We know that God is love but what does agape love describe in the Bible? There are several types of love mentioned in the Bible. What are they and how does it compare to agape love?
The first love is called “phileo” love and it is the love that gave the city of Philadelphia its name…brotherly love. This type of love is that friends have for each other. This type of love can also exist between siblings, aunts and uncles, and other family members, but is most often associated with a deep and lasting friendship…a love shared between best friends, a much like that of King David and Jonathan, son of King Saul. This is, or at least should be, the type of love that exists between members of the church. 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 asked Peter if he loved him. The word Jesus used to find out if Peter loved him was “agapao” but Peter must have been caught off guard and said “Yes Lord, you know I love you” (John 21:15) but the word used by Peter was the Greek “phileo” which is brotherly love. Peter did not understand. Jesus used 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 concerns sex. You can probably see that’s the root of the word erotic. Surprisingly, this word is not used at all in the New Testament, but this type of love is that which occurs between a man and a woman and there is nothing sinful about “eros” love, as long as it is within the boundaries of marriage.
Most people probably haven’t heard of this type of love, but they manifest it without even knowing it. This kind of love is what a sister and a brother have for each other and the kind they have for their siblings and like phileo it’s not a passionate love but has feelings strong among family members. This can include the love of a parent, sibling, aunt or uncle, grandparent, or cousins. This love is the one that most people have in the world in family relationships.
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It is the Greek word for love at its ultimate. Agape love is not like brotherly love or love between husband and wife. It is the most devoted love there is. This type of love is the love that God has for his own children. This type of love is what was shown 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 whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life.” If a husband and father had the choice to kill his family and children or he died and chose to die for them. it is similar to what “agape” love is, but the love of God is even greater than that.
Agape love is that which is always associated with the love of God and it rarely occurs when it involves one person in relationships with another. The Greek word agape was almost never 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. It’s the type of love that’s always the highest, the most supreme love in there. It is a love where one is ready to die for another, even if that person is unworthy, sinful, unworthy and is the enemy of the one who died for them.
1 John 4:8 “Whoever does not love (agape) does not know God, for God is love (agape).”
Romans 5:5 “and we are not ashamed of hope, for the love of God (agape) has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which has been given to us.”
John 10:17 “Therefore the Father loves (agape) me, because I lay down my life to take it back.”
2 Peter 1:17 “For when he received the honor and the glory of God the Father, and the voice was carried unto him by majestic glory, ‘This is my beloved (agapetos) Son, in which I took pleasure.”
John 21:20 “Peter turned around and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved (agapao) following them, the one who had also leaned against him during supper and said, “Lord, who is going to betray you?
Agape is the kind of love that is not of human origin. For example, we can say that this love is found in Romans 5:10 “For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, how much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.” Dying for an enemy is not what humans do. It is a type of love of God. Jesus died for us while we were still his enemies and sinners. He loved us first. He took the initiative. We did not do it. Agape love is the kind of love God had for us while we were still dead in our sins. Agape love is a love of God. This love is a love that Jesus manifested by voluntarily laying down his life for us; the kind of love the Father and Jesus have for each other; a love that is shed for us as the blood of Jesus was shed for sinners. If you have not repented and trusted in Christ then you will have to pay for your own sins and since you can never pay enough you will be separated from God for all eternity. Why not be reconciled to God today and bend the knee, repent of your sins, confess them to God, and then trust Jesus Christ who loved (agapeo) enough to die for you.
Another Patheos Reading to Check Out: What Jesus Really Looked Like: A Look at Biblical Facts
Article by Jack Wellman
Jack Wellman is pastor of Mulvane Brethren Church in Mulvane Kansas. Jack is also the senior editor of What Christians Want To Know whose mission is to equip, encourage and energize Christians and answer 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