The aim of the authors is to answer this question by examining relationships described in the Scriptures and in church history.
This booklet is a useful publication; its style and expression make it very accessible, although more emphasis could have been given to the supreme friendship which exists between the Persons of the Trinity, and the friendship between Christ and his people.
The relationship between David and Jonathan is well examined in its depth and significance, as is the relationship between the mature Paul and Timothy. The writers correctly emphasise that the selfless concern which Paul had for the gospel was matched by Timothy’s; a oneness in the gospel produced a oneness in fellowship.
The friendship between Farel and Calvin extended beyond ecclesiastical matters to concern for each other’s private life. True friendship should allow us to voice spiritual concerns in an expression of Christian love and fellowship. Friendship within the family is obviously vital, and the authors suggest that our spouse should be our closest earthly friend.
When the love of Christ rules in our heart, we are qualified to be an authentic friend to other believers. As with Paul and Timothy, the man or woman who fears the Lord, shows kindness to others and works diligently for the kingdom, is worthy of our trust.
The authors present ten ways of developing and deepening biblical fellowship. These are helpful and challenging, though there is some overlap. One such skill is listening to one another — a salutary exhortation in the context of the present frenetic world (James 1:19).
Praying and reading God’s truth together and trusting one another fully to the extent of constructive criticism (Proverbs 27:6) is encouraged. Likewise, the mutual building of Christian hope, which gives patience, perseverance and joy, is counselled. The more we build up each other’s hope in Christ, the closer we become.
Even in the best of friendships, Christians are pilgrims on the way to heaven. The point is made that, in that glorious habitation, Jesus Christ will be our best friend in a state of perfection. Our friendship then will be rich, full and sin-free as we see him perfectly.
John A. Crosby