The Fourth Love

Bible Book: 1 John 
Subject: Love

Dr. Alan Redpath (1907-1989) shares, “A colleague of mine in the ministry had a hectic phone call from a young lady who said to him, ‘Pastor, what shall I do? There is a man who loves me so much he says that if I don’t marry him he will shoot himself. What shall I do?’ ‘Nothing,’ my friend replied. . . .” Dr. Redpath concludes, “Such a threat is not love; it is pure selfishness, desire, lust, whatever ugly word you might call it.”[1]

Dr. Clive Staples Lewis (1898-1963) wrote a book in 1960 titled The Four Loves. Lewis summarizes four kinds of human love--affection, friendship, erotic love, and the love of God.

Dr. David Jeremiah also explains about the four loves in his book titled The Power of Encouragement, “In the Greek language of the New Testament and the first-century world, there were four different words that were used to describe four different kinds of love.

Stergo (natural affection) -- This kind is the intimate love we have for those in our families. ‘I love you because you are my sister.’

Eros (self-serving passion) – The word eros is not used in the Bible, but the concept is taught in books such as Song of Solomon. We get our word erotic from this Greek word. It’s love for the sole purpose of sexual satisfaction. ‘I love you because you give me pleasure. If you stop giving me pleasure. I stop loving you.’

Phileo (friendship) – This is psychological, social love. It is often translated by the word friend in the Bible. (See John 15:13-14) It speaks of the enjoyment we gain from another’s company. ‘I like you because you are my friend and because of some of your qualities. This is a 50/50 relationship you understand. If you don’t give in return, or if there is much conflict, our relationship will end.’

Agape (giving of one’s self) – This is totally selfless love, a love which comes from and is rooted in God. Agape is the power that moves us to respond to someone’s needs with no expectation of reward. The fundamental attribute of agape is sacrifice. So its not 50/50, it’s 100/0. ‘I’m going to give 100 percent even if I never receive anything in return. I will even sacrifice myself for you. I just want what’s best for you!’”[2]

We find the fourth love, agape, in these verses in 1 John 2:5, 15; 3:1, 16, 17; 4:7, 8, 9, 10, 11,12,16,17, 18; 5:3. We will explore four passages in 1 John related to the fourth love.

I. The Experience of Love

From 1 John 2:3-11 we read, “Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, ‘I know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked. Brethren, I write no new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you have had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which you heard from the beginning. Again, a new commandment I write to you, which thing is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining. He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now. He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him. But he who hates his brother is in darkness and walks in darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.”

There are some who attempt to love others in the power of the flesh without God doing it through them. We must beware lest we are deceived.

Kurt Kaiser penned the lyrics to a popular Christian song titled “Pass It On” where he explains, “That's how it is with God's love, / Once you've experienced it, you spread His love to everyone; / You want to pass it on.”[3]

II. The Expectation of Love

Apparently John did not get the memo about avoiding words like “ought” and “should”. Some warn these words kill passion. Paul the apostle writes in 2 Corinthians 5:14a, “For the love of Christ compels us.” Oswald Chambers (1874-1917) comments, “Paul said that he was overpowered, subdued, and held as in a vise by "the love of Christ.” Very few of us really know what it means to be held in the grip of the love of God. We tend so often to be controlled simply by our own experience. The one thing that gripped and held Paul, to the exclusion of everything else, was the love of God. "The love of Christ compels us . . . .” When you hear that coming from the life of a man or woman it is unmistakable. You will know that the Spirit of God is completely unhindered in that person's life.”[4]

Terms like “should” (1 John 3:11) and “ought” (1 John 3:16) denote expectation. God expects certain things from His children. In 1 John 3:10-23 we read, “In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother. For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another, not as Cain who was of the wicked one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his works were evil and his brother’s righteous. Do not marvel, my brethren, if the world hates you. We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death. Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him. For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God. And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight. And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment.”

III. The Expedience of Love

Dr. Adrian Rogers (1931-2005) preached a message titled “The Expedience of Obedience” based on Acts 5:27-6:1. Paul the apostle writes in 1 Corinthians 6:12a, “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. . .” Later in the same letter he writes in 1 Corinthians 10:23, “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify.” The Authorized Version translates the word rendered “helpful” as “expedient”.

Many members of the church in Corinth lived to please themselves without proper concern for others illustrated by the events recorded in 1 Corinthians 11:17-22. Here we read, “Now in giving these instructions I do not praise you, since you come together not for the better but for the worse. For first of all, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you, and in part I believe it. For there must also be factions among you, that those who are approved may be recognized among you. Therefore when you come together in one place, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper. For in eating, each one takes his own supper ahead of others; and one is hungry and another is drunk. What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and shame those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you in this? I do not praise you.”

The Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write about love (agape) glaringly absent in Corinth. We find this well-known instruction about love in 1 Corinthians 13. When a person feels they have no responsibility for their weaker brothers and sisters in Christ, they prove their lack of love. Paul the apostle writes in 1 Corinthians 8:13, “Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.” In addition, he writes in Romans 14:14-23, “I know and am convinced by the Lord Jesus that there is nothing unclean of itself; but to him who considers anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean. Yet if your brother is grieved because of your food, you are no longer walking in love. Do not destroy with your food the one for whom Christ died. Therefore do not let your good be spoken of as evil; for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. For he who serves Christ in these things is acceptable to God and approved by men. Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another. Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are pure, but it is evil for the man who eats with offense. It is good neither to eat meat nor drink wine nor do anything by which your brother stumbles or is offended or is made weak. Do you have faith? Have it to yourself before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves. But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not eat from faith; for whatever is not from faith is sin.”

Through love (agape) we know and see God. We read in 1 John 4:7-21, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him. Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. We love Him because He first loved us. If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.”

IV. The Experiment of Love

According to The Reader’s Digest Great Encyclopedic Dictionary, an “experiment” is “an act or operation designed to discover, test, or illustrate a truth.”[5] Paul the apostle writes in 2 Corinthians 13:5, “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified.” We read in 1 John 5:1-5, “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves Him who begot also loves him who is begotten of Him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome. For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?”


Dr. Alan Redpath explains about the Greek word “agape, from which we get our English ‘agony’. It means the actual absorption of our being in one great passion. It is used most often in relation to God: ‘God so loved [verb form, agapao] the world, that he gave his only begotten Son’ (John 3:16). This word has little to do with mere emotion; it indicates love which deliberately, by an act of will, chooses its object, and through thick or thin, regardless of the attractiveness of the object concerned, goes on loving continually, eternally.”[6]

George Matheson (1842-1906) begins his hymn, “O Love that wilt not let me go, / I rest my weary soul in thee; / I give thee back the life I owe, / That in thine ocean depths its flow / May richer, fuller be.”[7]

We read in Romans 8:31-39, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: ‘For Your sake we are killed all day long; / We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.’ Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

May you know the joy and fulfillment of the fourth love.

[1]Alan Redpath, The Royal Route to Heaven: Studies in First Corinthians (Westwood, NJ: Fleming H. Revell, 1960), p. 171

[2]David Jeremiah, The Power of Encouragement (Sisters, OR: Multnomah Books, 1997), pp. 15-16

[3]Kurt Kaiser, “Pass It On”, Communiqué Music, Inc. (1969)

[4]Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, “The Compelling Majesty of His Power”, February 4 Reading, Available from: Accessed: 01/20/12

[5]The Reader’s Digest Great Encyclopedic Dictionary, Including Funk & Wagnalls Standard College Dictionary (Pleasantville, NY: The Reader’s Digest Association, 1969), p. 468

[6]Alan Redpath, The Royal Route to Heaven: Studies in First Corinthians (Westwood, NJ: Fleming H. Revell, 1960), pp. 156

[7]George Matheson, “O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go” (1882), Available from: Accessed: 01/20/12

By Dr. Franklin L. Kirksey, pastor First Baptist Church of Spanish Fort 30775 Jay Drive Spanish Fort, Alabama 36527

Author of Sound Biblical Preaching: Giving the Bible a Voice Available on and / / (251) 626-6210

© February 12, 2012 All Rights Reserved