She browsed the bookshelf looking for a specific book. She had been here for hours, and she still hadn't found it.
Where was it? She needed a book about true love. She picked up a book with a beautiful shiny cover...nope. Not it.
"Excuse me," She whispered to the librarian who passed nearby. "I'm looking for a rather... uh, specific book."
The librarian nodded.
"Where can I find a book about true love?" she asked.
The librarian smiled. She walked up to the bookshelf and paused a moment, looking over the books.
"Ah, here it is" she said, picking up a book and handing it to the young lady. "This is it."
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When most people think of true love, the first thing that comes to mind is romantic love. But there is more to love than that, and we can find the ultimate definition of love in the Bible.
Greek Words for Love
There are four Greek words for love, and three of them are specifically mentioned in the Bible. Let's take a look at each and see their meaning.
#1 AGAPE (ἀγάπη) It means brotherly love, benevolence, and it is a love that requires commitment. It appears most often in 1 John (about 14 times). Agape is the most used word for love in the New Testament, and it is the highest form of love. It is Christ-like, sacrificial love, and it is the word used to state that God is love in 1 John 4:8.
#2 PHILEO (φιλέω) refers to affection, fondness or approval, a love between friends, a sentiment. Phileo appears about 21 times in the New Testament. It is the kind of love between brothers and sisters in Christ when they fellowship.
#3 STORGE (στοργή) refers to natural love in a family, such as the love of parents for children and vice versa, or the affection, cherishing and care that all family members display toward one another. Storge appears only once in the New Testament and it is a compound word in the form of philostorgos, meaning "kindly affectionate" in Romans 12:10.
#4 EROS (ἔρως) is from the Greek god "cupid". Eros is a sensual love that should only occur between a husband and wife. It is exemplified in the Song of Solomon, although it does not actually appear in the text of the Bible.
Marks of True Christian Love
In a recent sermon, pastor John MacArthur of Grace Community Church explained that love has three aspects and goes in three directions:
1. Toward God "We love Him because He first loved us." (1 John 4:19)
2. Toward others "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another." (John 13:34)
3. Self, love defined by our loyalty to Christ "My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth" (1 John 3:18)
Furthermore, a true believer has other defining characteristics of love. Here are a few main points that pastor John MacArthur outlined and I thought I would share with you. A true believer:
- Loves God's glory and lives to glorify Christ.
"To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory." (Colossians 1:27)
"And every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Phil 2:11)
- Loves the brethren
"Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others." (Phil 2:1-4)
- Loves enough to serve
" with goodwill doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men" (Ephesians 6:7)
"What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works." (James 2:14-24)
- Loves enough to sanctify. Our lives must be sanctifying influences for those around us. This means it is our loving duty to warn and rebuke our brothers and sisters when necessary, to be examples in lifestyle, and to go against the culture in very practical ways, speaking up when something is wrong, doing apologetics and spreading the Gospel.
"Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life." (Gal 6:7-8)
- Loves enough to suffer"And I will very gladly spend and be spent for your souls; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I am loved." (2 Cor 12:15)
"For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us." (Romans 8:18)
The Ultimate Love
May we always remember that the ultimate example of love is Christ Jesus our Lord!
And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. (Phil 2:8)
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)