We’ve been looking at 1 Corinthians on Sunday mornings for a while now, and reached chapter 13 two weeks ago. Having preached on the passage twice at funerals (and tried to put it into context as much as the occasions allowed), it was good to be able to put it properly into context.
While studying it was interesting to note that the term agape was used in the Septuagint for Amnon’s love for his half-sister Tamar (2 Samuel 13:1), and is used of Demas’s love for the world that has led to him leaving Paul ( 2 Timothy 4:10).
Given this, how do we define a Bible word? How do we get to what agape love is?
We can’t look in a modern day dictionary, as the meaning of words can mutate over time, and certainly the use of some words in the Bible are different from how they are used in general conversation (if used at all – sanctification?).
Where possible we can look in lexicons and see how the words were used when the texts were first written. But when a writer like Paul describes the word, as he is doing in 1 Corinthians 13, we are given clear direction. Paul describes the content of love. This is what it is. This is what it means to love. Sure, Paul is describing aspects of love that directly address issues in Corinth, so ‘Christian’ love is more than he describes, but it can’t be less.
Talking about love always makes me think of 1 John 4:10. “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (NIV)
Christian love is altruistic and costly. And we can only love like that because God first loved us.