There are several different Biblical definitions of love, versus the one English word. When we say the word ‘love’, it can mean anything from a ‘fetish’ to a life-long marital commitment. Although the Bible outlines a number of different words for our one word 'Love', there are three primary definitions that are most prevalent.
These three basic definitions of love outline the dimensions of Spirit, Soul and Body (I Thess. 5:23) and the corresponding parts of the Old Testament Tabernacle: the Holy of Holies, the Inner Court, and the Outer Court, respectively.
The highest form of love, correlating to the spirit of man and the Holy of holies is that of Agape. Agape is unconditional. It is typified by Jesus willingly going to the cross on behalf of the sins of mankind. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.” (Jn. 3:16)
This love can also be expressed through us, as believers in Jesus Christ: “We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” (I Jn. 3:16) This kind of love cannot be generated by man himself in his own power and strength. It can only come through man as he is aligned with the Spirit of God. It’s like the acoustical phenomena of sympathetic vibration. The still object resonates by the energy coming from another source. “God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” (I Jn. 4:16) Agape is not originally emotional, although it can encompass emotion. It is centered in the will. It is a moral love, emanating from righteousness, unchanged by surrounding circumstances. It gives regardless of whether or not it is received by the intended recipient. This kind of love encompasses all moral traits and is the cumulative characteristic of all morality and Truth. (See I Cor. 13)
The next kind of love correlates to the soul of man and Inner Court of the Tabernacle. It is Phileo. This kind of love is one of reciprocity and friendship. It requires “a just weight” (Prov. 11:1), an even distribution of giving between the two parties involved. Phileo is successful as long as both parties continue to justly give to one another (in each other’s perception) what is a ‘fair exchange’. When this scenario begins to break down (and it always will at some point, due to human selfishness), the friendship or relationship will be dissolved. The only remedy for this lack of equity is forgiveness, which can only come from Agape. Agape is the ‘lubricant’ that makes successful Phileo possible. Without love and forgiveness, ultimately all Phileo will fail.
Economy is based upon the model of Phileo, and is thus categorically aligned with the Mind of the Soul and the Lust of the Eyes. Phileo always seeks to ‘calculate’ what it is owed. “I did such and such, so they owe me this or that.” Or, “They did this or that for me, now I need to do something for them, so we’ll be even.” This is not morally a bad thing. Even God desires a just recompense between parties: “A false balance is an abomination to the Lord, but a just weight is His delight.” (Prov. 11:1) The problem is that Phileo is humanly impossible to keep perpetually. With Agape as the foundation, however, it is possible to function in successful Phileo.
The last and lowest kind of love which correlates to the body of man and the Outer Court of the Tabernacle is that of Eros. Some philosophies consider the human body to be evil; however, the fact that Jesus rose from the dead physically, and even ate food in His resurrected body (Lk. 21:41-43) doctrinally establishes that God does not view the body as evil, but rather the fleshly desires and carnal willfulness against His Spirit. (Gal. 5:19-21)
Having established this fact, Eros (or sexual love) is needful to procreate the human race, which is also God’s desire: “And God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth…” (Gen. 1:28) Unfortunately, Eros (which is centered in the Emotion of man), when exalted above Phileo and Agape, produces chaos, disorder, disharmony and wars, both internal and external. The exaltation of Emotion over the Mind and the Will of man is destructive due to its imbalance of the Trinity pattern.
Eros is successful, however, when it is functioning in the Choice of Agape in marriage and the relationship of Phileo in friendship (within that marriage). It is in this divine Trinity balance that Eros can be enjoyed to its fullest benefit through the establishment of wholeness in Family.
(for more on this subject, see My Vision: The Community- A Means of Exchange)
(for more study, see the Trinity Concepts Key)