Posted by: dhkrause | October 24, 2016

Knowing the Love of Christ

Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 3:14-19 is one of the deepest, most comprehensive and powerfully transformative prayers in the Bible.  In verse 18, he prays that believers will comprehend the dimensions of Christ’s love — width and length and depth and height— a topic we shall explore after examining the prayer as a whole:

Ephesians 3 (NKJV)
14 
For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, 16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, 17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— 19 to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

In verses 14-15, Paul gives a striking picture of the eternal relationship between the Son of God and the Father “from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named”.  The eternal Fatherhood of God implies that the Son of God also is eternal!  The love that is shared between the Father and the Son is the essence of what relationships should reflect across “the whole family in heaven and earth”.  In John 17, Jesus prayed that his followers would enter into this eternal love relationship:

John 17
24 
“Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world. 25 O righteous Father! The world has not known You, but I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me. 26 And I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.”

Next, in Ephesians 3:16-17, Paul prays that believers will be “strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man” so that “Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith”.  Thus “rooted and grounded in love”, we will “be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— 19 to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge” so that we “may be filled with all the fullness of God”.  God wants His entire family to be overflowing with the fullness of His love!

What are these dimensions of Christ’s love that Paul prays we may be able to comprehend – “the width and length and depth and height”?  Jesus’ description of the two greatest commandments offers a clue:

Mark 12
Then one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, perceiving that He had answered them well, asked Him, “Which is the first commandment of all?” 29 Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 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. 31 And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

He says that first, we are to love God with all that we are, and second, we are to love our neighbors as ourselves.  He gave a further command to the disciples regarding their relationships with one another:

John 13
34 
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

A “vertical relationship” speaks of relationship with God, whereas the term, “horizontal relationships”, speaks of our relationships with others.  This may help us to understand the dimensions of Christ’s love listed by Paul, “the width and length and depth and height”.  Bear in mind that both the horizontal and the vertical love relationships are meant to be two-way streets!

The “depth and height” dimensions speak of a two-way relationship with God in which we love Him wholeheartedly, and we experience the fullness of His love for us.  The “width and length” dimensions suggest giving love to others and receiving love from them.  The focus is on giving, but the receiving also is blessed.  The “length” could also be thought of as the dimension of time, representing the lasting faithfulness of true love.

Thus, to “know the love of Christ which passes knowledge” includes faithful two-way love relationships with both God and others.  In John 15, Jesus speaks about love and joy being perfected:

John 15
“As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. 10 If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. 11 “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. 12 This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. 14 You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. … 17 These things I command you, that you love one another.

Paul declares in Romans 5:8, “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” 1 John 4 goes on to describe knowing God through love:

1 John 4
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. 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. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

The family of God is perfected as love is poured out and received, vertically and horizontally. Paul exhorts in Acts 20:35, “remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”  Yet these two are connected.  The love we receive from brethren we pour out to others.  Then both are doubly blessed, and the promise of Romans 5:5 is fulfilled: “Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”

Paul completes this beautiful prayer by praying that in all these ways we may come “to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge” and “be filled with all the fullness of God.”  Amen.

David Krause, dhkrause@neteze.com, https://compellinglove.net/  10/23/2016


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