Love in the Bible: The 4 Types of Love Expressed in Scripture
In our world today, “Love” is an incredibly popular topic. Everyone around us seems to know the answer for what love is and how love should be expressed. God knew that we would try to experience this wonderful thing that He created and the word “love” is used hundreds of times in the Bible. It is commonly known and defined by our own western culture as meaning a deep affection toward someone or something.
The Bible uses 4 different Greek words to help interpret our definition of the word love. These are the Greek definitions used in the Bible:
1. Eros: The Greek word Eros is used to describe romantic and sexual love. In most cases, this is a self-gratifying definition in the scriptures. It is a type of love that is destructive when practiced outside the context of marriage . It is often used to describe sin in the Bible because Eros love, left unrestrained, is lust. Eros is used to describe insatiable love.
2. Stergo: The Greek word Stergo is used to describe a love that is in reference to one’s family members. Specifically, this word is used for family members and is exclusive to this context.
3. Phileo: The Greek word Phileo is used to describe the love we express to one another. This is that kind of love that we practice towards other people who are in our lives: believers and non-believers alike.
4. Agape: The Greek word Agape is used to describe God’s Love. It is used to describe God’s perfect, complete, and flawless love.
Phileo and Agape Love
Romans 12:9-10 says,
“Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another;”
In this verse, two Greek variations of the word love are used. Once at the beginning of verse 10 with the words “Let love” and twice more in the next verse as affectionate and brotherly love. The first is “agape”, or God’s love. The second two are “phileo”, or love in regards to how we as believers relate to others.
The first part of the verse communicates the importance of Agape love and the second expresses the importance of Phileo love. The reason this is shown to us in this order is that the impact of Agape, God’s perfect love, gives us the capacity to express love toward others.
Agape produces Phileo, a powerful love toward one another, or others.
Jesus shows us this in Matthew 22 when he tells the two greatest commandments:
“Jesus replied, “‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Matthew 22:37-39)
First love God and second (which is equally important) to love others. First Agape, and then Phileo. This is because it is impossible to give what we haven’t experienced. Without the foundation of God’s perfect love, we are unable to operate in a Phileo-type love. This is because Phileo love has the characteristic of being sacrificial.
We can see the impact that Phileo makes when we sacrificially love others but it is only possible by the foundation of Agape. The foundation of us being rooted in God’s perfect love is necessary in order to be able to love others. Anybody can be nice to a friend. However, it is something supernatural for us to look at an enemy to be able to bless, love, and pray for them. Jesus often continued to love those who hated him and it was out of the compassion of the Father’s perfect love He was able to do this.
The Foundation of Love: The Truth of the Scriptures
Love is defined on the foundation of truth. Its terms are rooted in the truth of the Scriptures. 1 Peter 1:22 says:
“Now that you’ve cleaned up your lives by following the truth, love one another as if your lives depended on it.”
This means that even though our feelings fluctuate, our feelings do not determine what is true. The Bible does. Just because we feel something, it doesn’t mean it’s true. There are so many times in our lives when we are so passionate about something only to find out later that we were wrong. Though we may feel extremely passionate about many topics, passion is not an indication of accuracy.
The Bible is the foundation of truth in which we live our lives. If we are going to experience God’s love and love for others, then we must be founded on the truth of God’s word.
In our culture, we have a saying, “Love is Love”. This saying is communicating that because I cannot control how I feel, I cannot control the actions that follow. The truth is, we can’t always determine how we feel but we can determine what we do. We are not animals. We make decisions on what we believe to be true and right not necessarily how we feel.
Sometimes we have relied on our feelings to dictate our love instead of God’s truth; we’ve exchanged it for our own counterfeit. The quality of our lives can be a reflection of this spiritual principle: a man reaps what he sows. The quality of our lives may be produced by the horrible decisions that we have made yet God’s love is not choosing to love us less because of our mistakes. He is also not choosing to love us more when we feel more spiritual or when we’ve felt like we’ve done great either.
God’s Love is Unconditional
The Bible says this in Ephesians 2:4-5.
“But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!)”
One thing we know for certain: God chose to love us in the midst of our worst. While we were still sinners Christ died for us! This means that no matter what we’ve done, how far we’ve gone, or what people think about us, we always have a place to return to.
We can always make our way back to God, knowing that He’ll redeem us and His love will impact us in such a way that we will be transformed.
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