|Series Theme: Meditations in Ephesians|
Meditation No. 27
Meditation Title: Realise His Love
Eph 3:17-19 And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge--that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
As one who has read and studied the Bible on a daily basis for many years and who has a role teaching others, I am aware that one of our biggest dangers when reading the Bible is that we just skim over the words and don't take in the wonderful truths that are there. Having led many teaching groups that focus on the basics of our beliefs, I am convinced that many of us who are Christians would affirm that we believe that God loves us but when it comes to hard times, we very quickly come into a place of doubt. Now that may be because of our immaturity or it may be a simple expression of the sin factor that we are putting to death as a daily process, something to be overcome. Yet the truth remains that many of us so quickly doubt God's love.
So, when we come to a passage like today's verses we need to be doubly careful to take in what Paul is saying. Paul has just prayed for their strengthening so that eventually they may know Christ better. Now he prays that they may realise the wonder of this love – in mind and experience – so that they may be filled with God!
See his starting point: “And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love.” His starting point is to remind us that we HAVE BEEN rooted and established in love. There are those who suggest that the ‘being' means ‘are being' (a present ongoing thing – which is true anyway) but I want to suggest that Paul is saying that because we have been established by Christ's love, we may, as a result of that experience, realise the enormity of this love.
But in running up to this he uses a strange expression (strange from our point of view): “I pray that you… may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp…” But what he is talking about seems a mental awareness but why do you need power to have a mental awareness or understanding? Perhaps we may make two suggestions. First is that the enemy seeks to blind us to the truth of the Gospel. For many of us he does this by reminding us of our past history where often we suffered and he questions, “Does God love you, allowing you to go through that?” or he uses the failures of the past to make us feel bad about ourselves in the present and so says, “Surely God can't love someone like you?” To overcome these negatives it almost needs a forceful declaration into our minds to counter these lies, we need a strength that is beyond ourselves, that is from the Lord. Second, power suggests practical outworking and so perhaps Paul is hinting that this understanding of God's incredible love is to go beyond purely mental assent to practical experience.
He wants all believers to know and experience this love: “to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge” Put most simply – to know Christ's love that is greater than human understanding can grasp! Is that why so many of us struggle with it on a bad day? Yes, it is incredible that God loves us when we are unlovely, that He loves us when we let Him down and He loves us when we get it completely wrong! These are not human responses; this is a love that goes way beyond our human experience. That the glorious Son of God should leave all the wonder of heaven and leave his glory there to appear as a defenceless little baby blows our mind away. That he should give up his human life to the most painful of departures from life – purely to take our punishment – seems to defy our natural logic. When we look at the history of the Christian Church which is full of times of getting it wrong, and we look at the incredible variety of Christians across the world, a number of whom appear so bizarre as to make us feel they are off the edge and have got it wrong, then again we marvel at God's love, a love that knew that we would continue to get it wrong yet still died for us. This love IS incredible (and we use the word carefully!)
But Paul hasn't finished. He wants us to know and experience this love so “that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” Now that last bit reinforces the suggestion about it being more that mere mental assent, but should also be practical experience. The incredible ultimate outcome, as Paul sees it, is that we become filled up with God, but because God IS love (1 Jn 4:8) we can't be that until we understand, experience and joy in this love. It is only when we open ourselves to this love are we filled with it, or to be more precise, filled with Him. In Colossians Paul wrote, “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ.” ( Col 2:9,10). Perhaps putting in as simple a way as we can, we might suggest that Paul is saying that when we experience this love our experience is full and there is nothing more we can ask for. We are getting all of God's love. Now that is not to say that we won't experience it more and more, but we have access to the total supply, if you like. When we experience Christ, we are experiencing the totality of God's love in quality. We may experience more and more of it in quantity but what we have experienced and are experiencing is the real and full thing. We are encountering the completeness of God's love. Rejoice in the truth of that, know it and experience it.