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The word love can mean many different things in the English language.  It can refer to a mother's love for her child, love of  country, romantic love, friendship, or God's love towards mankind.  The Greek language has different words for different types of love.  The original manuscripts of the New Testament of the Bible were written in the Greek language so we will take a look at the actual words used in the original manuscripts.  We will explore the following Greek words:

  1. agape 
  2. phileo

Agape is defined as the love that God has for his Son and toward mankind.  

bullet John 3:16 "For God so loved (agape) the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."  Notice the first part of this verse, "God so loved (agape)... He gave".  Agape love gives, agape love is the deep and constant love of a perfect being (God) towards an unworthy object (mankind).  
bulletEphesians 2:4 - 5 "But because of his great love (agape) for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions - it is by grace you have been saved."  Romans 5:8 "But God demonstrates his own love (agape) for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." We were unworthy objects, we were sinners.

Agape Love

  1. Comes only from God
  2. Does not always run with natural inclinations
  3. Gives unselfishly
  4. Takes action and is visible (you can see it in action)
  5. Ready to serve
  6. Does what is best
  7. Not drawn out by excellency
  8. Deliberate choice without cause


bulletI John 4:7 "Dear friends, let us love (agape) one another, for love (agape) comes from God.  Everyone who loves (agape) has been born of God and knows God."  Agape love is love that only comes from God.
bulletI John 4:9-10 "This is how God showed his love (agape) among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.  This is love (agape): not that we loved (agape) God but that he loved (agape) us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins."  As you can see from this verse, agape love does not always run with natural inclinations nor does it spend itself only upon those for whom some affinity is discovered.  Agape love gives unselfishly and takes action in a visible way.  As sinners, we deserved the death that Jesus took upon himself on the cross.  We were unworthy of the love that God demonstrated toward us when he allowed his only Son to die on the cross for us.  Agape love is why Jesus took action to choose to die on the cross for our sins in such a visible and humiliating way before all creation.  Agape love truly does take action in a visible and if necessary humiliating way.  Agape love is God doing what is best for mankind and not necessarily what man desires.  Agape love is not drawn out by excellency in it's objects.  It is an exercise of the divine will in deliberate choice, made without assignable cause. 

In contrast, phileo is defined as to be a friend to, indicating feelings, warm affection.

As we study love we will begin to understand that phileo is the love that can come easily because of like interests, commonalities.  Sometimes we meet people who we naturally like.  They are easy to get along with, you may share the same ideas, they're likable and enjoyable to be around so you feel comfortable and have good feelings being around them.  Many times you develop a warm affection toward them and enjoy their company.  You become friends.  This is phileo. 

Phileo is never used in a command to men to love (phileo) God.  Some want to say that God has only agape love but this isn't true.  Take a look at the following verses:

bulletJohn 3:35 "The Father loves (agape) the Son and has placed 
everything in his hands, Whoever believes in the Son has eternal 
life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's 
wrath remains on him."
bulletJohn 5:20 "For the Father loves (phileo) the Son and shows him 
all he does. Yes, to your amazement he will show him even 
greater things than these."

In John chapter 21, both words are used but each word retains it's distinctive and essential character.  Before we study John 21, let's review the events that lead up to this chapter.  Peter is one of the twelve disciples, a fisherman by trade, who follows Jesus during three years of ministry.  Near the end of Jesus life, just before Jesus is crucified, the last 24 hours go something like follows:

bulletThe passover meal or last supper is observed by Jesus and the twelve disciples
bulletDuring the meal Jesus says that He will be betrayed by one of the twelve disciples
bulletPeter is quick to say in Mark 14:29 "Even if all fall away, I will not."
bulletLuke 22:33 & 34 records Peter saying:  But he replied, "Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death."  Jesus answered, "I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me."
bulletThey leave the upper room and go to the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus asks a few disciples to keep watch and pray, Peter is one of them.  Jesus return's to find them sleeping as recorded in Mark 14:37 & 38 - Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. "Simon," he said to Peter, "are you asleep?  Could you not keep watch for one hour?  Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.  The spirit is willing, but the body is weak."  Recorded in Mark 14:39, Jesus comes back a second time to find his disciples sleeping again.  And again as recorded in Mark 14:41, Jesus returns a third time and asks "Are you still sleeping  and resting?"
bulletJudas arrives on the scene and the soldiers start to arrest Jesus.  In John 18:10 "Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest's servant, cutting off his right ear."  Jesus rebukes him as recorded in John 18:11 - Jesus commanded Peter,  "Put your sword away!  Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?"
bulletNext we find Peter following at a distance as Jesus is lead away.  Mathew 26:58 - But Peter followed him at a distance, right up to the courtyard of the high priest.  He entered and sat down with the guards to see the outcome.
bulletRead closely the following verses recorded in Mathew 26:69 thru 75 - Now Peter was sitting out in the courtyard, and a servant girl came to him.  "You also were with Jesus of Galilee," she said.  But he denied it before them all.  "I don't know what you're talking about, "he said.  Then he went out to the gateway, where another girl saw him and said to the people there, "This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth."  He denied it again, with an oath: "I don't know the man!"  After a little while, those standing there went up to Peter and said, "Surely your are one of them, for your accent gives you away."  Then he began to call down curses on himself and he swore to them, I don't know the man!"  Immediately a rooster crowed.  Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: "Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times."  And he (Peter) went outside and wept bitterly.

Jesus dies on the cross.  Peter and the other disciples are scared and hiding out.  What had they witnessed the last three years?  All the miracles, the feeding of the five thousand, the man with leprosy who was healed, the blind man who's sight was restored and on and on we could go, not to mention all the teachings and parables by Jesus himself.  He's dead now, where do they go, what do they do?  Jesus remains in the tomb on the sabbath.  No one could go to the tomb on that day.  The next morning, Mary Magdalene goes to the tomb but it is empty.  She runs and tells the disciples, Peter and John run ahead of the other disciples - they see the linen wrappings but no Jesus.  They go to their homes.  Jesus appears to Peter on the road to Emmaus.  Jesus appears to the disciples and tells them to go to Galilee and wait for him.  They go there and wait.  Peter grows weary - says I'm going fishing (John 21:3 - "I'm going out to fish," Simon Peter told them, and they said, "We'll go with you."  So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.)  Peter had gone back to what he had done before meeting Jesus and the other disciples followed.  The next morning Jesus stood on the shore and called out to them "Friends, haven't you any fish?"  The disciples answered "No".  Jesus tells them "Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some."  Miraculously, they caught an abundance of fish.  John who is in the boat with Peter realizes that it is Jesus and says to Peter "It is the Lord!"  Peter is so happy that he jumps in the water and swims to the shore.  There Jesus had fish cooking on burning coals and invited them saying "Come and have breakfast."  When they had finished breakfast, the following dialogue took place and is recorded in John  21:15 thru 17 - When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?"  "Yes, Lord, "he said, "you know that I love you."  Jesus said, "Feed my lambs."  Again Jesus said, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me?"  He answered, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you."  Jesus said "Take care of my sheep."  The third time he said to him, "Simon son of John, do you love me?"  Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, "Do you love me?"  He said, "Lord, you know all things, you know that I love you."  Jesus said, "Feed my sheep."  Loving one another (agape love) is one of the greatest outward expressions of our devotion to God.  Jesus demonstrated agape love towards Peter even though Peter had failed so many times as evidenced in the verses listed above.  Jesus was entrusting to Peter to be a leader in the Church when he said to Peter "Feed my sheep."   A Pharisee asked Jesus "Which is the greatest commandment?" Let's look at Mathew 22:37 thru 40 - Jesus replied "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it.  Love your neighbor as yourself.  All the law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."  Loving one another with an agape type love shows our love for God and to God.  John 14:15 - "If you love (agape) me, you will obey what I command."  John 15:12 - "My command is this: Love (agape) each other as I have loved (agape) you."    I John 4:20 & 21 - If anyone says, "I love God," yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.


Agape Love

  1. Comes only from God
  2. Does not always run with natural inclinations
  3. Gives unselfishly
  4. Takes action and is visible (you can see it in action)
  5. Ready to serve
  6. Does what is best
  7. Not drawn out by excellency
  8. Deliberate choice without cause


Conclusion:  When we love one another with an agape type love, the Spirit of God can work through us in the lives of other people that need to see the love of Jesus.


Bible verses referenced in this presentation
are from the following translation:
New International Version