1 Corinthians 13:4-8a is a favorite passage of Scripture for many, from the “well-loved” Love Chapter:
4) Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant,
5) does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered,
6) does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth;
7) bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
8a) Love never fails….
These verses are an amplification of the short phrase, “God is love,” used in 1 John 4. The Greek word for “love” in the above is the well-known agapēo, called the noblest word for love in the Greek language. Here’s how Wuest defines this intense word: “Agapēo speaks of a love which is awakened by a sense of value in an object which causes one to prize it. It springs from an apprehension [understanding] of the preciousness of an object. It is a love of esteem and approbation [commendation, praise]. The quality of this love is determined by the character of the one who loves, and that of the object loved. Agapēo is used in John 3:16. God’s love for a sinful and lost race springs from His heart in response to the high value He places upon each human soul. Every sinner is exceedingly precious in His sight…The love in John 3:16, therefore, is a love whose essence is that of self-sacrifice for the benefit of the preciousness of the one loved.”
So we could best say that agapēo is perfect, unconditional, sacrificial, and pure. Agapēo delights in giving. Agapēo keeps on loving [unconditionally], even when the loved one is unresponsive, unkind, unlovable, and unworthy; it desires only the good of the one loved. Agapēo has a passion for the well-being of others. It is not necessarily how we feel about someone, but how we behave toward them; it is not based on emotion. Agapēo is used some 320 times in the Besekh (New Testament).
Scholars note that agapēo is not found in classical Greek, rather it is used in what is known as Biblical Greek, sometimes called Street Greek, or even Hebraic Greek, as the Besekh authors were Jewish, and wrote from a Jewish mindset. The other two other words for love in Scripture just couldn’t quite cut it for this “Love” passage, nor would a third commonly used Greek word:
- Phileo – the most general type of love in Scripture, encompassing love for fellow humans, care, respect, and compassion for people in need; brotherly love. Phileo speaks of affection, fondness, or liking. Matthew 10:37 uses this word: “Whoever loves [phileo] father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever [phileo] son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”
- Storge – family love, natural affection, a quiet, abiding feeling within a person that rests on something close to him and that he feels good about. Storge is not found on its own in the Besekh, but has an added prefix, “a,” which negates the term, and means “without.” Regarding unrighteous man who denies God, Romans 1:31 says they are, “without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving [astorgos], unmerciful….” The same term is also used in 2 Timothy 3:3. One more instance of storge is found in Romans 12:10, where it is compounded with phileo: “Be devoted [philostorgos] to one another in brotherly [philadelphia] love….”
- Eros – romantic, based on passion, based on some characteristic in another that one finds appealing, looks for what it can receive, is conditional. Not found in the Besekh or the Septuagint.
So, okay, that’s cool, we like that. Now here’s something to make the agapēo definition even more meaningful. Insert the name Yeshua for love:
4) Yeshua is patient, Yeshua is kind and is not jealous; Yeshua does not brag and is not arrogant,
5) [Yeshua] does not act unbecomingly; [Yeshua] does not seek His own, [Yeshua] is not provoked, [Yeshua] does not take into account a wrong suffered,
6) [Yeshua] does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but [Yeshua] rejoices with the truth;
7) [Yeshua] bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
8a) [Yeshua] never fails….
Yes, how very true. That is great! Awesome! But wait – now we are going to give these words a litmus test – a very difficult personal test. We’re going to insert our own first names in place of love:
4) ______ is patient, ______ is kind and is not jealous; ______ does not brag and is not arrogant,
5) ______ does not act unbecomingly; ______ does not seek his/her own, ______ is not provoked, ______ does not take into account a wrong suffered,
6) ______ does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but ______ rejoices with the truth;
7) ______ bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
8a) ______ never fails….
Ooo, ouch! This test stings a little! Maybe a lot!
Well, let’s just get up on our feet, shake it off, highlight the mistakes, hit the delete button – in other words, confess, repent to Adonai, seek His forgiveness, ask for His guidance, wisdom, grace, and help to grow in agapēo, and keep plodding along in this walk with the Master Yeshua. Shalom!