We have just come through that time of the year when people talk about and reflect on Valentine’s Day. When thinking about the subject of love, we face an ongoing challenge of not being taken captive by two common lines of thinking about love that are prevalent in our culture: (1 ) the sentimental; and (2) the erotic. (Smith, p. 130). The sentimental view of love is characterized by an “ooey, gooey” view of liking or loving certain kinds of people in our lives. “Love is too easily spoken of as nice feelings that one might have for another, such as someone we think of as affectionate, nice, and even sweet, a delightful personality that we enjoy being around because he or she makes us feel good” (Smith, p. 130). Regarding the erotic line of thinking, Sanders has noted, “Unfortunately the word love as commonly used has become sadly debased and misunderstood. The romantic or erotic aspects of love are predominant in modern literature and in common parlance” (p. 96).

Five Greek Words for Love

     In our liberal, sex-saturated culture, us Christians need to look to God and to His Word for help. Then we can make sense out of this romanticized, controversial, and misunderstood subject. The New Testament (NT) was written in the Greek language which is a much more precise language than English. Therefore, there are at least five Greek words for “love” (four occur in the NT) that will help us correctly understand the different types of “love”—from God’s perspective.

  1. Phileo. It signifies friendship, fondness, affection, liking, and personal attachment.

                  It responds to kindness, appreciation, or love. It involves giving as well as


                  This love is called out of one’s heart by qualities in another. This love

                  involves the emotions.

  1. Storge. It is basically “love of kindred,” especially of parents for children and children

                 for parents.

                 This love has its basis in one’s own nature. It is a natural affection.

  1. Philadelphia. With the root Greek wordsphileo, “to love,” and adelphos, “brother,”

                           this compound word signifies loving someone like a brother or sister.

                           It is interpreted “brotherly love” in 1 Thess. 4:9 and Heb. 13:1 and

                         “love of the brethren” in 1 Pet. 1:22 and 2 Pet. 1:7.

  1. Eros.This love is erotic or sexual love. The basic idea of this love is self-satisfaction.

             Though eros is directed towards another, it actually has self in mind.

             Eros looks for what it can receive. If it does give, it gives in order to receive.

            Therefore it is a “conditional” type of love. Eros is not used in the NT.

  1. Agapao(verb) and agape (noun). The verb and noun are used in the NT for

             God’s love.

The Definition of Agape Love:


     Agape love can be defined as: Giving to the basic needs of another with no motive

                                                      of receiving any form of reward in return.

Its Origin

      It is from God. “See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us,…”

                                                                                              (1 John 3:1a, NASB).

Its Location

     Hearts of Christians. “And hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has

     been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us

       (Rom. 5:5, NASB).

Its Characteristics

     Agape love is a fruit of the Spirit in the Christian life (Gal. 5:22).

    “Love seeks the welfare of all, Rom. 15:2, and works no ill to any, Rom. 13:8–10”

      (Vine, p. 21).

    “It is an unselfish love, ready to serve” (Vine, p. 22)

    “…Christian love is not an emotional feeling that we manufacture. Christian love

      means this:

     We treat each other the way God treats us. …it’s a matter of willing” (Wiersbe, p. 6).

    “Love is more than sentiment; it is an activity. It must express itself, sacrifice itself,

      pour itself out on another. It is essentially unselfish and outgoing” (Sanders, p.96).


     Agape love keeps on loving even when the loved one is unresponsive, unkind,

       unlovable, and unworthy. Therefore, it is “unconditional” love.

Law and agape love

     There is a close affinity between the law and agape love (Smith, p. 131). A verse

     that shows this close connection between law and agape love is found in

     Romans 13:8:

          “Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves

            his neighbor has fulfilled the law” (NAS).

Its Ease of Application

     “And it is not easy. It is not easy. The deep challenge that we all face—and I stress

       all, for the call to love comes easily to no one.  Our hearts are bent on

       independence, self-sufficiency and autonomy. No one is naturally ‘loving’”

       (Smith, p. 132).

     I have run out of space so will continue this practical and “heavy-duty” subject next

 month. Then I will share a recent time when I tried to express agape love to a person

in need.  In the meantime, please reflect on some questions regarding love:

  • Which one of the five kinds of “love” do you think God is the most pleased with?
  •  Do you think most Christians demonstrate agape love as they should to:


  1.           others within their churches?
  1.           fellow Christians that attend other churches?
  2.           unbelievers that they daily come in contact with outside their church walls?

                If not, why?

  •   Which type of love probably has the most impact on your unbelieving friends
  •    and co-workers?
  •   Do you believe most pastors and other church leaders consistently show agape love
  •    to their church members and to people outside their churches? If not, why?


Sanders, J. Oswald. 2000, Enjoying Intimacy with God. 166 pp. Discovery House

                Publishers, Grand Rapids, MI 49501

Smith, Gordon T. 2014. Called to be Saints: An Invitation to Christian Maturity. 250 pp.

                IVP Academic, Downers Grove, IL 60515-1426

Vine, William, W. E. 1966. An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words.

                Fleming H. Revell Co., Old Tappan, NJ

Wiersbe, Warren W. 1981. How to Be a Caring Christian. 100 pp. Back to the Bible,

                Lincoln, NE 68501