This is a very important question because today it seems that not many people truly know the difference between love and lust.  In New Testament, there are two Greek words that are translated ‘love’.  Let’s look at examples of each one:

Matthew 5:43, “Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt LOVE thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.”  The Greek word for love here is ‘agapao or agape’ which refers to love in a social or moral sense.

John 16:27, “For the Father himself LOVETH you, because ye have LOVED me, and have believed that I came out from God.”  For both of the times that ‘love’ is used in this verse, the Greek word ‘phileo’ is used, which means to ‘have affection for, denoting personal attachment, as a matter of sentiment or feeling.’

We can see that in both of these words ‘love’ that an attachment and affection is implied.  Throughout the New Testament, when these words are used to describe love, the heart is involved in a relationship with the one who is loved.

Now let’s consider Matthew 5:28 which says, “But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to LUST after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.”  The Greek word for ‘lust’ means to ‘long for, covet, desire, lust after.’  Generally speaking this has nothing to do with emotions or affections, but a one-sided physical desire for someone else.  In this verse, to lust after a woman is to have a sexual desire for her without any desire for a personal attachment.  It’s purely physical.

Of course, not every use of the word lust has to do with sexual desires.  1 John 2:16 tells us, “For all that is in the world, the LUST of the flesh, and the LUST of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.”  Although this is not sexual, it still illustrates a desire to have things for your own personal pleasure.  It is selfishness and thoughtlessness personified.

Pure, godly love is an honorable and beautiful thing.  In fact, 1 John 4:8 tells us that, “God is love.”  We also know that we learn how to love based on the Lord’s love for us. 1 John 4:18 says that, “We love, because He first loved us.” (NASB)  Lust, however, generally speaking is a selfish desire to please oneself.  Let’s consider one more verse from 1 John (I encourage you to read this entire book).  1 John 4:7 says, “Beloved, let us love one another: for LOVE IS OF GOD; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.”  (195.8)