Summary: Understanding the breadth, length, height and depth of Christ’s love only comes from the Holy Spirit (#5 in the Unfathomable Love of Christ series)
“...that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge...”
That’s a pretty ambitious title for a sermon, isn’t it? Some might even say ‘presumptuous’.
To understand the love of Christ? That love which has inspired so many giants of the past to pen stanzas such as this:
“O the deep, deep love of Jesus, Vast, unmeasured, boundless, free!
Rolling as a mighty ocean in its fullness over me,
Underneath me, all around me, is the current of Thy love;
Leading onward, leading homeward, to my glorious rest above.”
-S. T. Francis
And of course, I could just go on and on with that. More of our hymns deal with the love that saved us than any other theme.
“Jesus, Lover of My Soul”. “Jesus Loves Me”. There’s even one called “Love Is The Theme”!
But the point is, men and women keep trying to describe this love, to plunge its depths, because it is indescribable to the human tongue, and unfathomable to the human mind.
Charles Wesley asked the question that baffles us all, when he wrote,
“Amazing love! How can it be that Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
There is a sense though, in which we can understand it, can comprehend it, grasp it, and that is by the enlightening power of the Holy Spirit.
We can understand it, not by study, not by meditation ~ although it certainly inspires meditation ~ and not by attaching ourselves to our favorite preachers and picking their brains; no, we preachers are as confounded as the rest, as to why God would deem to send His only Son to rescue such sorry stuff as ourselves.
It is a spiritual comprehension that gives birth to praise and adoration and worship and obedience in faith. I know that it is possible, because I know that I understand His love for me so much more than I did years ago. He has taught me through trials and grief and loneliness and rejection, for those are the times I most needed His love.
The thing I want to make clear in your thinking today though, is that we do learn of this love in degrees. When the convert first comes to Christ he may have a feeble sense of the fact that God loves him. On some infant level he may remember having heard, “God loved the world so much that He gave His only Son...”, and he will say, “I am a Christian now, and I know that God loves me because He died for my sins”
But that is a far cry from the understanding that Paul is talking about in Ephesians 3:18,19.
Let’s take it one step at a time. Paul said, “...that you...may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth...”
So first of all, let’s clarify what he meant by:
ALL THE SAINTS
Any Bible teacher worth listening to will be careful to make his students understand that saints are not exceptional Christians of the past, who have been canonized by the church and granted this title of ‘Saint’. Saints are not marble statues lining the walls of cathedrals.
The word ‘saint’ comes from the same root as the word, ‘sanctified’. It means to be set aside for honor. We also get the word, ‘sanitize’ from the same root word.
Therefore we understand when New Testament writers use the word ‘sanctified’ or ‘sanctification’ in reference to the believer, that they mean the believer has been cleansed, purified (from sin) and set apart to God for His own possession and use.
A person is not a saint because he acts saintly; rather, he acts saintly because he is a saint. And he is a saint simply because he has put his faith in the shed blood of Christ.
Having said that, look back at Paul’s words now; “that you...may comprehend with all the saints...” and we understand that he is not wishing for us that we might understand something as deeply as those saintly men and women who have manifested superior faith and had their names written in scripture and are now gathered in heaven with God.
He is not saying, “My hope for you is that you will come to the same deep understanding of Christ’s love as the really great believers, and thereby attain to some higher status and rank”.
His prayer is that those who are reading the letter, and all believers everywhere, will by faith, and being rooted and grounded in this same love, be strengthened in the inner man to more fully grasp and comprehend this great and marvelous love!