Understanding The Different Types of Love In The Bible

The Greeks found four different types of love. Let's look at the 4 different types of love present in the Bible as well as examples of each type.

In English, the word “love” is used to describe all sorts of scenarios and feelings.

A man and woman fall in love. A child loves his favorite toy. A parent deeply loves their child. People love restaurants, sports teams, countries, and countless other things. The same word is used to describe many different types of love.

The Greeks understood that there are many different types of love and came up with at least four different words to describe it. Because Greek was the prevalent language of the day, the New Testament was written in Greek. Additionally, the Old Testament was translated into Greek (the Septuagint).

Early Christians would have been familiar with the different Greek words for love and would have probably had those words in mind when reading the Bible.

The four Greek words for love are:

  • Eros
  • Storge
  • Philia
  • Agape

While only two of these words are actually found in the Bible, the concepts behind all four are most certainly present.

In this post, we’re going to look at the different types of love in the Bible, as well as examples of each type.

Different Types of Love In The Bible

Eros

“Eros” is the Greek word that is used to describe the romantic love between a man and a woman. Though the word itself is not in the Bible, examples of God-given romantic love are everywhere.

Romantic love is a gift from God and it is present from the beginning of creation. God saw that it was not good for Adam to be alone and so He created Eve.

When Adam saw Eve, He experienced emotions that he had never experienced before.

In Genesis 2:23 we read:

And Adam said: “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.”

Adam felt deep, romantic love for Eve. They were the first couple in history.

The entire book of the Song of Solomon is dedicated to “eros” love. In it, a man and woman speak to each other in deeply romantic words. The book is a celebration of love within marriage. In it, we read verses like the following in Song of Solomon 1:15-16:

Behold, you are fair, my love!
Behold, you are fair!
You have dove’s eyes.
Behold, you are handsome, my beloved!
Yes, pleasant!

The Bible helps us keep romantic love in its proper place. From time to time, a prominent person will say that marriage is a bad, unspiritual thing. Clearly, this isn’t the case. God loves marriage. What is also clear from Scripture is that romantic love is only appropriate in the context of marriage. Those who advocate for free love between anyone and everyone distort God’s true intentions.

Scripture helps us understand that romantic love is a good thing, but it’s not the only thing. It should be pursued in ways that please and honor the Lord. When “eros” love is pursued above everything else, the result is pain.

Storge

“Storge” is the Greek word used to describe the natural, overflowing love that family members have for one another. While the word itself is not found in Scripture, variations of it are.

The Greek word “philostorgos” is translated as “brotherly love” and describes the bonds of love that bind family members together.

In Romans 12:10 we read,

“Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another.”

God has saved us from our sins and brought us into His family. We are all joined together by the blood of Jesus, brothers and sisters in Christ. As members of God’s family, we are called to show “storge” love to one another. We must care for one another, serve one another, and demonstrate affection for one another.

We also see “storge” love in the way God loves us. We are God’s beloved children, bought with the blood of Christ, adopted as sons and daughters. 1 John 3:1 says,

Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!

God has poured out incredible, overflowing, overwhelming love upon us. It would be more than enough for us to have our sins forgiven and be nothing more than servants of God. But God has done so much more for us. We’re not just servants, we are actually children of the living God! This is a love that the world simply does not know.

Isaiah 49:15 says:

Can a woman forget her nursing child,
And not have compassion on the son of her womb?
Surely they may forget,
Yet I will not forget you.

The love of God for us is even deeper than the love a woman has for her young child. It is possible for a woman to forget her child. It is not possible for God to forget us. God’s “storge” love truly is remarkable.

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Philia

“Philia” is the Greek word used to describe deep, meaningful friendships. This goes much deeper than simply acquaintances. “Philia” love binds two people together and holds them through thick and thin. “Philia” friends are faithful, staying close to you in your best moments and your worst.

David and Jonathan are prime examples of this type of friendship.

In 1 Samuel 18:1, we read,

“Now when he [David] had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.”

Jonathan and David shared their hearts with one another. They supported and encouraged one another. They had each other’s backs in good times and bad. David’s friendship with Jonathan was a deep source of encouragement for him.

Anyone who has experienced this kind of love will tell you that it is a wonderful gift from God. It is rare to have this type of friendship with a person. We should ask God to give us strong, close friends with whom we can share our hearts.

Agape

“Agape” is the Greek word for sacrificial, self-giving love that is primarily concerned with the good of someone else. Agape love is much more than a feeling, although feelings are certainly part of it. Agape love is demonstrated through actions.

In 1 John 4:8 we read,

“He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.”

In God we see what true love really is. God Himself is love and He defines love for us. In Romans 5:8 we see just what “agape” love really looks like. We read,

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

God didn’t just say He loves us. He proved the depth and height and breadth of His love by sending Jesus to die for our sins. It was love that took Jesus to the cross and it was love that held Him there. If He wanted, He could have saved Himself from His enemies.

But He didn’t save Himself. Why? Because if He saved Himself then He couldn’t save us. In the classic hymn “And Can It Be That I Should Gain”, we read these lyrics:

"Amazing love! how can it be
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
Amazing love! how can it be
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?"

The author, Charles Wesley, was overwhelmed by the glorious, sacrificial love of God. He simply couldn’t fathom that God would love him so much as to die for him.

When we understand God’s “agape” love, we simply can’t help but sing praise to Him.

Sharing God’s Love With Others

Every person desperately wants to love and be loved. It’s why there are so many songs and books and movies about love. When the Beatles sang, “All you need is love,” they were giving voice to the deep desire every person feels.

But the desire to be loved can’t be satisfied apart from God. Human love will always fall short.

Only God can truly and perfectly love us.

Only God can give us the love that we so deeply desire.

We have the privilege of sharing God’s love with a hurting, broken world. We can’t fully satisfy a person’s desire to be loved but we can point them to the One who can. We have received the overflowing love of God. Let’s give that same love to others.

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