end. To Abraham through-the grace of his Divine Friend difficulties were blessings, trials were blessings, and the sharpest test of all was the most ennobling blessing.
(5) Since Abraham was God's friend, God accepted his pleadings, and was moved by his influence. Friends ever have an ear for friends. When Abraham pleaded with God for Sodom, the Lord patiently hearkened to his renewed pleadings. Lot was rescued, and Zoar was spared, in answer to that prayer; just as Ishmael had been endowed with earthly blessings in response to the pleading, "O that Ishmael might live before Thee!" and just as the household of Abimelech had been healed in answer to Abraham's supplication.
(6) There was also between these friends a mutual love and delight. Abraham rejoiced in Jehovah! He was his shield, and his exceeding great reward, and the Lord Himself delighted to commune with Abraham.
(7) Observe, too, that this friendship was maintained with great constancy. The Lord never forsook Abraham: even when the patriarch erred, the Lord remembered and rescued him. He did not cast him off in old age. Constancy is also seen on the human side of this renowned friendship: Abraham did not turn aside to worship any false God.
(8) More than that, the Lord kept His friendship to Abraham by favouring his posterity. The Lord styled Israel, even rebellious Israel, "The seed of Abraham My friend" (Isaiah 41:8).
II. Now notice THE TITLE VINDICATED. Abraham was the Friend of God in a truthful sense. There was great propriety and fulness of meaning in the name as applied to him.
1. Abraham's trust in God was implicit. Bathing his forehead in the sunlight of Jehovah's love he dwelt beyond all questions and mistrusts. Oh, happy man, to know no scepticisms, but heroically to believe! He was a perfect child towards God, and therefore a complete man.
2. Next, there was joined to this implicit trust a practical confidence as to the accomplishment of everything that God had promised. Faith is to credit contradictions, and to believe impossibilities, when Jehovah's word is to the front. If you and I can do this, then we can enter into friendship with God, but not else; for distrust is the death of friendship.
3. Next to this, Abraham's obedience to God was unquestioning. Whatever God bade him do, he did it promptly and thoroughly. He was God's servant and yet His friend; therefore he obeyed as seeing Him that is invisible, and trusting Him whom he could not understand.
4. Abraham's desire for God's glory was uppermost at all times. He did not what others would have done, because he feared the Lord. He did not want that a petty princeling, or indeed anybody, should boast of enriching Abraham: he trusted solely in his God, and though he had a perfect right to have taken the spoils of war which were his by capture, yet he would not touch them lest the name of his God should be in the least dishonoured (Genesis 14:22-24).
5. Abraham's communion with God was constant. Oh, happy man, that dwelt on high while men were grovelling at his feet! Oh, that you and I may be cleansed to such a pure, holy, and noble life that we, too, may be rightly called the Friends of God!
III. Regard this name as THE TITLE TO BE SOUGHT AFTER. Oh, that we may get to ourselves this good degree, this diploma, as "Friend of God"! Do you wish to be a friend of God?
1. Well, then, you must be fully reconciled to Him. Love must be created in your heart; gratitude must beget attachment, and attachment must cause delight. You must rejoice in the Lord, and maintain close intercourse with Him.
2. To be friends, we must exercise a mutual choice: the God who has chosen you must be chosen by you. Most deliberately, heartily, resolutely, undividedly, you must choose God to be your God and your Friend. But you have not gone far enough yet.
3. If we are to be the friends of God, there must be a conformity of heart, and will, and design, and character to God. Can two walk together except they be agreed? Our lives must, in the main, run in parallel lines with the life of the gracious, holy, and loving God, or else we shall be walking contrary to Him, and He will walk contrary to us.
4. If we have got as far as that, then the next thing will surely follow — there must be a continual intercourse. The friend of God must not spend a day without God, and he must undertake no work apart from his God.
5. If we are to be the friends of God we must be co-partners with Him. He gives over to us all that He has; and friendship with God will necessitate that we give to Him all that we have.
6. Friendship, if it exists, will breed mutual delight. The Lord taketh pleasure in them that fear Him. I am sure if we are God's friends our greatest joy is to draw near to God, even to God our exceeding joy.
IV. THE TITLE TO BE UTILISED for practical purposes.
1. Here is a great encouragement to the people of God. See the possibility that lies within your reach — make it a reality at once.
2. Next, here is solemn thought for those who would be friends of God. A man's friend must show himself friendly, and behave with tender care for his friend. A little word from a friend will pain you much more than a fierce slander from an enemy.
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
Parallel VersesKJV: What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?