Abraham is the only person in the Old Testament who is called the friend of God. The Lord used to speak to Moses as a man speaks to his friend (Exodus 33:11). But Moses is never called God’s friend. So what sets Abraham apart from the rest of God’s servants?
That’s what I wanted to find out. The answer came from an unsuspecting text in the book of James.
“Wasn’t Abraham our father justified by works in offering Isaac his son on the altar? You see that faith was active together with his works, and by works, faith was made complete, and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness, and he was called God’s friend.” (James 2:21–23, emphasis added)
James is giving an argument for the case that there is no such thing as a faith that is devoid of works. True faith – if it is of the saving kind, produces something. It causes something. He then gives the example of Abraham offering up Isaac, quoting Genesis 15:6. And James adds, “and he was called God’s friend.”
Now why did James insert that? What does that have to do with anything? It is not at all related to his argument about faith and works.
Or is it?
Let’s have a think about this. Where do we find Abraham offering up Isaac? In Genesis chapter 22. If you are unfamiliar with the story you might get a little lost so let fill you in. God calls a man called Abraham from his country and makes a covenant with him and says to him, “Abraham, leave your home and go to the land that I show you. I’m going to bless you, I’m going to make you a great nation and all the peoples of the world are going to be blessed through you” (Genesis 12:1-3). And Abraham believed. He took God at his Word. And he obeyed.
Abraham’s faith is then tested in progressive stages. Each time he is tested, his faith grows. But now here comes the biggest test: God asks him to offer up his son Isaac. You can imagine Abraham’s response: “What – you want me to offer up Isaac – my only son? You want me to sacrifice him?”
Isaac is the son of promise. That means Isaac is the only means by which the promises God made to Abraham (and by extension to us) can be fulfilled. If Isaac dies without children, there is no hope for the rest of humanity because it is through Isaac that the Messiah would come.
But that’s not James’ focus. Why was he called God’s friend? Because of what his faith accomplished. Because of what his faith proved. God had already pronounced Abraham righteous by his faith (Genesis 15:6). But now, under the severest test, how will that faith stand? God is asking,
“Is your faith real Abraham? Do you really trust me? Are you willing to obey me, even when it makes no sense? Do you believe I will keep my word that Isaac is the one through whom the promises will come?”
And Abraham says, “Yes God, I do”
Hebrews chapter 11 fills in the gaps for it says, “He considered God to be able even to raise someone from the dead.” (Hebrews 11:19). And so there he is with knife upraised, his love for God driving him to surrender even that which is most precious to him; God intervenes and says, “Stop, you don’t have to.” This is why, based on this supreme act of love and obedience, Abraham is called God’s friend.
Proving we are God’s friends
So what does all that have to do with us? Much indeed! For in John 15 Jesus said this to his disciples:
“You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.” (John 15:14–15)
Just as Abraham proved his trust in God was real by obeying God’s command in the most difficult of tasks, namely sacrificing his only son (which, by the way, he didn’t have to do but God later would with his own son), so we too prove our trust in Jesus when obey his commands.
- Jesus commands us to forgive those that sin against us. Someone does something that hurts you; they sin against you. You say, “Jesus, this person has wounded me and deeply hurt me. I don’t want to forgive them. But because you showed how much you love me by laying down your life for me, then I’ll do it Jesus – I will forgive.”
- The Bible commands us to abstain from sexual sin. You are attracted to someone of the opposite sex (or for that matter, someone of the same sex). Maybe you’re already in a relationship – one that might not be pleasing to God. You’re doing stuff you know you shouldn’t. If Jesus was telling you to stop, would you? This is where it gets real doesn’t it? This is when our faith gets tested. So, what do you do? You say, “Lord Jesus, I’m having difficulty here. I’m finding this hard. I have desires which I’m finding difficult to control. But because you’re asking me to do this, I will. Because you Jesus, mean more to me than anything.”
- Jesus commands you to take the good news to the lost. You say, “I’m no good at that. I find that too hard.” Well guess what? I find it hard also. But my response is, “Because of my love for you Jesus; because you’re my friend, and because you did the hard thing for me, the least I can do is do this for you. I’ll go and I’ll tell people about you.”
So let me ask you now in closing, would Jesus call you his friend? Do you demonstrate self-sacrificial love toward others, not just those closest to you – not just your friends, but those different from you? Does he see you obeying his commands – willingly, gladly out of love for him? Does he see fruit in your life – things that give evidence that you truly do belong to him and his Spirit lives in you?
You may able to say without hesitation, “Yes, I know I am a friend of Jesus. I don’t obey him perfectly, but I do obey. I know he died for me on that cross. His love for me has changed me. So yes, I can say he is my friend.”
Perhaps you aren’t able to say that. You’re not there yet. Or you thought you were there, but after reading this, you know you’re not. Your life does not give evidence that you are Jesus’ friend. There are too many inconsistencies.
Do you want to change that? You can. But you’ve first got to come clean with him. You need to get honest with him. And you need to be willing to turn from things you know are wrong and allow him to come into your life as Saviour and King and change your heart so that you can do what is right.
Then you, like Abraham, could be called a friend of God.
 2 Chronicles 20:7, Isaiah 41:8