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Agape, Love: What is Love? What is Agape? What Does the Bible Say About Love?


What is Agape?:

Agape (ah-gah-pay) is the main word used for “love” in the New Testament. There are three principal Greek words which can be translated as “love” in English, each with different connotations. The two most common were eros, which refers to sexual love, and philos, which means friendship or brotherly love (eros does not appear in the New Testament, but philos does). Agape was the least used in Greek and least specific in its meaning.

Love and the Old Testament:

In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word for love is ahab and was used in the same broad ways and contexts as the English term: sexual love, love of a spouse or child, love of humanity by God, friendship, and so on. In some contexts, like the Song of Solomon, love is given a decidedly passionate and erotic meaning. In others, it is far more muted.

Agape and New Testament Christianity:

Because the concept of agape was so general in Greek, it was possible for the early Christian community to use it without bringing in too much philosophical or theological baggage. Thus, among the Christians, agape came to refer to the unearned love God had for humanity — a love so great that God was willing to send his only son to suffer and die on our behalf.

Agape and Christians:

The concept of agape was not limited to just God’s love of humanity; it could also be used to describe the love one person had for another. In contrast to the sexual love of eros or the friendship expressed by philos, though, agape described a selfless kind of love that involved giving without expectation of anything in return.

Paul and Love:

In Paul’s theology, love is a consequence of faith in God. When we have sufficient faith and trust in God, the Holy Spirit gives us the gift of love as a sign of what is to come in the Kingdom of God. Love is thus not a product of human thoughts or emotions — it’s not possible for mere humans to experience genuine love. Love is a divine gift which occurs only when we allow Christ to live within us. Thus do some Christians insist that nonbelievers don’t really know what love is.

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