Today I would like to talk to you about the faithful friend, the friend who sticks closer than any brother.
The Scriptures speak much to us about friendship. The subject of friendship is given a high priority in the Bible. We are warned, for instance, of the evil of friendships with the world (James 4:4). He who will be the friend of the world is the enemy of God. Further, the Bible teaches us that we are to establish our friendships based upon faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
As I said, today I want to talk to you about the faithful friend, the one who is the only true friend, the Lord Jesus Christ.
There is a verse in the Bible which identifies Him as the faithful friend of God’s children. That verse is found in Proverbs 18:24, where we read: “A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.”
Before we begin, I have to make a correction in the translation of this verse. I hesitate to do that because I never want to cast any doubt on the reliability of the Bible that you have in your hand, especially the wonderful King James Version. Nor do I want to pass myself off as being an expert. Yet, the translation is not proper. In the first part of that verse we read, “A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly.” Although that is certainly true and is collaborated by many other Scriptures, yet it is not really the idea. We should translate it this way: A man of friends may be broken up, but (by contrast) there is lover who sticks closer than a brother. The idea is that the first part of the verse, the first clause, emphasizes the truth of the limitation of human friendships, of even hallowed and intimate friendships in this present life. A man of friends, that is, a person who possesses friends, may be broken up. He may still suffer an experience in life which devastates him. The word “broken up” literally means “to break in pieces by a blow.” It is the same word that we find in Daniel 2:40, where we read of the legs of iron in Nebuchadnezzar’s image as being destroyed and ground to powder. The teaching of the first part of the verse, then, is that there is a limitation for all human friendships. Even though you possess friends, you may still be broken up, you may still be brought to a horrible and wretched experience. But, and here is the contrast, but there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother. There is a friend whose friendship has no limitations. There is a friend whose friendship nothing can break, nothing can sever you from it, nothing can part us from Him. We think of the words of Romans 8:35, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, etc. For I am persuaded that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Jesus Christ is the unique friend. He is the friend that sticks closer than a brother. He is in a class by Himself. No one else can be a friend as He is a friend.
I trust that I do not need to prove that He is the one being referred to in this verse in Proverbs (there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother). But I want to point out that it is indeed Jesus Christ.
Note with me that the Word of God simply declares the fact and assumes that we will know who is being talked about. There is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother, and that friend is Jesus. Jesus Himself identifies Himself as the friend of God’s people in John 15:13-15. In those verses Jesus says, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. 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.” Here Jesus underscores an aspect of Himself as being our friend. It is in this aspect, as a friend, that He discloses to us the depths of His heart, the depths of God’s purpose and love.
Still more, that Jesus is the friend that sticks closer than a brother was testified also by His enemies, in Matthew 11:19. His enemies identified Him as our friend when, observing His mingling with His people whom He had come to call to repentance, and seeing that He was unafraid to associate Himself with them, they said in derision: “He is a friend of publicans and sinners.”
And, if you still have any doubt that this is Jesus Christ who is the friend that sticketh closer than a brother, then hear His own words in Matthew 28:20 when He ascended up into heaven. He said, “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” And again, in Hebrews 13:5 we read: “Be content with such things as ye have, for he hath said, I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.” He is the friend that sticketh closer than a brother.
And Jesus Christ is unique in this. That is what the first part of the verse is emphasizing: A man of friends, that is, a person who possesses friends, good friends, may be broken up. That is true, of course, if your friends are of the world. If your friendships are of this world and apart from Jesus Christ, then those friendships are going to leave you broken, used, and deserted. That is the teaching of Jesus Christ in the parable of the prodigal son. The man who asked for his inheritance and spent that inheritance in folly had friends so long as he had money. But when his money was gone, so were his friends, and he found himself alone and feeding pigs. So, if you have friends of the world, you will certainly be broken up, you will be brought to a point where you are deserted and feel used.
But the idea is not simply that it is true of worldly friendships. There is a limitation of all human friendships. No matter how close and intimate, no matter how holy and sanctified in Jesus Christ, a person who has friends may yet be broken up. The mere fact of human friendship cannot protect you from being devastated. You may, indeed, come to a point where your friends, your intimate friends, a husband or a wife or that close friend, cannot stand between you and death and adversity. Do you have friends? Do you have Christian friends? Do you enjoy the wonder of a close soul-brother to whom your heart is knit in faith? Do you experience that in your marriage? O, how wonderful and blessed. Yet, you may be broken up, that is, you may come to a time in your life’s journey where these friends cannot walk with you. It may be some mental agony, some profound and deep anxiety or anguish. It may be some personal fear or struggle that you simply cannot divulge to anybody, that you do not even know words that could explain what you are feeling. It may be upon a bed of pain with your friends and loved ones standing by you, unable to know what you are experiencing at that moment in your heart. Then there is death. What friend on the earth, no matter how intimate that person may be with you, will go with you in death, will be able to hold your hand as you pass through death? No. No matter how intimate your friends are, the hand of that friendship is parted in death. They let go of you in death. You pass over without them, without your wife, without your husband, without your friend, without your dear loved one.
Yes, he who has friends may be broken up. But there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother. There is a friend to whom there are no limitations. That is, there is no darkness or pain, sorrow or fear, not even death and the grave, that can part us from Him. There is a friend that sticks closer than a brother. You see, behind this proverb is the great truth revealed in the Bible that God, of free grace, has placed His children in Jesus Christ, and has done this before the world began.
I want you, when you read the New Testament Scriptures, to pay attention to those words that you will find repeatedly: that the believer is in Jesus Christ. Ephesians 1:3, 4, we read “According as God has chosen us to be in him.” I Corinthians 1:30, “For of God are we in Christ Jesus.” II Corinthians 5:17, “If any may be in Christ Jesus.” Ephesians 1:7, “In whom ye have redemption.” The teaching of the Bible is this, that by an act of God’s mighty grace and will, He has placed His children, whom He has chosen in eternity, in Christ. He has inserted, He has deposited, us in Christ. Jesus was conscious of this. He spoke in John 10 and 17 of “all those whom the Father hath given to me,” and it was the “will of the Father that I should keep them and lose none of them.” We were in Christ, by grace, eternally, before time began, before the angels sang their first song of praise, before the first light shone upon the earth, before the mountains stood forth in their glory. Always, in the mind of God, He has placed His people in Christ. He is that friend that sticks closer than a brother.
And that is also true in time. For it was upon the cross that the believer, the elect child of God, was in Him. We were in Him when He was in the grave. We were in Him when He arose. We are in Him when He ascended up into heaven. He who has Jesus Christ, by grace, as his friend cannot be broken up. He cannot be deserted. He cannot be left alone, never alone. Is Jesus your friend by God’s grace? Then you are never alone. He sticks closer than any brother.
You see, the wicked who are apart from Jesus Christ are alone. That is sin, you know. And, apart from Jesus Christ is loneliness – utterly alone with sin, answerable for your own sin, and utterly alone with the darkness and judgments of hell. But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. There is one from the love of whom nothing can ever sever us. Not even my own sinful self, not even Satan. He is a friend that sticks closer than a brother.
Now, when it speaks here of a brother, it is referring to the highest affection which is known among men, the affection of a physical brother to his physical brother. Under the blessing of God, that is a very intimate tie. That, too, needs the grace of God and the cultivating of the Word of God because that is not always so. Sometimes physical brothers can be opposites. They can be so different. The Bible gives us the example of Jacob and Esau. They were twin brothers, yet they were not close. Spiritually they were different, totally different. But yet, it is true that between one’s physical brother or sister can exist a most intimate bond and tie. There is nothing so precious as to love your flesh and blood brother or sister, to enjoy each other’s company, to have an ease in each other’s fellowship, to have a kindred feeling and to know what the other person is feeling, and to have someone who is of a kindred soul and has sympathy for your thoughts and loves you to such an extent that he will die for you. Oh, the love between brothers can be so deep and intimate and real.
But Scripture is declaring here that Jesus Christ sticks closer than any brother. He is the faithful friend. The word “sticks” is literally “cleave” or “adhere.” It refers to the soldering of metals, of joining metals together. Jesus Christ is the one who sticks, who is faithful to His children. When our sins called out for punishment, and when our names and sins were mentioned and called out by holy judgment and holy judgment said, “I have so-in-so here, and here are a list of his sins” (and none of those sins were omitted), and then holy judgment cried out, “Is there anyone who would claim to know this miserable wretch of a sinner?” Jesus Christ, the friend who is closer than any brother, stood up and came forward and confessed that, by God’s grace, He was our friend to stand in our place and to die for us.
When we were asked, “Does anyone know this man, Jesus Christ? Anyone know Him?” Then the Bible answers and says, “We hid our faces from him.” No, we did not confess Him. By nature we disowned Him. We said, “Away with Him, we want nothing to do with Him.” But He, of His wonderful grace, confessed our name faithfully before the Father upon the cross. When Satan would say, “They are mine”; when sin would say, “Let me have them and drag them away to eternal death,” Christ was the one who stuck closer than a brother. II Timothy 2:13, “He cannot deny himself.” He abode faithful; He is the friend closer than any brother.
Now think of that. That means, believer, that He did not leave you when you were in your sins. He knew you when you were in your sins. Romans 8:5, 6 tells us that when we were yet sinners Christ died for us. You see, His friendship with us is not a friendship of ignorance. You ought to be aware of a friendship of ignorance – someone who claims to be your friend, but does not know you, and yet falls all over you while he is really a stranger to you. No, this is not a friendship of ignorance. The Lord knew all about our wretched selves, yet He loved us and stuck with us.
Still more, He loved us in our deepest need. He stuck with us in that need. The friendships that are formed in adversity are the strongest friendships. His union to us was not forged in the house of mirth, but in the fires of agony. Even in that moment when all of the wrath of God against our sins was poured upon His head, when the hot lava of God’s judgment which we deserved was poured upon Him, He loved us, He was the friend that stuck closer than a brother. And now, what will ever cause Him to leave us? Nothing. He is the faithful friend of God’s children.
Do you think that old age will cause Him to leave you? Perhaps you are listening in a nursing home today. Or, perhaps you are listening as an old saint and you have lost your beauty and your physical strength and you complain that no one comes to visit you and you feel all alone. Shall He leave you? Shall He forsake you, this friend who sticks closer than a brother?
Perhaps you are depressed and downcast and you say to yourself, “But nobody cares about me.” Do you say that as a believer? How can you say that? Here is a friend that sticks closer than a brother. Nobody cares? Even when we show ourselves to be the crabby, self-centered, hard-to-live-with sinners that we are, does He desert us? And even when we are abandoned by our friends, at least those whom we thought were our friends, and when earthly friends no pity take, yet the Lord remains this faithful friend. Even when all disown us for the confession of Jesus Christ and want nothing to do with us and cut us off with sharp words, there is, nevertheless, a friend who sticks closer than a brother. Can anything ever compare to this? Do you enjoy this? Can you say, “The Lord is my friend”? Can you say that Jesus Christ is your friend? Does He call you His friend?
Do you live in the consciousness of His undying faithfulness and love? Do you? Then why are you discouraged? Why are you downhearted if you have the faithful friend? Oh, be sure that if you live in sin He will not give you to know that He is your friend. If you walk in self-righteousness He will put distance between you and Him, He will not give you to experience this blessing. No, He grants it only in the way of obedience, only in the way of knowing and confessing and hating our sins. In that way He reveals the blessedness and the wonder that He is our faithful friend and Savior.
Oh, the wonder! God has provided us who are castaways, who are lonely and wretched, hell-deserving sinners, the faithful friend. When the virgin Mary brought forth her son, God gave us the friend who would stick closer than a brother, the one who would stand before the gates of hell and say, “These are my friends, given me of the Father, whom I shall redeem.”
One who has Him for a friend shall never be broken up. Nothing shall pry us loose from His hand. Nothing shall tear us from His embrace. For He said, “No man plucketh them out of my hand.” Jesus is the friend that sticketh closer than a brother. Is He your friend?
Let us pray.
Father, we thank Thee for Thy Word, for the wonder of Thy grace. Give us hearts whereby we know that Jesus Christ is our friend forever, Amen.