A Call To Friendship

A theme slowly developed—from fleeting impressions here, and marked solid concepts there—in my studies over a period of time. I came to recognize the gentle nudges in the same direction as the Spirit of the Lord working them all together into one unit. Though not a “doctrinal” study as such, yet the putting together of the scriptural concepts in this series presents important guidelines for this important part of human relationships from God’s point of view, and will help remind us of the great blessing God had in mind when He gave us the gift of friendship.

In this study we will discover some common elements of friendship in the various Bible examples: a mutual covenant, faithfulness, selflessness, revelation, and intercession. We also found an amazing connection with the word perfect. It has been a rewarding spiritual journey for me. I pray it will be for you.

—Angela Gellenbeck


APRIL 4, 2021


John 15:11 These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.

12 This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.

13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. 14 Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.

15 Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.

16 Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.

17 These things I command you, that ye love one another.

MEMORY VERSE: For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him. —II Chronicles 16:9a

CENTRAL THOUGHT: Jesus has called us into a close friendship relationship with Him, which He initiated with a covenant—He laid down His life for us—and into which we enter with a surrender of our lives to Him. His part of the friendship is faithful devotion and personal revelations of His heart; our part is faithful devotion and obedience to what He reveals.


John 15:11 “My joy”: gladness; source of joy; calm delight. From a root which means God’s grace and favor; therefore, the awareness of that grace, the recognizance of it, is our source of delight and joy. It is the joy “which Christ Himself possessed in the consciousness of His love towards the Father, and of the Father’s love towards Him… In the consciousness of their love to God, and of God’s love to them, there would be in them, as part of their true life, joy which no sorrow could ever overcome…The state of which He has spoken to them—the loving and being loved of God—is the ideal perfection of human life. It supplies satisfaction for all the deepest desires of our being. The capacities of the whole man are fulfilled in it, and the result is fullness of joy. They have learned little of the true spirit of Christianity whose religion does not impart to them a joy which sheds its light over the whole of their lives” (Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers). “It is in Him, gazed upon by the faith and love of an obedient spirit, sought after by aspiration and possessed inwardly in peaceful communion, confirmed by union with Him in the acts of daily obedience, that the true joy of every human life is to be realised” (MacLaren’s Expositions).

John 15:13 “Friends”: “someone dearly loved (prized) in a personal, intimate way; a trusted confidant, held dear in a close bond of personal affection” (HELPS Word Studies).

John 15:15 “Not”: no longer. “Servants”: bond servants; slaves.

II Chronicles 16:9 “Perfect”: Hebrew shalem; complete; entire; wholly devoted; in a covenant of peace or friendship with; friendly, open, safe.


Just before His crucifixion, Jesus shared with His disciples the precious lesson of the vine and the branches; this lesson illustrated the close, abiding relationship He desired to have with them. He not only proved that a union with Him is the only way we can produce righteous fruit, but He placed upon believers the solemn obligation of abiding in Him. He also introduced the part the husbandman has in the fruit-bearing: His Father wields the pruning knife to purge the Vine of dead, lifeless branches no longer bearing fruit and off-shoots on the fruit-bearing branches that would stifle the full growth of fruit beginning to form. He then told His disciples all this was revealed to them, “that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.”

Jesus then introduced this concept: “I have not called you servants, but friends.” It may seem at first glance in contradiction with what He had taught on other occasions and was teaching again in verse 20, about the relationship between Him, as Lord or Master, and them as His servants. The apostles later on still referred to themselves as being the bond-servants of Jesus Christ. They deemed it an honor to lay down their lives for Him and suffer the rigors of labor for Him— they wished not a life “free” from Him. But in HIS mind, in the deeper and more personal sharing of His purpose and making known to them the secrets and mysteries of the gospel, He took them into a level higher than that of servants who are mere automatons; servants who have not been taken into the confidences of their masters, whose obedience is mechanical and borne out of fear and bondage. Everything Jesus’ disciples would do now would be done from the higher principle of love. The recognition of His love for them and grace given freely to them, although they were unworthy, would be the source of their delight and complete, fulfilled joy.

Paul refers to this change of relationship in Galatians 4. He explained that while the children of Israel were under the law they were like servants; their obedience was by coercion, under fear of being cut off. But when Christ came and they believed in Him, they were adopted as sons, and the spirit of Christ was sent into their very hearts, crying, “Abba, Father.”

A child and his Abba—dear daddy; and a friend with a cherished, close friend. These familiar, close, human relationships show us how we are with Christ.

Our memory verse may seem at first to be a strange addition to the lesson. But consider the definition of the word “perfect.” It has to do with the covenant of peace made with a friend; the covenant that establishes the close, free, open relationship of trust, confidence, and mutual devotion. We will speak more about this covenant and the word “perfect” in future lessons.

—Angela Gellenbeck


  1. What is the source of joy of the believer?
  2. Explain Jesus’ part of the covenant of friendship.
  3. Explain our part of the covenant of friendship.
  4. What Old Testament scripture refers to the covenant of peace between friends?
  5. How does the relationship of friendship with Christ differ from mere servitude?


The study of this lesson has led to new joys, new discoveries, and new challenges: JOY when I realized that the source of our joy is the recognition of Jesus’ love for us, of which He gave ultimate proof, in that He laid down His life for us. You can’t dispute that. You can’t say, “But I don’t feel that He died for me.” It is a historical, proven fact that He did die, and He stated emphatically WHY He died—for love of you and me. We were unworthy. But He loved us anyway and gave His life for us.

If both young people and even the older ones can get a vision of the beautiful truth that they don’t have to be “good enough” for God to love them, and stop their struggling—if they would simply receive with wonder and adoration the truth in this scripture, God promised to fill them with “joy and peace in believing” (Romans 15:13).

The study opened up the new discovery that the joy given me by Christ is complete and fulfilling. His joy is sufficient enough for any circumstance into which life propels me, because it is sourced in Jesus’ love for me and not something I must manufacture myself.

I am newly challenged by the terms of the covenant by which Christ bound Himself to me in eternal friendship—challenged by the call He has given me to that friendship with Him and the the no-uncertain terms He laid down for my part in the covenant. He has called me to friendship, but He is still God. I cannot be His friend if I will not obey Him. He has called, chosen and ordained me, but I must yield up my life to Him. He has revealed the secrets and purposes of His heart, and my heart must be completely open and devoted to Him.

—Angela Gellenbeck


We all know people of honor and prestige who are so far out of our league that we would be hard pressed to garner their attention, let alone become their friend. The only way we could possibly have the privilege to call them our friend would be for them to initiate the friendship. Christ is such a friend. We love him because he first loved us. We choose him because he first chose us and called us to be his friend. But our relationship is conditional. Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.

A command may seem like a strong term on which to base a friendship, until we understand the essence of it. First, let us take note that Christ does not demand but rather commands that we love. A demand is when something is forced upon us, whereas a command, though forceful, can be altogether voluntary. Love is an act of the will. No one can force anyone to love them. It is impossible. A demand may result in outward compliance without ever attaining an inward submission of the heart.

However, a person can command respect by their actions, the aura of their presence, their demeanor and character. It is not merely their title or the authority associated with their position. It is not just the words that they say or the instruction that they give. It is because of who they are at the very core of their being. That is what commands the respect. The respect simply comes as a voluntary response to knowing them and being in their presence.

Love is commanded in much the same way. To know Christ is to love him. His love for us is not just in word only but in deed and in truth. He loved us to the point that he was willing to die in our stead. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Knowing the depth of his great love for us is the impetus that commands and constrains us to love him in return.

—Darrell Johnson