The Greek language in which the New Testament is written has many words that are translated into one English word: love. They cover a wide range of relationships such as spiritual, familial, friendly, and romantic. When Bible translators translate these words and concepts into the common English word: love, confusion often results.|
Walther Guenther says that in the secular Greek language agape was "quite colorless as a word." Outside the Bible and Christian writings, it was normally used as a substitute for romantic love and friendly love (both concepts have separate Greek words). It was rarely used in reference to religion. Here it is used as the idea of a person or God acting in a generous way for others.
Christian writers took the latter idea and turned it into the concept of God's divine love for man plus how man responds to God's love, and a Christian's love for his fellow Christian.
The main idea of agape is God's love for man. It is this love that caused God to send His Son, Jesus, into the world to save mankind (John 3:16). God did not have to save mankind. Man, starting in the Garden of Eden, chose to reject God. Ever since, men have chosen to become enemies of God (Romans 5:10). We fail to live in a pure and holy relationship with Him.
God, as man's Creator and Judge, has the legal right to declare man guilty and pass judgment on him. This judgment would send all men to burn eternally in Hell. God, however, refused to exercise His legal rights and provided a way for man to restore his relationship with God.
As the Divine Judge, God decided to become the Divine Savior, also. He did this by taking on human flesh, living as a man, and although sinless - dying for sinful man. Jesus (God, the Son) did not die for a select few. He died for ALL men. Therefore, all men have the choice of either remaining enemies of God or accepting Jesus' sacrifice and becoming children of God. God's divine love - agape - dwells with His children.
When a man responds to God's love, his love is also called agape or, divine love. It is divine love not because man is divine but because God's divine love fills him. Also, when a Christian shows love to another Christian, he is sharing God's divine love with a fellow child of God.
This idea of reflected agape is similar to the relationship between the sun and the moon. The sun is the source of light and shines brightly upon the earth. The moon has no light within itself but reflects the sun's light upon the earth. God is the source of divine love - agape - while we are like the moon. We bask in His love and reflect it back to Him and to others.
This is the idea of a mutual feeling of affection (love), especially between parents and children. It is rarely used to describe a husband-wife relationship. In the New Testament, it is usually used in a negative sense - as heartless or without natural affection (Romans 1:31 and 2 Timothy 3:3).
This is the idea of showing affection (love) and hospitality. Normally, it is used in reference to someone who is not a family member. It is often translated as "brotherly love."
Phileo is used to show love for friends or for people who are bound together in some type of relationship. It is frequently used in the New Testament for love between Christians.
This is the idea of romantic love. It is a sensual longing and craving desire like the love between a man and woman... a husband and wife.