What is the definition of love?

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What does the word love mean in the Bible? What did Jesus have to say on the subject?

The English word love can be found 311 times in the King James Bible. In the Old Testament, the Song of Solomon (Song of Songs) refers to it twenty-six times, while the book of Psalms references it twenty-three. In the New Testament, the word love is recorded the most in the book of 1John (thirty-three times) followed by the gospel of John (twenty-two times).

The Greek language, used in the Bible, has at least four words to describe the various aspects of love. Three of these four were used to write the New Testament. The definition of Phileo is that of a brotherly affection toward someone we really like. Agape, which is the deepest love, means doing good things for another person. Storgay refers to loving one's relatives. It is a relatively unknown term that is used only two times in scripture and only as a compound. Eros, used to describe a sexual or romantic type of love, is not found in Holy writ.

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Two of these Greek words for love, Phileo and Agape, were used in the well-known exchange between Peter and Jesus after Christ's resurrection (John 21:15 - 17). Their discussion is a fascinating study into the dynamics of their relationship at that time and how Peter, still conscious of his denial of the Lord (Matthew 26:44, Matthew 26:69 - 75), tries to handle his guilt. Please see our article on the different types of love for more information on this interesting topic!


The Venetian Lovers
The Venetian Lovers
Paris Bordone, 1525 - 30

How important is this emotion and committment to God? One day a scribe came to Christ and asked him which of the commandments was the greatest of all (Mark 12:28). Jesus' short response was clear and to-the-point.

And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. This is the first commandment. (Mark 12:30, HBFV).

The first four commandments of God's law tell us how we are to treat Him. God is also our neighbor in the universe (Jeremiah 12:14). He is the neighbor who rules. Therefore, we see that loving him and our fellow man manifests itself by keeping his commandments (see 1John 5:3). Paul tells that have feelings of love is not good enough. We must follow up our feelings with actions if we are to pleasing to our Creator (Romans 13:10).

Besides keeping all God's commandments, the true church of God is to have a special family relationship. Here is where the Greek word Storgay is compounded with the word Phileo to form a special kind of love.

The King James translation states that Paul taught that those who are true Christians should, "Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another" (Romans 12:10). The phrase "kindly affectionate" comes from the Greek philostorgos (Strong's Concordance #G5387) which is a loving friendship-family relationship.

One day, when Jesus was teaching, his mother Mary and brothers came to visit him. When he was told his family came to see him he stated, "Who is My mother and who are My brothers? . . . For whoever shall do the will of God, that one is My brother, and My sister, and mother" (Mark 3:33, 35). Following Jesus' example, believers are commanded to consider and treat those who obey him as if they were close family members! This is the meaning of love!

Please see our series on the definition of Christian terms for info on other Biblical words.

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