What the Bible says about Love


By Rev. John Odhner

tiny hand my love, by Jenny Stein

Someone once asked Jesus,

"Which is the first commandment of all?"

Jesus answered him,

"The first of all the commandments is 'Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.' This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these." (Luke 12:28-34)

Above All Things

So, the commandments about loving God and others are first and foremost. There is no other greater. Jesus even said that "all the Law and the Prophets hang upon these two commandments." (Matthew 22:40)

And in fact, this teaching is echoed throughout the Bible:

Peter wrote, "Above all things have fervent love for one another." (1 Peter 4:8)

Paul also said that we should put on love above all else (see Colossians 3:14), and that we should "owe no one anything except to love one another." (Romans 13:8)

Love is called "more excellent than any other gift or ability." (1 Corinthians 12:31)

"Now abide faith, hope and love, these three; but the greatest of these is love." (1 Corinthians 13:13)

The law of love is called the "royal law" (James 2:8), which we are "taught by God." (1 Thessalonians 4:9)

We are asked to "make love our greatest aim," (1 Corinthians 14:19, and to "be rooted and grounded in love." (Ephesians 3:17)

These laws about love are so important that the Lord said they should be in your heart.

"You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up." (Deuteronomy 6:6,7)

"Let all that you do be done with love." (1 Corinthians 16:14)

Power Against Evil

There are some very good reasons why we are directed to have love above everything else. One reason is that love has power over evil.

Paul wrote,

"Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." (Romans 12:21)

A person who genuinely loves God and his neighbor will want to overcome any evil in himself that is against God or hurts the neighbor.

For example,

"love does not envy, does not parade itself, is not puffed up, does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not think evil, does not rejoice in injustice." (1 Corinthians 13:4-6)

Since love is opposed to doing evil, it fulfills all the laws against evil.

"Owe no one anything but to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law; and for this, You shall not commit adultery,' You shall not murder,' You shall not steal,' You shall not bear false witness,' You shall not covet,' or if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, namely, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law." (Romans 13:8-10)

Since love leads us to turn from evil, it also brings forgiveness. Jesus once said of a woman that "her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much." (Luke 7:47)

He also said, "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy." (Matthew 5:7)

Patient Love

Love also brings patience. "Love suffers long...bears all thing...endures all things. Love never fails." (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)

Jacob loved Rachel very much, and was willing to labor for her father seven years in order to win her hand in marriage. "So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed but a few days to him because of the love he had for her." (Genesis 29:20)

Born Again by Love

Another reason why love comes above all else is that it is through love that a person is born again. Peter described the process of rebirth as "purifying your souls in obeying the truth through the spirit in sincere love of the brethren."(1 Peter 1:22)

John put it more simply:

"Everyone who loves is born of God." (1 John 4:7)

We pass from death to life when we love others. (See 1 John 3:14)

The reason we become born again when we love others, is that then we become like God. Jesus asked us to love others as He as loved us. (See John 13:34, 15:12)

When we have His kind of love for all people, we become reborn as His children. (See Matthew 5:43, Luke 6:35)

When Is a Christian a Christian?

Since the first and foremost of all God's commands is to love the Lord and the neighbor, the primary mark that identifies a Christian is the love he has for others.

Jesus said,

"By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." (John 13:35)

Again and again we are asked to judge ourselves by the love we have for others:

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. (1 John 3:18,19)

If we love one another, God abides in us, as His love has been perfected in us. (1 John 4:12)

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. (1 John 3:14)

He who does good is of God, but he who does evil has not seen God. (3 John 1:11, and see also, 1 John 2:3-5, 3:10; 4:7,8)

Faith and Love

For some people, faith is more important than love. Some are more concerned about whether a Christian has the right beliefs than they are about how he lives and loves. Of course, faith is important--how can a person love God without believing in God? How can you be loving, unless you are also faithful? In the New Testament, these two go hand in hand. Consider how often, for instance, we find phrases like "faith and love." (1 Timothy 1:14; 2:15; 4:12; 6:11; 2 Timothy 1:13; 2:22; 3:10; Titus 2:2)

Faith by itself is useless. It cannot save a person. It is dead faith. (James 2:14,17)

"Even the devils believe--and tremble." (James 2:19)

It doesn't matter how much faith you have--it is still nothing without love.

"Though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing." (1 Corinthians 13:2)

Worship and Love

Worship and ritual are likewise useless without love. The Lord desires "mercy and not sacrifice." (Hosea 6:6; Matthew 9:13; 12:7)

Love is "more than all the whole burnt offerings," (Mark 12:33) and better than the most careful tithing. (See Luke 11:42)

"And what does the Lord require of you but to do justice and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God?" (Micah 6:8)

Love Brings Faith

One reason love and faith should never be separated is that love is the source of faith. Love "believes all things." (1 Corinthians 13:6)

Love "rejoices in the truth." (1 Corinthians 13:7)

A person who loves others "knows God for God is love." (1 John 4:8)

Real belief must be from the heart. (Romans 10:10)

Thus "a person who loves his brother abides in the light." (1 John 2:9,10; compare John 3:19,20)

Love Saves

As it is love that brings a person to believe, it is also love that brings a person to heaven. Someone asked Jesus how he could have eternal life. Jesus answered that he would have it if he would just love the Lord and love his neighbor. (Luke 10:25, 28; see also Matthew 19:17-19)

A person who puts love in the first place, He said, is "not far from the Kingdom of God." (Mark 12:34)

The Bible


1 Corinthians 14



1 Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy.

2 For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth him; howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries.

3 But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort.

4 He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church.

5 I would that ye all spake with tongues, but rather that ye prophesied: for greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues, except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying.

6 Now, brethren, if I come unto you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you, except I shall speak to you either by revelation, or by knowledge, or by prophesying, or by doctrine?

7 And even things without life giving sound, whether pipe or harp, except they give a distinction in the sounds, how shall it be known what is piped or harped?

8 For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?

9 So likewise ye, except ye utter by the tongue words easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken? for ye shall speak into the air.

10 There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and none of them is without signification.

11 Therefore if I know not the meaning of the voice, I shall be unto him that speaketh a barbarian, and he that speaketh shall be a barbarian unto me.

12 Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church.

13 Wherefore let him that speaketh in an unknown tongue pray that he may interpret.

14 For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful.

15 What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also.

16 Else when thou shalt bless with the spirit, how shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned say Amen at thy giving of thanks, seeing he understandeth not what thou sayest?

17 For thou verily givest thanks well, but the other is not edified.

18 I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all:

19 Yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue.

20 Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men.

21 In the law it is written, With men of other tongues and other lips will I speak unto this people; and yet for all that will they not hear me, saith the Lord.

22 Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not: but prophesying serveth not for them that believe not, but for them which believe.

23 If therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad?

24 But if all prophesy, and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all:

25 And thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so falling down on his face he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth.

26 How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, everyone of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying.

27 If any man speak in an unknown tongue, let it be by two, or at the most by three, and that by course; and let one interpret.

28 But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God.

29 Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge.

30 If any thing be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace.

31 For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted.

32 And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets.

33 For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.

34 Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law.

35 And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.

36 What? came the word of God out from you? or came it unto you only?

37 If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord.

38 But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant.

39 Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues.

40 Let all things be done decently and in order.