By Ps Jeff O’Neil

In many respects, the Covenant of Works made with our first parents and the Covenant of Grace which we enjoy in Christ are covenants of friendship. God entered into a relationship with man in wonderfully friendly terms. Indeed, when we come to Abraham, scripture recalls three times that "He was a friend of God" (Jas 2:33). It is also recorded about Moses, "And the Lord spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend" (Ex 33: 11). And in the New Testament, we see our Lord telling His disciples, "Henceforth I call you not servants, but I have called you friends" (Jn 15:15). This is a relationship that the church in the Old Testament was familiar with, for does not the Shulamite (the church), address her heavenly Solomon as, "This is my Beloved, this is my Friend" (SS 5:6)?

If this then, is the gracious relationship that Christ bears to us, then it also must exist between Christians. There is to be a connection that is deeper than just membership. An outgoing, friendly disposition that embraces all those who are followers of our Lord, and particularly within a local congregation.

Yet, because of our different personalities and natures, we are drawn to particular people and they become what the world calls, bosom friends.That is they can be taken to one’s bosom and heart, and become especially close and dear. We have a classical example of that with Jonathan and David. There was a profound and special love that drew them into a peculiar closeness, which even eclipsed the love of a woman, for "the soul of Jonathan was knit with the spirit of David, and he loved him as his own soul" (1 Sam 18:1). There was an identity and sympathy of soul and nature that united them in love and regard. John Flavel records that it was the saying of the Ancients, "A friend is another self." A similar spirit in another body! It seems there is in these days, not only a lack of loyalty, but a lack of these strong ties, even amongst Christians. Friendship and loyalty are at a premium, even within the fellowship of the saints. And as such, there is a vacuum of experience and a solitariness and independence of existence. Yet, it is incumbent upon each one of us to be open to friendship. So, Solomon reminds us: "A man that hath friends must show himself friendly" (Prov 18:24). In one of his essays, Francis Bacon wrote, "If a man have not a friend he may quit the stage, for he cannot fitly play his own part."

Now friendship has three noble fruits:

1. Peace in Affections

Solomon wrote, "A friend loveth at all times" (Prov 17:7).

One can rely on such friendly constancy, so that there is no disturbance of the affections. There is an equilibrium of love, constant in Summer and Winter, and so generates peace. There can be a resting of thefeelings in the honesty of that love.

2. Support of the Judgment

"Ointment and perfume rejoice the heart, so doth the sweetness of a man’s friend by hearty counsel" (Prov 27:9).

The counsel of a friend is often more perceptive than our own judgment, or it can satisfyingly confirm our own decisions. And what is more, there can be the freedom to contradict and explain a better way. Such consultation and unburdening acts are as a medicine or fragrance upon the soul and its affairs.

Again, to quote Francis Bacon, "A man can but speak to his own son as a father; to his wife as a husband; to his enemy but on terms, whereas a friend may speak as the case requires." Even the rebuke of a friend should be as precious oil. "Faithful are the wounds of a friend" (Prov 27:6). A friend hones one’s graces and the mind in spiritual and temporal matters, which proves the proverb, "Iron sharpeneth iron, so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend" (Prov 27:17).

3. Aid in Action

"There is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother" (Prov 18:24).

Many see this as a reference to our Lord Jesus, and there is no doubt that it is implied. But even on the human plane of relationships, a friend can be nearer during thick and thin than a brother. Whatever the action needed to be taken, there is his support, counsel or willing substitution.

This is exampled and taught by our Lord in "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends" (Jn 15:13). Also, the wise man tells us in Proverbs 17:17, that a friend who is as a brother "is born for adversity." That is, a friend is sent into the world for the purpose of relieving his brother in adversity! A friend is one who stands alongside, helps and upholds in dark circumstances.


Scriptures would teach that it is almost a necessity to have a particular friend, and experience would confirm that. Friendships of this quality cannot be forced or engineered; they result from the working of providence. Nevertheless, the elements of friendship in the wider context of church fellowship, should not only be biblically present, but demonstrably evident. It would be a grand testimony if strangers or visitors coming into PCC, on leaving would confess, "It is such a friendly church." W