Four Marks of a Biblical Friend

COMPANY-COLOR-364-96In yesterday’s post, I began a 3-part summary of the teaching the men of our church received at our annual retreat this past weekend with Jonathan Holmes. Part one in this blog series introduced the topic of biblical friendship by pointing out the human need for friendship.

In today’s post, we take a look at four marks of a true, biblical friend. As you read each mark examine yourself as a friend and ask the Lord to cause you to grow where growth is needed. Also, if these qualities describe well any of your own friends then pause to thank the Lord for them.


A biblical friend remains true and faithful through times of adversity. Trials have a way of sifting out the fickle from the faithful. A faithful friend is one who sticks with you and is, therefore, a treasure.

  • A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity (Proverbs 17:17).
  • A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24)
  • Many a man proclaims his own steadfast love, but a faithful man who can find? (Proverbs 20:6).


A biblical friend speaks with frankness and honesty. There is no “secret love” in a true friend.

  • Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy (Proverbs 27:5-6).
  • Whoever rebukes a man will afterward find more favor than he who flatters with his tongue (Proverbs 28:23).

“Secret love is like a man winking at a girl in the dark; it does neither one any good.” [Waltke]

The New Testament affirms that a biblical friend is a true brother in Christ who loves enough to speak the truth in love (Matthew 18:15; Galatians 6:1-3; Ephesians 4:15-16).


A biblical friend is one who exercises care in the relationship. He is careful in three areas:

  • Careful in his speech (Proverbs 25:20).
  • Careful in his timing (Proverbs 27:14; 25:17). “An uncareful friend does not know the inner topography of his friend’s heart” [Keller].
  • Careful in his stewardship (Proverbs 11:13).


A true, biblical friend is one who gives faithful counsel to his friend for his ultimate good and God’s glory. He speaks what his friend needs to hear in order to be obedient to God’s Word. He speaks the truth, not merely what will “keep” a superficial relationship.

  • Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed (Proverbs 15:22).
  • …for by wise guidance you can wage your war, and in abundance of counselors there is victory (Proverbs 24:6).
  • Oil and perfume make the heart glad, and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel (Proverbs 27:9).
  • Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another (Proverbs 27:17).

“If anyone were to ask of me, ‘What is the best thing in life?’ I would answer, ‘Friends.’” [Gregory of Nazianzus]

In tomorrow’s post, Part 3, we will learn about the ongoing disciplines that are required to forge and cultivate biblical friendship.

[NOTE: Jonathan’s work on biblical friendship is now published by Cruciform Press in the book The Company We Keep.]

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