GOD IS LOVE; AND HE THAT DWELLETH IN LOVE DWELLETH IN GOD, AND GOD IN HIM, 1Jo 4:16. Love is a chief attribute of Jehovah, the length and breadth and height and depth of which are beyond comprehension, for they are infinite, Eph 3:18-19. Between the three Persons of the Godhead, love is unutterable full, perfect, and blissful; towards holy angels and Christians, God's love is an infinite fatherly complacency and affection; towards sinners, it is immeasurable compassion. It is shown in all his works and ways, and dictated his holy law, but is most signally displayed in the gospel, Joh 3:16. "Herein is love."
Holy love in man would make the whole heart and soul supremely delight in and obey God, and cordially and practically love all beings according to their character-the good with fellowship of soul, and the evil with a Christ-like benevolence. Such a love would meet and fulfil all the ends of the law, Mt 22:37-40; Ro 13:8-10. Without it, none can enter heaven; and as the affections of every unrenewed heart are all mixed with sin, being given to forbidden objects, or selfishly and unduly given to objects not forbidden, we must be "born again" in order to see God, Joh 3:3; 1Jo 4:7,19; 5:4.
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This word seems to require explanation only in the case of its use by our Lord in his interview with "Simon, the son of Jonas," after his resurrection (Joh 21:16-17). When our Lord says, "Lovest thou me?" he uses the Greek word agapas; and when Simon answers, he uses the Greek word philo, i.e., "I love." This is the usage in the first and second questions put by our Lord; but in the third our Lord uses Simon's word. The distinction between these two Greek words is thus fitly described by Trench:, "Agapan has more of judgment and deliberate choice; philein has more of attachment and peculiar personal affection. Thus the 'Lovest thou' (Gr. agapas) on the lips of the Lord seems to Peter at this moment too cold a word, as though his Lord were keeping him at a distance, or at least not inviting him to draw near, as in the passionate yearning of his heart he desired now to do. Therefore he puts by the word and substitutes his own stronger 'I love' (Gr. philo) in its room. A second time he does the same. And now he has conquered; for when the Lord demands a third time whether he loves him, he does it in the word which alone will satisfy Peter ('Lovest thou,' Gr. phileis), which alone claims from him that personal attachment and affection with which indeed he knows that his heart is full."
In 1Co 13 the apostle sets forth the excellency of love, as the word "charity" there is rendered in the Revised Version.
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The fulfilling of the law (Ro 13:8,10), the prominent perfection of God (1Jo 4:8,16), manifested to us (1Jo 4:10) when we loved not Him (Joh 3:16). Passing our powers of knowledge (Eph 3:19), everlasting (Jer 31:3), free and gratuitous (Ho 14:4), enduring to the end (Joh 13:1). The two Greek words for "love" are distinct: phileo, the love of impulse, ardent affection and feeling; agapao, the love of esteem, regard. Joh 21:15, "Simon, lovest (agapas, esteemest) thou Me?" Agapas sounds too cold to Peter, now burning with love; so he replies, "Thou knowest that I LOVE (philo) Thee." "Simon, esteemest thou (agapas) Me? ... Thou knowest that I LOVE Thee." At the third time Peter gained his point. "Simon, LOVEST (phileis) thou Me?" Love to one another is the proof to the world of discipleship (Joh 13:35).