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Sermon #17 — James Series
Title: “The Friend of God”
Text: James 2:23
Subject: Being God’s Friend
Date: Tuesday Evening — June 30, 2015
Readings: Bobbie Estes and Merle Hart
My text gives us one of the most blessed titles by which a man could ever be called. We are told by the Apostle James, in James 2:23, that Abraham, “was called the friend of God.” There are many, many things that could and should be said concerning the patriarch Abraham, but nothing in Abraham’s history is more honoring than this. — “He was called the friend of God.” This is my title and my subject for tonight’s message — “THE FRIEND OF GOD.” — “The Friend of God” (James 2:23).
(James 2:23) And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.
Abraham was called the friend of God because he was just that — “The Friend of God.”. The title simply declares a fact. The father of the faithful was “The friend of God.” He was at the head of that chosen race of men whom our Lord calls his friends.
In our text, James not only tells us that this was Abraham’s title, but that he was called by it. — Abraham “was called the friend of God.” This name does not occur in his life as it is recorded in the Book of Genesis. But we find it written twice in the Old Testament. Abraham was twice called “the friend of God.”
· In 2 Chronicles 20:7 we hear Jehoshaphat using this as an argument in prayer, a reason why God should defend his people, Israel. — “Art not thou our God, who didst drive out the inhabitants of this land before thy people Israel, and gavest it to the seed of Abraham thy friend forever?”
· And in Isaiah 41:8-10, the Lord God himself uses this fact as a reason why he will always, in all circumstances defend, protect, and deliver his people. — “Thou Israel art my servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham my friend.”
(Isaiah 41:9-10) Thou whom I have taken from the ends of the earth, and called thee from the chief men thereof, and said unto thee, Thou art my servant; I have chosen thee, and not cast thee away. (10) Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.
This is a noble title. — “The Friend of God” It is not equaled by all the names of greatness bestowed upon men by kings, princes, and presidents, even if they should all meet in one.
You might think, “Yes, it is indeed a great title by which Abraham was called, too great for us to have. It would be a vain dream for us to think of being called the friends of God.” But that is not so. Turn to the 15th chapter of John’s Gospel, and you will see that our Lord Jesus, God our Savior, still calls sinners like you and me his friends.
(John 15:13-15) Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. (14) Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. (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.
Proposition: It is the high honor and great privilege of every saved sinner to be called “the friend of God.”
Divisions: I want to say four things about this title which was given to Abraham by his God — “The Friend of God.” I pray that God the Holy Spirit will enable me to speak powerfully and clearly, so that each of you will be made like our father Abraham “the friend of God.”
1. This is a title which causes us wonder.
2. This is the proper title for a man like Abraham.
3. This is a title you ought to seek.
4. This is a title that should be put to practical use.
Title of Wonder
To begin, this is a title which causes us wonder — “The Friend of God.” — It is a great and royal dignity for a man to be called the servant of God. What an august title it is for men such as we are to be called the messengers of God, the prophets of God, the ambassadors of God. Realizing the great dignity that is placed upon us to be allowed to be the servants of the great King, we are compelled to cry, “Who is sufficient for these things!” But Abraham was “called the friend of God!” There is only one title in all the earth that might be considered more honorable, and that is this: — God’s saints are called the sons of God.
(1 John 3:1-3) Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. (2) Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. (3) And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.
But there are honors to be seen in this term “friend” that are not found even in the term “son.” If ever a sinner is made to be, as Abraham was, “the friend of God,” he should never cease to be in utter wonder! If ever any of Adam’s fallen race is made the friend of God, it must be because God has revealed himself as the Friend of sinners in Jesus Christ his Son.
Here are three things in this title that fill me with wonder, when I think about the heathen idolater of Ur being called “the friend of God.” But my wonder is magnified a thousand fold when I think that Don Fortner has been made “the friend of God!”
1st — Like all other men, Abraham was an enemy to God by nature.
· He had broken God’s law.
· He had worshipped and served other gods.
· He had no desire for God.
(Romans 8:7) Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.
2nd — But the Lord God reveals himself as the Friend of sinners in Jesus Christ the Lord. It is true God hates sin. He will by no means clear the guilty. He is angry with the wicked every day. But in everlasting covenant of grace, God resolved upon and decreed a means whereby he could be reconciled to sinners and sinners reconciled to him. Through the mediation of his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, God is the sinner’s Friend!
Once I heard Bro. Scott Richardson make these two very profound statements. It would be wise for us to remember them.
1. “God will not be spoken to, nor will he speak favorably to any man, except through a Mediator.”
2. “God must do something for himself before he can do anything for you.”
And that which God did for himself from eternity is this: — He provided himself a Lamb in the person of his dear Son; and by the sacrifice of his Son, “the Lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world,” the Lord God reconciled his elect to himself, even before we went astray in our father Adam. Mark it down, my friends, God was reconciled to his people and accepted us as one in and with his Son, Christ Jesus, before the world began. Otherwise, Adam would have been swept off into hell and the human race would have forever perished with him, as soon as he sinned.
God provided us with Christ our Substitute, as “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” — He knew how shamefully we would sin, even before he created us; but like a great friend he provided us with all his great salvation. He has “saved us and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus, before the world began” (2 Timothy 1:9).
Before the world was, God set up and accepted Christ his Son as the Friend of sinners and accepted us as his friends in his Son (Ephesians 1:3-7).
· We were accepted in his heart.
· We were accepted in his hand.
· We were accepted in his book.
(Ephesians 1:3-7) Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: (4) According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: (5) Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, (6) To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. (7) In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.
When the Lord Jesus Christ came into this world, he revealed himself as the friend of Publicans and sinners. Kindness is the very essence of true friendship. Money, advice, and help lose half their power and value if they are not given in a loving manner. Jesus Christ revealed himself as the friend of sinners in a most loving way. His is a love that passes knowledge. He showed his love for sinners in the way he treated them upon the earth.
· He tenderly instructed the harlot at Jacob’s well.
· He lovingly forgave the woman taken in adultery.
· He graciously interceded for the dying thief.
Our Lord showed his love for sinners by the things that he suffered and died in our place and for our sake (John 15:13). — O sinner, hear me! — The love of Christ as the Friend of sinners radiates in the way he receives us.
· He comes to sinners when they need him most, though they seek him not.
· He refuses none who come to him for mercy.
· There are no bounds to his pity and no ends to his compassion. — “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and he that cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37).
How often my heart swells with joy, as I behold the love of Christ radiating toward me, in the way he deals with sinners after they believe.
· He is patient with our sins.
· His ear is open to our cries.
· He is our escape in the time of temptation.
· He feels our sorrows.
· He reveals his secrets to us. — “I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you” (John 15:15).
· He comes to us in every dark night, across every stormy sea, and speaks peace! — “It is I, be not afraid!”
I tell you that there is no love on earth to be compared with the love of Christ — The Friend of sinners.
· He loves us at all times.
· He loved us before the world was.
· He loved us when we fell in Adam.
· He loved us when we hated him.
· He loved us when we were helpless.
· There was no reason for his love, other than his own infinite goodness.
· He loves us perfectly.
· He loves us freely.
· He loves us forever.
Before Abraham was called the friend of God, God was the Friend of Abraham. And before any sinner ever becomes one of God’s friends, one who loves him, you may be sure that God loved him as a Friend. — “We love him because he first loved us.” — “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you.” Here is a great cause of wonder: — God, in Christ, is the Friend of sinners!
3rd — But our text speaks of a third, perhaps even greater wonder. — The holy Lord God condescends to make a sinful man like ourselves his friend! — “Abraham was called the friend of God.” — What grace! What mercy! What love! In his sight the heavens are not pure. He charges his angels with folly. But he calls a man, a fallen man, a sinful man, his friend! — “What is man that thou art mindful of him? Or the Son of Man that thou visitest him?” Who among our sinful race can be worthy of this title? Who can attain to the friendship of Jehovah? Of this we are certain, only the grace of God himself can make friends for God out of sinful worms like us! Man can be taken into the friendship of God only as a very gracious act, because God does not need any friend outside his own blessed Person.
· Friendship is companionship, and there is an eternal companionship in the Persons of the Godhead.
· Friendship brings joy, but God is full of joy in himself.
So the need of friends did not exist in God. Yet, Jehovah seeks the acquaintance of his own creature, the love of a man, the friendship of Abraham.
Friendship must be a two sided affair. Our text shows us that while God was Abraham’s friend, Abraham was also God’s friend.
· God chose Abraham; and Abraham chose God.
· God gave Abraham his heart; and Abraham gave God his heart.
· God spoke to Abraham; and Abraham spoke to God.
· God sought Abraham’s good; and Abraham sought God’s glory.
Hear the Lord God as he speaks by his prophet, Amos.
(Amos 3:3) Can two walk together, except they be agreed?
With those words our God declares that Abraham could never have been God’s friend, and God could never have been Abraham’s Friend, except God find in Abraham that which is altogether agreeable to himself, “holiness without which no man shall see the Lord!”
· Perfect Righteousness!
· Complete Atonement!
· A New Nature!
Let me show you some points at which this Divine friendship revealed itself. Friends are sure to spend as much time as possible together, and we frequently read that “the Lord visited Abraham.” Abraham was honored above all other men upon the earth to entertain God himself. And Abraham often came to meet the Lord in worship. We read, “And Abraham gat up early in the morning to the place where he stood before the Lord” (Genesis 19:27).
Friends share the secrets of their hearts with one another. And so it was with God and Abraham.
· God revealed his secrets and purposes to his friend Abraham. “And the Lord said, shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do?” (Genesis 18:7).
· God showed Abraham how he would ultimately destroy the Canaanites in the land.
· God revealed to Abraham the birth of Isaac.
· God told Abraham how that he would bless his future generations.
· The Lord told Abraham about the coming judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah.
· The Lord revealed to Abraham his purpose of redemption and grace in the salvation of his elect among the Gentiles — “The Israel of God.”
On Abraham’s part, he had no secrets, but laid his heart open before his Almighty Friend (Genesis 18). Since Abraham was the friend of God, God accepted his pleadings.
· Friends listen to one another; and when Abraham prayed for Sodom, he was heard.
· He prayed that Ishmael might live; and he lived.
· He prayed that Abimelech might be healed; and he was healed.
Between these friends, there was a mutual love and delight. What a title of wonder this is for God to give to any child of Adam — “The Friend of God!”
A Proper Title
But, second, I want you to see that this was the proper title for this man Abraham. Abraham was truly the friend of God. In many ways this title was vindicated in his life. Abraham had implicit faith in God. — “He believed God, and it was imputed to him for righteousness.”
Abraham believed the revelation that God had made of himself. — “He that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is the Rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”
Abraham had a firm faith in God’s Substitute, and that his blood was the only means of atonement.
· He knew that the Substitute would be both God and man.
· He believed that he would suffer and die in the place of sinners.
· He believed that he would rise from the dead.
Abraham placed all confidence in the promise and Word of God. Though he sometimes employed a fleshly method to try to help God accomplish his promise, he never showed any doubt that the promise would come.
Under his many trials, Abraham was submissive and obedient to God’s will. With Abraham, Jehovah’s will was law.
· His obedience was prompt and unhesitating.
· His obedience was submissive and willful.
· His obedience was unquestioning.
· Abraham showed great determination and perseverance in his obedience to God.
When we read the life of Abraham, we are not greatly surprised to see him called the friend of God, for it is everywhere evident that he was a man who loved God supremely. He would not allow anything or anyone to stand between him and his God and Savior.
It seems obvious to me that the foremost thing in Abraham’s life was the glory of God.
· For the glory of God, he left his father’s house.
· For the glory of God, he gave Lot the choice land near Sodom.
· He glorified the name of God in the defeat of the allied kings who plundered the plains.
· He gave glory to God, paying tithes to Melchizedek.
· He refused the spoils offered to him by the king of Sodom, for the glory of God.
· It was for God’s glory that Abraham dismissed Ishmael and Hagar from his house.
· Abraham offered up Isaac at God’s bidding, for the glory of his name.
Abraham was called the friend of God, because he placed all his hope in Jehovah-Jireh.
· His hope was in the fact that God saw him. At all times Jehovah watched over his servant. This gave him peace.
· His hope was in God’s provision. — The Provided Substitute — The Provided Mercy — The Provided Faithfulness — The Provided Pardon.
· His hope was that he would see God.
To Be Sought
Third, let me show you that this is a title you ought to seek. — “The Friend of God.” This is the only title on earth worthy to be sought. Oh that you and I may be found the friends of God! Do you wish to be the friend of God?
If you would be God’s friend, you must be reconciled to him. By nature, you are God’s enemy. You are opposed to God’s law, opposed to his righteousness, and opposed to him being God and having rule over you. In short, you are by nature a child of wrath, an alien from the household of faith, stranger to the covenant promise, without hope, without God, without Christ, without life!
Oh sinner, I stand before you as God’s messenger; and I pray you in Christ’s stead, be reconciled to God! Lay down your arms of warfare against the Almighty. Come to Christ. It is only in Christ that sinners are reconciled to God.
· We must be pardoned through his blood.
· We must be justified by his righteousness.
· We must be born again by his Spirit.
· Conquered by his grace!
Here is a blessed thought — All believers are the friends of God. Our Lord says, “I call you no more servants but friends.” If we are God’s friends, there is a mutual conformity of heart, will, design, and character to God. — “How can two walk together except they be agreed?”
· God friends delight in his holiness.
· God’s friends are careful to obey him.
· God’s friends rejoice in his purpose.
· God’s friends delight in his Gospel, the Gospel of his dear Son.
If we are the friends of God, we seek him continually.
· Friends enjoy one another’s other’s company.
· We abide in him by faith.
· We walk with him.
· As the friends of God, he has given all to us and we give all to him. His cause is our cause. His work is our work.
With friends there is always a mutual delight.
· I cannot explain it, but here is great grace indeed: — God delights in such things as we are for Christ’s sake.
· And, if you and I are God’s friends, then God in Christ is the greatest joy of our hearts. — We rejoice in him. — We rejoice in his works. — We rejoice in his Word. — We rejoice in his ways. Our hearts rejoice exceedingly in every revelation of our great Friend. — We rejoice in his salvation!
I must finish, but I want to show you one last thing. — This is a title that we should use in a practical way. — “The Friend of God.”
Here is a great encouragement for the people of God. Are we the friends of God? Then what great things must lie before us!
· We shall yet have greater revelations of our Friend.
· He will be faithful to us.
· He will give us his glory. — Bro. Loel Rogers
· God will give us his fulness!
I must conclude with just a few words of application. — I recommend Christ my friend to your souls. “This is my Beloved, this is my Friend.” Oh, may God make him yours!
· He is a powerful Friend.
· He is a faithful Friend.
· He is a present Friend.
· Christ is the Friend you need.
If you live and die as the friend of God, there will be an eternal friendship between you and God. If you live and die as God’s enemy, there must be an eternal enmity between you and God.
· Christ will reward his friends with his goodness eternally.
· He will crush his enemies in his wrath eternally.
· Oh, may God make you his friend, for Christ’s sake!