How does the Bible define love? Most people think that they know what love is. Many blame their failed relationships on the other people in their relationships. But no one can claim that they perfectly love at all times except Jesus Christ.
He did not only die for Christian’s sins, but for all humanities sins:
He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for[ 2:2 Or He is the one who turns aside God's wrath, taking away our sins, and not only ours but also] the sins of the whole world.
(Whole Chapter: 1 John 2 In context: 1 John 2:1-3)
This shows that all humanity is sinful and cannot even really know what love is without God revealing it to them. Thankfully, the Bible tells us how we CAN know what love is:
So love is more than a feeling: It is self-sacrificial behavior. But how exactly does one lay his life down for his brother?
The commandments, "Do not commit adultery," "Do not murder," "Do not steal," "Do not covet,"[ 13:9 Exodus 20:1315,17; Deut. 5:1719,21] and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: "Love your neighbor as yourself."[ 13:9 Lev. 19:18]
(Whole Chapter: Romans 13 In context: Romans 13:8-10)
So love is the embodiment of all God’s commandments. It is no secret what love is. Love is obeying God’s commands.
Only those who obey God love God:
If you love me, you will obey what I command. (John 14:15)
Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him. (John 14:21)
This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome. (1 John 5:3)
I underlined the plural “s” on the word commands because many would like to be lazy: They prefer to follow the summary of the commands, instead of the commands themselves. Let me illustrate this point with an example.
You can summarize all
Even where Jesus agreed with a summary of the law that would lead to eternal life, He still interpreted the summary to a specific situation.
The Parable of the Good
25On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. "Teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?"
26"What is written in the Law?" he replied. "How do you read it?"
27He answered: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind' ; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' "
28"You have answered correctly," Jesus replied. "Do this and you will live."
29But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?"
30In reply Jesus said: "A man was going down from
36"Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?"
37The expert in the law replied, "The one who had mercy on him."
Jesus told him, "Go and do likewise."
Many “Christians” believe that following a summary like the above in verse 27 is all they have to do. They seem to think that they don’t need to obey the hundreds of commands issued by Jesus and his Bible authors. That is NOT how love is defined. Obeying all of Christ’s commands is exactly what He commanded. Love is not defined by people. It is defined by God. More specifically, it is defined by God’s commands, or His law.
How did Jesus fulfill them? By obeying them perfectly—even to the point of death. This proves that He is God-- the final authority who can alone define true love. I have heard so many vague platitudes that people use to describe or define what love is. This work of defining love has already been accomplished, and it does not need to be re-done. After God defined love by taking the death penalty that we deserved for our sins, he said this:
Those who claim to love God but do not obey his commandments are liars and the truth is not in them.
1 John 2
3We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. 4The man who says, "I know him," but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 5But if anyone obeys his word, God's love is truly made complete in him.
True love is obeying God’s commands. Jesus is the only who has obeyed them perfectly. However, by obeying the truth of the Bible through His Holy Spirit, it is possible for us to walk as He did:
1 John 2
1My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense--Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. 2He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.
3We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. 4The man who says, "I know him," but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 5But if anyone obeys his word, God's love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: 6Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.
7Dear friends, I am not writing you a new command but an old one, which you have had since the beginning. This old command is the message you have heard.
God sends people to hell that he loves.
The real issue isn’t if God loves us or not, but if we love God or not. This is a salvation issue and nothing less:
“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Cor 2:9)
Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? (James 2:5)
So if you do not love God by obeying His commands, then you will NOT inherit His Kingdom.
What kingdom will you inherit? You will inherit your spiritual father’s
This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother.
(Whole Chapter: 1 John 3 In context: 1 John 3:9-11)
If anyone says, "I love God," yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.
(Whole Chapter: 1 John 4 In context: 1 John 4:19-21)
and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.
(Whole Chapter: 2 Thessalonians 2 In context: 2 Thessalonians 2:9-11)
But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you[ Some manuscripts because God chose you as his firstfruits] to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth.
(Whole Chapter: 2 Thessalonians 2 In context: 2 Thessalonians 2:12-14)
Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart.[ Some early manuscripts from a pure heart]
(Whole Chapter: 1 Peter 1 In context: 1 Peter 1:21-23)
True love is pure, according to 1 Peter 1:22. Pureness is achieved by obeying the truth. This self-sacrificial type of love that it yields is deep, and comes from the heart. Notice that Peter writes, “Now that…”. He places this purification as a prerequisite for true love of others. This purification comes from first loving God, which is obeying His commands.
The word “hate” here can also be translated as “love less than”. In other words, true love begins with, and comes from God. To love anyone more than you love God is idolatry. However, if you love God more than anyone else, then the effect will be this: You will be empowered by God to love others even more than you could have loved them in your own strength.
1 John 4
7Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.
God is not another person on your list of people to love and please. If He is not the first person on that list, then you are not living in love. Loving people can wear you out, but loving God directly empowers you, because He IS love.
the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the word of truth, the gospel
(Whole Chapter: Colossians 1 In context: Colossians 1:4-6)
In summary, true love is shown by obeying the Gospel, and results in being saved from God’s wrath: His righteous punishment for sin—which is eternal death in Hell. It also results in true love for others.