We know that God is love but what is the agape love that is described in the Bible? There are several kinds of love mentioned in the Bible. What are they and how does it compare with the agape love?
The first love is called “phileo” love and that is the love that the city of Philadelphia was named after…brotherly love. This type of love is that friends have for one another. This type of love can also exist between brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles and other family members but it is most frequently associated with a deep, abiding friendship…a love that is shared between the best of friends, much like that of King David and Jonathan, King Saul’s son. It Is, or at least should be, the type of love that exists between church members. It is a love that is not passionate like that between a husband and a wife. After Jesus resurrection He came to the disciples and He asked Peter, if he loved Him. The word Jesus used about whether Peter loved Him was “agapao” but Peter must have been caught off guard and said “Yes Lord, you know that I love you” (John 21:15) but the word Peter used was the Greek “phileo” which is the brotherly love. Peter didn’t get it. Jesus was using the strongest of all types of love, agape.
The next type of love is what is called in the Greek “eros” which is a love that is about sex. You can probably see that is the root word for erotic. Surprisingly this word is not used in the New Testament at all but this type of love is that which occurs between a man and a woman and there is nothing sinful about the “eros” love, as long as it is within the confines of marriage.
Most people probably have not heard of this type of love but they exhibit it without even knowing about it. This kind of love is what a sister and brother for one another and the kind that they have for their siblings and like phileo, it is not a passionate love but one that has strong feelings between family members. It can include the love of a parent, a brother or sister, an aunt or uncle, a grandparent or cousins. This love is one that most people have in the world in family relationships.
This is the Greek word for love at its ultimate. Agape love is not like a brotherly love or a love between a husband and a wife. It is the most self-sacrificing love that there is. This type of love is the love that God has for His own children. This type of love is what was displayed on the cross by Jesus Christ. In John 3:16 it is written that “God so loved (agapao) the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” If a husband and father had a choice to have his family and his children die or for him to die and he chose to die for them. that is similar to what “agape” love is, but God’s love is even greater than this.
Agape love is that which is always associated with the love of God and rarely does it occur when it involves one person in relations with another. The Greek word agape was hardly ever used in Greek-speaking societies but in the New Testament, it occurs 320 times.
Agape Love in the Scriptures
Here are some Scriptures that use the word agape. You have already read about agape love in John 3:16. That is the type of love which is always the highest, most supreme love there it. It is a love where one is willing to die for another, even if that person is unworthy, sinful, undeserving and is an enemy of the one who died for them.
First John 4:8 “Anyone who does not love (agape) does not know God, because God is love (agape).”
Romans 5:5 “and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love (agape) has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
John 10:17 “For this reason the Father loves (agape) me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again.”
Second Peter 1:17 “For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved (agapetos) Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
John 21:20 “Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved (agapao) following them, the one who also had leaned back against him during the supper and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?”
Agape is the kind of love that is not of human origin. For example this love can be said to be found in Romans 5:10 “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.” To die for an enemy is not what humans do. That is a God-type of love. Jesus died for us while we were still His enemies and while we were sinners. He loved us first. He took the initiative. We didn’t. Agape love is the kind of love that God had for us, while we were still dead in our sins. Agape love is a God love. This love is a love that Jesus displayed in laying down His life voluntarily for us; the type of love that the Father and Jesus have for One another; a love that is poured out for us like Jesus’ blood was poured out for sinners. If you have not repented and trusted in Christ, then you will have to pay for your own sins and since you cannot ever pay enough, you will be separated from God for all eternity. Why not reconcile to God today and bend the knee, repent of your sins, confess them to God, and then trust in Jesus Christ who loved (agapeo) enough to die for you.
Another Reading on Patheos to Check Out: What Did Jesus Really Look Like: A Look at the Bible Facts
Article by Jack Wellman
Jack Wellman is Pastor of the Mulvane Brethren church in Mulvane Kansas. Jack is also the Senior Writer at What Christians Want To Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible. You can follow Jack on Google Plus or check out his book Blind Chance or Intelligent Design available on Amazon