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 Vol. 6, No. 5 

May 2004

~ Page 16 ~


By Hugo McCord

A friend keeps on loving, and is a helping brother when trouble comes (Proverbs 17:17).

There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24).

Faithful are the wounds of a friend (Proverbs 27:6).

Perfume is pleasing, but better is counsel for the soul from a friend (Proverbs 27:9).

According to Webster, a friend is "a person one knows well and is fond of," an "intimate associate," a "close acquaintance," and the word is also "applied loosely to any associate, or, as a term of address, even to a stranger."

According to the Greek New Testament, two different words describe Webster's two English definitions of a "friend." A hetairos friend may be "someone whose name one does not know" (B-G-D, 314), as a worker hired from a market place, dissatisfied with his wages at day's end, to whom the employer says, "Friend [hetairos], I have not been unfair with you. Did you not agree with me for twenty cents [a denarius]?" (Matthew 20:13).

A hetairos friend was not one of "the invited guests" at a wedding dinner, but a stranger, to whom the host said, "Friend [hetairos], why have you come without a wedding garment?" (Matthew 22:12).

In itself hetairos has no warmth of affection. Sometimes the word was used merely as a way to start a conversation, as Jesus, in the garden of Gethsemane, spoke to Judas, "Friend [hetairos], do what you came to do" (Matthew 26:50).

But when Jesus spoke of Lazarus, whom Jesus loved (John 11:3), he spoke of him as a philos friend (John 11:11), from the word phileo, a word meaning "to love with the love of emotion and friendship" (G. Abbott-Smith, 469).

Jesus was criticized because he was "a friend [philos] of tax collectors and sinners (Matthew 11:19). The word "sinners" includes you and me, for "all have sinned and come short of God's splendor" (Romans 3:23). Jesus, like his Father, is not "willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9).

Friends help one another. Even before Captain Cornelius became a Christian, when he was expecting a God-sent preacher to come to his house, he "had invited his relatives and close friends [philous, plural] (Acts 10:34) to come to hear that preacher. The result was that all of them were baptized (Acts 10:47-48).

"Friends are flowers in the garden of life" (Anonymous). Christian friends "greet" one another "by name" (3 John 15). They share information with each other, imitating Jesus, who called his disciples "friends [philous], because I have made known to" them "everything I have heard from my Father" (John 15:15).

James wrote, "Whoever wishes to be a friend [philos, the word of deep affection] of the world makes himself an enemy of God" (James 4:4). Jesus warned his friends [philous], his disciples: "If the world hates you, you know that it hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Because you are not of the world, the world hates you" (John 15:15, 19). "You will be betrayed by parents, brothers, relatives, and friends [philom, plural, people who before you became Christians had love and deep feelings for you]; some of you will be killed" (Luke 21:16).

Stephen was stoned to death in Jerusalem in 30 A.D. Paul's head was cut off in Rome in 68 A.D. Polycarp, refusing to deny Jesus, was placed by a stake in Izmir (in present day Turkey) and burned to death in 155 A.D. Christ who "died for us" (Romans 5:8) had said, "No one has a greater love than this: that one lay down his life for his friends. If you do the things that I command, you are my friends" (John 15:13-14).Image

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