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"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." (1 John 4:10)

Christianity is a religion of love because the Christian God is love (2 Cor 13:11; 1 John 4:8). God loved the world to the extent that he gave his only Son for it (John 3:16). Christians are called to love God above all, and to love their neighbors as themselves (Matthew 22:37-39). Nor does God leave Christians to try to work up this love by themselves – he sends the Holy Spirit with gifts (1 Cor 13) and fruits (Gal 5:22) of love.

Biblical love

Biblical love is multi-faceted; it:

  • embraces self-sacrifice (Jn 15:13; 1 Jn 3:16)
  • leads one to esteem others higher than oneself (Phil 2:3; Rom 12:10)
  • encompasses heart, soul, and mind (Matt 22:37)
  • increases in proportion to how much you realize you have been forgiven (Lk 7:42)
  • is faithful to the commandments of Christ (Jn 14:15; Rom 13:10; 1 Jn 2:5; 2 Jn 1:6)
  • leads you to "feed" the people of God (Jn 21:15-17; 1 Jn 3:17)
  • is a work of God (Rom 5:5; Gal 5:22; 1 Jn 3:1, 4:7)
  • is not concealed or feigned (Rom 12:9)
  • can be proven (2 Cor 8:8, 24; 1 Jn 3:18)
  • is the means by which our faith works, and by which we serve one another (Gal 5:6, 14)
  • leads us to speak the truth (Eph 4:15)
  • gives knowledge and discernment (Phil 1:9)
  • binds us together (Col 2:2)
  • is part of our spiritual armor (1 Th 5:8)
  • gives others joy and consolation (Phm 1:7)
  • is in direct opposition to loving the world (1 Jn 2:15)
  • brings boldness, casts out fear (1 Jn 4:17, 18)
  • rebukes and chastens (Rev 3:19)

Christian love

The Christian's love for God

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The Christian's love for other Christians

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The Christian's love for the world

"But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil." - Luke 6:35
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The love of God

See main page: Love of God

D. A. Carson points out in his The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God that there are five different categories of God's love.

  1. Intra-Trinitarian love of the Father for the Son and the Son for the Father
  2. "God's providential love over all that he has made"
  3. "God's salvific stance toward his fallen world"
  4. "God's particular, effective, selecting love toward his elect"
  5. God's provisional or conditional love for his people - conditioned upon obedience

Hebrew and Greek

Awhab (Hebrew word #157 in Strong's

), with its derivatives, is the Hebrew verb "to have affection for" which has the same range of meanings as the English word love. This is the verb in Deuteronomy 6:4 "Thou shalt love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength."

Agape ([Strong's #26]) is the Greek word for unconditional love, such as a parent has for a child. This is the love that God has for His people (Romans 8:35 "who will separate us from the agape of Christ?") and it is the greatest of the gifts of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 12:31 - 13:13 "now faith, hope, and agape abide, and the greatest of these is agape"). Jesus calls his people to agape their enemies (Luke 6:27). When Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 6:4 in Matthew 22:37 the gospel writers use the Greek word agape.

Phileo ([Strong's #5368]) is the Greek word for affection or fondness, as in Peter's response to Jesus in John 21, when he said ""Yes, Lord; you know that I love you." This word is used in two difference compound forms in Romans 12:10 "Love (philostorgos, [Strong's #5387]) one another with brotherly affection (philadelphia, [Strong's #5360])". The word also means "affection for an inanimate thing" (Matthew 6:5 "the hypocrites phileo to stand and pray") which is consistent with its use in English as a root for words such as philosophy – the phileo of wisdom.

Classical Greek had a separate word Eros for sexual or romantic love but this word does not appear in the New Testament.

Fulfillment of the Law

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Liberal misuse

A common false teaching, particularly among some liberal Christians, is that God's only characteristic is love (2 Cor 13:11) and not a God of judgement nor a God of wrath. Orthodox belief sees rather that the love of God is made richer and deeper when seen in the context of his whole person.

Related passages

  • Deuteronomy 6:4-5
  • Matthew 5:43-48
  • John 21:16-18
  • 1 Corinthians 13
  • Ephesians 5:25-33
  • 1 John 4:7-21


Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, James Strong, 1890, (ISBN 0-687-40028-7)


See also

External links

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