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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Friend of God

A Bible study guide written by Milt Reynolds, January 2011

Taken from The Acts of the Apostles, by Luke the Apostle

FRIEND OF GOD

In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. Acts 1:1-2 (ESV)

THEOPHILUS: Literally, "friend of God"; "theos", God, and "philos", friend; "philos" means a dear friend, one regarded fondly

NOTE: Luke addressed two letters to his friend, Theophilus: The Gospel of Luke, and The Acts of the Apostles. In Luke 1:1 Theophilus is described as "excellent", strongest or very honorable. Luke described Governor Felix as excellent (Acts 23:26, 24:3), as well as a later governor, Porcious Festus (Acts 26:25).

WHAT DO YOU THINK? What characteristic would Theophilus, as a "friend of God", share with Felix and Festus as being "excellent"? In many ways, the political manipulation and selfish disbelief shown by Felix and Festus would disqualify them as being in the same class as "excellent Theophilus". Any ideas?

COMMANDS: to enjoin (command), "entello", to command or direct others to a definite point or goal

NOTE: After His death and resurrection, Jesus appeared one last time to His disciples, joining them for a meal. He told them plainly that the Old Testament spoke in detail about Him as Messiah and Savior:

"These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled." Luke 24:44 (ESV)

Then Jesus immediately "opened their minds":

"Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, "Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high." Luke 24:45-49 (ESV)

This was what Luke must have spoken of when he said that Jesus had, "given commands through the Holy Spirit" immediately before being taken up.

Without God's intervention, our minds are unable to understand the essential meaning of Scripture. Before conversion, we can read the Bible and understand the words, but the importance and application of the meaning escapes us.

And even now we desperately need Jesus to open our minds to understand His Word.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Can you think of a verse or passage that once seemed unimportant but later it became vivid and life-changing? Is there a specific verse that still seems empty or inapplicable to you?

FRIENDSHIP WITH GOD AND THE COMMANDS OF CHRIST

Friendship with God and the commands of Christ are closely related. Luke gives us a hint of that friendship when he writes his letter to "Theophilus", which means "friend of God". Perhaps Luke was gently reminding us that friendship with Jesus is never casual, because close on the heels of calling us "Theophilus", he emphasizes the commands given by Christ through the Holy Spirit.

Luke must have been thinking of the last day spent with Jesus before He was arrested, tortured, and murdered. Earlier that day they ate a special supper, the Passover Feast. After eating, they walked toward a garden on the other side of the Kidron Valley. More than any other time, Jesus was especially tender, honest, and heartbreaking plain about who He was and what He and His disciples were about to endure.

It was in this setting that Jesus called His disciples, friends.

"This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another. John 15:12-17 (ESV)

WHAT DO YOU THINK? What in this passage makes friendship with Jesus much, much more radical than casual friendships we maintain with others?

Image courtesy of http://www.sxc.hu/profile/kentmurray