The Bible enumerates many beautiful graces of Christian character, but the greatest one is love. 1 John 4: 8 reads, “God is love” – He is the personification of love, its source and embodiment, the quality that adorns His character more than any of His other character graces.
Love’s Foundation and Superstructure
Love may be defined as good will. Though not all the elements of love may be present in every circumstance, good will is always present. There are two kinds of love. The first is its foundation, and the second, its superstructure:
(1.) Duty love (Greek, philia) is the good will that by right we owe to others, in other words, doing justly, according to the Golden Rule (Micah 6: 8) (Matthew 7: 12). In duty love there is always an element of natural, but not sinful selfishness. Our duty love toward God is the thankful good will for the good He has done to us; and duty love to our neighbor is the love we have toward him as we with our wills subject to God’s will would have him love us. Duty love often possesses personal affection, fondness or attachment, as some examples below show.
(2.) Disinterested, unselfish love (Greek, agape) is the good will that, apart from duty or obligation, but based on a delight in good principles (Jeremiah 9: 24) (Psalm 1: 2) (Psalm 40: 8) (Psalm 45: 7) goes out in: (a) appreciation of good principles and those in harmony with them, (b) sympathy with or pity for those who are treated contrary to good principles or who are out of harmony with good principles, and (c) sacrifice to advance good principles in the blessing of others. In disinterested, unselfish love, we love God and others because we delight in good principles, and that apart from any selfish consideration. This highest form of love is the one referred to in our text.
Scriptural Examples of Duty Love (Philia)
John 5: 20: “The Father loveth the Son, and sheweth him all things that himself doeth.” We see here the family relationship – God’s personal affection and intimate fondness for the Son, and Jesus’ similar feelings for the Father.
John 16: 27: “The Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me.” Here Jesus is referring to love in the family relationship. Those who love God’s Son Jesus in gratitude for all He has done for them as their Savior and Lord, and who faithfully follow Him in doing the Father’s will (Matthew 12: 48-50) (Hebrews 2: 11), are assured that God loves them personally as His children, and He as their Father provides for them in every possible way for their good.
1 Peter 1: 22: “Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren [philadelphia], see that ye love [agape] one another with a pure heart fervently.” Both kinds of love are shown in this verse.
Scriptural Examples of Disinterested, Unselfish Love (Agape)
John 3: 16: “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son.” Duty love did not prompt man’s redemption, for God had not wronged His human creatures in sentencing them to death; nor has fallen man done anything for God which could put Him under obligation; it was agape love, the good will based on a delight in good principles, that would even sacrifice on their behalf that prompted their redemption.
Romans 13: 10: “Love worketh no ill to his neighbor: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.” Agape love must be founded on justice, duty love, and is therefore the fulfilling of the law.
Let us close by listing love’s elements in verses 4-8 of 1 Corinthians 13 – the Bible’s love chapter:
(1.) Longsuffering – “Love suffereth long”;
(2.) Kindness – “And is kind”;
(3.) Generosity – “Love envieth not”;
(4.) Humility – “Love vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up”;
(5.) Gentleness – “Doth not behave itself unseemly”;
(6.) Unselfishness – “Seeketh not her own”;
(7.) Self-control – “Is not easily provoked”;
(8.) Purity – “Thinketh no evil”;
(9.) Genuineness – “Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth”;
(10.) Protectiveness – “Beareth [covereth] all things”;
(11.) Trustfulness – “Believeth all things”;
(12.) Hopefulness – “Hopeth all things”;
(13.) Patient endurance – “Endureth all things”;
(14.) Dependableness – “Love never faileth.”