Many believers talk about the love of God. It
is a common theme in many circles of conversation,
even amongst unbelievers. Throughout the
scriptures we hear about this amazing love, but many
times we do not take the time to really understand
what this means. This article will attempt to
identify the true meaning of God's love.
Please read with an open mind because the conclusion
is probably not the one you expect.
Many believers today do not understand the meaning
of love in the scriptures. It is commonly
taught that there are two types of love in the
Bible, phileo love and agape love. Phileo love
is taught to be a brotherly love one has towards
another, but agape love is taught to be a divine
love from God. The confusion is with agape
love. This is unfortunate because the true
definition of agape is not a divine love at all.
If this were true, then how could it be used in a
love towards evil? In John 3:19, the Messiah
said that, "men loved (agapē) darkness rather
than light, because their deeds were evil."
This is right after He said, "For God so loved
(agape) the world, that he gave his only begotten
Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not
perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16).
How could agape possibly mean divine love from God
when men use it to love darkness? The fact is,
agape love is not divine love, but something
The word agapē means "love, that is,
affection or benevolence (Strong's Concordance -
G26). This, however, is an oversimplification
of the word and not a good definition. A more
thorough definition is, "Love, affectionate
regard, goodwill, benevolence. With reference
to God's love, it is God's willful direction toward
man. It involves God doing what He knows is
best for man and not necessarily what man desires"
(The Complete WordStudy Dictionary, Spiros
Zodhiates, Th.D.). This definition changes
what agape means. It is not just an
affectionate feeling towards someone, but involves a
thought out plan of affection. Professor
William Barclay adds to this understanding in his
book New Testament Words when he said, "Agape
has to do with the mind: it is not simply an emotion
which rises unbidden in our hearts; it is a
principle by which we deliberately live. Agape
is not a feeling. Feelings arrive passively;
we cultivate agape. We are not responsible for
our feelings – we can’t help how we feel – but we
are responsible for our agape because agape is an
act of will. Feelings are triggered by
external events, such as people’s actions or the
weather, or internal processes such as digestion or
thought. Agape comes from the soul.
Liking is a feeling. Agape is a commitment,
independent of our likes and dislikes."
This is a very different understanding of agape than
simple affection toward another. To put this
in modern terms agapē love is
what we might call today "tough love." It is a
love that causes you to do what is right, even when
what is right is very difficult to do. Parents
need this "tough love" or agapē love
when disciplining their children. It is not
easy to spank your children when needed, but it does
show that you agapē love them.
The scriptures are not unclear in the definition of
words. There is always a verse that gives us
the definition, we just need to search for it.
Remember, the Bible is a law book, written in legal
code. Isaiah 28:9-14 tells us so. As
Isaiah states, "For precept must be upon
precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line
upon line; here a little, and there a little"
(Is. 28:10). We need to read each verse
pertaining to the subject of love and understand the
immediate context of the verse, which is what Isaiah
means by "precept upon precept; line upon line."
Then we need to take every verse on the subject and
put them together, which is what Isaiah means by
"here a little, and there a little." The
question is, where is the definition of love in the
In 1 John 5:2-3, the Apostle states, "By this we know
that we love (agapaō) the children of God, when we love
and keep his commandments.
For this is the love
God, that we keep his commandments: and his
commandments are not grievous." This is echoed
in other passages as well. In fact, if you do
a search for love in the scriptures, you might be
surprised how often love is compared to God's law.
You can't have one without the other. In John
14:15, the Messiah states, "If ye love
(agapaō) me, keep my
commandments." The Messiah repeated this again
in John 15:9-10 when He said, "As the Father hath
loved (agapaō) me, so have I loved (agapaō) you: continue ye in my
love (agapē). If ye keep my
commandments, ye shall abide in my love
as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide
in his love (agapē)." It seems clear that the Messiah
understood love to be when someone keeps the
commandments of God. In fact, a proper study
of God's law will reveal the same. In Ex. 20:6,
God said He shows "mercy unto thousands of them that
love [Him], and keep [His] commandments." This
is repeated in Deut. 30:16; " . . . I command thee
this day to love the LORD thy God, to walk in his
ways, and to keep his commandments and his statutes
and his judgments." To love God is to
keep His commandments.
If to love God means to keep His commandments, the
logical next question is, how does God love us?
The scripture is not silent on this matter. In
Prov. 3:12, the author states, "For whom the LORD
loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in
whom he delighteth." This is repeated in Rev.
3:19 and Heb. 12:6-9. God will discipline all
His children when they do wrong (sin). Though
God disciplines His children, He also blesses them
as well. In Deut. 7:13 Moses said, "And [God]
will love thee, and bless thee, and multiply thee:
he will also bless the fruit of thy womb, and the
fruit of thy land, thy corn, and thy wine, and thine
oil, the increase of thy kine, and the flocks of thy
sheep, in the land which he sware unto thy fathers
to give thee." God will bless His children
when they do good and discipline His children when
they do wrong (sin). These blessings and
disciplines (or curses) are from the Mosaic
covenant. In Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28,
God tells us that if we love Him (keep His
commandments) He will bless us (Lev. 26:3-12, Deut.
28:1-14), but if we do not love Him (break His
commandments) then He will curse us (Lev. 26:13-40,
Deut. 28:15-45). This is what love is, a
is a contract?
The concept of love being a contract may seem odd.
Keep in mind, though, that the word contract is new
and nowhere found in the scriptures. The word
used for contract in the scriptures is covenant.
God offered this covenant/contract on Mount Sinai
thousands of years ago. The terms of this
contract are found in Exodus chapters 19-24.
The Israelites agreed to this contract by saying,
"All that the LORD hath said will we do, and be
obedient" (Ex. 24:7). The parties to this
contract are God and the Israelites (or anyone who
practices God's law). Each party has a duty
under this contract, which are explained in the
scriptures. Our duty is to "walk in [His]
statutes, and keep [His] commandments, and do them"
(Lev. 26:3, Deut.28:1, Eccl. 12:13). Our duty
under this contract is to obey God and keep His
commandments. This is clear, but what is often
forgot is that God has a duty as well.
God's duty under this same contract is listed in
Exodus 23, Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28.
God gives blessings and curses based on this law.
If we obey God and keep His commandments, He will
bless His people (Lev. 26:3-12, Deut. 28:1-14).
If we do not obey God and keep His commandments, He
will give curses (discipline) to His people (Lev.
26:13-40, Deut. 28:15-45). This is a duty that
God is required to perform under this contract.
This is why Moses described God as "the faithful
God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that
love him and keep his commandments to a thousand
generations" (Deut. 7:9). Our job is to keep
His commandments and God's job is to provide
blessings and curses based on our performance.
This is the contract of love. God loves us by
keeping His end of the contract, and we love Him by
keeping ours. This is why the Messiah summed
up the law and the prophets with two commandments,
to love God and love our neighbor (Matt. 22:37-40).
The problem we have is we are not able to keep our
end of this contract. We can try and try, but
we will always fail. The scripture is clear on
this. The Apostle Paul tells us that, "all
have sinned, and come short of the glory of God"
(Rom. 3:23). This is why God sent His Holy
Spirit. The Holy Spirit was sent to "reprove
the world of sin, and of righteousness" (John 16:8).
The Holy Spirit is our "Comforter" to "abide with
[us] for ever" (John 14:16). The Greek word
for "Comforter" is paraklētos which literally
means "called to one's side, called to one's aid"
(Strong's Concordance - G3875). The Holy
Spirit comes to our side so we can "walk in the
Spirit" so we do not "fulfil the lust of the flesh"
(Gal. 5:16, Gal. 5:25). The only way we can
love God and keep His commandments is to walk in His
Spirit. Ezekiel 37:26 tells us
that the Spirit was given that we might "walk in
[His] statutes, and ... shall keep [His] judgments,
and do them" (Eze. 36:27). The purpose of the
Holy Spirit is to "reprove the world of sin" and
"put [God's] law in [our] hearts" (Jer. 31:33). The end
result is we will "walk in the spirit" to aid us to
"walk in [His] statutes ...
and keep [His] judgments, and do them."
Not only does God keep His end of this contract, but
He also helps us keep ours.
God has come along side us to help us love Him and practice His
This is a hard concept to understand. The
modern definition of love is so different than God's
definition of love. Love is not a feeling that
one places on something, but an action one does as a
result of something. Just as a good father
disciplines his children when they do wrong and
blesses them when they do right, so God disciplines
us when we sin and blesses us when we do right.
This is what God calls love.
We can't just say we love God, we must show it also.
As the modern saying goes, actions speak louder than