I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. John 10:14-15
Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13
Have you ever thought about that word friend, and what it means to be Jesus’ friend? Many of us have sang the hymn, “What a friend we have in Jesus“, or heard the new song by Casting Crowns “Jesus friend of Sinners“, but what does this word friend mean? It’s easy to think of ourselves as God’s servants, and even to think of ourselves as His children isn’t too difficult because there is still a superiority involved in those relationships, but friend… a friendship with someone is more equality than anything else isn’t it? When I think of all my best friends I don’t think of myself as any greater or less than them, we’re just friends. There aren’t really any lines drawn between us that separate us in that manner. When my friends need my help, they ask for it. When I need a great listening ear, I know exactly who to call. When I’m sad and need an encouraging word, depending on the situation I will call a specific person full well knowing that they will know exactly what I need to hear in that moment. Friendship is about mutual gratification, encouragement, love and assistance. In John 15:13 the word friend in Greek is philos (fee-los):
* a friend; someone dearly loved (prized) in a personal, intimate way; a trusted confidant, held dear in a close bond of personal affection.
* Note: The root (phil-) conveys experiential, personal affection indicating philos expresses experience-based love.
Friends with God? With Jesus? The Holy Spirit? He considers ME a trusted confidant? He holds me dear in a close bond of personal affection? Me? Dirty little stubborn girl that I am? I am someone that Jesus dearly loves? I am prized in a personal and intimate way by the Creator of the Universe and the Savior of my life? Well, in John 15:15 Jesus says to us “No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.” Jesus, the Word of God, tells us His secrets, making us His trusted confidant!* The secrets of the universe, held by its creator Himself are shared with us through the Bible and the Holy Spirit who whispers kingdom truths into our hearts straight from the throne room of God. He trusts us with His secrets.
But above and beyond that, Jesus points out that He no longer calls us servants, He calls us FRIEND.
We are no longer slaves to the law, to money, or to dreams of fame or fortune. We are no longer slaves to our own expectations or those of others. Because of Jesus we no longer need to be slaves to the idea that our worth, here or in His kingdom, comes from what we do or where we come from. Nor are we slaves to the idea that success is even measurable in human terms, let alone something God looks for in us.
What if God doesn’t care if we’re “successful”? What if His number one concern is that we spend our lives experiencing His abundant love through grace? What if worldly success is the farthest thing from His heart? And if that is true then wouldn’t chasing that kind of success take you farther from His heart than what He’s willing to let you go?
Maybe, by running from the world’s view of success we end up running smack straight into the heart of what Jesus came for… dependence on God.
Jesus was quite the rebel in His day. He picked grain on the Sabbath, ate with unwashed hands, touched lepers and ate with the most sinful people among them. He bucked the status quo like none other! He went straight against everything the system was there to do… which achieved His true purpose beautifully. The Law was created to be a guardian, a substitute shepherd until the true owner of the herd came home to claim them and save them from that abusive hired shepherd. (John 10:1-20)
The Mosaic Law was not created to save, it was created to kill. It was created to show humanity our weaknesses. On the day the Law was given 3,000 people died. Yet, on the day of Pentecost ( the celebration of the Law being given), fifty days after Christ’s death and subsequent resurrection, the Holy Spirit came down and 3,000 people were raised from that death in one day. All because our FRIEND Jesus laid down His life for us; in one day 3,000 people were freed from their chains of slavery to the Law of Death and walking into the Light of the Law of Grace they were saved.
What love is this that we should no longer be called slaves or even servants, but friends? Slaves are not embraced and greeted with a smile. And friends are not expected to toil day and night in order to earn each other’s affections or favors either. No. We simply love our friends because they enjoy being a part of our lives, and we enjoy their presence.
My husband Sean is my best friend in this world; his friendship and opinion mean everything to me. He knows me better than anyone else on this planet, including my Mom, which is saying something. While others may know a lot about me, he knows me. While others see bits and pieces of who I am, he gets all of me, I hide nothing from him… at least not anymore anyway. Jesus wants to be that kind of husband to you. He wants to be the One who gets all of you. Not just the left over bits and pieces that you let the world see, He wants you to know HIM. He wants you to know His love for you in such an intimate, husband-like way that you open to him like a morning glory opening to the morning sun. This is precisely what happens when we begin to focus on koinonia.
God introduced me to koinonia this morning in 1 John 1:3 “Our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ.” Which then through the marginal commentary in my Bible pointed me to 1 Corinthians 1:9 “God, who called you into fellowship with His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.” And it made me ask, what is this word fellowship? Christians throw it around all the time but what does it really mean? So I went to Dictionary.com.
* The condition of relation of being a fellow (OK, that was no help! Ugh!)
* Friendly relationship; companionship (ah, OK, that’s better)
* community of interest, feeling, etc. (OK!)
So, according to our English definition of fellowship God (who is faithful) has called us into a friendly relationship, companionship or friendship with Jesus, His Son. Mmmmmm… but you know me, curious as a cat when it comes to words. I love to dig deeper in hopes of finding the treasure buried in His word. When a guy like God speaks, the words He chooses to use are very important. So I went from our surface level English version of this word “fellowship” and dug a little deeper to find the original Greek definition of this word “fellowship”.
The Greek word is koinonia and literally means:
* partnership, (A-HA!!! I’ve struck Biblical gold!).
* Contributory help,
* sharing in,
* spiritual fellowship,
* a fellowship in the Spirit.
In the Bible God’s relationship to His people is very often referred to in terms of a marital relationship. Jesus even referred to Himself as the bridegroom in Mattew 9:15, and in Revelation 19:7 we are referred to as His bride. God, who is faithful, has called us into a friendship-based partnership, or marriage with Jesus, His son. And in order for us to foster this friendship based marriage He left us with His Spirit; like a supernatural cell phone in order to communicate with Him as often as we would like to call or text, day or night, rain or shine in order for us to experience His love in supernatural ways which fosters philios – experience based love.
Koinonia is a partnership with the One who loves us the most. Philios is the friendship that is made possible through the Holy Spirit who brings us into all truth through our life experiences, which helps us then understand and see God’s love for us through those experiences.