1999 James A. Fowler
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I. Words for "love" in original Biblical languages
A. Hebrew words
word ahab - spontaneous, impulsive love (250 times in
word hesed - deliberate choice of affection and kindness
word raham - to have compassion, brotherly love
B. Greek words
word eros - get English word "erotic"
Eros was Greek god of love - sensual, sexual, impulsive
Plato defined this love as aspiring for and delighting in the
value of its object; loving
which is lovable.
This Greek word not found in New Testament
word philia - get English words philosophy, philanthropy,
Greeks used as love for friend, spouse, children
Ex. of NT usage: Matt. 10:37; Lk. 12:4; 14:12; Jn. 11:3,36
Seldom used in secular Greek literature
When used referred to selective desire for something or someone.
Greek OT (LXX) used over 300 times to refer to God's selective
and exclusive love for
Predominant word for love in new covenant (over 250 occurrences
in NT). Invested
Representative Biblical references employing agape
5:43,44 - "love your enemies"
22:36-40 - "great commandment...love God..."
3:16 - "God so loved the world He gave His only Son"
13:34; 15:12 - "new commandment...love one another.."
17:26 - "love wherewith Thou loved Me may be in them"
5:5 - "love of God poured out within our hearts"
13:10 - "love is the fulfillment of the law"
Cor 13:1-13 - "...the greatest of these is love"
Cor. 5:14 - "the love of Christ controls us"
5:6 - "faith working through love"
5:22 - "fruit of the Spirit is love..."
Jn. 4:7 - "everyone who loves is born of God"
II. Divine basis of love
A. Character of God - "God is
love" - I Jn. 4:8,16
Absolute and independent, unnecessitated
immutable and uncompromising
personal, relational, fundamental to triune Godhead
Self-giving; other-oriented; desires the best for all others,
and the best is Himself.
All-encompassing expression of God's character
13:9 - "summed up in 'you shall love your neighbor'"
5:14 - "whole law summed up in 'love your neighbor'"
2:8 - "royal law...'you shall love your neighbor'"
Other attributes of God's character expressed in love
20 - honor, respect, truth, loyalty, fidelity,...
Cor 13 - patience, kindness, truth, eternality
5:22 - joy, peace, patience, goodness, faithfulness...
B. Expression of God's character
God's love is expressed by His grace - Eph. 2:4,5
God's grace realized in Jesus Christ - Jn. 1:17;3:16; Titus 3:4
God's love expressed in redemption - Rom. 5:8; Gal. 2:20; I Jn.
4:10; Rev. 1:5
God's character of love to be expressed in behavior of man
Requires regenerative presence of God's character
17:26 - "love may be in them, as in Me"
5:5 - "love of God shed in our hearts"
5:22 - "the fruit of the Spirit is love"
Jn. 4:7 - "everyone who loves is born of God"
Only God can express His character of love
Love not a virtue, value, ideal, moral principle
Love not a feeling, sentiment, impulse, passion
Love not romance, benevolence, amicability
Love not psychological predisposition, physical genetics, social
Love expressed only as derived from God - ek theos
Love is spiritual character of God in Christian
Love commanded of the Christian -Jn. 13:34; 15:12; Eph. 5:2
Freedom in the receptivity of His character
God is the dynamic of His own demands
III. Practical features of the expression of God's love
A. Love is not defined by the act,
but by the character of God within the act
B. Love precludes hypocrisy and play-acting.
C. Love is unselfish; not based on self-need
D. Love is not conditioned on reciprocity
or calculation of repayment.
E. Love doesn't care who gets the credit.
F. Love is active; not merely passive
or theoretical; love doesn't loiter.
G. Love believes, trusts and expects
God to overcome all things.
H. Love is directed toward people; not
things, ideas, doctrines, principles...
I. Love of neighbor desires them to have
everything you have, and more.
J. Love precludes resentment, covetousness,
and judging another.
K. Love seeks to commend, not condemn.
L. Love is not conditioned on the lovability
or action of the recipient.
M. Love is not fickle; it is unchanging
N. Love precludes despair at the loss
or absence of the person loved
O. Love precludes favoritism and aversion.
P. Love does not engage in comparison.
Q. Love is not possessive, seeking to
own or control another person.
R. Love does not find its identity or
life in the one loved.
S. Love is the antidote to fear and paranoia
- I Jn. 4:18
T. Love seeks the highest good of the
other, with no thought of benefit to oneself.
U. Love involves self-denial, self-renunciation,
personal sacrifice, humility
V. Love is willing to suffer slights,
W. Love builds others up, nurtures, edifies;
it is constructive, not destructive
X. Love seeks to avoid grieving or offending
another - Rom. 13:10; 14:15
Y. Love of one's enemy removes his relation
of power - Matt. 5:40
Z. Love precludes partiality, preference,
distinction, exclusivism; it is universal and equal
AA. Love does not take the situation
into one's hand to resolve the problem.
BB. Love does not preclude confrontation,
opposition and discipline - Heb. 12:6; it is not always capitulatory
or soft ("tough love"); cf. Matt. 10:34; Lk. 12:49
CC. Love cannot be coerced or obliged
by law or moral principle and program.
DD. Love is not retaliatory (Rom. 12:17);
it turns the other cheek (Matt. 5:39)
EE. Love does not dictate performance
standards or expectations to others
FF. Love prompts one to take the initiative
to be the first to act - (Matt. 7:12)
GG. Love dissolves the emotional blocks
which keep us from sensitivity to others
HH. Love does not demand its personal
II. Love excludes suspicion and mistrust
JJ. Love allows one to be free to be
man as God intended man to be.