Friendship with God

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

“…and the Scripture was fulfilled that says,
‘Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness’
—and he was called a friend of God.”
James 2:23

Let us first look at James 2:23. It states that Abraham was called a friend of God. It is at the core of salvation to be able to be called a friend of God. If we were to discuss the essence of salvation, we could entertain two questions:

  1. From what are we saved?
  2. To what are we saved?

If isolated from the other, each question leads us to something other than the gospel. Hopefully, the first question is answerable. If our response is hell, then we are again only partly right. The nature of hell is that the unrelenting wrath of an omnipotent and holy God is being poured out upon its inhabitants. The second question rarely receives proper address from the pulpit or any other venue. To what are we saved? Again the location is only indicative of something else. Therefore, heaven is only the beginning of the answer. If the wrath of God is being dispensed in hell, then that points us toward the mercy and love presented in heaven. What does the mercy and love of God obtain for us in heaven?

Psalm 42:1-8
(1)As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. (2) My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God? (3) My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me continually, “Where is your God?” (4) These things I remember, as I pour out my soul: how I would go with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God with glad shouts and songs of praise, a multitude keeping festival. (5) Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation (6) and my God. My soul is cast down within me; therefore I remember you from the land of Jordan and of Hermon, from Mount Mizar. (7) Deep calls to deep at the roar of your waterfalls; all your breakers and your waves have gone over me. (8) By day the LORD commands his steadfast love, and at night his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life.

Salvation is being saved from God to God. We are saved from the wrath of God, so that we may enjoy the glory of God eternally. Eternal death will be replaced with being eternally satisfied by Him.

Therefore, I hope to show you how to determine if you are a friend of God, that you may enjoy God fully.

To deepen our understanding of what it means to be a friend of God, we will look first at four passages. There are some features that are shared by each of these accounts.

Genesis 22:11
But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here am I.”

Genesis 46:3
And God spoke to Israel in visions of the night and said, “Jacob, Jacob.” And he said, “Here am I.”

Exodus 3:4
When the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.”

1 Samuel 3:10
And the LORD came and stood, calling as at other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant hears.”

Possible Common Characteristic to Note:

  1. God is calling someone to himself.
  2. The one being called responds positively.
  3. The name that God calls out is repeated twice.

Our main focus will be on the third characteristic. “It turns out, we find, that in Semitic culture when you say somebody's name twice it is a repetition of endearment, of deep, close friendliness” (Stuart).

This helps us understand how James (and the writer of Chronicles in 2 Chronicles 20:7) knows that Abraham is a friend of God. Let us inspect Genesis 22:11. What is the background of this passage? Why is this important?

Genesis 15:1-6
(1) After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” (2) But Abram said, “O Lord GOD, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” (3) And Abram said, “Behold, you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir.” (4)And behold, the word of the LORD came to him: “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.” (5)And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” (6)And he believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness.

This is what Paul is analyzing in Romans 4:3: “For what does the Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.’” Through this passage, Paul concludes that Abraham was justified by faith apart from the works of the law.

Gen 17:1-5,15-19
(1)When Abram was ninety-nine years old the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless, (2) that I may make my covenant between me and you, and may multiply you greatly.” (3)Then Abram fell on his face. And God said to him, (4)“Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. (5)No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations….” (15)And God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. (16)I will bless her, and moreover, I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall become nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.” (17)Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed and said to himself, “Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?” (18)And Abraham said to God, “Oh that Ishmael might live before you!” (19)God said, “No, but Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him.

Genesis 22:1-12
(1)After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, "Abraham!" And he said, “Here am I.” (2) He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” (3)So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac. And he cut the wood for the burnt offering and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. (4)On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place from afar. (5) Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you.” (6) And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son. And he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So they went both of them together. (7) And Isaac said to his father Abraham, “My father!” And he said, “Here am I, my son.” He said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” (8) Abraham said, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So they went both of them together. (9) When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built the altar there and laid the wood in order and bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. (10) Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son. (11) But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here am I.” (12)He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.”

This is what James is analyzing in James 2:20-24. Let us look specifically at these verses:
(20)Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? (21)Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? (22)You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; (23)and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. (24)You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.

As Chris discussed last week, we see that faith, saving (and therefore justifying) faith, is accompanied by works. We are justified by faith alone, but the faith that saves is not alone. Faith begets works. Now, in James 2:23, we see that Abraham was called a friend of God. Where would such a title ever be implied in Genesis? Look again at Genesis 22:11. “Abraham, Abraham!”

What James is warning of is a person who calls himself or herself a Christian, but their faith is not working through love (cf. Galatians 5:6). There are many preachers that discuss the ability of a person to be “born again.” However, after simplifying this doctrine of regeneration to a mere decision, they leave their “convert” with no discipleship. At the root of the word discipleship, we see discipline. This etymology is often mentioned, but it is rarely explained. What does it mean to be disciplined? In essence, it means that you have been taught something and are now subject to that instruction. That makes sense, right? No…not completely. It is an incomplete definition with regard to Christianity. As a Christian, to whom are you subject? Christ! Therefore, the commands of Christ are your passion, they govern your life.

Let us now look at Matthew 7:21-23:
(21)“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. (22)On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ (23) And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”

There will be people that have been so deceived their whole lives that when before God, they will think themselves friends of the Lord. However, they have lived in such a way that they have no regard for the commands of the Lord. This Lord is no lord of them. The consequence is that He has no knowledge of them. They cannot be called friends of God, and that is damnable.

James 4:4
You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

Mark 15:33-34
(33)And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. (34)And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Do you want to be a friend of God? Being a disciple of Christ is a necessary condition for being a friend of God.

Matthew 16:24-25
(24)Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. (25) For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”