To Know the Love of Christ

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Ephesians 3:14–21 (NRSV) Prayer for the Readers

14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name. 16 I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, 17 and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. 18 I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

20 Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Paul concludes his prayer of thanksgiving for God’s amazing grace that began in Eph. 1:3 (Eph. 1:3-3:21).  This passage is a prayer for the reader (so a prayer for us).  Paul begins this large section with a prayer of thanksgiving for all of the spiritual blessings in Christ (1:3-14).  Now he prays for spiritual growth and empowerment for his readers.  (3:14-21)

In v. 14, Paul refers back to everything he has said in the preceding verses (1:3-3:13) concerning the richness of God’s grace.  Thinking of all the spiritual blessings in Christ, he falls to his knees in praise to God the Father.  (v. 15)  (vv. 14-19 is one sentence in the Greek)

1.  Empowerment through the Holy Spirit.  He prays that God will empower us with inner strength through his Spirit.  (v. 16).  God the Father is source of glorious, unlimited resources that the Father gives to all God’s children.  The result of this is “that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.”  (v. 17a)  Having Christ in our hearts is the source of spiritual power for life and ministry.  The transition to the next verse is “that you, being rooted and grounded in love.”  (v. 17b)

2.  To know the love of Christ.  (vv. 18-19)  Christ’s love is great in every dimension.  The whole Christian life is based on the experience and personal knowledge of “the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge.”  (v. 19a)   Christ’s love is greater than ordinary human knowledge.  It surpasses any human wisdom, science and philosophy.  (Rom. 5:6-8)

Love is incapable of being understood apart from the knowledge of the person who bestows it.  Just as a person cannot understand even human love without experiencing it.  The knowledge of God’s love can only be understood from the position of one who has experienced it.

If you have never experienced the love of a mother, for example, you cannot understand it.  And babies who have been deprived of the love of a mother do not grow up and mature emotionally in the way that they should.  The love of a mother and the closeness that they feel with her, the simple act of holding the baby and giving it the comfort of human skin to skin contact is necessary for healthy development.  So people who have never experienced the deep, deep love of God are somehow emotionally and spiritually stunted.  They can never be all that God intends for them to be apart from the love of God.

The believer is “filled up to the fullness of God” (v. 19:b) through the experience of Christ’s love.  We are conformed to the image of Christ and our life then reflects God’s life through out love for God and for one another.  (Eph. 4:14)  This is what Wesley means by Christian perfection or perfect love.

Paul’s prayer for us is also my prayer for you, the reader.  May you be empowered through the Holy Spirit, so that you have the power to understand, to know the love of Christ and so become the mature people of God, which is God’s ultimate destiny for us, re-made in the image of Christ.  Amen.

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