Agape or Phileo Love
- David Fairchild
- Jan 5, 2003
- Series: Gospel of John
Turn with me to the Gospel of John Chapter 3. We will be considering this evening 5 verses. In these five verses I would like to ask you 3 simple questions.
I pray that your answers to these questions teach you a great deal about how you view you relationship with God.
As I uncorked a bombshell a few weeks ago regarding 8 different usages of the word ‘world’ in reference to John 3:16. I realized after the study that I did not give you fair teaching through verses 16 through 21, so this evening I wish to finish what I started and get through this next natural break in the chapter.
We will begin by reading John 3:16.
As I have mentioned the last 3 teachings in this Gospel, I love how John shows us how Christ related to individuals. He records the different questions and conversations that Jesus has with those closest to Him and those that are most distant from Him.
This gives us a glimpse of how our God thinks and responds to individuals that have questions.
This week we continue with the dialogue between Jesus and the prominent Pharisee Nicodemus. If you remember Jesus just finished explaining to Nicodemus that he must be born from above. That he will not be able to see the kingdom of God without this new spiritual birth. He chose to speak to Nicodemus about regeneration.
After explaining to Nicodemus that He must be born spiritually from above, Jesus continues in verse 16 with the reasons why Nicodemus should come to God.
I. Agape or Phileo?
"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
Here we see Jesus explaining to this religious man that God has a love that transcends race, culture, geography and history. God has a love that goes beyond the Jews. It is a love that is inclusive of men and women from every tribe and tongue, from all nations.
To Nicodemus this would have been a new revelation because the Jewish Pharisees believed that they were the chosen of God and because of their bloodline, they were entitled to Gods love exclusively. They were the ones that God had called His chosen.
For the proud Jew, this would be heretical.
This also explains to Nicodemus that Because of Gods love for those individuals that God chose to give His one and only unique, begotten Son.
Gods love is manifest in this act of sending His only Son on this mission to fulfill the Fathers eternal plan of salvation for all men from every ethnic background.
Here we come to this text to discuss Gods love. And what does this love look like? How is it defined?
So what I would like to do, even if it seems somewhat mechanical, is to consider the different usages for the word ‘love’ in the New Testament and the pre-biblical language of Greek which is what the New Testament was written in.
When we read the verse: “For God so loved the world….” We should notice that the word that is being used is the Greek word ‘agapao’.
This word has a very significant meaning to it and it has other contrasting words that could be used to describe love in other ways.
When we translate many words from the Greek to the English, often times we lose the richness or fullness of the word in its original language. This happens to be one of those times.
The significance is very important.
I want to give you two other words that were used during this time of history to describe the different forms of ‘love’.
Eros is not found in Biblical usage, but it is where the English word "erotic" is derived and has to do with the sensual passions. Eros was "the name of the little demon deity whose image dances on the Valentines of our time. Among the Romans his name was Cupid, the lusty off-spring of the voluptuous goddess, Venus."
The ancient Greeks considered the demon Eros as the central driving force, motivation, all that man is in attitude, ambition and action. The worship of Eros also brought much of the music into the Greek culture and was designed for the temples of fertility to stimulate sensual ecstasy.
Eros love is of demonic origins and drags man below the level of beasts. Heraclitus, a citizen of Ephesus, the "weeping Philosopher," declared that the morals of the temple of Artemis (Diana, the Goddess of Fertility) were worse than the filthy beasts.
Phileo is the second Greek usage, one which we do find in our New Testament. Where erotic-love is the demonic lust of the flesh for flesh, phileo-love is the natural affection in all people for the appetite of the senses.
Eros is Immoral, so phileo is ammoral. It can be both good and bad, both wicked or right, depending on the moral condition of the lovers. Such as meant by Paul in Titus 1:15, "Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled."
The chief characteristic of phileo is that its strength is directly related to the desirability of the object of its affection. This is the deepest affection that an unsaved person can every know.
I John 4:7-8- Tells us, "Beloved, let us love (agape) one another: for love (agape) is of God; and everyone that loveth (agape) is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth (agape) not knoweth not God; for God is love (agape)." Therefore, it is an unchangeable fact that phileo-affection is the deepest affection known by the unconverted. It is no wonder God warned against "mixed" marriages between the saved and the lost.
Phileo is a very emotional centered affection and an affection based upon one being satisfied by the object. Once this satisfaction is gone, so is the phileo. If the object of phileo assumes any attitudes or actions which are displeasing, the phileo disappears in direct proportion to the displeasure.
Marriages based on phileo can be fulfilling, only if both spouses continue to satisfy the pleasures of the other spouse and do not begin to become critical or negative.
Agape is the third Greek word to define, and the one which we will dwell mostly. As eros is demonic lust or passion, and phileo is the normal human affection of self gratification, agape is the divine nature which only the child of God has access to in this life, through receiving the Holy Spirit in salvation. Agape is, though Lexicons attempt to define it, beyond all understanding, as it is the very character of the Godhead.
Agape is from God, and God alone. There is no natural agape within any man. Agape, therefore, must be an implanted characteristic if found within any man.
Let it be repeated: there isn't any agape ever in any unsaved person, nor can agape be understood by the unsaved. "But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. (1Corinthians 2:14).
What does agape mean? God defines apage for us in John 3:16 by saying, "For God so loved the world ,that He gave His only . . . " A very simple definition and explanation of agape therefore is, "the giving of oneself." But this is inadequate, because there are lost people who would qualify by this kind of action, if left here with no further explanation.
Agape is eternal, hence never failing, totally independent of the object of its favor. Agape has its own character and is not dependent upon being "pleasured" as with phileo.
Agape is an affection which stands in spite of any element of attractiveness, desirability, or even value. It also can even be hated by the object of its affection, without damaging its intensity or character.
We learn in Romans 5:8 that God's love extended through our sin nature, without diminishing at all. "But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."
Who died in Christ? We are told in I John 3:16 that God died; "Hereby perceive we the love of God, because He laid down His life for us...."
It is amazing to make note of just some of the attitudes sinners hold toward God and His loving them. Romans 3:11; "...there is none that seeketh after God." No one even wants love, but gets it any way. What love is that love which is of God?
Agape is not held by emotional infatuation or highs, but is a constant as God. How inconsistent many, even professing "Christians" are, in their display of affection toward those to whom they are obligated by God to love; spouse, children, pastor, brethren, etc.
Another good, yet very deep, explanation of agape by God, Himself, is found in Matthew 5:44: "But I say unto you, love (agape) your enemies. Bless them that curse you and do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use and persecute you." Only agape love can fulfill the command of this verse and without the divine nature, it could never be accomplished or obeyed. Phileo only loves when loved. Agape can love while being hated.
To compare agape to phileo in a marriage situation is to say that one spouse has that love which will independently be given, and given without regard or reward, without lessening its intensity. Even when mistreated, it will continue.
On the other hand, the other spouse, with phileo love, will only perform affectionately as long as spouse continues to bring pleasure to their life. Any displeasure can cause their affection to turn off immediately. While one is constant, the other is unpredictable. While one is longsuffering, the other is short-suffering. While one is a giver, the other is a taker. This generally weakens the saved and God gave commands against the mixed marriage.
Agape is a love which does not wait to be acted upon, because it is active. God is active. He is life and that which is of God is of life. Therefore, divine agape is living love, and active love. Agape acts first and draws the object to action.
Agape is not shown by doing what the person loved desires but what the one who loves deems as needed by the one loved.
So when we read: “For God so loved the world…” We should notice that Gods love was not predicated upon the desires of those that were going to come to life, but upon the needs of those that God had so offered His son as a sacrifice for their sins.
My first question to you is this: Which kind of love to you think God has for you?
Is it a Phileo love that God takes joy in you only as long as you meet His needs?
Or is it an Agape love that God gives sacrificially of Himself to you, not because you desired His great love first, but because you needed it?
My second questions is this: What kind of love do you have toward God?
Do you love God as long as he meets your desires and whims? Do you love Him because He is your magic lamp that you think you can rub 3 times and get a wish granted?
Or do you love God with a selfless, sacrificial love that gives and gives without regard to your demands?
My third questions is: What kind of love do you have toward your brothers and sisters in Christ?
Is it a selfish Phileo or a sacrificial Agape?
"For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”
There is no need for the Son to condemn that which is already condemned.
In the Book of Genesis, chapter 3, we have the account of Adam and Eves rebellion towards God by not obeying His command and the condemnation that has come from it.
II. Belief or Unbelief?
18 "He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”
How many of you have met individuals that claim that they believe in Jesus, yet do not think that He is God or that He is the only way to the Father, or that He will not send anyone to hell?
If individuals have these objections regarding what Jesus said, are they believing in the Jesus of the Bible? The answer of course is no.
Just because an individual claims to “believe something” doesn’t make them any more a legitimate believer than me believing I am rich makes me rich.
Believing in Jesus goes much deeper than simply acknowledging His historical existence. It goes beyond a simple admiration of His moral perfections. And belief in Jesus is not something that is void of any external manifestations of that belief.
To believe in Jesus means that you have accepted Him for who He is, and you have accepted His description of you for who you are before Him.
This is a double edge sword because it can cut both ways.
An individual that believes himself or herself to be safe in the saviors arms while living contrary to their Kings commands, will quickly hear these words from Jesus "I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. 16 "So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.” Revelation 3:15
Or they may hear Him say "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 "Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' 23 "And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!' Matthew 7:21-23
Yet on the other hand, many of you have been taught that you can never be sure if you are saved because you are constantly fighting to keep your salvation. You must perform at a certain level, or you must do certain things so that your salvation is secure. This heresy is perhaps more damning than the last description because it places you in a position of meriting Gods favor by works, thus nullifying His grace.
In other words, you may think that if you don’t do these things (of which you are never sure what those “things” are) you are in jeopardy of not being saved.
Do you think that your righteousness will give you eternal life? If you do, consider these verses:
Romans 3:10 As it is written: "There is none righteous, no, not one;
Isaiah 64:6 But we are all like an unclean thing, And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; We all fade as a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, Have taken us away.
Thinking that by keeping Gods law, you will be justified is an error that I pray you don’t adopt.
Paul in the book of Romans tells us plainly that the deeds of the law won’t save you.
Romans 3:20 Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin. 21 But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, 26 to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. 27 Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law.
I believe that there are many Christians that need to be reminded that they were justified by Grace through faith and that they are secure in the Fathers hands.
As this verse reads, “He who believes is NOT condemned…”
Turn with me to Ephesians chapter 2 verse 1.
1 And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, 2 in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, 3 among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. 4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
God has given you the gift of faith in His son. This faith that was given to you as a gift from almighty God was effective to cause you to believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which is grace offered freely, and by it you ARE saved.
You ARE saved. Not might be, not hope to be, but ARE. If you have repented and believed the Gospel, you were declared not guilty. You no longer are condemned but are called holy, righteous, a royal priesthood, by God.
You have moved from death to life and are now adopted into the family of God!
Let’s read Romans chapter 8 verse 1: “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.”
God has saved you! God has saved YOU.
Because salvation is a gift that is from God. Because you have been bought with a price and are now His possession, He promises not to lose you from His hands:
John 10:27 "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. 28 "And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. 29 "My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father's hand. 30 "I and My Father are one."
Praise God for His gift of Grace. Praise God for His gift of faith so that we would believe.
Do you believe in the Son of God as explained by the Scriptures? Than you are saved and should rest in Gods wonderful merciful gift.
III. Light or Darkness?
19 "And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil 20 "For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. 21 "But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God."
And why is man condemned? Because he ‘agapao’ the darkness rather than ‘agapao’ the light. He finds joy in fully loving his evil deeds and actively opposes and hates the light of Christ.
Man that is still in his natural sinful state, is incapable of coming into the light of God. He can not bear the weight of pure holiness pressing upon his wicked heart.
Why? Because the Bible says “This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.
We are made liars if we profess Him with our lips and yet walk in continual darkness.
Mans love for himself is so great that he will shrink back from the only truth and light and love that is in the entire universe, just so he can wallow in his terminal disease of sin.
As a cockroach scurries when the light is flicked on, so the sinner scurries when the light of Gods holiness is shined in the eyes of his conscience. As a man could easily stomp out that disgusting insect from his kitchen floor without any lack of power, so God could easily stamp out a mans life from among the living if He so chose.
Every sunrise, every day, every breath we take is a gift from God. If God so chose to remove his providential hand from us, we would be swallowed up into the pits of hell without any recourse whatsoever.
Our awareness of there being a real heaven to gain and a real hell to shun, should motivate us to always want the light of God to engulf us in its warmth and in its love and in its purity.
If we agape God and are agape’d by God, if we are believers in God and we love the light, we should count ourselves blessed beyond measure.
The love we have for Him and the Faith we have for Him and the desire to fellowship in the light with Him is all a gift from our Father.
Do you Agape God?
Do you Believe in the Son?
Do you love the light?
If you answered yes to each of these questions, I welcome you to take communion with us this evening.
If you answered no to any of these questions, now is the time to confess this to God and ask that he grants to you what you are lacking.
May the Lord Bless you.