What About Love?

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Four Greek Words for Love

4 Words for Love in Second TestamentIn English, we have only one word to express the idea of love and that is the word “love.” In the Greek language, however, there are four words of which the Second Testament (ST) uses three to express the richness of the word we often simply translate “love.” They are eros, storge, philia, and agape.

  1. The word eros is used mainly for the love between the sexes. It is physical love. The word “lover” in English has come to have a “slang” meaning. It normally is used in connection with a person who makes love with another person who is not their spouse. The Greek word eros came to take on a derogatory meaning in the Greek language and is not used by any author in the Second Testament according to William Barclay[ref]William Barclay, New Testament Words. The Westminster Press. 1974. 17-18[/ref].
  2. The word “storge” has to do with family affection. It can be used by a person in response to the love of his ruler, i.e., president, king, etc. Its regular use was to describe the love of a parent for a child and a child for a parent.[ref]William Barclay, New Testament Words. 18[/ref]
  3. The most common word for love in Greek is philia. It is defined as “looking” on someone with affectionate regard. This is the word for friendship. The word is broader than just affectionate regard. It can mean kiss and also involve physical lover. In the ST as other writings, the meaning is derived from the context. [ref]William Barclay, New Testament Words. 18[/ref]
  4. The most common word in the ST for love is agape and agapan. The word agape is not a classical Greek word. It was used in the Septuagint (LXX) fourteen (14) times for sexual love, and twice for love as opposed to hate. Sometimes agape or agapan is used interchangeably with philia to mean Christian love. The word agape has to do with the mind. It is not an emotion which rises in our hearts. It is a choice by which we commit to living. It is an action. There is no person who loves their enemies naturally. It is a choice to do so. The meaning of agape can be seen in the passage of Matthew 5.43-48. Jesus tells us we should love our enemies so that we can be like God. The action of love which is stated is that God is faithful to send his rain on the just and the unjust. It doesn’t matter what a man is like, God seeks nothing but his highest good. Thus, “agape” can be defined as “seeking the highest good for a man no matter what he has done or said against you”[ref]William Barclay, New Testament Words, 17-22[/ref].

Barclay lists the following as characteristics of Christian love, which could be understood as a part of the sphere of the love of God in which we should keep ourselves.[ref]William Barclay, New Testament Words, 27-28.[/ref]

  • Love is sincere (Rom. 12.9), it has no ulterior
  • Love is innocent (Rom. 13.10), it does not seek to injure.
  • Love is generous (2 Cor. 8.24), it is love that gives and keeps on giving.
  • Love is practical (Heb. 6.10), it is love that seeks action.
  • Love is forbearing (Eph. 4.2), it is
  • Love is forgiveness and restoration (2 Cor. 2.8), it can forgive and forget.
  • Love controls liberty (Gal. 5.13), it will not harm another brother even if the action is not
  • Love controls truth (Eph 4.15), it never speaks in order to hurt.

One can see that the concept of love is broad. If the love of God is that which will do the highest good for a person no matter what the person has done. If it is sincere, innocent, generous, practical, forbearing, forgiving and restoring, and it controls our behavior (liberty and truth) in regard to other brothers and sisters, one can get a clear picture of what the “sphere of God’s love” is.


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Read Me First

 

Throughout these sessions, I have used the word ecclesia (singular) for the usual word church and ecclesiae (plural) to indicate a church in a particular geographic place, i.e., the ecclesiae at Corinth, meaning the whole of the many smaller ecclesia that met in homes in Corinth. This is to distinguish between the Institutional Church model (IC) and ecclesia that meet in cities and towns around the world. The ecclesiae written about by the authors of the Second Testament were not the same as what the “church” has become over the years of its existence. Usually, but not always, folks think of a church as a place where they go to a building and set in rows of pews and listen to music and sometimes sing and listen to sermons by a pastor or senior pastor. The ecclesiae of the Second Testament time did not invoke this model.

 

I have discovered over the years that if you want to try and change minds about something special, you have to venture out and reword it in order to grasp a foothold for a new refreshed understanding of the idea presented by the word. Such is the case between "church" and "ecclesia."

 

Happy Reading!

Read Me Second

 

Referenced verses in the text of this study are not used to prove some point of view. They are merely markers where the subject matter is referenced by other books and authors. To gain a larger view of each quote, a serious student of the Holy Writ would take the time to view the reference and see what the background is. The background provides tracks on which the meaning of a text rides. So knowing the context of a referenced passage would help the reader to gain a more thorough understanding of an author than just the words quoted and marked by a verse number that was not a part of the original author's text, which as you might remember was performed on the text in a random fashion many years later.

 

Happy Reading!

Read Me Third

 

The verses that are referenced in these sessions are not meant to prove a point. They are simply pointers to where the idea being written about may have a correlation. In order to see if they accomplish the thesis presented by the original author, a student should read, at a minimum, the chapter in which the verse is found as well as trying to ascertain what the original author may have meant to say to the original audience.

 

Of course, this is a lot of work but it is beneficial work. If one does not understand what the author meant when it was written and the audience could not have understood by what was written, then the words on the page can mean anything that a present reader may assign as a meaning, thus distorting what God was inspiring for the original writer to write to the original audience to hear.

A great and recent book by N.T. Wright and Michael F. Bird entitled The New Testament in Its World would be a wonderful addition to your reading helps.

 

Happy Reading!

Jesus Followers

 

There are many synonyms to use for the word believer, which is the most common word for a person who has "converted" to follow Jesus. I have chosen "Jesus follower(s) or follower(s) of Jesus instead of the word believer in these presentations to allow the reader an opportunity to move away from the idea of believer which conjures up the possible thought of "ascent" to a set of doctrines that have been assembled by different groups over the centuries and show up in this day and age as a set of statements posted on web sites and other written material. These sets of beliefs are suggested by many as the ones that one should ascent to so that upon death the one who assents can go to heaven, i.e., just believe and you are good to go. Jesus followers/followers of Jesus suggest an action that one should take. Remember, Jesus told his disciples to follow him. Yes, belief is important, but one must move beyond belief to action.

 

(See "Discipleship" Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels. 182-188.)

Jesus Followers

 

There are many synonyms to use for the word believer, which is the most common word for a person who has "converted" to follow Jesus. I have chosen "Jesus follower(s) or follower(s) of Jesus instead of the word believer in these presentations to allow the reader an opportunity to move away from the idea of believer which conjures up the possible thought of "ascent" to a set of doctrines that have been assembled by different groups over the centuries and show up in this day and age as a set of statements posted on web sites and other written material. These sets of beliefs are suggested by many as the ones that one should ascent to so that upon death the one who assents can go to heaven, i.e., just believe and you are good to go. Jesus followers/followers of Jesus suggest an action that one should take. Remember, Jesus told his disciples to follow him. Yes, belief is important, but one must move beyond belief to action.

 

(See "Discipleship" Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels. 182-188.)