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The Four Types of LOVE in the Bible

Understanding the four types of love in the Bible is very enlightening. Let’s look at the four Greek words for love, as observed in the Bible:

1. Storge Love

Storge love is family love, which includes the bond, affection and loyalty that develops between family members. Although the word itself, storge (STOR-gay), is not found in the Bible we see numerous examples of it, like Martha & Mary’s love for their brother Lazarus in John 11.

Unfortunately the opposite can happen, which is when family members develop hatred for each other. Some good examples of this in the Scriptures include: Cain & Abel (Genesis 4:1-11) and Joseph & his jealous brothers (Genesis 37).

2. Phileo Love

Phileo love is friendship love or brotherly love like the platonic affection of David and Jonathan (2 Samuel 1:25-26). Philadelphia, “the city of brotherly love,” was named after this type of love. You could say that phileo love is storge love applied to non-family members or that storge love is phileo love applied to family members. In either case, there’s an element of “tender affection” or a bond. The word phileo (fil-LAY-oh) can be found some 25 times in the original Greek text of the New Testament. The noun form, philia, appears much less often.

Jesus’ phileo love for Martha, Mary and Lazarus is a good example, as observed here:

(5) Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.

(35) Jesus wept. (36) Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”

JOHN 11:5, 35-36

3. Eros Love

Eros love is phileo love between members of the opposite sex and includes a romantic element, but it doesn’t refer to shallow sexual lust. Although the word eros (eer-ROSS) doesn’t appear in the original manuscripts there are many examples of this type of love in the Scriptures. One overt example can be observed in the amazing Song of Songs. Here’s a passionate expression of love in that book where the man is speaking to the woman:

show me your face,
    let me hear your voice;
for your voice is sweet,
    and your face is lovely.

Song of Songs 2:14

4. Agape Love

Agape love is simply practical love or love-in-action and is therefore not dependent on affection. This can be observed in the Scriptural definition of agape love found in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, which says that agape (uh-GAHP-aay) love is patient, kind, does not envy, does not boast, is not proud, is not rude or selfish or easily angered, etc.

The word ‘love’ for God’s love for the world in the most popular passage of the Bible is agape:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

John 3:16

The Creator was walking in love toward all humanity when the Father allowed the Son to die in our place as our substitutionary death. This was agape love, practical love, and not phileo love.

Phileo Love is Not Necessary to Agape Love Someone

With this understanding, you don’t have to have phileo love for people — affection — to agape love them. Why? Because agape love refers to practical love and has little to do with affection, that is, liking the person. This explains how we can fulfill Jesus & Paul’s instructions to love our enemies (Luke 6:27 & Romans 12::20-21). Do you like your enemies, that is, phileo love them? Of course not. But this isn’t a problem because we are not commanded to phileo love our enemies, we’re told to agape love them. Are you following? This explains why agape love is often defined as “unconditional love” since it is practical in nature and, again, not dependent upon liking an individual or on how well they treat you.

However, I should stress that agape love does not refer to only the nicey-wicey kind of love. Agape love is love-in-action and refers to doing the kind thing, the good thing for the person in question. Are you truly being kind or good by condoning something that will eventually ruin or destroy a person? Or, worse, enabling them? This explains how Jesus — who was love because “God is love” (1 John 4:8) — was able to chase the fools out of the temple with a whip, yelling and throwing over tables (Mark 11:15-18). Or when he rebuked Peter as “satan” (Matthew 16:23). His actions may not have been nice, but they were kind and good because they benefited the people. See the article “Gentle Love and Tough Love” here for more details on this.

In light of all this, allow me to point something out that you won’t hear very often: God is agape love and so He loves (agape) the world, just as the most popular passages states, John 3:16 (quoted above). What this means is that God is extending practical love to all human beings even though unbelievers are unregenerated “objects of wrath” (Ephesians 2:1-5). I was only saved and “made alive with Christ” because of God’s great agape love!

But God doesn’t phileo love everyone, that is, have tender affection for them. He doesn’t have a close bond with everyone. For instance, do you think God is up there observing the many pedophile priests and saying, “Oh, I just have so much warm affection for these sick perverts?” Do you think the LORD was close buddies with Hitler? Of course not.

Come Near to God and He will Come Near to YOU

The Bible says that the Father phileo loved Jesus when Jesus was on earth (John 5:19-20). Why? Because Jesus imitated the Father, that is, he was godly — like God. As such, Jesus grew in God’s favor (Luke 2:52). We too can grow in God’s favor by coming near to Him (James 4:8, 2 Peter 3:18 & Eph. 5:1).

Think about it in terms of a “teacher’s pet”, in  a positive way. The pupil is the teacher’s pet because she honors the teacher and is compliant. She does her homework and strives to do well on tests. If she offends the teacher she readily apologizes. The teacher will naturally have phileo love for such a student — affection and respect — but not for a student who’s aloof and shows contempt. Of course the teacher will care about the latter student because the noble teacher unbiasedly cares about all his students. He wants each one to learn, mature and be successful in life. But when the student is foolish and disrespectful there’s only so much the teacher can do. The teacher will walk in agape love toward such students — practical love — but the teacher will not have phileo love for them. Why? Because they’re fools who regard the teacher with contempt. All the teacher can do is continue walking in agape love toward them — including praying for them, and even tough love when appropriate — in the hope that they’ll positively respond at some point and turn from their folly.

As amazing as it sounds, YOU can grow in God’s phileo love! “Come near to him and he will draw near to YOU.” It’s an axiom — a universal law. Strive for a closer relationship with your Creator. Cultivate a more intimate prayer life, which is simply talking with God. Paul instructed us to “pray without ceasing,” which indicates a 24/7 bond of communion (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Love God by obeying his instruction, both the general instructions from the written Word and the specific instructions of the living Word, the Spirit of Christ (1 John 5:3). As you do this you’ll grow in God’s favor just as surely as Jesus Christ did when he was on earth (Luke 2:52) and others as well, like Samuel (1 Samuel 2:26). Peter put it like this:

But grow in the grace (i.e. favor) and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.

2 Peter 3:18

Just as important as it is to grow in the knowledge of the Lord, it’s also vital to grow in God’s grace; that is, his favor.


For more details watch this video.

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