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The Friends

J. T. Mawson

Underline in your Bibles each occasion in the Gospel of John on which the Lord Jesus uses the first personal possessive pronoun. You will find pleasure and soul edification as you hear Him saying “My Father,” “My Father’s house,” “My word,” “My name,” “My joy,” “My peace,” “My glory.” It will move your heart as you keep in company with Him and listen to Him as He speaks of these, His priceless treasures. You will be glad to realize that even in His poverty in this world, and in the midst of sorrow and rejection, He was still infinitely rich in these things that were His outside the world.

But what a revelation of His love it is when He shows us that He does but disclose these things that we may enjoy them with Him, that He opens the doors of His treasure house and invites us to enter in, saying, All that is Mine is yours, all that My Father has given to Me, I share with you. And with this purpose of love in view He enfolds us in that same blessed possessive pronoun, for He says of us, “My sheep,” “My brethren.”

Lay the emphasis upon this word that the Lord uses; do not let us trouble for the moment as to what sheep or brethren mean, but let us rejoice in the fact that He has said we are His, and that being His means that no power can separate us from the love that possesses us, and that love will keep back nothing from us that it enjoys.

No effort of ours could put us into these relationships in which we stand with the Lord, and out of them we can never be cast. Once His sheep, always His sheep; for He has said, “They shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand.” Once His brethren, always His brethren; for this is a heavenly relationship in which we stand by the grace of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, and no power on earth or in hell can overturn that which is established by the grace of the triune God. It would give pleasure to God if we enjoyed these relationships more, but our enjoyment of them or our indifference to them neither strengthens them nor weakens them; they abide eternally.

But in this same gospel He speaks of His friends, “Ye are My friends” (15:14). And what shall we say of this? Is this true of all who are His sheep and His brethren? Is it true of you and me? It may be true of us, but if it is to be so we must fulfil the conditions of friendship. What is a friend? Is he not one to whom you can confide your secrets, one whom you can trust? One who knowing your innermost thoughts and most cherished hopes will not play you false, but labour in his love for you? Such a friend to us has our Lord Jesus been. We have ever been able to trust in Him; and the darkest moments of our lives when we were the most distressed and forlorn were the very occasions when His true friendship declared itself most fully. He is the friend that “loveth at all times,” the “friend that sticketh,” yes, “that sticketh closer than a brother.” But can He say this of us? What He does say is, “Ye are My friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.”

It is love to Him that will make us cherish and carry out His commands, as He had already said to His disciples in this same intimate talk with them, “He that hath My commandments and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me” (14:21). And we must learn that our love to Him can only be constant and true as we rest in His love to us and enjoy it.

There are two men, often mentioned together, who may illustrate how we may fail and how be true in our friendship to our Lord. PETER wished to be the friend of Jesus. He felt that no one loved the Master as he did, for he was fearless and bold and would go to prison and death on His behalf. Thus he boasted, but when the testing hour came he denied that he ever knew Him, with oaths and curses. It was self-confidence that brought about his disgrace. Peter did not question the love of the Lord to him, but what was chiefly in his thoughts was his love to the Lord, and he could not be a true friend of Jesus on such a basis as that.

JOHN leaned his head on the Lord’s bosom. He did not say, Lord, Thou mayest trust in me, and lean upon my love to Thee, but, I will trust in Thee, and lean upon Thy love to me; so he calls himself “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” See the result—“Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple standing by, whom He loved, He saith unto His mother, Woman, behold thy son! Then saith He to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home” (19:25-27). Here was a man, whom the Lord could entrust with a precious legacy. He was His friend in that hour.

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” (15:15). So the Lord said to His disciples, and at the coming of the Holy Spirit they proved true to the trust. And so may we, but what a wonderful intimacy with Him is this unto which He calls us! We may be His confidants, admitted to the knowledge of all that His Father has told Him! Can He trust us thus?

It is certain that in this day there is an almost universal betrayal of His truth in Christendom; then this is the day for His friends to stand forth and stand together in love to one another and in faithfulness to Him.

It is of very deep interest that in one of the very last of the inspired Epistles, probably the last of all, in which John has to speak of the assembly as the scene of tyranny and strife, he speaks of those who were true as THE FRIENDS. “Our friends salute thee. Greet the friends by name.” They were evidently not numerous, but they were all known by name. They were keeping the Lord’s commands, and upon them was put this signal honour, they were designated “friends.”

How richly will all those things, of which we have spoken at the beginning of this paper, be enjoyed by us if we are our Lord’s friends. They are our inside portion, and the knowledge of them will give strength to us for the outside place where our friendship to Him is sure to be tested.

The call today is for friends, such as the Lord described in His last talk with His disciples before He proved the greatness of His love to them, and such as John refers to in his last Epistle—those who in these days of treachery and indifference to Christ will keep His commands, cherish His word, and not deny His Name. That He might have us for His friends He has shown Himself to be friendly; for “greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down His life for His friends.” This He has done that we might be His friends as long as He has need of friends to maintain His cause, and be true to His Name in this world.