“Love” is a feel-good word in the English language. We even have a holiday dedicated to it. But the world does not really know the true meaning of love. Our culture thinks love is to tolerate everything under the sun with open arms and heart, embracing all ideals no matter how destructive or rooted in sin they may be. Sin is thrown to the ground in the name of love. In the world, love is a feeling and a very unstable emotion. When the feeling is gone, love is gone. Remember the Righteous Brothers’ You Lost that Loving Feeling lyric: You've lost that lovin' feeling' Whoa that lovin' feeling' You've lost that lovin' feeling', Now its gone, gone, gone
Or the song by Roxette: It Must Have Been Love: It must have been love, but it's over now, It must have been good, but I lost it somehow, It must have been love, but it's over now, From the moment we touched till the time had run out.
The love of the world is here today and gone tomorrow. It fades, it runs out, it becomes barren. I have often wondered as a lawyer, how 2 people can once love each deeply at one time, and a few years later hate each other. There is no root to the love of this world. It does not run very deep and is blown about by the winds of change, and ultimately is incredibly disappointing.
Some definitions of love according to the Urban Dictionary: “An inexplainable yet incredibly strong feeling for someone. Either a horrible disease or a blessing. It is the constant source of pleasure and pain. But we can’t predict which it will be from one moment to the next. However, if it is not returned, you will become the most miserable person in the world. That awkward feeling in what feels like your stomach (affects how you feel and think) which causes you to do/say really stupid things. The reason people kill themselves. Honestly the most painful thing I have ever experienced so far in my life. Making yourself vulnerable to someone, while fully knowing that they may betray you. Avoid if at all possible.”
The world can never know true love without God and does not know what love is. The world today is wrapped up in a counterfeit love that is self-serving, shallow and without boundaries. Love is always spiritual first and is never rooted in the flesh. Love is birthed from the Spirit of God not the spirit of man.
So let’s turn to the Bible to answer the question “what is love?” I John 4:8,16: God is love. What an awe-inspiring truth! In the least common denominator, God is love. God is the only source, and the originator of all true love. He was the first lover. God is perfect, endless and supreme love. Love defines what God is and all His actions. Yahweh is love in perfection to the most minute degree. Every movement of God, every purpose of God, every word of God is the demonstration of perfect love. If you want to see love in action, look at God. God’s creation is stamped with His love. God’s faithfulness, dedication, patience, longsuffering, care, forgiveness, righteousness, justice and sacrifice are all characteristics of love.
As Christians, we can love our families and love with great brotherly love. But we have the inherent ability to love with the love of God. This is to love in a new spiritual dimension. It is birthed within you when you are born again. The new birth allows us to love in a way and. to a degree that was never available before. I John 4:7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.
The Greek word translated as “love” is agapao and means a love that is awakened by a sense of value in an object that causes one to prize and treasure it. This love springs from an appreciation of the value and worth of an object, its preciousness. It is to love with wonder and admiration, to cherish with reverence. It is a love that compels one to sacrifice oneself for the benefit of the one being loved. It is to love like God loves; it is to love like Jesus loves.
In John 13, Jesus gives his disciples a new commandment. Verses 34, 35: 34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love (agapao) one another: just as I have loved (agapao) you, you also are to love (agapao) one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love (agapao) for one another.”
“New” is the Greek word “kainos” which means new in kind and quality a completely new model unlike anything that existed before.
Jesus is teaching John 13 what this new love looks like in action. He sets forth three incredible acts of humility, service, and mercy as examples of agapao love. John 13:1ff: Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. 2 During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, 3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, 4 rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. 5 Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. 6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” 7 Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” 8 Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” 9 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” 10 Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet,[a] but is completely clean. And you[b] are clean, but not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.”
12 When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? 13 You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. 16 Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them. 21 After saying these things, Jesus was troubled in his spirit, and testified, “Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” 22 The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he spoke. 23 One of his disciples, whom Jesus loved, was reclining at table at Jesus’ side,[e] 24 so Simon Peter motioned to him to ask Jesus[f] of whom he was speaking. 25 So that disciple, leaning back against Jesus, said to him, “Lord, who is it?” 26 Jesus answered, “It is he to whom I will give this morsel of bread when I have dipped it.” So when he had dipped the morsel, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot.
Agapao love is not only directed toward Yahweh but is focused on community. It is also about love for neighbor, stranger, countryman, and enemy. The context of understanding what it means to love is found in my treatment of others, not in my feelings or emotions. Love is displayed in outward action. From a biblical point of view, love does not stand on a foundation of emotions, but rather on a foundation of ethical responsibility. Love demands specific boundaries for behavior. It is about acting within the confines of what it means to be faithful, trustworthy, and reliable. Love is what delights God and blesses others. Love is essentially exhibiting the character of God in community.
Romans 5:5: Such hope [in God’s promises] never disappoints us, because God’s love (agape) has been abundantly poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
When we are born again, God’s agapao is abundantly poured into our hearts. “Poured out” (ekcheo from ek = out + chéo = pour) means literally to pour out, and pictures not a trickle, but a lavish outpouring to the point of overflowing. In other words, God’s love is not rationed out drop by drop but is like a mighty endless current! God’s love comes into us as a brimming and overflowing river, in “immeasurable torrents” , in “unstinting lavishness”. His love in our hearts is like a shower of rain soaking parched ground. Ekcheo is in the perfect tense which conveys the picture that the “pouring out” began at some point of time in the past (at conversion) and the effects, results, and benefits of that outpouring continue – they have not been withdrawn. God’s love into our hearts is a creative act. It kindles love in us, and love “becomes the moral principle by which we live”
The greatest example of agapao love ever starts with Yahweh:
Romans 5:6-11: While we were still helpless [powerless to provide for our salvation], at the right time Christ died [as a substitute] for ungodly. 7 Now it is an extraordinary thing for one to willingly give his life even for an upright man, though perhaps for a good man [one who is noble and selfless and worthy] someone might even dare to die. 8 But God clearly shows and proves His own love (agape) for us, by the fact that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Therefore, since we have now been justified [declared free of the guilt of sin] by His blood, [how much more certain is it that] we will be saved from the wrath of God through Him. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, it is much more certain, having been reconciled, that we will be saved [from the consequences of sin] by His life [that is, we will be saved because Christ lives today]. 11 Not only that, but we also rejoice in God [rejoicing in His love and perfection] through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received and enjoy our reconciliation [with God].
Yahweh reached out to us when we were helpless, ungodly sinners and sent His Son to die in our place providing reconciliation, justification, and atonement that we can enjoy now and through all eternity.
Let’s cover some verses in the New Testament showing this agapao in action. Remember Biblical agape love is the love of choice, the love of serving with humility, the highest kind of love, the noblest kind of devotion, the love of the will (intentional, a conscious choice) and not motivated by superficial appearance, emotional attraction, or sentimental relationship. Agape is not based on pleasant emotions or good feelings that might result from a physical attraction or a familial bond. Agape chooses as an act of self-sacrifice to serve the recipient. From all of the descriptions of agape love, it is clear that true agape love is a sure mark of salvation. Agape love does not depend on the world’s criteria for love, such as attractiveness, emotions, or sentimentality. Agape is God-like love motivated and energized by God, a love that centers on the needs and welfare of the one loved and will pay whatever personal price is necessary to meet those needs and foster that welfare. We are challenged to live out this highest form of love. How could this be possible except that it be a supernatural endowment?
Romans 12:10: Love (agape) is to be sincere and active [the real thing—without guile and hypocrisy].
Without hypocrisy is literally without play-acting, without playing the part. Hypocrite (hupokrites) was “a stage–actor; it was a custom for Greek and Roman actors to speak in large masks hiding who they really were.” Anuopkritos means “without a mask” and thus unfeigned, sincere, genuine, free from deceit, authentic, undisguised, without pretense or sham, “without dissimulation” (KJV) (dissimulate = hide under a false appearance). As alluded to above, in classical Greek drama, the hypokrites was the play-actor who projected an image but hid his true identity behind a mask. Metaphorically and morally, a hypokrites (a hypocrite) is anyone who pretends to be something he is not.
See this in further action in this chapter.
Hate what is evil [detest all ungodliness, do not tolerate wickedness]; hold on tightly to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another with [authentic] brotherly affection [as members of one family], give preference to one another in honor; 11 never lagging behind in diligence; aglow in the Spirit, enthusiastically serving the Lord; 12 constantly rejoicing in hope [because of our confidence in Christ], steadfast and patient in distress, devoted to prayer [continually seeking wisdom, guidance, and strength], 13 contributing to the needs of God’s people, pursuing [the practice of] hospitality.
14 Bless those who persecute you [who cause you harm or hardship]; bless and do not curse [them]. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice [sharing others’ joy], and weep with those who weep [sharing others’ grief]. 16 Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty [conceited, self-important, exclusive], but associate with humble people [those with a realistic self-view]. Do not overestimate yourself. 17 Never repay anyone evil for evil. Take thought for what is right and gracious and proper in the sight of everyone. 18 If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave the way open for God’s wrath [and His judicial righteousness]; for it is written [in Scripture], “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 But if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for by doing this you will heap [e]burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome and conquered by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Romans 13:8-10: Owe nothing to anyone except to love (agapao- and seek the best for one another; for he who [unselfishly] loves his neighbor has fulfilled the [essence of the] law [relating to one’s fellowman]. 9 The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not covet,” and any other commandment are summed up in this statement: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong (kakos-evil, godless, worthless) to a neighbor [it never hurts anyone]. Therefore [unselfish] love is the fulfillment of the Law.
I Corinthians 8:1: Love builds up. Build up-means literally to build, construct or erect a dwelling. Used here as a metaphor meaning to build up, establish, confirm, edify.
I Corinthians 14:1 Pursue love (agape). “Pursue” (dioko from dío = pursue, prosecute, persecute) means to follow or press hard after, literally to pursue as one does a fleeing enemy. It means to chase, harass, vex and pressure and was used for chasing down criminals. Dioko speaks of an intensity of effort leading to a pursuit with earnestness and diligence in order to obtain. Sprint after. It is a stronger word than “follow.”
I Corinthians 16:14: Let everything you do be done in love (agape)
2 Corinthians 6:4:a,6b: but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way…by genuine love
Galatians 5:6: For [if we are] in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but only faith activated and expressed and working through love.
Agapao energizes faith. Agapao is the battery for faith. Agapao activates faith. Without agapao, there is no sustaining faith.
Galatians 5:13,14: For you, my brothers, were called to freedom; only do not let your freedom become an opportunity for the sinful nature (worldliness, selfishness), but through love (agape) serve and seek the best for one another. 14 For the whole Law [concerning human relationships] is fulfilled in one precept, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself [that is, you shall have an unselfish concern for others and do things for their benefit].” 15 But if you bite and devour one another [in bickering and strife], watch out that you [along with your entire fellowship] are not consumed by one another.
No selfishness in agapao. Serves and seeks the best for one another. No biting and devouring of one another. We have freedom so we can love like He loves.
Ephesians 3:16-20: 16 May He grant you out of the riches of His glory, to be strengthened and spiritually energized with power through His Spirit in your inner self, [indwelling your innermost being and personality], 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through your faith. And may you, having been [deeply] rooted and [securely] grounded in love (agape), 18 be fully capable of comprehending with all the saints (God’s people) the width and length and height and depth of His love [fully experiencing that amazing, endless love]; 19 and [that you may come] to know [practically, through personal experience] the love of Christ which far surpasses [mere] knowledge [without experience], that you may be filled up [throughout your being] to all the fullness of God [so that you may have the richest experience of God’s presence in your lives, completely filled and flooded with God Himself].
As Christians, we are to be rooted and grounded in agape, comprehending and getting a glimpse of this four-dimensional love of Christ that allows us to be filled and flooded with God Himself in our words and actions.
Ephesians 4:1,2: So I, the prisoner for the Lord, appeal to you to live a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called [that is, to live a life that exhibits godly character, moral courage, personal integrity, and mature behavior—a life that expresses gratitude to God for your salvation], 2 with all humility [forsaking self-righteousness], and gentleness [maintaining self-control], with patience, bearing with one another in [unselfish] love.
Walk worthy of our calling is to walk in agapao.
Ephesians 4:15,16: But speaking the truth in love [in all things—both our speech and our lives expressing His truth], let us grow up in all things into Him [following His example] who is the Head—Christ. 16 From Him the whole body [the church, in all its various parts], joined and knitted firmly together by what every joint supplies, when each part is working properly, causes the body to grow and mature, building itself up in [unselfish] love.
Agapao allows for us not only to grow and reflect the image of Christ, but this is how the body of Christ works most effectively and grows and matures.
Ephesians 5:1.2: Therefore become imitators of God [copy Him and follow His example], as well-beloved children [imitate their father]; 2 and walk continually in love [that is, value one another—practice empathy and compassion, unselfishly seeking the best for others], just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and sacrifice to God [slain for you, so that it became] a sweet fragrance.
Agapao is to be our lifestyle.
Philippians 1:9: And it is my prayer that your love (agape) may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment.
Abound: (perisseuo from perissos = abundant, exceeding some number, measure, rank or need, over and above) means to cause to superabound, to be superfluous, to overflow, to be in affluence, to excel or to be in abundance with the implication of being considerably more than what would be expected.
Colossians 3:12-14: Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.
Love is the power which holds together all the other virtues. There does not seem to be sufficient reason for regarding it now as a girdle, though the idea is possible. The phrase the bond of perfectness is best understood as meaning that love, in its binding power, gives perfectness, or completeness, to the other virtues in combination. For lacking love they certainly would not be perfect.
I Thessalonians 3:12: And may the Lord cause you to increase and excel and overflow in love for one another, and for all people, just as we also do for you;
2 Thessalonians 3:5: May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and into the steadfastness and patience of Christ.
Direct: means to make straight, to straighten fully, to guide or lead directly straight towards or upon something, to guide one’s way or journey to a place. The idea is that of conducting one straight to a place, and not by a round-about course. Gives a picture of opening up the way by removal of obstacles so that the desired goal may be reached. God “clears the way” and removes the obstacles that Satan had previously placed in his path of return which made that path impassable.
2 Timothy 1:7: For God did not give us a spirit of timidity or cowardice or fear, but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of sound judgment and personal discipline [abilities that result in a calm, well-balanced mind and self-control].
Hebrews 10:24,25: and let us consider [thoughtfully] how we may encourage one another to love (agape) and to do good deeds, 25 not forsaking our meeting together [as believers for worship and instruction], as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more [faithfully] as you see the day [of Christ’s return] approaching.
Encourage: Stimulate. Is a strong word that literally means to sharpen. It is literally a jab given to someone so they “must” respond. Figuratively speaks of a sharpening of one’s mind or incitement to some action.
I Peter 1:22: Since by your obedience to the truth you have purified yourselves for a sincere love of the believers, [see that you] fervently love (agapao) one another from the heart [always unselfishly seeking the best for one another],
Fervently: Literally pictures one “stretching out” to love others! It pictures “an intense strain” and unceasing activity which normally involves a degree of intensity and/or perseverance. Stretched out and extended to the limit is the idea. Jowett suggests the picture of the tension and energy of a stringed instrument, “as when the string of a violin has been stretched to a tighter pitch that it might yield a little higher note.”
I Peter 4:8-10: Above all, have fervent and unfailing love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins [it overlooks unkindness and unselfishly seeks the best for others]. 9 Be hospitable to one another without complaint. 10 Just as each one of you has received a special gift [a spiritual talent, an ability graciously given by God], employ it in serving one another as [is appropriate for] good stewards of God’s multi-faceted grace [faithfully using the diverse, varied gifts and abilities granted to Christians by God’s unmerited favor].
Two great love chapters in the Bible. I John may even be called the love epistle.
I John 3:11, 13, 14, 16-18: For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another 13 Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you. 14 We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. 16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 17 But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.
Skip Moen: When God’s great love saturates our lives, we become unexplainable oddities in the world. We just don’t fit anymore. We act against expectations. We think in different ways. We stand outside the paradigm and are outlaws to the world’s economy. It is God’s love that makes us strange – so strange that we often appear insanely fanatical and are written off because of this. Yeshua said much the same thing when he warned his followers not to expect any sympathy from the world. In fact, the world is our enemy.
I John 4:7ff: Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. 16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.
Let’s end with the greatest explanation of agapao love in the Scriptures.
I Corinthians 13:1-13:
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned,[a] but have not love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant
Patient: It means one’s temper is long (as opposed to “short-tempered) and does not give way to a short or quick temper toward those who fail. It describes holding out of the mind for a long time before it gives room to action or passion. The picture of this word is that of a person in whom it takes a long time before fuming and breaking into flames! Trench adds that this word refers to one who has the power to avenge himself and yet refrains from exercising this power. Makrothumeo describes manifesting a state of emotional calm or quietness in the face of provocation, misfortune, or unfavorable circumstances. Love never says, “I’ve had enough.” It suffers indefinitely. It is longsuffering and continues in spite of conduct likely to quench it. This continuance often, but not always, shows itself in restraining anger. Makrothumeo describes especially patience towards people who act unjustly toward us.
Envy: to boil over with jealousy and unrestrained emotions.
Boast: means to talk with conceit or to behave as a braggart or windbag, exhibiting self-display and employing rhetorical embellishments in extolling one’s self excessively. Love doesn’t try to prove itself and say, “Watch how loving I can be” but instead works behind the scenes. Love does not parade its accomplishments. Christian love does not vaunt (is derived from Latin vanus = vain and means to make a vain display of one’s own worth or attainments) oneself so as to parade one’s imagined superiority over others.
Arrogant: (phusioo from phusáo = breathe, blow, inflate from phusa = bellows) means literally to puff up (like a pair of bellows) and is used figuratively to describe one who becomes “inflated”, proud, haughty, or puffed up with pride. It means to cause one to have an exaggerated self-conception. In the passive voice as in this verse phusioo means to become conceited or proud. Love protects us from having an inflated view of our own importance.
5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;
Resentful: Stop “keeping score” is the idea and those of us who are guilty of this sin know exactly what this entails! We may not write it on a notepad, but we keep a mental checklist that’s just as effective and perhaps even more destructive! Agapao has a bad memory. Forgiveness instead of a scorekeeper. How many times have we kept track of the personal affronts, the indiscretions, the unsympathetic acts? A record of wrongs. Yet God says that love does not count a wrong suffered. Love is first forgiving even before the wrong occurs. And if God forgives us, how can we allow our love to be tainted by pluses and minuses? Emotional bank accounts are not found in the institution of love. Resentment is an emotional accounting system. Resentment depends on the perception that I should have been treated differently. When I resent someone’s action toward me, I have already decided that that person did not do what I wanted. I have decided that my assessment of the circumstances is the only correct one and that this person doesn’t meet my standard. Even if I say that I forgive, if I continue to nurse the hurt I simply add interest to my resentment account. Forgiveness means nothing if I still keep score.
6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.8 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
Love is the foundation and catalyst for both faith and hope. Agapao is a lifestyle, a calling, and embodies the entire gospel. There is nothing greater in this life than imitating our Heavenly Father and His Son and living our lives in the center of God’s unfathomable love. His love is at the center of every calling, every gift, and every purpose of God.