The Lord Jesus speaks of this privilege as belonging, through divine riches of grace, to His saints, when He says, "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" (John 15:15).
This friendship, this communication of secrets, gives a wondrous sense of gracious and confiding intimacy. When we pray, we feel that we need something, when we serve, or when we worship, we judge that we owe something--at least that He is worthy; but when we are receiving communications--not commands as from a master, but communications as from a friend, we listen, without any necessary reflection upon our own condition, freed of all sense of either need or obligation. Our proper attitude then is sitting--neither standing, like Martha, as to serve, nor kneeling, like Mary, to worship; but like Lazarus, sitting (John 12).
The inspirations of a prophet are not equal to the communications which a friend receives-- they do not intimate the same nearness or dignity. A prophet receives an inspiration as a vessel or oracle, and he may understand it or not; a friend learns secrets on the ground of personal confidence.
All the elect are, I grant, according to the grace and calling of God, endowed with this privilege; but among them, I believe, Abraham, Moses, David, and John had it very conspicuously. They illustrate it.
Abraham was told what the Lord was about to do with Sodom: "Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do," says the Lord; and then tells him of the business which was then taking Him down to Sodom (Gen. 18). What a moment that was! The Lord had come to Abraham's tent at Mamre, and there sat at his table and his feast. The Judge of Sodom was communicating with the conqueror of Sodom; the divine Judge of that vile, reprobate place, with him who had already through faith and the victory of faith, refused all its offers. Again, I say, what a moment! and in the confidence which all this inspired, Abraham drew near and stood before the Lord, while the attendant angels withdrew and went on their way.
Full of blessing, indeed, this is. And so Moses in his day; for we read, "And the Lord spake with Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend" (Exod. 33:11). Wonderful! The Lord dealt with Moses as a man will deal with his friend. He talked with him (see v. 9). We are not told what He said, because it is the business of the passage rather to exhibit this grace of intimacy, or divine friendship, than to convey information to us. But we do learn the use which Moses makes of this gracious friendship--the very same use which Abraham of old had made of it. He speaks to the Lord about others, just as Abraham had done. He pleads for Israel, as the patriarch had pleaded for Sodom. The Lord had approached Moses as His friend; He was not receiving him as His suitor or His debtor; it was fitting, therefore, that Moses should occupy the place and the moment in a manner which showed freedom from himself.
And never, I may say, was Moses nearer to the Lord, not even when on Pisgah He was showing the land to him in its length and breadth. Indeed, the two places were of like elevation, for the Lord was communicating to Moses in each of them. Here he "talked" with him, there He "showed" him. In spirit, they were the same place, and that the highest; such as he and Elijah afterwards filled on the holy mount--for there, as we again read, they "talked with Jesus" (Luke 9:30).
And so David, as we see in 1 Chron. 17. David was a penitent, wearing sackcloth in the day of the plague, and going up Mount Olivet with dust on his head in the day of Absalom. He was a worshipper, too, singing and dancing, as he bore the ark of the Lord to Zion. But David was a friend, as Abraham and Moses had been. He received communications from the Lord through Nathan; and then, as one whom the Lord, in the ways of His grace, had thus endowed and privileged, "he went in," as we read, and "sat before the Lord." Beautiful and wonderful, but withal right. To have stood or to have knelt then would not have been obedient or holy--for holiness is consistency with God--and if He "mourn," we are to "lament;" if He "pipe," we are to "dance;" if He convict and reprove us, we may be in sackcloth before Him; but if He deal with us face to face, as a man speaketh to a friend, we may and should sit before Him.
But again, John was the nearest to Jesus at the last supper. He lay on His bosom. And thus it was he who reached the secrets of that bosom. Peter in the distance used John's nearness, and the Lord admitted its title, and gave him the privilege of it. John pressed that bosom afresh, in the confidence of an Abraham or a Moses, that the secret which was there would make itself his (John 13:25).
Surely all this tells us of the peculiar grace of this wondrous thing, this state and relationship of "friends" into which the Lord has called His saints. And we see the glorified saints in the full use and joy of this privilege; for on the holy hill (and to which I have already, in a passing way, alluded), Moses and Elias "talked" with Jesus. Sharing the glory, they knew the privileges of it; while Peter, beholding it, felt the power of it, saying, "Lord, it is good for us to be here."
It is not to present something strange or striking that I notice all this, but rather to aid the soul in assuring itself of that love wherewith the elect are loved--a love which gives us a place where, forgetting both our need and our obligation, neither kneeling to supplicate nor standing to serve, we may sit to listen and receive communications, as a man is talked with by his friend. And when we see this to be a way of His grace, we may be still conscious of slowness of heart in ourselves; but we cannot but know that we are in possession of a love on God's part which passes knowledge.
And here, let me add, that this privilege or grace of friendship, of which we speak, is eminently ours. It is illustrated in the apostleship of Paul. Paul was let into the secret which had been "hid in God" before the world was--the good pleasure which God had taken in Himself (Eph. 1, 3). And this was not inspiration as of a prophet merely; it was divine communication as to a friend. For Paul knew the secret and knew it for himself. This was more than a prophet. It was this ancient privilege of the elect, at which we have now been looking, but rising into its church-form, or fullness. In our apostle, and so in us, this privilege takes us into strange and excellent intimacy.
"Having made known unto us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He hath purposed in Himself." And accordingly we "sit," as David of old did, or as Lazarus of Bethany did, but it is in "heavenly places in Christ Jesus" (Eph. 2:6).
This excelleth. Friendship, as we have seen, is no new form of grace. It has been among the privileges of the elect from the beginning. But with us it has peculiar elevation, as everything else has that belongs to the Church. – excerpted from "Girdle of Truth"