"As for God, His way is perfect; The word of the Lord is proven; He is a shield to all who trust in Him." - Psalm 18:30

Are Christians “Friends” of the Lord, or “Servants”?

By Roger Leonard
November 23, 2009

“No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.” – John 15:15


One cannot read the Gospels and miss the point that Jesus often refers, either directly or indirectly, to His disciples as "servants". Actually the Greek word most often used by Jesus is doulos, which is bondservant or slave. He also used the word diakoneō (from which we get the word deacon), which means "to be a servant, attendant, domestic, to serve, wait upon. . .to minister to one..." (Thayer)  In John 12:26, the Lord said, “If anyone serves (diakone) Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor.


In addition, Paul, Timothy, James, Peter and Jude referred to themselves as spiritual "bondservants" of Christ. (Romans 1:1; Titus 1:1; Phil 1:1; James 1:1; 2 Peter 2:1; Jude 1:1) We read in Revelation 1:1 that the book was sent to the Lord’s douloi (plural for bondservants), and the word is used to refer to Christians several times throughout the book. (2:20; 7:3; 11:18; 19:2; 22:3, 6).


However, in John 15:15 Jesus had said He would no longer call His disciples “servants” (doulos/ slaves) but “friends.” But in verse 20 He reverts to the word servant used in verse 15. The Lord has always considered His true followers as servants and always will. Even though Paul and others mentioned above undoubtedly humbly placed that classification on themselves, they seriously understood themselves as such. So what does Jesus intend to communicate in John 15:15?


His point is threefold. 1) The typical slave or servant did the bidding of his master without question or needing to know the reason. 2) Jesus is sharing with them the same things the Father had revealed to Him. 3) He also advances the value of love as being the primary motivation in serving, which would carry them through whatever they would face, and in some cases death for His name. He would give His life for His “friends” (v. 14) and not His slaves. It is personal and He thus teaches by His example that they should similarly love one another. He states this both before (v. 12) and after (v. 17) He calls them His "friends". In addition to helping them see that they are more than mere unquestioning servants, He reminds them that they were personally hand-picked to labor for Him: “I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit.” (v. 16) To finalize His application, the love and friendship factor would help them faithfully lean on the Father in their labors by asking for help (v. 16) and in enduring the world’s hatred that would follow (vv. 18-19).


Are the Lord’s faithful disciples His servants, or His friends? Yes. And the lyrics from the song by Johnson Oatman, Jr. sum it up well:

I’ll be a friend to Jesus,

My life for Him I’ll spend.

I’ll be a friend to Jesus,

Until my years shall end.

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