Category: What is the meaning of agape love?


God’s love, as described in the Bible, is clearly unconditional in that His love is expressed toward the objects of His love (that is, His people) despite their disposition toward Him. In other words, God loves because it His nature to love (1 John 4:8), and that love moves Him toward benevolent action. The unconditional nature of God’s love is most clearly seen in the gospel. The gospel message is basically a story of divine rescue. As God considers the plight of His rebellious people, He determines to save them from their sin, and this determination is based on His love (Ephesians 1:4-5). Listen to the Apostle Paul’s words from his letter to the Romans:

“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).

Reading through the book of Romans, we learn that we are alienated from God due to our sin. We are at enmity with God, and His wrath is being revealed against the ungodly for their unrighteousness (Romans 1:18-20). We reject God, and God gives us over to our sin. We also learn that we have all sinned and fallen short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23) and that none of us seek God, none of us do what is right before His eyes (Romans 3:10-18).

Despite this hostility and enmity we have toward God (for which God would be perfectly just to utterly destroy us), God reveals His love toward us in the giving of His Son, Jesus Christ, as the propitiation (that is, the appeasement of God’s righteous wrath) for our sins. God did not wait for us to better ourselves as a condition of atoning for our sin. Rather, God condescended to become a man and live among His people (John 1:14). God experienced our humanity—everything it means to be a human being—and then offered Himself willingly as a substitutionary atonement for our sin.

This divine rescue resulted in a gracious act of self-sacrifice. As Jesus says in John’s gospel, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). That is precisely what God, in Christ, has done. The unconditional nature of God’s love is made clear in two more passages from Scripture:

“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved” (Ephesians 2:4-5).

“This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:9-10).

It is important to note that God’s love is a love that initiates; it is never a response. That is precisely what makes it unconditional. If God’s love were conditional, then we would have to do something to earn or merit it. We would have to somehow appease His wrath and cleanse ourselves of our sin before God would be able to love us. But that is not the biblical message. The biblical message—the gospel—is that God, motivated by love, moved unconditionally to save His people from their sin.

  Let’s look at how the Bible describes love, and then we will see a few ways in which God is the essence of love. “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8a). This is God’s description of love, and because God is love (1 John 4:8), this is what He is like.

Love (God) does not force Himself on anyone. Those who come to Him do so in response to His love. Love (God) shows kindness to all. Love (Jesus) went about doing good to everyone without partiality. Love (Jesus) did not covet what others had, living a humble life without complaining. Love (Jesus) did not brag about who He was in the flesh, although He could have overpowered anyone He ever came in contact with. Love (God) does not demand obedience. God did not demand obedience from His Son, but rather, Jesus willingly obeyed His Father in heaven. “The world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what my Father has commanded me” (John 14:31). Love (Jesus) was/is always looking out for the interests of others.

The greatest expression of God’s love is communicated to us in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Romans 5:8 proclaims the same message: “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” We can see from these verses that it is God’s greatest desire that we join Him in His eternal home, heaven. He has made the way possible by paying the price for our sins. He loves us because He chose to as an act of His will. Love forgives. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

So, what does it mean that God is love? Love is an attribute of God. Love is a core aspect of God’s character, His Person. God’s love is in no sense in conflict with His holiness, righteousness, justice, or even His wrath. All of God’s attributes are in perfect harmony. Everything God does is loving, just as everything He does is just and right. God is the perfect example of true love. Amazingly, God has given those who receive His Son Jesus as their personal Savior the ability to love as He does, through the power of the Holy Spirit (John 1:12; 1 John 3:1, 23-24).

Agape, and its verb form agapao, is one of the several Greek words  for love. The Bible also mentions phileo, or brotherly love, and refers  to eros, erotic love. The Greeks also spoke of storge, which is a  love between family members.

Agape love is a little different. It  is not a feeling; it’s a motivation for action that we are free to choose or  reject. Agape is a sacrificial love that voluntarily suffers  inconvenience, discomfort, and even death for the benefit of another without  expecting anything in return. We are called to agape love through  Christ’s example: “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and walk  in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering  and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma” (Ephesians  5:1-2).

We are to agapao God (Matthew  22:37), our neighbor (Matthew  22:39), and even our enemies (Matthew  5:43-46). We are not to agapao money (Matthew  6:24), darkness (John 3:19), or  men’s approval (John  12:43).

The New Testament has over two-hundred references to  agape love. Here are a few.

Matthew  24:12: With increased lawlessness in the end times, concern and caring for  others will fade.

Luke 11:42:  The legalism of the Pharisees, even their sacrifices, did not reflect a love of  God.

John 13:35:  The Christian life is characterized by sacrificial agape love.

John 15:9-10; Romans 13:10: When we  agape love God, we show it by obeying His commandments because His  commandments teach us how to love others.

John 15:13:  The greatest demonstration of love anyone can give is to die for his  friends.

John 17:26Romans 5:5; Galatians 5:22Agape love comes from God, not our own effort.

Romans 5:8; Revelation  1:5: It was agape love that caused Jesus to sacrifice Himself for  us.

Romans  14:15; 1  Corinthians 8:1: It is not loving to lead another into sin.

Colossians 3:19: Men are  called to show agape love to their wives.

James 1:12; 2:5: Love of  God will result in rewards in heaven.

2 Peter  2:15; 1 John 2:15:  It is possible to sacrificially love something that is not godly.

Although 1 Corinthians 13 is known as the chapter on love, there is no book  that speaks more about agape than 1 John. Two important themes come out  of 1 John. The first is that it is inconsistent and false to claim we  agape love God while not agape loving other believers. We cannot  love God without loving brothers and sisters who also love Him. The second is  that it is inconsistent and false to claim we agape love God if we don’t  obey Him. It is impossible to love God while ignoring what He says. The two are  inextricably connected, as Galatians  5:14 says: “For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement,  ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'”