What is the meaning of agape love?
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, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God" (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 17:26; Romans 5:5; Galatians 5:22: Agape 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: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'"
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