One of the greatest compliments paid to anyone in the Bible is found in James 2:23. As in other New Testament contexts, when the subject of faith is discussed at length, the great patriarch of faith from the Old Testament—Abraham—is called out as a man to emulate.
In the context of James 2, the inspired writer was explaining the Biblical nature of true faith. James emphasized that “faith [that] does not have works” cannot “save” a man (2:14), for “faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (2:17). To illustrate (and prove) this point, James called to mind how Abraham was “justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar” (2:21). He then asked, “Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect?” (2:22). Abraham was a man of true faith, for his faith was evidenced by and punctuated by his works. He would have never considered for one moment that his relationship with God could be established or maintained by having “faith only” (2:24), but only when his faith was put into action.
In verse 23, God told James to write that Abraham “was called the friend of God.” God looked at Abraham and said, “That’s my friend.” What a thought! The trust, devotion, commitment and love that Abraham had for God was evident in his life. He wanted to be God’s friend, and he made every effort to demonstrate that to his heavenly friend.
Only 25 verses later, James wrote about being friends with someone else. How interesting that in one book we read about being a friend of God, and then we read about a totally different friendship. Read this carefully: “Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (4:4).
What a contrast between being “the friend of God” in 2:23 and “an enemy of God” in 4:4! What makes the difference? God says, “If you’re going to be friends with the world, then we can’t be friends!” If you’re going to be more interested in what the world thinks than what God thinks…If you’re going to be more desirous of the world’s attention, accolades and approval than you are of God’s…If you’re going to long to hang out with and spend more time with the world than you long to be with God…then you cannot be God’s friend! But, it’s even worse than that! It’s not merely that you can’t be His friend, but in actuality, you are His enemy!
As James’ brother, Jesus, said, “No one can serve two masters” (Matt. 6:24). You must choose! Do you want the world to be your friend, or do you want God’s friendship?