•••by Russell Young
“I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” (Jn 15:15, NIV)
Many apply the encouragement of being friends with Christ to themselves, although the Lord was clearly speaking to his disciples. The wording contains several points that might enlighten the reader concerning the status that the Lord has presented for friendship with him.
He said, “I no longer call…” All of redeemed humankind start their lives as servants (Rom 6:22; Eph 6:6; Rev 22:6). They have been bought with the blood of Christ (1 Cor 6:20) and belong to him (Rom 7:4; Jas 2:7). He is their lord and master and without obedience to his call upon their lives they cannot achieve the holy state that is required for eternal salvation. (Heb 5:9) Those who are Christ’s must be led by him. “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” (Jn 10:27, NIV) It is against human nature to want to be ruled by another; but, without the instruction, leadership, and power of Christ no one can live righteously. Those who are blind need a leader. The believer is to live humbly before Christ. (Mt 23:12; Jas 4:6; 1 Pet 5:6) His beginning is that of a servant.
The reason that Christ elevated the relationship of his disciples from servant to “friend” was because they knew his business and what he was about. He had revealed his business to them and they had heard and had chosen to participate in its accomplishment. They knew him and had forged an honourable and loving relationship with him. They no longer needed the level of guidance that a servant requires because they understood his will and had responded according to it. His mission became their mission. Friends take seriously the heart and the goals of friends. The requirement for service had not changed, but oversight and direction for it was no longer necessary; the Lord’s purposes were being mutually achieved.
Readers of God’s Word should not confuse the issue; they are servants until their heart is in tune with God’s will and their practices reflect his purposes…until his will has become their will. Until such a state exists, the believer remains a servant and requires direct and personal leadership from the Lord; he remains a servant.
“Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right [“power”, KJV] to become children of God.” (Jn 1:12, NIV) John’s teaching is that believers have the power (The power comes through the Holy Spirit.) to become children of God. Paul has recorded, “those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” (Rom 8:14, NIV) It is Paul’s teaching that believers (those who follow the Lord’s leadership) “are predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son.” (Rom 8:29) They will no longer display the characteristics and interests of their old nature, but will have been conformed to his.
Being classified as a son of God is an even greater elevation. A son of the Father is also a brother of Christ. “Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister, and mother.” (Mk 3:35, NIV)
The privilege and honour of being elevated to the status of a brother of Christ from being a friend is not one that is given freely and without cost. The believer’s adoption comes at the redemption of his body (Rom 8:23); it follows his conformation to the likeness of Christ. The person who would enjoy the privilege of a brother of Christ and of a son of God must warrant it. He or she must have the characteristics of a son so that they might belong in the family. They must honour and love their brothers, including Christ, and they must obey their Father. (Mt 7:21)
A son or daughter knows the affairs of the household because they are in it and commune personally with those in it and especially with their Father, loving him, seeking direction from him, and honouring him. Those who in their arrogance reject the authority of the Father through his Son and who continue to disregard his admonitions for righteousness and obedient service, who remain slaves to sin and their own interests, will not be a permanent part of God’s family. (Jn 8:35)
Those of this world are God’s enemies, alienated from him; their interests are not his interests. As they separate themselves from the world through the ministries of Christ they will be brought to the various relationship stages…first as a servant, then a friend, and into the relationship of a son of the Father and as a brother of Christ.