Though the meanings of these terms overlap considerably in many contexts, there are probably some significant differences in certain contexts; that is to say, φιλέω and φιλία are likely to focus upon love or affection based upon interpersonal association, while ἀγαπάω and ἀγάπη focus upon love and affection based on deep appreciation and high regard. On the basis of this type of distinction, one can understand some of the reasons for the use of ἀγαπάω and ἀγάπη in commands to Christians to love one another. It would, however, be quite wrong to assume that φιλέω and φιλία refer only to human love, while ἀγαπάω and ἀγάπη refer to divine love. Both sets of terms are used for the total range of loving relations between people, between people and God, and between God and Jesus Christ.
To John, love is the test of authentic discipleship. The Jews centered their faith around the confession of the Shema: “Listen, Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is One. Love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength” (Deut. 6:4–5 HCSB) and “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Lev. 19:18b; cp. Matt. 19:19; 22:39; Rom. 13:9; James 2:8). According to John, this was “an old command that you have had from the beginning” (1 John 2:7 HCSB). On the other hand, John was writing a new commandment to them (1 John 2:8–9). For John, love is not just a requirement for fellowship, but a test of salvation. “This is how God’s children—and the Devil’s children—are made evident. Whoever does not do what is right is not of God, especially the one who does not love his brother” (1 John 3:10 HCSB).
If we have a genuine relationship with God, that relationship should be made manifest by walking in the truth. “We know that we have passed from death to life because we love our brothers. The one who does not love remains in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him. This is how we have come to know love: He laid down His life for us. We should also lay down our lives for our brothers … we must not love in word or speech, but in deed and truth” (1 John 3:14–19 HCSB).
On the negative side, John admonishes the believer not to “love the world or the things that belong to the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15 HCSB).
Jesus taught that believers are to love even their enemies (Matt. 5:44; Luke 6:27, 35). Although believers are permitted, even commanded, to hate evil (Ps. 97:10; Prov. 8:13), we are not to hate the sinner. To insist that in order to accept a person the Christian must accept sin is unscriptural. Rather we are to reprove the sinner.