I have heard the phrase: Love is not a feeling it an action; not a noun but a verb.

In 1 John 4:8

Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.

(I have bolded the love that I am interested in.)

Love is a noun (according to BibleHub), so is it a feeling?

3 Answers 3


Love is an abstract noun, it has the forms of verb and adjective etc. The Greek word agape means favourable or brotherly love, compassion to others as your own. When the verse says God is love, it means God is the paradigm of love; the divine love that believers ought to imitate. When we say love is not a feeling, it should mean that it is not merely a feeling or emotion. It must show in action, otherwise it is useless. God's attributes are described as having other positive abstract nouns such as truth and light.

God is the ultimate paradigm & source of love like the source of living water which fills the heart of believers to be shared with others. Here is a detailed article quoting various definitions of love.

Vine - Love can be known only from the actions it prompts. God’s love is seen in the gift of His Son, 1 John 4:9, 10. But obviously this is not the love of complacency, or affection, that is, it was not drawn out by any excellency in its objects, Ro 5:8 (note). It was an exercise of the divine will in deliberate choice, made without assignable cause save that which lies in the nature of God Himself, cp. Deuteronomy 7:7, 8. Love had its perfect expression among men in the Lord Jesus Christ, 2Co 5:14; Ep 2:4 (note); Ep 3:19 (note); Ep 5:2 (note); Christian love is the fruit of His Spirit in the Christian, Galatians 5:22 (note). Christian love has God for its primary object, and expresses itself first of all in implicit obedience to His commandments, John 14:15, 21, 23; 15:10; 1Jn 2:5; 5:3; 2Jn 6. Self-will, that is, self-pleasing, is the negation of love to God. (Vine, W. Collected writings of W. E. Vine. Nashville: Thomas Nelson)

The Holeman Bible Dictionary states:

Unselfish, loyal, and benevolent concern for the well-being of another. In 1 Corinthians 13:1 , Paul described "love" as a "more excellent way" than tongues or even preaching. The New Testament maintains this estimation of love throughout. The King James Version uses the word charity instead of "love" to translate the Greek word Paul used ( agape ). The word charity comes from the Latin caritas which means "dearness," "affection," or "high regard." Today, the word charity is normally used for acts of benevolence, and so the word love is to be preferred as a translation of agape . Nevertheless, the reader who comes to the agape of the New Testament with the idea of benevolence in mind is better off than the reader who comes with the idea of physical pleasure and satisfaction.


The love discussed in 1 John 4:8 is both a noun and a verb as follows:

  • Verb: ἀγαπάω (ἀγαπάω), eg, Matt 5:43, 44, 46, 6:24, etc.
  • Noun: ἀγάπη (agapé), eg, Matt 24:12, Luke 11:42, etc.

The Bible actually talks about more than one type of love but this ἀγαπάω love is the "highest" principled love because it is supremely other-centered.

It has been truly observed that this principled love does not necessarily involve any sentimental feelings but they are not excluded. It is an "esteem", "respectful regard", etc.

For more information about the Bible ideas of love, see the appendix below.


The Bible does not discuss just one type of love but clearly recognizes several kinds. The Greek language had six words for various kinds of love, but only three of these broad categories are discussed here. They are arranged into a kind of hierarchy – the widest first and the narrowest last.

“Agape” love (Greek: agapao (v) or agape (n))

This is the most general kind of love and does not necessarily involve any sentimentality, feelings nor whim. Nor does this kind of love necessarily involve liking somebody. It springs purely from principle and is often opposed to the natural inclinations. This dependable, abiding and constant love is celebrated in 1 Cor 13. It is others-focused, so excludes all self-centeredness.

The best definition of agape love is, “God so loved … that He gave His son …” (John 3:16). The “agape” love is the central most important characteristic, the very essence, of God (1 John 4:8, 16). Love’s outward manifestation is grace. It is God as love that defines God and all else about Him such as justice/righteousness tempered with kindness.

This principled love of God (1 John 4:8, 16) is to be imitated by all Christians (John 13:34, 35) and is motivated by God’s love for us (1 John 4:9, 10, 19-21, 2 Cor 5:14). Thus, love is quintessentially Christian and reached its zenith when God gave Jesus as the solution to the sin problem (2 Cor 5:14, Eph 2:4, 3:19, 5:2, John 3:16). Therefore, Christians should have as their primary focus their love of, and love to God (Matt 22:37, Deut 6:5), and secondarily love to fellow humans (Matt 22:39, Lev 19:18).

This word is used to describe God’s love to Jesus (John 17:26) and humankind generally (John 3:16, Rom 5:8). It also describes the love that Christians should have to all people (1 Thess 3:12, 1 Cor 16:14, 2 Peter 1:7).

From this agape love springs all else and expresses itself in obedience to God’s commandments (John 14:15, 21, 23, 15:10, 1 John 2:5, 5:3, 2 John 6). Love is the root of respect for others’ opinions and choices; thus it is also the basis for freedom of choice (which see) and freedom of religion (which see). See “Freedom”. Isa 63:9 expresses the kind of empathetic love that God has for each person. “In all their distress he too was distressed, and the angel of his presence saved them. In his love and mercy he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old.”

Friendship, Affection (Greek: phileo (v) or philos (n))

Friendships arise between people who have some kind of common interest. Affection may arise from a deeper friendship where greater closeness and some physical contact is appropriate. Thus, affection exists between family members, close friends, or even pets, etc. In the New Testament the word most commonly represents tender affection. (Its close cognate relative, “philema”, means, “kiss”.)

The word is used to describe the love of the Father for Jesus (John 5:20) and the believing Christian (John 16:27, 20:2).

In the New Testament, this philos love is never used in a command of men to love God.

Erotic Love (Greek: eros (n))

Erotic love involves sexual intimacy which, within a marriage, is highly praised in the Bible but condemned outside marriage. The book “Song of Solomon” is a celebration of this kind of love.

The hierarchy of love means that agape-love is a necessary pre-requisite to friendship and affection, and that friendship is a necessary prerequisite to erotic love (SS 5:16). It is the frequent inversion of this hierarchy in modern culture that has created so much interpersonal tension and societal difficulties, and directly leads to the oxymoron of selfish love. Such would be impossible if our love had its proper origin in divinely inspired agape love.


Love is not like sadness or happiness, or any other human emotion. A feeling is a human reaction or psychological/physiological state (my informal definition), but love has its source in God.

7 for love is from God, and everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.

“God is love” does not tell us about how God feels, but about who God is. The noun “love” is in the nominative case, which is the “the case of designation or identity.” Reference. In 1 Jn 4:8, “love” is a predicate nominative used with the linking verb “is” to identify or describe the subject “God” Interlinear.

God’s love is not an abstract concept but takes concrete form in the person of the Son.

10 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.

As Christ was sent to make God’s love visible to us, we are called to make God’s love visible to others (cf Jn 15:16-17).

11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God remains in us, and His love is perfected in us.

The noun “love” in 1 Jn 4:8 is not a feeling but a way of knowing who God is. It is meant to be a way of identifying who the disciples of Christ are as well.

By this all people will know that you are My disciples: if you have love for one another.” – Jn 13:35

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