The Doctrinal Garbage Can: Agape Means Unconditional Love

I am truly sorry, but the proof in Scripture of agape equaling unconditional love is completely absent. It frustrated me for years. Perhaps something was wrong because all I saw was the necessity of obedience:

“Follow Me.” Jesus commanded this about thirty times in all four Books of the Evangel.

Matthew 11:29-30Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.

John 14:15 If you love Me, you will keep (obey, protect, preserve) My commandments.

John 14:21 Whoever has My commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.

John 14:23-24 If anyone loves Me, He will keep My word, and My Father will love him, and We will come to Him and make Our home with Him. Whoever does not love Me does not keep My words. And the word that you hear is not Mine but the Father’s Who sent Me.

1 John 5:1-3 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of Him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.

2 John 1:6 And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, so that you should walk in it.

Back in ’09, I learned about the different words for love in the ancient Greek. Wikipedia (at the time) had the best and simplest definition. I should have saved it, but here is the summary:

This form of love is between a leader and a subordinate, originally for the relationship that a king had with his subjects. It also described parent/child, master/slave, and employer/worker.

Oh, the relief I felt…LOL! Unfortunately, a well-meaning believer decided to change it to the popular version. I hate when anyone, believer or not, does that. We must learn to see the Bible as the Israelite Apostles did, which is why studying history, customs, and language is essential. I give kudos to the Puritans for their diligence applying the meanings of Koine (common) Greek towards the Geneva Bible.

The ever-ending hunt for concise, yet thorough, articles yielded a goldmine of PDFs created by someone with a Master of Divinity: RC Publications. His work, Love and the Bible, has an article, Why Agapao Can Not Mean, ‘The Divine, Unconditional Love of God’, that goes into detail about what apage and phileo do not mean. Here are some excerpts:

God only has to say something one time for it to be forever true and fully empowered. But if we can find other corroborating witnesses in His word on a particular subject area, that will help us to be sure we correctly understand and represent His view on that topic. With that in mind, I immediately grabbed my Greek concordance so as to examine every use of the word agapao. The verb form appears almost 150 times in the New Testament. Here are five of them.

2Ti 4:10 “Demas, having loved (agapao) this present world, deserted me…”
2Pet 2:15 “… they (false teachers) … followed the way of Balaam … who loved (agapao) the wages of unrighteousness.
Jn 12:43 “For they (the Pharisees) loved (agapao) the approval of men rather than the approval of God.”
Lk 11:43 “Woe to you Pharisees! For you love (agapao) the front seats in the synagogues, and (you love – agapao) respectful greetings in the market places.”
Lk 16:13 “No servant can serve two masters; for he will either hate the one, and love (agapao) the other …. You cannot serve God and mammon.”

A journey was launched for me the day I ran across the statement that “men loved (agapao) the darkness rather that the light; for
their deeds were evil” (Jn 3:19).

The primary meaning of phileo is, “to cherish.” It is packed with emotion. It means “to like, to be fond of, or to delight in.” In some contexts it is translated, “to kiss!” It is the word for intense endearment. The noun form, philos, means, “friend, or a congenial associate.”

Phileo is really the warmth of love for which everyone craves. This is the love of emotion, the love of affection. Emotional responses are ignited by the object. While there are two passages that indicate employment of the will (to be discussed shortly), phileo highlights the emotional aspect of love.

As for what agape really means, the evidence show it applies to whatever holds your soul captive. If anyone has more to add, please feel free to comment.

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