Pastor Cosand: September 2017
BREADTH AND LENGTH AND HEIGHT AND DEPTH
meditation on Ephesians 3:18,19M
There are some realities that are so mind boggling that if we had to describe them to someone, we would be at a total loss. For example, how do you describe the Grand Canyon, or Mt. Rainier, or the night time sky on a clear, moonless night when it almost appears that you can touch the Milky Way? You can’t describe these things … you just experience them and stand in awed silence before them.
Likewise, there are some Biblical passages and truths we are totally inadequate to comprehend and to describe. In Ephesians 3 there are references to the riches of God’s glory (Eph 3:16), the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge (Eph 3:19), and all the fullness of God (Eph 3:19). How can we totally comprehend the riches of God’s glory or His fullness or the love of Christ? These things are infinite and you can’t comprehend the infinite by means of the finite. It won’t work, no matter how hard you try. It is like trying to pour the Pacific Ocean into an 8 ounce glass, except the contrast between God’s infinite perfections and our small, sinful minds is even greater than the Pacific Ocean and a glass.
Ephesians 3 contains a prayer of Paul for the Christians in the Ephesian church that God would grant them strength in their hearts through His Spirit and that Christ would dwell in their hearts as they trusted in Him. What we have in Ephesians 3:18,19 are the means by which this strength is produced, namely some comprehension of God's glory and fullness and Christ's love. Paul's prayer for the Ephesian Christians is my prayer for myself and for you. "I pray," Paul says, "that being rooted and grounded in love, you may be able to comprehend the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ, which surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God" (Eph 3:17-19).
Let us briefly consider two of these phrases … (1) to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, and (2) to comprehend what is the breadth and length and height and depth. There is certainly a relationship between the phrase in Ephesians 3:17 … "being rooted and grounded in love" … and the phrase in Ephesians 3:18…"to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge." The key to being rooted and grounded in love, so that love is the fountain from which full life springs, is "to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge." We get our love from God’s love.
God’s love is self-generated. It is His nature to love. He cannot, in fact, be otherwise. Our love, on the other hand, comes from outside. In fact, it comes from God Himself (like everything else, for that matter). He is the source. But notice the wording here carefully. It is very interesting . . . "and to know the love of Christ, which surpasses knowledge." How can we know something that is beyond knowledge? How can we comprehend the incomprehensible? How can we grasp something that cannot be grasped? Certainly Paul is saying here that we must come to learn as much as we can about the love of Christ and to go from one level of understanding and experience to another level of understanding and experience. But we can never know all of it because it is something that surpasses knowledge in its fullness. Beloved, there is more to Christ's love than we imagine … more, in fact, than we can imagine. It is inexhaustible, unsearchable, immeasurable.
Paul uses a verb of thinking here … "to know." To understand the love of Christ must begin with the mind. We have to read about it and think about it and ponder its majesty, or it will never grip our souls. But to know the love of Christ surely goes way beyond our minds. It is for us not simply to observe the love of Christ from a distance, but to experience it in the heart … to be consumed by it … to have it as the central passion of our desires …to begin to see it as the main source and goal of all of life. To know the love of Christ is to realize that this love is better than life.
The other statement I would like us to consider here is "to comprehend what is the breadth and length and height and depth." There is a problem in this phrase because Paul doesn’t say the "breadth and length and height and depth" of what? I won't be dogmatic here, but I suggest that the phrase "breadth and length and height and depth" refers to the wonder of salvation, which Paul has been so eloquently describing in the first three chapters of Ephesians.
I take this phrase to refer to our comprehending the wonder of our redemption in Christ … to really experience forgiveness, to understand what it is to be justified, and to have the penalty for our many sins taken away, to grasp what Christ did on our behalf when He cried out "my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" This is to understand what it means to be justified before God as we stand before God the Judge in His heavenly courtroom (as we all will some day). Imagine the scene. The evidence against us is overwhelming … pride, lust, greed, selfishness, jealousy, hatred, bitterness, idolatry. It's all there, and more, in our hearts. We are ashamed and guilty because we cannot deny that we have been rebellious, many times deliberately so without any fear of God. Now we stand before Him and we hang our head without anything to say. Even our silence condemns us.
But this is not the end of the story. We have an Advocate, a Sacrifice, a Brother, a Savior. And we belong to Him. And because we belong to Him, God declares us righteous. It is not that we are right, but we are clothed with the holiness and obedience of Jesus Himself. Even though we are not righteous, we are declared righteous because we have His perfect holiness. And the penalty is taken away. Oh, the wonder of justification. Beloved, let us labor to grasp the breadth and length and depth and height of our salvation in Jesus until these truths ravish our souls.
Lost in the wonder of Christ,