What Is Agape?

Agape Love in the Bible

God is love
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Definition of Agape Love

Agape is selfless, sacrificial, unconditional love, the highest of the four types of love in the Bible.

This Greek word, agápē, and variations of it are frequently found throughout the New Testament. Agape perfectly describes the kind of love Jesus Christ has for his Father and for his followers.

Agape is the term that defines God's immeasurable, incomparable love for humankind.

It is his ongoing, outgoing, self-sacrificing concern for lost and fallen people. God gives this love without condition, unreservedly to those who are undeserving and inferior to himself. 

"Agape love, says Anders Nygren, is unmotivated in the sense that it is not contingent on any value or worth in the object of love. It is spontaneous and heedless, for it does not determine beforehand whether love will be effective or appropriate in any particular case." 1

A simple way to summarize agape is God's divine love.

Another meaning of agape in the Bible was "love feast," a common meal in the early church expressing Christian brotherhood and fellowship:

These are hidden reefs at your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear, shepherds feeding themselves; waterless clouds, swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted; (Jude 12, ESV)

Agape Love in the Bible

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

(John 3:16, ESV)

By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:35, ESV)

Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them. (John 14:21, NIV)

I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. (John 17:23, ESV)

Let all that you do be done in love. (1 Corinthians 16:14, ESV)

By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. (1 John 3:16, ESV)

Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. (1 John 4:8, ESV)

Pronunciation

uh-GAH-pay

Example

Jesus lived out agape by sacrificing himself for the sins of the world.

Other Types of Love in the Bible

(Sources: 1. Bloesch, D. G. (2006). God, the Almighty: power, wisdom, holiness, love (p. 145). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.)