How large is the love of Christ?

How large is the love of Christ?

May you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. – Ephesians 3:18

Ephesians 3:16-20

 16 I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit.

 17 Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.

 18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is.

 19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.

 20 Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.

Webster defines the term incomprehensible as something which is “impossible to comprehend.” Is it possible to comprehend the incomprehensible? Down through the centuries, successful attempts a been made to grasp the incomprehensible through the arts. Artists have been able to communicate without relying on words through the use of various art forms. Recall the old saying, “a picture is worth a thousand words.” Most forms of art use the vocabulary of visual images. Art translates sublime, transcendent ideas into understandable symbols which express them.

Art gives the imagination free reign, allowing you to experience the surrounding world in different ways and then record how you feel about it without relying on words (study.com). Georgia O’Keeffe explained, ‘‘I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way – things I had no words for.’’

Poetry is an exception. Rather than employ nonverbal images to communicate, it uses words to form mental images. T.S. Eliot famously declared that “genuine poetry is able to communicate something to us even before it is understood.” Ponder that for a moment.

Elliott elaborated, “The task of the poet, in making people comprehend the incomprehensible, demands immense resources of language; and in developing the language, enriching the meaning of words and showing how much words can do, he is making possible a much greater range of emotion and perception for other men, because he gives them the speech in which more can be expressed . . ..”

Eliot is suggesting that understanding through rational means is secondary to communicating through artistic expression.

Similarly, the Scriptures offer an alternative means of understanding through prayer and the empowering work of the Holy Spirit.

Ephesians 1:18 I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called . . ..

Ephesians 3:18-19

 18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is.

 19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.

Paul prays that children of the King may be able to grasp the meaning of the breadth, depth, length and height of the love of Christ. “It is as if Paul invited us to look at the universe – to the limitless sky above, to the limitless horizons on every side, to the depth of the earth and of the seas beneath us, and said: ‘The love of Christ is as vast as that’” (Barclay).

Paul was empowered to handle things that are inherently beyond the limited grasp of humanity: the infinite, eternal attributes of the Father, the living God. He creates a word picture to attempt to describe the limitless dimensions of the Lord Jesus Christ’s love. In so doing, he does what cannot be done. Paul “puts God in a box.” He prays for enlightenment for comprehending the width, length, height, and depth of the love of Christ.

REFLECT & PRAY

“The Four Magnitudes – width, length, height, and depth – are poetic expressions for the infinitude of God’s love” (Hughes).

Father how far I short. May I depend upon You to empower me to comprehend Your incomprehensible, multidimensional love. May the Spirit indeed teach me all things.

INSIGHT

How large is the love of Christ? This unanswerable question is intentionally provocative. Paul challenges us and prays for us to be enabled to comprehend fully that which is infinite and simply too immense for mere mortals to grasp. “Just as Christ’s riches are unsearchable (Ephesians 3:8), so is his love too great for us to grasp completely. Like children who have seen the ocean for the first time, we should never cease to marvel at the magnitude of the love of just as Christ’s riches are unsearchable Christ. Without the divine assistance that Paul is requesting for us, we would never be able to understand the love of Christ beyond a superficial level” (Boles).

The original Greek is somewhat terse. It simply reads, “In order that you may be strong to grasp/comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth” (Boles).

The Greek word translated as a strong is exischuo. Exischuo is only used once in the entire New Testament. It connotes the idea of being able to grasp, lay hold of, possess, seize. It literally means to have full strength (ATR) and has the sense to “be fully able to grasp” (UBS). Paul is interceding for children of the King to be fully able to rise up to the challenge of comprehending the incomprehensible. We are to grasp that which is just too big to grasp.

The Greek word translated as grasp, comprehend, understand is katalambano. Katalambano means “to take hold firmly for oneself; especially, to comprehend with the mind.” It means to be able to get the meaning of something, to understand, perceive, or learn.

Through the work of the Holy Spirit, we can comprehend the incomprehensible. What we cannot do by ourselves, due to our limited human understanding and capabilities, we can do through the amazing work of the Holy Spirit.

John 14:26 When the Father sends the Helper as my representative – that is, the Holy Spirit – he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.

How large is the love of God? A.W. Tozer explained, “God is self-existent, His love had no beginning, because he is eternal, his love can have no end, because he is infinite it has no limit, because he is holy it is the quintessence of all spotless purity, because he is immense, his love is an incomprehensibly vast, bottomless, shoreless sea . . ..”

Paul’s prayer transforms an impossible task into a responsibility for every child of the King. Knowing that it is humanly impossible, “He calls us to this grand spiritual exercise for the health of our souls. It is to be our life’s occupation. Have we seriously devoted time to thinking about and trying to understand his love? Have we contemplated his love in, say, the Incarnation? – the cross? – great passages such as this one which extol his love? If not, we have failed in our duty” (Hughes).

Each child of the King is tasked to pray for the ability to comprehend the incomprehensible.

¯\_()_/¯

© Dr. H 2022

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