Knowing the Unknowable
“And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:17b-19 NIV
Dear Church Family,
I’ll be preaching from Ephesians 4 this coming Sunday, which means I’ll be skipping chapter 3 in my sermon series. That’s not because there’s nothing good in chapter 3, of course, and I thought I’d use my letter this week to summarize some of what Paul says there.
Paul twice conveys his prayers for the Ephesians (1:15-23; 3:14-21). He begins the second time at 3:1, but he stops to explain a few important details about the gospel. He talks about a mystery that has only recently been revealed—that Jews and Gentiles together are God’s people (3:6). This, however, is no longer a mystery because it has been revealed by the Spirit (v. 5).
The importance of the Spirit in understanding spiritual truths is also the subject of 1 Corinthians 2:6-16 (Go read it. I’ll wait). In that passage, Paul says unspiritual people are unable to comprehend the truths of God because they consider them foolishness. Such truths are “spiritually discerned” (1 Cor. 2:14), and God has given his Spirit to Christians.
All this talk about a mystery that can only be revealed by God fits right into the reason Paul prays for the Ephesians. Simply put, he wants them “to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge.” This knowledge of what surpasses human knowledge requires the indwelling Holy Spirit.
It’s especially interesting to me that Paul prays that they have “power” to grasp the love of Christ (v. 18). The point here is that grasping all of the dimensions of Christ’s love is NOT a matter of intelligence (some of the “smartest” people in the eyes of the world are, foolishly, atheists). What it really requires is an experience of Christ’s presence through the Spirit which is described in vv. 16-17.
Paul wants them to have as deep an understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ as possible. Why is this so important? Can’t we just love and serve God without deep understanding? Well, the answer is no. Don’t get me wrong. You can love God without having all the answers. But a deep and experiential knowledge of God’s love prepares us to serve him better.
I want you to know that I pray the same thing for all of you. I pray that God will help you to meditate on the depth and breadth and height and length of God’s love, revealed in Christ, and explained to us by the Holy Spirit. This, I believe, is imperative if we are going to faithfully walk in good works (Eph. 2:10) in such a confusing and hostile world.