Love Does Not Begin with You

Bill Mounce | April 23, 2016

Agapaõ (ἀγαπάω) is one of four Greek verbs meaning “to love.” In secular Greek, especially before the time of Christ, it was a colorless word without any great depth of meaning, used frequently as a synonym of erõs (sexual love) and phileõ (the general term for love). If it had any nuance, it was the idea of love for the sake of its object. Perhaps because of its neutrality of meaning and perhaps because of this slight nuance of meaning, the biblical writers picked agapaõ to describe many forms of human love (e.g., husband and wife; Eph. 5:25, 28, 33) and, most importantly, God’s undeserved love for the unlovely. In other words, its meaning comes not from the Greek but from the biblical understanding of God’s love. 

A biblical definition of love begins with God, never with us (1  John 4:9–10). God is love itself; it’s his character that defines love. And because he is love (1 John 4:8, using the related noun agapê), he acts with love toward an undeserving world (John 3:16; 1  John 3:1, 16) to save them from their sins and reconcile them to himself (Rom. 5:8). The pure and perfect love of God is typified in the love relationship…

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