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You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.
– John 15: 14, 15 –
THE END of Jesus’ earthly ministry was come. During those three-and-a-half years He had taught truths which served to test His followers, but which proved to be a cause of stumbling to many – truths which had brought the opposition of the orthodox Jewish church. Even some of His followers had said: ‘This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?’ – and left Him (John 6: 66).
But now this work of separation was over. Even Judas had gone out, and Jesus and the Eleven were alone. He had been telling them some things regarding their high privileges, their new relationship with God to be realised after His death, and about the great changes they would experience after He would ascend to the Father, when His work of redemption would be recognized as complete, accepted as perfect by His Father. Then would come power from on high – the spirit which would bestow on them the ability to understand heavenly things.
The Apostles had not yet received the full anointing of the holy spirit, though they were justified by faith. As they were still justified human beings, and not yet begotten new creatures, Jesus’ teachings contain little reference to the deeper truths, except in parables. He explained little concerning the heavenly calling of the Church, and told them that He had many things to say to them which they were not yet able to grasp. But when the spirit of truth would be given, they would be guided into all truth (John 16: 13). This corroborates St. Paul’s statement: ‘The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned’ (1 Corinthians 2: 14). So the Apostles – and all who would become partakers of the heavenly calling – though already justified by faith – would need to be first begotten of the spirit in order to comprehend spiritual things (John 3: 3; strictly speaking, not born, as here; the spirit birth comes at the resurrection).
After telling them of the future unfolding of truth, Jesus explains why His revelations are for them – because He will henceforth treat them as friends and reveal all things to them. There are two important lessons conveyed in these words of the Master, applicable to all justified believers.
Firstly, the rule by which He determines who are His friends: ‘You are my friends, if you do what I command’. If we submit our wills completely to His will, thus becoming and continuing to be dead to the world and alive toward God, then He regards us as His friends.
Secondly, the rule by which we may judge whether He reckons us among this class of special friends; that is, if He reveals His work and plans to us.
His friends thus include all who have consecrated their lives to God. If we can say: not my will but Yours be done; not my ideas for saving the world; not my plans relative to the preaching of the Gospel and its special message of present truth; not my opinions regarding God’s arrangements and His times and seasons; not my will regarding myself and what I shall do or be, but, Your will be done in all things – then we are friends in this special sense spoken of by Jesus.
Now try the other rule. Have we evidence that we are special friends? Is the spirit leading us daily into a deeper understanding of His word and His plan, revealing more and more of the light of truth as we study the Scriptures, giving us an increasing insight into things to come? Can we truly say yes? If so, then ours is the blessed experience of heavenly wisdom, which at the same time is a proof that we are special friends of Jesus. If we faithfully continue our consecration, we shall continue to abide in His love and to have fresh evidences of His friendship by our growth in grace and in knowledge. There may be times when our human faults and failings cause us to stray from our chosen course, and we find that the spirit of truth seems to have departed. The Lord is mindful of our weaknesses and is always merciful to the repentant heart.
thy friends despise, forsake thee?
Take it to the Lord in prayer;
In His arms He'll take and shield thee,
Thou wilt find a solace there.
(Joseph Scriven, 1820-1886)
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