Feature Article

Bible Study: No Greater Love

Loyal friendship is a blessing— both to give and to receive.

In Touch Ministries staff November 1, 2021

How is friendship like a sweater? Think of the way yarn is woven together. One portion is looped around another so the strength of the first holds the second in place, creating long-lasting fabric. A famous friendship in the Old Testament was said to be durable like this. And many years later, Paul also described believers as being “knit together in love” (Col. 2:2)—through the power of Christ in the hearts of His people. 

Read 

1 Sam. 18:1-5 

Background

The friendship between David and Jonathan is portrayed throughout First Samuel. Jonathan, a prince, was the son of Israel’s King Saul, while David was a shepherd boy and the youngest of eight brothers.

Illustration by Adam Cruft

Reflect

What qualities draw you to others?

  • Jonathan “committed” himself to David in friendship (v. 1). The Hebrew word, niqserah, implies such a strong tie that many translations say their souls were “knit together.” What do you think that means? 
  • The passage also describes their bond with nefesh, the word for “soul,” which scholars believe meant one’s entire earthly life rather than an immortal portion of the self. Try listing some of the life areas where two dear friends could be “committed” to each other. How do you give or receive friendly commitment in these areas?  
  • The deeper love runs, the harder it can be to express in words. Why might English versions have translated niqserah not only in terms of closeness (“knit together”) but also responsibility (“commitment”)? Consider whether you’ve ever had a friendship so devoted it defies expression. 
  • After defeating Goliath, the Philistine who’d insulted the God of Israel and defied His army (1 Sam. 17:26), David had earned Jonathan’s affection (18:1). Good friendship usually requires similar values—that is how we relate to each other and understand our friends’ decisions. Think about values the two men must have shared. What principles, beliefs, or virtues did David’s actions indicate? Name some values you have in common with a friend.

Continuing the Story

Jonathan took crucial steps to improve David’s life and was remembered in Scripture as a man of great character.

  • Scripture says Jonathan loved David “as himself”  (vv. 1, 3). Since we naturally work toward our own success, loving others “as ourselves” means working toward their success, too. Jesus called us to an even higher standard when He gave this definition of love: “Greater love has no one than this, that a person will lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). Love that reaches the level of self-sacrifice is the greatest display of Christlikeness we can achieve—and a tremendous blessing to those around us. How do Jonathan’s actions depict such love (1 Sam. 18:4-5)?  
  • Jonathan’s commitment wasn’t simply to help his friend achieve a personal goal or desire; it supported David’s divine mission as a great future king of Israel. The chance to serve friends as they fulfill God’s calling in their life is something we should treasure and treat seriously. Ask God to help you both honor Him and bless a friend by serving in this way.

Reflect 

When God has a job for us to do, He brings people into our life who can help. 

  • Jesus is quoted as saying, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). Keeping this truth foremost in your heart will help you be a valued friend and a person of good character.

Going Further 

Consider how this study applies to your life.

We don’t always think of friendship as part of spirituality. But a closer look at Scripture tells us God sees this aspect of human life as far-reaching and important. Jesus not only labeled as “friends” all who obey Him (John 15:14-15); on the cross, He also fulfilled His definition of supreme love by dying for us (v. 13). Learning more from God’s Word about friendship will help us love better, live wisely, and grow spiritually.

  • Proverbs 13:20 says, “One who walks with wise people will be wise, but a companion of fools will suffer harm.” Try doing a word search for “wise” in the Bible. Do your closest companions exhibit wisdom? What about your own actions and speech? Pray for the Holy Spirit’s guidance in developing helpful relationships—and being a wise influence yourself. 
  • Compare these verses: “May the righteous strike me with mercy and discipline me; it is oil for the head; my head shall not refuse it” (Ps. 141:5) and “Oil and perfume make the heart glad, and a person’s advice is sweet to his friend” (Prov. 27:9). Oil in the Old Testament usually indicates blessing, honor, holiness, and joy. Describe a time when discipline or correction from a friend brought you these things—in the moment, or perhaps much later.
  • How wonderful that Jesus used the term friends when He described the greatest selflessness. Consider the ones you have as your opportunity to love the way the Lord did. You’ll be richly blessed, and so will they.

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