He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will be destroyed. (Proverbs 13:20—NKJV)

Most of us travel through life happy for the good friends we happen to find along the way. But did you ever take the time to discern the qualities that make for good friendships? God uses biblical friendships. Friendship is elevated by our Lord’s use of the word friend. John 15:13–15 reads, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. You are my friends if you do whatever I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends.”

Friendships are powerful relationships for either good or bad. Warnings of choosing friendships poorly are peppered throughout the Scriptures. Proverbs 22:24–25 states, “Make no friendship with an angry man, and with a furious man do not go, lest you learn his ways and set a snare for your soul.” Psalm 1:1 admonishes, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful.” Sinful behavior of those highly regarded by you and within your “inner circle” can do you no good. 1 Corinthians 15:33–34 weighs in with these words, “Do not be deceived: Evil company corrupts good habits [moral virtues of character and custom]. Awake to righteousness, and do not sin; for some do not have the knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame.” (Related verses include: Proverbs 4:14–15, 24:1, Exodus 23:2, 1 Corinthians 5:9–11, 2 Thessalonians 3:14, etc.)

These verses impress upon the listening heart the importance of judiciously choosing close friends. Keeping the “paths of the righteous” (Proverbs 2:20) infers fellowship with brothers along the way. While the saint is to “live in the world, but not of it,” he is to also befriend fellow travelers. Proverbs 17:17 says, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” Good friendships are a great blessing. Proverbs 27:10 reminds, “Do not forsake your own friend or your father’s friend, nor go to your brother’s house in the day of your calamity; better is a neighbor nearby than a brother far away.” Verse six states, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.” Verse 17 rounds out the advice concerning friendship with these words, “As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.” Good prospects for friends are not found among those who are purely “good-timers,” gossipers, advantage takers, liars, or those with bad habits. Instead real friends are found among those who are good listeners, selfless, and trustworthy.

No friendship is immune from trouble. Whisperers can separate quality friends if believers are not careful (Proverbs 16:28 and 17:9, not to mention Proverbs 6:19). Believers are to be careful not to form alliances with the unsaved as 2 Corinthians 6:14–15 so aptly instructs, “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever?” Remember, however, that the converse is equally true—believers are to be yoked together, have fellowship (partnership in the work), communion, and accord with one another. Believers need to cultivate such productive friendships.

Believers are uniquely suited to gauge the effectiveness of their friendships by three tests: the Spiritual Match, the Character Match, and the Principle Match. Test the quality of your friendships by the Spiritual Match: Is there a vibrant walk with Christ that both of you are pursuing on your own? This is the only basis of real trust available to sinners saved by Grace! Then, test the quality of your friendships by the Character Match: Is there a healthy selflessness, high toned morality, and undeniable commitment of love for one another? This is the only basis of progressing in maturity and real advancement for Christ. Finally, test the quality of your friendships by the Principle Match: Is there a fervent honoring of truth in all things? This is the only basis of effective sharpening, freely sharing thoughts, and receiving constructive criticism that speaks the truth in love.

Come to think of it, this sounds like the kind of “friendship” with Him the Lord offered in John 15. There will always be many friendships we have that are “a mile wide and an inch deep,” but the friendships that endure into eternity are the ones that are chosen wisely, nurtured, and treasured. Build biblical friendships. Trust and obey.