Love is Greek to Me

In the English translation of the Scriptures we find the English word “love” throughout. What we lose in English, however, is the meaning, which is dependent on the Greek word used. Where the English language has the one word, “love,” the Greek has many different words to express the several meanings intended. The word translated as “love” in the English is actually Greek words like philadelphia and phileo, and agape and agapao. And each of these has many different meanings, translated as “love” in the English, deriving from its root word.

Sometimes, like in Romans 12:10, the word “love” is the Greek word philadelphia, which is the brotherly love of Christians for one another out of a common spiritual life. In 1 Peter 3:8, the Greek word is philadelphos, which can be used as a love that distinguishes a Christian from other people. In Titus 2:4 the Greek word is philandros, which is to have affection for someone (for example, a husband or wife). However, in Titus 3:4 the Greek word is philanthropia, which is a type of human friendship where good will is the characteristic; it is a social love for the well-being of humanity. In 1 Timothy 6:10 the Greek word is philarguria, which is how we understand one who is a “lover of money.” And the Greek word phileo is translated as “love” in Matthew 6:5, which simply speaks of one who has a common interest with another.

Each of the words above is produced by human beings, where each has something in common with the other. In other words, this kind of love is conditional. Its condition is that we love those with whom we have something in common, even if that commonality is humanity. Then we have the Greek word agape (Matthew 5:43), a word not found in the classical Greek, but only the biblical. It is a love where the one who loves does so, not because it is desired by the one loved, but because it is deemed necessary by the one who loves (John 3:16). Characteristically it is an unconditional love by nature. It requires and expects nothing in return, and it sets not a single qualifier or condition (by definition). As such, this love is produced only by God, for only God has such an unselfish love. Epistemologically, God is the author and source of this love (2Cor. 13:11), the Holy Spirit is the lover of this love in humanity (Rom. 15:30), and such love of the Father Christ alone makes available to us (Rom. 5:5, 8).

We also have a similar word that is often used and translated “love,” that Greek word is agapao (Matt. 5:44). This is an interesting word in itself because it speaks of a volitional directing of the will toward someone. It is God’s unconditional love in action (Eph. 2:4) and it is our loving as we are loved by God. Now, in order for humanity to logically love God (by definition of God), He has called and equipped us to love one another as an expression of our love for Him. The idea that we can directly love God, strictly speaking, is based on an improbability (if not an impossibility). So, God has us love each other with His unconditional love, as an indirect way (if you please) of loving Him. Thus, when we love one another (agapao), it is not because we have something in common (phileo), but because God loves (agape) us.

We can conditionally love one another, especially when expecting something (like love) in return. But it takes a special and higher love to love another without condition or expecting anything in return. That love can only come from God and can never be produced nor reproduced by us. It is God’s love loving one through the other because God is love in and through us.

Comments are closed.