True Friendship: A Bible Study on Friends

by Jack Wellman on December 22, 2011 · Print Print · Email Email

The Bible says to have friends, we should show ourselves to be friendly. The proverbs contain much wisdom about both being a friend and how to find a friend. There are fewer things in life that are more valuable than a good friend and the Bible is full of stories of some of the greatest friendships in history.

To Find a Friend, Be a Friend

My oldest son once told me that he didn’t have any friends. Of course children are sometimes known to exaggerate but I told him that the Bible shows us how to make friends. As Proverbs 18:24 says, “A man that has friends must show himself friendly, and there is a friend that sticks closer than a brother.” There is a key to having loyal friends or making friends in the first place. You have to show yourself friendly.

The Trust of a Close Friend

A friend keeps a friend’s secrets to himself as Proverbs 17:9 says, “He who covers and forgives an offense seeks love, but he who repeats or harps on a matter separates even close friends.” That is, a friend doesn’t gossip about friends faults and is quick to forgive them. A friend who repeats a matter (or gossips) can separate “even close friends.” That is a key to true friendship. If you repeat something that a friend entrusted you with, that will likely be the end of that friendship or in the least, they will never come to you in confidence again.

True Friendship Bible Study

Your true friends will not be afraid to tell you the truth even at the risk of hurting your feelings.

Friends Tell You the Truth

Your friends will tell you the truth even when it hurts. As Proverbs 27:5-6 says, “Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful”

It is better to hear it from a friend if you are doing something wrong because they truly care enough about you. A friend doesn’t want to see you hurt. The point is that the truth sometimes hurts, but flattery or patronizing someone in the end, usually does more harm than good.

Choose Your Friends Carefully

A person becomes more like those that they associate with. This is why it is critically important to choose your friends wisely. Proverbs 13:20 warns us that we should “Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.” Just like we are told, “you are what you eat”, so too we are warned to “not make friends with a hot-tempered person, do not associate with one easily angered, or you may learn their ways and get yourself ensnared” (Prov 22:24-25). Bad company corrupts good morals almost every time. You not only become “ensnared” by them but “you may learn their ways.” If you associate with hot-tempered people, you’re going to become hot-tempered yourself. Most often, we become like those we associate with.

Godly Friends Beget Godly Behavior

David understood that Jonathan was a true and loyal friend. He was a worshiper of the true God. In Psalm 119:63 it says, “I am a friend to all who fear you, to all who follow your precepts.” Those who fear God (which is a reverence and high respect for God) are good companions and make excellent friends. You will soon discover that their godly values will rub off on you and these types of friends can be accountability partners to each other. “The fear of the Lord – that is wisdom, and to shun evil is understanding” (Prov. 28:28).

Fair and Foul Weather Friends

Friends are those that stick with you during the hard times. Trials and adversity can usually separate true friends from those who are just fair-weather friends. Why? Because, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity” (Prov 17:17). Jonathan and David had one of the greatest friendships ever known. So much so that, “Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself” (I Sam. 18:3). When I married my wife, I married my best friend. In fact, it is recommend for betrothed or engaged couples to become friends first and foremost, before they get married. This type of friendship is an image of the relationship that Christ has for the church. A relationship where He literally died for His bride. In this same way, a friend loves his or her friend as they love themselves – through thick and thin, sickness and health, poverty and wealth.

A Biblical Model of Friendship

If you want to know what true friendship is, the greatest biblical model that I know of is that of David and Jonathan. Jonathan was the son of David’s enemy, King Saul. Saul was out to kill David because he was insanely jealous of him and knew that he would replace him on the throne of Israel. Saul’s son Jonathan knew this and was such a loyal friend of David that he alerted David of the danger and literally saved his life when he found out that Saul wanted to kill David. Jonathan told David that, “Whatever you want me to do, I’ll do for you” (I Sam 20:4). We can read just how loyal of a friend Jonathan was to David in I Samuel 20:

16 “So Jonathan made a covenant with the house of David, saying, May the LORD call David’s enemies to account.” 17 And Jonathan had David reaffirm his oath out of love for him, because he loved him as he loved himself.”

Jesus told us to love our neighbor as ourselves and Jonathan loved David “as he loved himself” fulfilling this Royal Edict from Christ (Mark 12:31).

Jonathan was a loyal friend to David and made a plan to warn him whether he could come to King Saul’s table or whether Saul would kill him do he devised a signal for David, “Tomorrow is the New Moon feast. You will be missed, because your seat will be empty. The day after tomorrow, toward evening, go to the place where you hid when this trouble began, and wait by the stone Ezel. I will shoot three arrows to the side of it, as though I were shooting at a target. Then I will send a boy and say, ‘Go, find the arrows.’ If I say to him, ‘Look, the arrows are on this side of you; bring them here,’ then come, because, as surely as the LORD lives, you are safe; there is no danger. But if I say to the boy, ‘Look, the arrows are beyond you,’ then you must go, because the LORD has sent you away” (I Sam 20:18-22).

Jonathan risked his life for David because, “Saul’s anger flared up at Jonathan and he said to him, “You son of a perverse and rebellious woman! Don’t I know that you have sided with the son of Jesse to your own shame and to the shame of the mother who bore you? As long as the son of Jesse lives on this earth, neither you nor your kingdom will be established. Now send someone to bring him to me, for he must die!” “Why should he be put to death? What has he done?” Jonathan asked his father. But Saul hurled his spear at him to kill him. Then Jonathan knew that his father intended to kill David” (I Sam 20:30-33). Jonathan understood that he would be next in line for the throne if David was taken out of the way and could have easily betrayed David and had the throne of Israel for himself, but Jonathan’s love and loyalty for his friend David was evident by his selfless act of saving David’s life. Jonathan was willing to risk his own life for his friend David and with the understanding that Jonathan would sacrifice his chance to rule Israel. David’s friendship was more important that the throne of Israel to Jonathan. Jonathan loved David more than a brother and he proved it by his actions in I Samuel 20.

So Jonathon sent a messenger boy to shoot arrows for the signal that it was not safe for David to return to King Saul’s presence for he would surely be killed. What a touching show of affection that Jonathan showed David because, “After the boy had gone, David got up from the south side of the stone and bowed down before Jonathan three times, with his face to the ground. Then they kissed each other and wept together—but David wept the most. Jonathan said to David, “Go in peace, for we have sworn friendship with each other in the name of the LORD, saying, ‘The LORD is witness between you and me, and between your descendants and my descendants forever.’” Then David left, and Jonathan went back to the town” (I Sam 20:41-42). David showed such respect to Jonathan that he “bowed down three times before Jonathan“, even though David knew that God had anointed him to be the eventual king. Here is the future King of Israel; the greatest earthly kind that Israel would ever have, bowing to the son of is enemy, King Saul. And “then they kissed each other and wept together – but David wept the most” (v 42).

True Friendship Bible Study: Key Takeaway

The fact is that friends are indispensable in this life. The older a person gets the more valued their friendship becomes. Many friends are closer than brothers or sisters are to each other. There is something special about having a friend that you can confide in, tell your troubles too, and share your life with. It has been said that a sorrow shared is halved, but a joy shared is doubled. Proverbs 27:10a says, “Do not forsake your friend or a friend of your family” because you may need that friend in a day of trouble. The value of friends is one of the most important things in a person’s life: Their worth are not diminished by time, not devalued by inflation, not worn out by use, but like a fine wine, they improve with time. So are friends to those who have them; like medicine to the soul or as Proverbs 27:9 says, “Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of a friend springs from their heartfelt advice.”

Tell us about a friend that has made a difference in your life in the comments and then share this article with them!

If you enjoyed this article and are looking for more on friendship check out this article:

5 Amazing Bible Stories About Friendship

Resources

New International Bible (NIV)
THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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