Agape is one of several Greek words in the New Testament for love. It is most commonly used when referring to God‘s love for us (John 3:16; Romans 5:8; Ephesians 2:4, etc.). For clarification, there are different forms of the word agape. The verb form, ἀγαπάω agapáō (to love), occurs 143 times in the New Testament. The noun form, ἀγάπη agápē (love), occurs 116 times. The adjective form, ἀγαπητός agapētós (beloved), occurs 6. What is agape?1 times.
The word agape occurs in perhaps the most famous Bible verse, John 3:16. “For God so loved (agape) the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” Because of this, many people think that agape automatically means ‘divine love.’ It can, but not so fast. Words mean what they mean in context, and there are several verses where it is used to describe sinful love.
“Woe to you Pharisees! For you love (agape) the chief seats in the synagogues and the respectful greetings in the market places” (Luke 11:43).
“This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved (agape) the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds, were evil” (John 3:19).
“for they loved (agape) the approval of men rather than the approval of God” (John 12:43).
“for Demas, having loved (agape) this present world has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica; Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia” (2 Timothy 4:10).
“forsaking the right way, they have gone astray, having followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who (agape) the wages of unrighteousness” (2 Peter 2:15).
agape, extreme commitment
In light of the verses where agape is used for coveting (Luke 11:43), false devotion (John 3:19; 2 Tim. 4:10), vainglory (John 12:43), and selfish gain (2 Pet. 2:15), we must conclude that the semantic domain (the full range of meaning in different contexts) can mean divine love as well as false love. But, the common theme about it seems to be intense love, complete devotion. So, the Pharisees were completely devoted to the glory they received from people. They coveted it (Luke 11:43). It also describes the love for darkness (John 3:19), the approval of man (John 12:43), loving this present evil world (2 Tim. 4:10), and loving monetary gain (2 Pet. 2:15).