Agapē is a Greek word for love. This is the highest form of love, which recognizes something of value in the person that is loved. The word “agape” is distinguished from the other kinds of love by its lofty moral character. It is not used in the New Testament to refer to romantic or sexual love, the Greek word for that type of love is “eros.” Nor does it refer to close friendship or brotherly love, for which the Greek word “philia” is used. “Agape” love is the kind of unconditional love that is based on principle, not on emotion.
The agape of the New Testament is love in its purest form, the love that which there is no greater—love that moves a man to sacrifice himself for others (John 15:13). It means reverence for God and respect for man. It is a divine principle of thought and action that transforms the character, rules the impulses, guides the affections (Luke 6:30).
God Is Love
The Bible tells us that “God is love” (1 John 4:8). He does not merely love; He is the essence of love itself. Everything He does is motivated by real love. This love is seen between the Father and Jesus (John 15:10; 17:26). It is the sacrificial love of God the Father to His only Son for lost humanity (John 15: 9; 1 John 3:1; 4:9, 16). Also, it is used to signify the believer’s relation to God (1 John 2:5; 4:12; 5:3). And man’s love for God is shown by conformity to His will for this is the real proof of devotion (1 John 2:4, 5; John 14:15; 1 John 5:3).
When Jesus Christ was asked, which is the great commandment in the law? He answered, “‘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 great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself'” (Matthew 22:37-39).
Sadly, Jesus came to His own, and His own did not receive Him (John 1:11). “And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil” (John 3:19). But Jesus promised that those who would accept Him “shall not walk in darkness” (John 8:12) and that no one shall be able to “pluck” them out of His hand (John 10:28).
Description of Agape Love
Agape love is beautifully described in 1 Corinthians 13. The apostle Paul wrote to His brothers and sisters in Christ:
“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.
Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away” (ch. 13:1-8).
Agape, in 1 Corinthians 13, is the special quality demonstrated in the dealings of Christians with one another (John 13:34, 35; 15:12–14; 1 John 3:16). One of the activities that can help foster fellowship between the family members of God’s Church is a love feast or agape feast. The Bible gives references to these social gatherings in the early church (Acts 2:46–47; 1 Corinthians 11:17–34; Jude 1:12). Agape love should be extended also towards one’s enemies (Matthew 5:44). To love the most hated enemies is to deal with them with respect and kindness and to see them as God sees them.
How Can We Obtain Agape Love?
Agape love does not come naturally to us. It is the love that “has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us” (Romans 5:5 also Galatians 5:22). This experience takes place in the life of the believer, when he accepts Christ as personal Savior by faith (John 1:12). To believe on the name of Christ is to appropriate the provisions of salvation in Christ Jesus.
Then, God pours His love in the heart of the believer. “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness” (Galatians 5:22-23). Notice that love is the first fruit of the Spirit. These fruits stand in marked contrast with the works of the flesh (verses 19–21).
In His service,