Nominal Friendship

Jer 3:1,4,5,8
"If a man divorces his wife and she leaves him and marries another man, should he return to her again? Would not the land be completely defiled? But you have lived as a prostitute with many lovers— would you now return to me?" declares the LORD....  Have you not just called to me: ‘My Father, my friend from my youth, will you always be angry? Will your wrath continue forever?’ This is how you talk, but you do all the evil you can. ... I gave faithless Israel her certificate of divorce and sent her away because of all her adulteries."
One theme running through the scriptures is the idea of betrayal or feigning closeness to God. Such are nominally friends of God. That is, they are friends in name only.  Perhaps to demonstrate this common phenomenon throughout scripture Judas was chosen as one of the twelve Apostles. For referring to Judas Jesus said, "I am not referring to all of you; I know those I have chosen. But this is to fulfill the scripture: ‘He who shares my bread has lifted up his heel against me.’" John 13:18 Here he quoted Ps 41:9 "Even my close friend, whom I trusted, he who shared my bread, has lifted up his heel against me." God finds it particularly annoying when alleged friends turn on him. Many times we find in scripture where the religious elite turn out to be God's worse enemies. Afterall who did Jesus criticize the most? And who had Jesus put to death? "The Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death." Mt 20:18 While they thought of themselves as the builders of God's household, they rejected the chief cornerstone.

So also in the Christian community there are Christians who are merely nominally God's friend. For to be God's friend is to do what He says. "You are my friends if you do what I command." John 15:14  And Jesus says, "Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’" Mt 7:21-23  Therefore  "Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you— unless, of course, you fail the test?" 2Cor 13:5 Don't become a Christian and then turn your back on God's commands. You'll be worse off. 2Peter 2:20-22 "If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them.  Of them the proverbs are true: "A dog returns to its vomit," and, "A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud." Such people may become false teachers, teaching that freedom in Christ means freedom to sin. "For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord." Jude 1:4 Or in the other extreme of legalism Paul writes "This matter of circumcision arose because some false brothers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves." Gal 2:4

There are generally two categories of nominalism. For to deviate from the straight and narrow one either turns to the right or to the left. To the right is legalism and to the left is lawlessness. Culturally western society tends towards lawlessness. That is "freedom" is emphasized so much as to advocate or condone licentiousness. Submission is viewed as the enemy of freedom and thus whether it be man's submission to God or such commands in the Bible as the instruction for wives to submit to their husbands is viewed with contempt by the non-religious, and for the nominally religious are simply interpreted in such a way as to not involve actual submission. In contrast, Islam, which itself means submission, goes to the other extreme of legalism, as had the Judiazers of Jesus' day. For they deny the grace of God as personified in Jesus Christ. (The Jesus of the Bible, not the "Jesus" of the Koran) The perfomance of rituals becomes central to the practice of righteousness under legalistic systems. But according to the Bible, "the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit"Rom 14:17 Of course to those who are on the left path, all others are too legalistic for them - even those on the straight and narrrow. So also to those who are on the legalistic path, all others are lawless to them - including those on the straight and narrow.

Being God's friend, His enemies become your enemies. For Jesus said, "All men will hate you because of me." Luke 21:17 and "No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also." John 15:20 Though of course contrary to the world and its religions we are to love our enemies. "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you." Mt 5:44 But realize that God's experience of nominalism within the Christian community will be your experience as well. The greatest opposition you face may in fact come from other alleged Christians, if not from religious people in general. "For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the slave woman and the other by the free woman. ... at that time the son born in the ordinary way persecuted the son born by the power of the Spirit. It is the same now." Gal 2:22,29

Discussion Questions

What were in the circumstances under which God got divorced?
What do you think might have been a reason behind Jesus selecting Judas as an apostle?
What category of people have had a tendency to show themselves God's worse enemies?
Why is that?
In our relationship with God what does it mean to be a friend in name only?
What are the two general categories of those who feign friendship with God?
And what constitutes being a member of each category?
What are particular applications today of nominalism?
What kind of treatment can those born of God expect from the nominally religious?


The Berean Christian Bible Study Resources Jul 29,2015