Universal Salvation: Love Part One
What is love?
Let us summarise what The New Oxford Dictionary of English says about love. Then we are sure to know, aren't we?
"Love…an intense feeling of deep affection…A deep romantic or sexual attachment to someone…a personified figure of love, often represented by cupid…a great interest and pleasure in something…affectionate greetings conveyed to someone on one's behalf…a formula for ending an affectionate letter…a person or thing that one loves…Brit. informal: a friendly form of address…informal; used to express affectionate approval for someone…[mass noun] (in tennis, squash, and some other sports) a score of zero; nil: love fifteen | [ORIGIN apparently from the phrase play for love (i.e. the love of the game, not for money); folk etymology has connected the word with the French l'oeuf 'egg', and from the resemblance in shape between an egg and a zero.]…verb [with obj.] feel deep romantic or sexual attachment to (someone)…find pleasure in…a fun-loving girl."*
"Is this what the Holy Scriptures mean when they speak of love?"
Sometimes, depending on what Greek word is used.
"You mean the Bible uses more than one Greek word for love, and they mean different things?"
Yes. The Holy Scriptures use forms of the Greek words phileo and agapao: agapao being the word most frequently used. But just by reading the English does not tell you which word is used, or what it means. An example of this is found at John 3:35 and John 5:20, which speak of the Father's love for the Son.
John 3:35 says: "The Father loves (agapa, from agapao) the Son, and has given all things into His Hand."
John 5:20 says: "For the Father loves (philei, from phileo) the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself does…"
Can you see? Two different words, having two different meanings.
So first we will look at phileo, and then we will look at agapao.
Phileo means to have affection for; to like; to be fond of someone; to feel personally attached to someone through sentiment or feelings.
So when Jesus said: "for the Father loves (philei, from phileo) the Son…", He was showing that the Father had great affection for the Son, and that He had deep feelings for Him.
Knowing that, how do you think the Father felt when He allowed His Son to be crucified? He would have hurt terribly. When you have that much affection for someone, you would rather die yourself: except that the Father could not die, and a sacrifice was necessary. What a sacrifice the Father had to make. He had no choice for Universal Salvation to become possible: He had to sacrifice His Son.
Another example is the love of the believer, found at John 14:21 and John 16:27.
John 14:21 says: "He who has my commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves (agapon, from agapao) Me. And he who loves (agapon, from agapao) Me will be loved (agapethesetai, from agapao) by My Father, and I will love (agapeso, from agapao) him and manifest Myself to him."
John16:27 says: "For the Father Himself loves (philei, from phileo) you, because you have loved (pephilekate, from phileo) me, and have believed that I came forth from God."
So, once again, when Jesus said: "For the Father Himself loves (philei, from phileo) you, because you have loved (pephilekate, from phileo) me…" He was showing that, because His followers had affection and feelings for Jesus, the Father, in return, had affection and feelings for them. He liked them, and was fond of them.
Yet another example is the love between Jesus and a certain disciple (John). It is to be found at John 13: 23 and John 20:2.
John 13:23 says: "Now there was leaning on Jesus' bosom (sitting next to Him) one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved (egapa, from agapao)."
John 20:2 says: "Then she (Mary Magdalene) ran and came to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved (ephilei, from phileo)…"
And once again, when Holy Scripture says: "Then she ran and came to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved (ephilei from phileo)…" it was showing that Jesus had affection and feelings for John.
There is a strange reply in Holy Scripture that you miss when translated into English, involving the words phileo and agapao. It is to be found at John 21:15-17: 15 So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, 'Simon, son of Jonah, do you love (agapas, from agapao) Me more than these?' He said to Him, 'Yes, Lord; You know that I love (philo, from phileo) You.' He said to him, 'Feed My lambs.' 16 He said to him again a second time, 'Simon, son of Jonah, do you love (agapas, from agapao) Me? He said to Him, 'Yes, Lord; You know that I love (philo, from phileo) You.' He said to him, 'Tend My sheep.' 17 He said to him the third time, 'Simon, son of Jonah, do you love (phileis, from phileo) Me?' Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, 'Do you love (phileis, from phileo) Me?' And he said to Him, 'Lord, You know all things; You know that I love (philo, from phileo) You.' Jesus said to him, 'Feed My sheep.' "
Peter, when asked: "do you love me?" (agapas, from agapao) could not bring himself to say that he did. Instead, he said to Jesus: "You know that I love (philo, from phileo) you". Peter was only prepared to say to Jesus: "Jesus, I am fond of you, and have affection and feelings for you." Brotherly love. But at this stage, he could not say that he had agape (the noun form of the verb agapao) love for Jesus. After all, a few days before, he had denied Him three times.
Matthew 26:31-35 says: "31 Then Jesus said to them, 'All of you will be made to stumble because of Me this night, for it is written: "I will strike the Shepherd, And the sheep of the flock will be scattered." 32 But after I have been raised, I will go before you to Galilee.' 33 Peter answered and said to Him, 'Even if all are made to stumble because of You, I will never be made to stumble.' 34 Jesus said to him, 'Assuredly, I say to you that this night, before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.' 35 Peter said to Him, 'Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!' And so said all the disciples. "
Matthew 26:69-75 goes on to say: "69 Now Peter sat outside in the courtyard. And a servant girl came to him, saying, 'You also were with Jesus of Galilee.' 70 But he denied it before them all, saying, 'I do not know what you are saying.' 71 And when he had gone out to the gateway, another girl saw him and said to those who were there, 'This fellow also was with Jesus of Nazareth.' 72 But again he denied with an oath, 'I do not know the Man!' 73 And a little later those who stood by came up and said to Peter, 'Surely you also are one of them, for your speech betrays you.' 74 Then he began to curse and swear, saying, 'I do not know the Man!' Immediately a rooster crowed. 75 And Peter remembered the word of Jesus who had said to him, 'Before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.' So he went out and wept bitterly."
Although Peter did have philia (the noun form of the verb phileo) love for Jesus, it was not enough to keep him from denying Him. He broke his word; he totally failed.
Agape love can not fail; it is impossible.
1 Corinthians 13:8 says: "Love (agape) never fails…"
So we see that Peter had philia love, and failed. But if he had had agape love, he would not have failed, because agape love can not fail.
So there is a very big difference between philia love, and agape love.
And do you know what?
God is Love (agape). He can not fail.
"Fail in what?"
Fail in anything.
"What, then, is agape love?"
Be sure to read our next article, "Universal Salvation! Love Part Two".
Next article: Love Part Two