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


Luke 10



1 After these things the Lord appointed other seventy also, and sent them two and two before his face into every city and place, whither he himself would come.

2 Therefore said he unto them, The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest.

3 Go your ways: behold, I send you forth as lambs among wolves.

4 Carry neither purse, nor scrip, nor shoes: and salute no man by the way.

5 And into whatsoever house ye enter, first say, Peace be to this house.

6 And if the son of peace be there, your peace shall rest upon it: if not, it shall turn to you again.

7 And in the same house remain, eating and drinking such things as they give: for the labourer is worthy of his hire. Go not from house to house.

8 And into whatsoever city ye enter, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before you:

9 And heal the sick that are therein, and say unto them, The kingdom of God is come nigh unto you.

10 But into whatsoever city ye enter, and they receive you not, go your ways out into the streets of the same, and say,

11 Even the very dust of your city, which cleaveth on us, we do wipe off against you: notwithstanding be ye sure of this, that the kingdom of God is come nigh unto you.

12 But I say unto you, that it shall be more tolerable in that day for Sodom, than for that city.

13 Woe unto thee, Chorazin! Woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works had been done in Tyre and Sidon, which have been done in you, they had a great while ago repented, sitting in sackcloth and ashes.

14 But it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment, than for you.

15 And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted to heaven, shalt be thrust down to hell.

16 He that heareth you heareth me; and he that despiseth you despiseth me; and he that despiseth me despiseth him that sent me.

17 And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name.

18 And he said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven.

19 Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you.

20 Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven.

21 In that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes: even so, Father; for so it seemed good in thy sight.

22 All things are delivered to me of my Father: and no man knoweth who the Son is, but the Father; and who the Father is, but the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal him.

23 And he turned him unto his disciples, and said privately, Blessed are the eyes which see the things that ye see:

24 For I tell you, that many prophets and kings have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them.

25 And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?

26 He said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou?

27 And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.

28 And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live.

29 But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour?

30 And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.

31 And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.

32 And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side.

33 But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him,

34 And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.

35 And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee.

36 Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves?

37 And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.

38 Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house.

39 And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus' feet, and heard his word.

40 But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.

41 And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things:

42 But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.