There is God’s overall love for the world at large — “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 Greek verb for love in John 3:16 is agapao. This word is used broadly in the Bible, in various contexts, for example, in this verse about God loving the whole world. Some other occurrences of agapao are: “love your neighbor” (Matthew 5:43) … “love your enemies” (44) … “love the Lord your God” (Mark 12:30) … “they loved the praise of men” (John 12:43), etc.
But there is another Greek verb for “love” — phileo — and that is the word used in our opening Scripture: “The Father himself loves you [phileo] dearly because you love [phileo] me and believe that I came from God” (John 16:27, NLT). Some other biblical examples of phileo are one’s love for a father, mother, son, or daughter in Matthew 10:37, or … “the Father loves the Son” (John 5:20) … “Lord, the one you love is sick [Lazarus]” (John 11:3) … “the other disciple, the one Jesus loved” (John 20:2), etc.
Vine’s Greek dictionary makes this meaningful comment: “Phileo is to be distinguished from agapao in this, that phileo more nearly represents tender affection.” This helpful nuance between the two verbs gives us an important insight as we compare John
Now a word specifically to born-again Christian believers: you know that God loves you in the agapao sense, because “God so loved the world…” But our opening Scripture shows that there is a special sense of God’s love toward those who believe in and receive the Lord Jesus Christ. It is that phileo love that Vine’s dictionary calls “tender affection.” The Amplified Bible says that God our Father “[tenderly] loves you,” His born-again sons and daughters. And His Word tells us why:
I close this short word study by encouraging you to ponder with much gratitude that God your Father especially, fondly, tenderly loves you believers (1) “because” of your love for Jesus His Son and (2) “because” of your faith that Jesus is the heaven-sent Savior, the one and only way to God.
Perhaps you’re reading this and God has spoken to your heart that you need and want that love relationship with the Lord. I invite you to allow the late, respected evangelist Billy Graham to guide you into the great salvation the Lord has for you today. Click here and be blessed!
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©2019, James H. Feeney.
Pentecostal Sermons & Bible Studies
by Pastor Jim Feeney, Ph.D.