Many if not most churches today have substituted a false version of real Christian friendship, an empty acquaintance-level counterfeit in place of the close relationships that we see in the Bible. This mockery is exactly what Satan wants and is what many Christians settle for and maintain. It is no wonder that Christians are constantly betrayed by those who they thought were their friends.
In 2Thess 1:3, Paul commends the Thessalonians for truly loving each other, something that is unfortunately a rarity today.
“We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is fitting, because that your faith grows exceedingly, and the charity [love] of every one of you all toward each other abounds”. 2Thess 1:3
There are many passages in the Bible that prove that true fellowship in Christ with other believers equates to a deep friendship with them, not the superficial “acquaintance-ship” that is so prevalent today. Many passages in the New Testament clearly demonstrate this. For example, the opening passage of the short book of Philemon paints an accurate picture of this aspect of the true Christian life and it does so both acutely and succinctly:
“To Philemon our BELOVED FRIEND and FELLOW laborer, to the BELOVED Apphia, Archippus our FELLOW soldier, and to the church IN YOUR HOUSE.” Phil 1:1b-2 NKJV [Emphasis Added]
The modern day church doesn’t reflect even a remote glimpse of the beautiful loving picture of the REAL church that we clearly see here in just this one tiny passage.
Look at what is going on here, BELOVED FRIENDSHIP! You can’t get away from it. But the modern evangelical church has not only gotten away from this, for the most part they don’t even care and won’t hear of anything to the contrary of their empty “services”. They have allowed unbiblical manmade agendas to replace close relationships. Many are far too busy carrying out “the pastor’s agenda” and all his useless nonsensical projects and programs, that they are not the least bit interested or even care about such mundane “unimportant things” (in their estimation) as real friendship in the church. [And just who may I ask is being “served” by those alleged “services”? I think it is clear that the reigning regime is served as they serve up the blind and naïve to their own ambitious appetites.]
And, quite a few of these same people would claim that those of us who do care about such things like friendship in the church are “petty” and “missing the bigger picture” of church growth and allegedly “moving forward”. In their rush for glory, power and grandeur (and of course don’t forget alleged so-called “success” in the form a bigger and bigger church building), it is they who miss the true bigger picture of loving God and loving each other as the Bible commands. And instead of submitting to Jesus and allowing Him to build the real church through them, living stone upon living stone, they are building just another part of the false church system dead brick upon dead brick.
I think it is safe to say that most professing Christians totally overlook what is revealed here in Philemon and therefore they do not recognize the strong need to compare verses like this to the present friendship dilemma and make the needed corrections.
A Slightly Different Perspective
Here is what Phil 1:1b-2 DOES NOT SAY and yet the following is the corrupt modern day “inferred” twisted version of the “normal” Christian life as far as our relationships with each other are concerned:
“To Philemon our run-of-the-mill nothing special worker and mindless unquestioning subordinate, to the barely tolerable Apphia, Archippus our lackey yes-man, and regarding the new church building that we haven’t built yet but are incessantly trying to extort money for.”
Of course the Bible does not say this, but this is how this verse would generally need to read in order to even remotely justify the kind of anti-relational shenanigans that are going on in most churches today. But no verse reads this way and this is not God’s command to the churches.
The fictional rendering here may seem a bit harsh but nevertheless this is an accurate representation of the overall thinking, mindset and behavior of modern church leaders and their lackeys regardless of the lip service that they give to the contrary and regardless of all the so-called “love” towards the members that they claim have. Even though this kind of degradation is not usually declared verbally from the pulpits in such an emphatic way, nevertheless this general idea is cleverly taught in subtle ways and therefore it is unavoidably intertwined into modern “Christian” thinking.
All throughout the New Testament, we see that the original capital “A” Apostles (the REAL Apostles) treated the brothers and sisters as beloved friends, equal fellow co-workers and companion soldiers. Yet astonishingly the average modern day church leader carries on nothing of the sort. They have entirely departed from the traditions that the original Apostles left for us to follow. This means that these new modern small “a” apostles are apostate because they have changed the mandatory traditions and teachings of the original capital “A” Apostles as given to us by God through them. As bad as this is, these counterfeits seem to invariably do this to suit themselves and their own comfort making their crimes against Christ and His church that much worse.
Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which you have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle. 2Thess 2:15
More Insights From The Epistles
The opening statements of the epistles, which most Christians skim or skip right over, hold some of the main keys for unraveling the friendship deception in the church. Just one little simple passage like the one cited above, a passage often thought to be unimportant, could set a Christian free from a lifetime of robbery and abuse, that is IF they pay attention and have a real desire to know the truth of God’s Word.
What Phil 1:1b-2 teaches is not some kind of rare single occurrence in the Bible or some kind of unusual isolated passage. On the contrary, other verses almost exactly like this can be found throughout the New Testament and such passages provide beyond the shadow of a doubt the existence and proof of the importance of close friendship and real fellowship:
All my state shall Tychicus declare unto you, who is a beloved brother, and a faithful minister and fellowservant in the Lord: 8Whom I have sent unto you for the same purpose, that he might know your estate, and comfort your hearts; 9With Onesimus, a faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you. They shall make known unto you all things which are done here. Col 4:7-9
Continuing on from the previous passage above, at first glance, the next four verses may not seem to reveal an overly close friendship with some of the other Christians mentioned:
Aristarchus my fellowprisoner saluteth you, and Marcus, sister's son to Barnabas, (touching whom you received commandments: if he come unto you, receive him;) 11And Jesus, which is called Justus, who are of the circumcision. These only are my fellowworkers unto the kingdom of God, which have been a comfort unto me. 12Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, salutes you, always labouring fervently for you in prayers, that you may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God. 13For I bear him record, that he has a great zeal for you, and them that are in Laodicea, and them in Hierapolis. Col 4:10-13
However, the term fellowworker carries with it an inescapable tone of equality. Yes, some are mentioned with what seems to be a little less affection, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that less affection was present or that affection and closeness did not actually exist. Here Paul is saying nice things of a different kind. We cannot just assume that he didn’t feel the same loving way towards these people as he did towards the others. So we can either assume that Paul had the same general feelings towards all his fellow workers and that the Lord (through the Apostle Paul) was maybe being more eloquent in his writing rather than redundant so as not to weary the reader, or we can assume that some of the brethren may have been closer with some than with others.
In the very next verse we are right back to a Paul’s emphatic declaration of close friendship again:
Luke, the beloved physician, and Demas, greet you. Col 4:14
Now of course we know that not everyone of a given local church will necessarily become close friends with everyone else of the same church. It would be nice if they did, but depending on the size of the church it may not be possible or even practical. There are obviously only so many hours in a day and so it may be logistically impossible for everyone to spend the kind of time with each other necessary to become close friends. And, some Christians may remain stubborn and impersonal because they simply don’t care or haven’t yet learned any different.
Other Christians may be legitimately busy doing the Lord’s work in other areas and may be understandably unavailable. Whatever the reasons may be, it must be remembered that close friendship is the general direction that we see in the Bible and it is the general direction that we should be traveling. If we are not even moving in this direction what chance do we have for the closeness with each other that the Lord has obviously ordained?
Overall, the early church knew each other very well. They operated as co-equal co-workers and in general they were close friends. The passages cited are not referring to the comradely between members of some elite class, like some kind of pastor’s club as many so-called pastors would have us believe. These verse are referring to loving brothers and sisters who are for the most part very close friends with other loving brothers and sisters who are all doing the Lord’s work together in simplicity such as from house to house. This has nothing to do with some money-making endeavor or program-driven initiative. This is not some corporation-like church run by a CEO who is plunging forward at all costs with his endless self-serving self-initiated agendas and leaving behind a heap of human causalities.
The Bible’s direction is clear: the close friendship of the brethren. And why shouldn’t it be that way? Should mere beer buddies and bowling buddies of the world be closer to each other than Christians are? Such a notion may sound ridiculous but sadly this is typically the case. The world overall has better and closer friendships than the church (not based on truth of course) and this is very sad. The church is superior to the world not inferior. We need to rise up and be who God has ordained us to be. We have to stop settling for ungodly acquaintance level “relationships” and start demanding and taking an active part in working towards true friendship in the church.
“Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another;” Rom 12:10 NKJV
“A man that has friends must show himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticks closer than a brother.” Prov 18:2
- Paul Howey