Love is one of the strongest and most powerful emotions we can feel. Christians express their affection for God through prayer, praise, and worship, and for others by giving to those in need.
It can be simple to define love from a human perspective. Human love is mostly about caring about one another, helping each other out, having sexual attraction, being loyal, dedicating time and effort, and many more things. But how do we define love when it comes to God? What does the Bible say about the meaning of love? What counts as love for God?
- 1 What Is The Meaning Of Love In The Bible?
- 2 How Does God Love?
- 3 11 Bible Verses About Love
- 4 How Do We Love?
- 5 How Do We Choose To Love Even When We Don’t Feel Like It?
- 6 Conclusion
What Is The Meaning Of Love In The Bible?
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.— 1 John 4:7–8
The word “love” is the most important term in the Bible. It is mentioned 686 times in both the Old and New Testaments. God’s love is boundless and unconditional. As the Creator of life and the entire universe, he is the source of Christian love, just as he is love himself.
In exploring the meaning of love in the Bible, we come to understand that God is love. Throughout the scriptures, from the Old Testament to the New Testament, we find a consistent portrayal of God’s love for humanity, revealed through his actions, teachings, and the ultimate sacrifice of his one and only Son.
In the earliest pages of the Old Testament, we encounter the profound love of God for His creation. In Genesis 1:27, we read, “So God created man in his own image; in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” This act of creation reflects God’s love, as he intentionally designed humanity to bear his likeness and experience the depths of his love.
God’s love is further revealed throughout the Old Testament in various instances. In Deuteronomy 7:9, it is written, “Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations.” Here, we see the covenantal nature of God’s love, assuring his people that his love endures through generations.
In the New Testament, the love of God reaches its pinnacle with the coming of Jesus Christ, God’s only begotten Son. John 3:16 beautifully encapsulates this truth, stating, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” This verse highlights God’s sacrificial love, as he willingly offered his Son to provide humanity with the opportunity for everlasting life.
Through Jesus’ teachings, we witness the embodiment of love in action, which is God himself. In Matthew 22:37–39, Jesus says, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Types Of Love According To The Bible
Love is patient. Love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, and it is not proud. It does not dishonor others; it is not self-seeking; it is not easily angered; and it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices in the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres. Love never fails.— 1 Corinthians 13:4–8
There are several Greek words that are translated as “love”, but each has its own distinct biblical definition of love.
- Storge: Storge is the Greek word for family love. This typically occurs between members of the brood—parents, children, brothers, sisters, and relatives. In the Old Testament, we can read about the love of Jacob for his sons and Isaac for Esau.
- Philia: Philia is the Greek word for love between friends. An example of brotherly love in the Bible is the friendship between David and Jonathan. The apostles and Lazarus were also mentioned in the Bible as friends of Jesus.
- Eros: Eros is the Greek word that refers to physical or romantic love, commonly experienced by husbands and wives. In the Old Testament, the Book of Songs widely depicts this type of love with sexual desire.
- Agape: Agape is the Greek word for the supreme form of spiritual love attributed to God’s love and our love for Him and other people, while the Hebrew word is chesed. Agape love is the unrestricted affection that God extends to all of mankind, as evidenced by the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ in the New Testament to save humanity from eternal wrath. The incarnation of Christ is proof that God loves us.
How Does God Love?
God’s unconditional love comes with no strings attached. He even loves the sinners who have forsaken him. It is because of God’s love that we are all saved from sin. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
Unlike us humans, we sometimes express our love through ego and convenience and will only give love if we get some value or pleasure in return. But with God, what is most important to Him is that every one of us, his beloved creation, can gain salvation. This reflects God’s supreme form of love.
God loves us unconditionally, and nothing can separate us from his genuine love. Romans 8:35–39 says, “Who will separate us from the love of Christ? For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Furthermore, because of God’s love for us, he does not hesitate to discipline us when we go astray and sin in our lives. He would allow us to suffer pain, brokenness, and hardship to learn to trust him and achieve genuine faith. The stubborn Israelites were often punished by God so that they could learn to forsake idolatry and revere only him as their true God.
Proverbs 3:11–12 says, “My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline and do not resent his rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father to the son he delights in.” When God disciplines us, it is not because he wants to punish us. He loves us very dearly, just as a father should love his child.
Ultimately, we are able to experience love, God, and God as love himself because of the Holy Spirit. Through the Spirit, we can feel God’s abounding love within us today. We are given the power and authority to drive away evil and guide us in our daily lives. Galatians 5:22–23 (King James version) reads: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance; against such, there is no law.”
11 Bible Verses About Love
If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains but does not have love, I am nothing.— 1 Corinthians 13:2
Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins.— 1 Peter 4:8
And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.— 1 Corinthians 13:13
With all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.— Ephesians 4:2–3
No one has ever seen God, but if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is made complete in us.— 1 John 4:12
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.— Ephesians 5:25
Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers all wrongs.— Proverbs 10:12
No one owes anyone anything except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.— Romans 13:8
Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and truth.— 1 John 3:18
Christ’s love compels us because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.— 2 Corinthians 5:14
But you are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, and abounding in love.— Nehemiah 9:17
How Do We Love?
The Great Commandment
Love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is similar: love your neighbor as you love yourself. All the law and the prophets hang on to these two commandments.— Matthew 22:37–40
When the Pharisees asked Jesus, “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” (v. 36), they received a clear response about how God defines love. Jesus illustrated that the First and Great Commandments are the summation of all the commands and precepts of God in both the Old Testament and the New Covenant.
The greatest expression of our Agape love is to adore God, love God as our foremost pursuit, and hate evil in our lives. God created us in his likeness, and it is incumbent upon us to honor and exalt him above everything else—family, neighbors, work, and otherworldly concerns. To love God is our supreme aim in life, and nothing should ever go beyond our love for God.
Love Your Neighbor
A new command I give you is to love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.— John 13:34
The second priority in the expression of our love is directed to our neighbors—family, friends, coworkers, and strangers. The New Testament stresses that God created us as a church and community of believers who thrive in God’s kingdom with Christ as King.
1 John 3:16–18 reads, “And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and truth.” Out of our brotherly love, we ought to give help, in any way possible, to those who are in need and in trouble.
Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you and whom you have received from God? You are not your own.— 1 Corinthians 6:19
Our minds and bodies are the inherent abodes of the Spirit of God. The Lord God, who dwells in us, demands that our minds and bodies be pure and worthy of his presence. We naturally take care of ourselves through feeding, bathing, exercise, healthy activities, and positive attitudes.
But the problem arises when we love ourselves too much, which results in the degradation of our love of God and that of our neighbors. We often end up being selfish, conceited, and idolatrous as our priorities are directed toward satisfying our interests. Pride and many other sins stem from too much love of oneself over God and other people.
How Do We Choose To Love Even When We Don’t Feel Like It?
Love Your Enemies
You have heard that it is said to love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.— Matthew 5:43–44
Loving our enemies is often an impossible proposition for us to recognize and practice. How can we possibly extend our benevolence to an unlovable boss who unjustly fired us from our job? How can we love our annoying neighbor who stole our lawnmower? or a thief who broke into our house and hurt our children?
In the New Testament, the hallmark of Biblical love includes truly loving our foes, and if you see the number 16 around you, it strongly means benevolence and a spiritual path.
Do Not Love The World
Do not love the world or the things in it. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh, the desires of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world.— 1 John 2:15–16
The word “love” is often used to describe our sentiment toward subjects other than God and people. We are often lured by the things and glories of the earth, including money, possessions, and honors.
In the Temptation in the Desert, the devil tested Jesus by saying that he could have all the things and splendor of the whole world if he would only bow down to him. Today, the devil incessantly deceives us into thinking that riches and enjoyment are most important on Earth, not the pursuit of holiness and love for God.
The Trap Of Idolatry
People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, and lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.— 2 Timothy 3:2–4
Because of our sins and the wiles of the enemy, we sometimes lose sight of the true meaning of love and its application to our daily lives. As a result, we choose to love things that immediately give us material gain and happiness. We love money, and the dollar becomes our god.
When we forsake loving God, pain, trouble, and tragedy arise. The devil reigns king in our hearts, and we give up the most important eternality in favor of the temporary. Our character also becomes tainted with spiritual flaws and immorality. Idolatry is a deep affection for things other than God.
Our transient lives on Earth are imperfect and riddled with challenges and difficulties. We lose sight of our purpose and get derailed in the conduct of everyday life. But love conquers all, as Jesus Christ laid down His life for us.
God created us out of his abounding and unconditional divine love. God’s love is eternal. It emanated from God, manifested at the time of creation, and will continue to reign until eternity. Love is the virtue and expression of his everlasting goodness in all of creation, and we in turn must give the same love God has given to us above anything else.