Love. The word is found throughout the Bible in English. But this word did not exist in ancient times when the Bible was written. This word “love” as we speak it today means something completely different than the “love” that the Bible taught.
(Peaceful music to listen while you read:)
“For God so loved the world” – did God love the world as we think of love? Did God feel passion and emotionally positive thoughts? No. God hated the world by this measure, and God hated what was in the world, so much that God prophesied He would destroy the entire Earth by fire; but God “loved” the world, so God sent His only begotten Son. What does this mean? It means that God did something good for the world, even though God hated the wickedness in the world.
Simply put, God’s “loving” of the world was the very fact that God sent His Son. No, it was not the “evidence of” God’s love. It WAS God’s love. God hated the world and wanted to destroy it, so God sent His only Son, to save those in the world who would believe in Him, but only those who believed in Him. Those who would not believe in the Son, would perish in everlasting fire and eternal suffering, “where the worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched”.
Again, it is the act of kindness that is the “love” of God. Again, it is not that the reason that God sent His Son was because God loved the world. No! The love of God was the sending of His Son. The Act Of Sending. Not a “feeling” that God had.
How do we know this for a fact? Because it’s well-known the meanings of the actual Hebrew and Greek words that are used. In Hebrew, “love” is not a single word, but 4 different words that mean very different things. There are more than 4 words, there are at least 9; but only 4 are used or implied in the New Testament.
- Agape (agapeó/ἀγαπάω: 143 biblical occurrences)
- It is an action, not an emotion. “Affection, good will, benevolence”. This is the word that is translated as “love” in the New Testament in almost every verse. If you see the word “love”, it is usually “agape”. This is connected to action, it is not solely a feeling or emotion. The action of agape is God sending His Son to die for us.
- Philos (phileó/φιλέω: 25 biblical occurrences)
- The feeling of love for one’s friends. That is, a platonic feeling. This word was used to describe Jesus’ affection toward His disciples (John 20:2), and toward Lazarus (John 11:3 is “philos”, but not John 11:5, which is “agape”).
- Storgy (astorgos/ἄστοργος: 2 biblical occurrences)
- Devoted love, e.g. motherly love, or love for one’s family. Connected to action, as a mother’s care or a brother’s loyalty, or love and obedience to parents. This word is used only twice, in Romans 1:31 & 2 Timothy 3:3, where it is translated in the negative as lacking “natural affection”, as in that the pagans were disobedient to parents, etc.
- Eros: (erōs/ἔρως: 0 biblical occurrences)
- Passionate desire for one’s spouse. This is not “naughty” sexual behaviors, as in depraved sexual deviancy (adultery, homosexuality, etc), only godly passion for one’s spouse. Anything other than that is the word “porneia”. Both “eros” and “porneia” are not actually found in the Bible, only implied.
The word used in almost every New Testament verse for “love”, including John 3:16 above, is the word “agape” (agapaó/agapate/agapa/ēgapa/agapō & other conjugations). Agapaó appears 143 times in the Bible. Agape is defined as “affection, good will, benevolence”. Agape is an action, not a feeling. God had an affection for the people of the world, being His creation, and in God’s good will and benevolence, God expressed “agape” for the world, by sending His Son.
Some verses with “agape”, incorrectly translated “love”
- Matthew 5:44
- Translation: “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.”
- Misinterpreted, because this does not mean “love” as it’s now defined.
- Agape. Be benevolent toward. Show good will toward. If they are your enemies, you obviously do not feel well toward them. But you should have good will toward them, as God “loved” you, as God showed good will and benevolence toward you.
- Matthew 5:46
- Translation: “For if you love them which love you, what reward have you? Do not even the [tax collectors] do the same?”
- Again, misinterpreted.
- The tax collectors DO agape. It does not say they FEEL good toward those who do good to them, it says they DO good to them. This verse is not saying we should feel positively toward those who do not do good to us. What it is saying is that we should DO good to those who do not do good back to us – not just to those who do good to us.
- It’s an action. Understand. It is not talking about a feeling or an emotion, it’s talking about an action.
- Matthew 22:39
- Translation: “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”
- Wrong. There is no command to feel emotionally positive toward your neighbor. It says you are to DO good to your neighbor – have benevolence toward, show good will toward. Agape. (Jesus defined your “neighbor” as “anyone who does the will of my Father in heaven”, Matthew 12:50. Evil people are NOT your neighbor.)
- DO good to your neighbor – people who do the will of God. Feelings are worthless. [If one of you says] “‘Go in peace; be warmed and be filled,’ but does not give to them the needful things for the body, what is the profit?” (James 2:16)
- If one of you sees your brother or neighbor (those who DO with will of God) is hungry or homeless and does not help them in some way, as is possible, then you are worse than an unbeliever.
- “Now if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” (1 Timothy 5:8)
- Matthew 24:12
- Translation: “And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.”
- It doesn’t mean love as it’s now read. It isn’t talking about an emotion.
- Many will stop being benevolent and having good will toward others, because of sin/lawlessness/iniquity. It is not saying that people will stop having the emotions of love. It says they will stop DOING and having good will toward others. It’s about the action, not the feeling.
- John 11:5
- Translation: “Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus.”
- It’s easy to read this as “Jesus felt a strong emotional bond toward Martha and her sister and Lazarus”. But the Bible does not say this.
- Jesus had goodwill and benevolence toward them, affection toward, he DID good toward them. It is not talking about a feeling. If there was any feeling, this is not what the verse is talking about.
- John 14:15
- Translation: “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.”
- In order to love (agape), you need to do something. Not feel, not “believe”, not have thoughts toward, you have to DO something, or it’s not love (agape).
What does this mean for you? This means that you need to read the Bible in the proper context. It may mean you need to rethink what many verses about love even mean. Think about it, read it, study it. Pray.
If you are not reading and studying the Bible every day, and praying every day, then you are like a man who wanders in plain clothes onto the battlefield with headphones on while playing with his smartphone. He will quickly get many arrows piercing him through and through. Do not be like that man. Be on your guard. Put on the full armor of God.
Why it’s so important to know what “agape” means
Knowing that the word translated as “love” in the Bible is not the word used in English today, means that the Bible tells something different than you were taught or understood. We cannot read the Bible if we don’t know the language. English has been corrupted by Satan, so that even though we have the Word, we don’t understand it. But you can, and now you know what Love really means in the Bible. It means action. It means you do something good for others. It isn’t the emotion, that’s Eros or Philos. Agape means an act of love, not a feeling of love.
God doesn’t care how you “feel” about others or about Him, if you do nothing. The wicked servant who buried his one talent was cast into hell in Jesus’ parable. A homeless man does not care how you feel heartbroken, if you turn your eyes and do not help. He will still be hungry and homeless tonight.
Do the best with what you have, be generous, and be charitable toward others. Give. Help. Care for. Be generous to God, and to your family, and to the needy. Even do good to your enemies. The only reason it matters what you think, is because your thoughts influence your actions. But your actions are what matter, not merely your thoughts.
“Go, and do likewise.” (Jesus, in Luke 10:37)