How did you figure out what “love” meant in English? Unless you were an unusually precocious two-year-old, the dictionary likely played no role in your acquisition of this vocabulary word. No, you observed how your parents used “love.” You absorbed quickly who loves (people, maybe dogs, but never sticks or “summer”), and what they love (other people, maybe dogs, and maybe even sticks—and certainly summer). You saw how hugs and kisses often went with love.
Beyond and beneath all of that, you are made in the image of a God who is love, a God who exists in three persons, persons who have loved one another with perfect love since before the foundation of the world (John 17:24). You grasped “love” the word because love the concept was part of your nature, even if it was twisted in wrong directions by the fall.
We find out what words mean in Scripture the same way we find out what they mean in English: we listen.
We’ve spent two days talking about the biblical concept of love; today let’s talk about the word, particularly the Greek word agape. Let’s listen to what the Scripture says about agape.
So who loves—who “agapes”—in the Bible?
If you’ve been around the theological block a few times, you may be tempted to answer, “God agapes. Agape love is divine love.”
But through the magic of Bible software such as YouVersion and Logos, you can now easily see the same thing about agape that you saw about “love” as a two-year-old: in the Bible everybody loves: God loves, Jesus loves, people love. Good people love, bad people love. And what do they love? Everything: God is loved, Jesus is loved, people are loved. Good things are loved, bad things are loved.
Today let’s read just six Bible verses. The Greek word translated “love” in every one of them is agape (or the verb form agapao). Can agape mean “a non-emotional choice to sacrifice oneself for another person regardless of his or her value” in any of these passages? Look for who loves, and what they love. You’ll see what I mean.
Let’s do just a little bit of Bible word study!
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