How Does The Bible Define Love?

How Does The Bible Define Love? July 4, 2018

The word love is used so loosely these days that it’s lost its true meaning, so what are the best Bible verses that define what love is.

A Verb

Love is not so much a feeling as it is a verb. It’s what you do. Of course, Jesus gave the greatest display of love on the cross that we have ever seen (John 3:16-17), giving His own life as a ransom for the many who would trust in Him (Mark 10:45). It wasn’t that Jesus felt like bearing our sins but His love in going to the cross was not based upon what He felt like. Jesus certainly wasn’t in love with the idea of taking upon Himself the sins of the world and prayed 3 times to have “this cup” removed, but He knew it was the will of the Father. For this reason He was born into the flesh, lived a sinless life, kept the Law to perfection, and gave His life to atone for our sins, so He knew why He came into the world. He said, “I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:32) and true to His word, He died for ungodly, wicked sinners who were enemies of God (Rom 5:6-10). Jesus told His disciples, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John15:13). You may not have to lay down your physical life, but we can lay it down for others and for Christ. In our lives we have three great resources; time, talent, and treasure. Laying down one’s life for another, particularly for Christ, means you give of your time, your effort, and your resources. That is love in action. Talk is cheap, but action says a lot louder than words ever can.

God Gave

When a person is brought to repentance and faith in Christ, they have received what they could never have earned (Eph 2:8-9), but notice God doesn’t give us what we deserve (wrath, judgment). He gives us what we need (mercy and grace). The psalmist understood that “He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities” (Psalm 103:10), and we can rejoice in that it was He who first loved us. He made the first move (Eph 2:1-4; 1 John 4:19), and incredibly, God did this while we were still exceedingly sinful (Rom 3:10-12, 23). Regardless of what we deserved, “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). God gave Jesus…which is why Jesus said that no one took His life from Him. He said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11), and remember, no “one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:7-8). If Christ only died for the righteous, none would be saved because there are none that are righteous before God without Christ. Who gave more than God Himself? That is love. It is selfless giving and without regard or respect to whether someone deserves it or not.

Walking in Love

Jesus walked with His disciples for about 3 years, and one of the last things He commanded them was to love one another. Why? I believe it was to draw others to Himself. He said, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). The “all people” in this verse includes the lost and the saved; all people! It is by our love for one another that people will know we are Jesus’ disciples, so love is a verb…it’s what you do. And it looks like this: “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Cor 13:7). It believes the best or gives people the benefit of the doubt or doesn’t jump to conclusions, and conclusions that are sometimes the worst. Love bears with one another’s shortcomings, love hopes in the fact that things will work out for our very best in God’s sovereignty (Rom 8:28), and love allows us to endure the scorn, ridicule, and insults we receive for our faith in Christ. We are told, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you” (Luke 6:27-28). That is a godly love. Giving others what they don’t deserve, just as God has done for us. This means we should be “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Eph 4:32), “And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Eph 5:2).


The Bible shows us what love is, and we need only look to the cross to see that, but there are tangible things that we can see and do which display love. For example, “Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law” (Rom 13:1), so if you want to show the love of God to the world, then “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves” (Phil 2:3), and, “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Phil 2:4). I think most of us would die for our family or even a friend. We’ve seen others give their lives for their co-workers in work-place shootings, but to die for an enemy? That’s off the charts for us. That’s love…the love of God.

Article by Jack Wellman

Jack Wellman is Pastor of the Mulvane Brethren Church in Mulvane Kansas. Jack is a writer at Christian Quotes and 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 Teaching Children the Gospel available on Amazon.

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  • pud

    More wrong thinking about absolutely everything. I cannot recall you ever being even close to rational or correct. This is why you should seek professional help.

    A human sacrifice by a “god”of himself to himself is not only total gibberish it is disgusting in the extreme given that this supposed “all powerful” “being” could accomplish anything he “desired” through far more benign means. Your “god” is a moral monster and psychopath. Thankfully he’s as real as Zeus.

    Tell me jackster….Where was the “love” when your “god” supposedly drown the entire planet killing newborns in the womb and little kittens?

    Further jackman…seeing as you COMPLETELY LACK critical thinking skills….It is IMPOSSIBLE to love ANYONE more than yourself.least of all an enemy. Love given without condition and without any criteria is ABSOLUTELY worthless. Worth is derived from scarcity and rarity not infinite unrestricted supply

    “We’ve seen others give their lives for their co-workers in work-place shootings, but to die for an enemy? That’s off the charts for us. That’s love…the love of God.”

    No it isn’t. A mother animal will fight to the death for her offspring…is that love in any form let alone your make believe “god” thing being involved? Which “god” does a mother leopard worship?

    Dying for an enemy is one thing and one thing only….STUPID!!~

    Just one more time you willingly demonstrate how infantile your thinking is and how little critical thought you put into anything.

  • Carlos Santiago

    An important topic Mr. Wellman. The world may hate Christians and God but they long for the ethics of Jesus. A few words from my friends the Passantino’s would be appropriate here.

    Nearly everyone is familiar with the “Golden Rule” even if they don’t realize that it comes to us in its perfect form as a command of Jesus: “In everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12).

    Taken within the context of Jesus’s other teachings, the Golden Rule is a minimalist argument, that is, the conduct commanded in the Golden Rule is the least one can do acting in imitation of the love of God. As a matter of fact, in many other places Jesus tells us that the superior commandment is not merely to be fair to others, to treat them as we would like to be treated, but even to excel in love toward others. He tells us to love our enemies (Luke 6:27, 35) and to forgive someone repeatedly (Matt.18:21-22). Jesus Himself provided the best example of this Better-than-the-Golden-Rule: He sacrificed Himself willingly for us while we were still sinners, deserving nothing better than God’s condemnation:

    You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:6-8).

    The maximalist argument we could call the “Platinum Rule,” exemplified in Paul’s command to the Christians in Philippi, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves” (Phil. 2:3). And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth.

    Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. Peace