Friday, 22 April 2011

St Paul's Prayer for the Church

For this reason I kneel before the Father,
From whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name.
I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being,
So that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.
And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love,
May have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people,
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.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,
To him be glory in the church
And in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever!

Ephesians 3.14-21


Matthew Henry 1 said...

We now come to the second part of this chapter, which contains Paul’s devout and affectionate prayer to God for his beloved Ephesians.—For this cause. This may be referred either to the immediately foregoing verse, That you faint not, etc., or, rather, the apostle is here resuming what he began at the first verse, from which he digressed in those which are interposed. Observe,

I. To whom he prays—to God, as the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of which see ch. 1:3.

II. His outward posture in prayer, which was humble and reverent: I bow my knees. Note, When we draw nigh to God, we should reverence him in our hearts, and express our reverence in the most suitable and becoming behaviour and gesture. Here, having mentioned Christ, he cannot pass without an honourable encomium of his love, v. 15. The universal church has a dependence upon the Lord Jesus Christ: Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named. The Jews were wont to boast of Abraham as their father, but now Jews and Gentiles are both denominated from Christ (so some); while others understand it of the saints in heaven, who wear the crown of glory, and of saints on earth who are going on in the work of grace here. Both the one and the other make but one family, one household; and from him they are named CHRISTIANS, as they really are such, acknowledging their dependence upon, and their relation to, Christ.

III. What the apostle asks of God for these his friends-spiritual blessings, which are the best blessings, and the most earnestly to be sought and prayed for by every one of us, both for ourselves and for our friends. 1. Spiritual strength for the work and duty to which they were called, and in which they were employed: That he would grant you, according to the riches of his grace, to be strengthened, etc. The inner man is the heart or soul. To be strengthened with might is to be mightily strengthened, much more than they were at present; to be endued with a high degree of grace, and spiritual abilities for discharging duty, resisting temptations, enduring persecutions, etc. And the apostle prays that this may be according to the riches of his glory, or according to his glorious riches-answerable to that great abundance of grace, mercy, and power, which resides in God, and is his glory: and this by his Spirit, who is the immediate worker of grace in the souls of God’s people. Observe from these things, That strength from the Spirit of God in the inner man is the best and most desirable strength, strength in the soul, the strength of faith and other graces, strength to serve God and to do our duty, and to persevere in our Christian course with vigour and with cheerfulness. And let us further observe that as the work of grace is first begun so it is continued and carried on, by the blessed Spirit of God. 2. The indwelling of Christ in their hearts, v. 17. Christ is said to dwell in his people, as he is always present with them by his gracious influences and operations. Observe, It is a desirable thing to have Christ dwell in our hearts; and if the law of Christ be written there, and the love of Christ be shed abroad there, then Christ dwells there. Christ is an inhabitant in the soul of every good Christian. Where his spirit dwells, there he swells; and he dwells in the heart by faith, by means of the continual exercise of faith upon him.

Matthew Henry 2 said...

Faith opens the door of the soul, to receive Christ; faith admits him, and submits to him. By faith we are united to Christ, and have an interest in him. 3. The fixing of pious and devout affections in the soul: That you being rooted and grounded in love, stedfastly fixed in your love to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to all the saints, the beloved of our Lord Jesus Christ. Many have some love to God and to his servants, but it is a flash, like the crackling of throns under a pot, it makes a great noise, but is gone presently. We should earnestly desire that good affections may be fixed in us, that we may be rooted and grounded in love. Some understand it of their being settled and established in the sense of God’s love to them, which would inspire them with greater ardours of holy love to him, and to one another. And how very desirable is it to have a settled fixed sense of the love of God and Christ to our souls, so as to be able to say with the apostle at all times, He has loved me! Now the best way to attain this is to be careful that we maintain a constant love to God in our souls; this will be the evidence of the love of God to us. We love him, because he first loved us. In order to this he prays, 4. For their experimental acquaintance with the love of Jesus Christ. The more intimate acquaintance we have with Christ’s love to us, the more our love will be drawn out to him, and to those who are his, for his sake: That you may be able to comprehend with all saints, etc. (v. 18, 19); that is, more clearly to understand, and firmly to believe, the wonderful love of Christ to his, which the saints do understand and believe in some measure, and shall understand more hereafter. Christians should not aim to comprehend above all saints; but be content that God deals with them as he uses to do with those who love and fear his name: we should desire to comprehend with all saints, to have so much knowledge as the saints are allowed to have in this world. We should be ambitious of coming up with the first three; but not of going beyond what is the measure of the stature of other saints.

Matthew Henry 3 said...

It is observable how magnificently the apostle speaks of the love of Christ. The dimensions of redeeming love are admirable: The breadth, and length, and depth, and height. By enumerating these dimensions, the apostle designs to signify the exceeding greatness of the love of Christ, the unsearchable riches of his love, which is higher than heaven, deeper than hell, longer than the earth, and broader than the sea, Job 11:8, 9. Some describe the particulars thus: By the breadth of it we may understand the extent of it to all ages, nations, and ranks of men; by the length of it, its continuance from everlasting to everlasting; by the depth of it, its stooping to the lowest condition, with a design to relieve and save those who have sunk into the depths of sin and misery; by its height, its entitling and raising us up to the heavenly happiness and glory. We should desire to comprehend this love: it is the character of all the saints that they do so; for they all have a complacency and a confidence in the love of Christ: And to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge, v. 19. If it passeth knowledge, how can we know it? We must pray and endeavour to know something, and should still covet and strive to know more and more of it, though, after the best endeavours, none can fully comprehend it: in its full extent it surpasses knowledge. Though the love of Christ may be better perceived and known by Christians than it generally is, yet it cannot be fully understood on this side heaven. 5. He prays that they may be filled with all the fulness of God. It is a high expression: we should not dare to use it if we did not find it in the scriptures. It is like those other expressions, of being partakers of a divine nature, and of being perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect. We are not to understand it of his fulness as God in himself, but of his fulness as a God in covenant with us, as a God to his people: such a fulness as God is ready to bestow, who is willing to fill them all to the utmost of their capacity, and that with all those gifts and graces which he sees they need. Those who receive grace for grace from Christ’s fulness may be said to be filled with the fulness of God, according to their capacity, all which is in order to their arriving at the highest degree of the knowledge and enjoyment of God, and an entire conformity to him.

Matthew Henry 4 said...

The apostle closes the chapter with a doxology, v. 20, 21. It is proper to conclude our prayers with praises. Our blessed Saviour has taught us to do so. Take notice how he describes God, and how he ascribes glory to him. He describes him as a God that is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think. There is an inexhaustible fulness of grace and mercy in God, which the prayers of all the saints can never draw dry. Whatever we may ask, or think to ask, still God is still able to do more, abundantly more, exceedingly abundantly more. Open thy mouth ever so wide, still he hath wherewithal to fill it. Note, In our applications to God we should encourage our faith by a consideration of his all-sufficiency and almighty power. According to the power which worketh in us. As if he had said, We have already had a proof of this power of God, in what he hath wrought in us and done for us, having quickened us by his grace, and converted us to himself. The power that still worketh for the saints is according to that power that hath wrought in them. Wherever God gives of his fulness he gives to experience his power. Having thus described God, he ascribes glory to him. When we come to ask for grace from God, we ought to give glory to God. Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus. In ascribing glory to God, we ascribe all excellences and perfections to him, glory being the effulgency and result of them all. Observe, The seat of God’s praises is in the church. That little rent of praise which God receives from this world is from the church, a sacred society constituted for the glory of God, every particular member of which, both Jew and Gentile, concurs in this work of praising God. The Mediator of these praises is Jesus Christ. All God’s gifts come from his to us through the hand of Christ; and all our praises pass from us to him through the same hand. And God should and will be praised thus throughout all ages, world without end; for he will ever have a church to praise him, and he will ever have his tribute of praise from his church. Amen. So be it; and so it will certainly be.

Adam Clarke said...

Verse 14. For this cause I bow my knees
That you may not faint, but persevere, I frequently pray to God, who is our God and the Father of our Lord Jesus. Some very ancient and excellent MSS. and versions omit the words τουκυριουημωνιησουχριστου, of our Lord Jesus Christ. And in them the passage reads: I bow my knees unto the Father. The apostle prays to God the Father, that they may not faint; and he bows his knees in this praying. What can any man think of himself, who, in his addresses to God, can either sit on his seat or stand in the presence of the Maker and Judge of all men? Would they sit while addressing any person of ordinary respectability? If they did so they would be reckoned very rude indeed. Would they sit in the presence of the king of their own land? They would not be permitted so to do. Is God then to be treated with less respect than a fellow mortal? Paul kneeled in praying, Acts 20:36;; 21:5. Stephen kneeled when he was stoned, Acts 7:60. And Peter kneeled when he raised Tabitha, Acts 9:40.

Many parts of this prayer bear a strict resemblance to that offered up by Solomon, 2 Chronicles 6:1, He kneeled down upon his knees before all the congregation of Israel, and spread forth his hands towards heaven; 2 Chronicles 6:13. The apostle was now dedicating the Christian Church, that then was and that ever should be, to God; and praying for those blessings which should ever rest on and distinguish it; and he kneels down after the example of Solomon, and invokes him to whom the first temple was dedicated, and who had made it a type of the Gospel Church.

Verse 15. Of whom the whole family
Believers in the Lord Jesus Christ on earth, the spirits of just men made perfect in a separate state, and all the holy angels in heaven, make but one family, of which God is the Father and Head. St. Paul does not say, of whom the families, as if each order formed a distinct household; but he says family, because they are all one, and of one. And all this family is named-derives its origin and being, from God, as children derive their name from him who is the father of the family: holy persons in heaven and earth derive their being and their holiness from God, and therefore his name is called upon them. Christ gives the name of Christians to all the real members of his Church upon earth; and to all the spirits of just men (saved since his advent, and through his blood) in heaven. They are all the sons and daughters of God Almighty

Adam Clarke 2 said...

According to the riches of his glory
According to the measure of his own eternal fulness; God's infinite mercy and goodness being the measure according to which we are to be saved. In giving alms it is a maxim that every one should act according to his ability. It would be a disgrace to a king or a noble-man to give no more than a tradesman or a peasant. God acts up to the dignity of his infinite perfections; he gives according to the riches of his glory.

To be strengthened with might
Ye have many enemies, cunning and strong; many trials, too great for your natural strength; many temptations, which no human power is able successfully to resist; many duties to perform, which cannot be accomplished by the strength of man; therefore you need Divine strength; ye must have might; and ye must be strengthened every where, and every way fortified by that might; mightily and most effectually strengthened.

By his Spirit
By the sovereign energy of the Holy Ghost. This fountain of spiritual energy can alone supply the spiritual strength which is necessary for this spiritual work and conflict. In the inner man
In the soul. Every man is a compound being; he has a body and a soul. The outward man is that alone which is seen and considered by men; the inward man is that which stands particularly in reference to God and eternity. The outward man is strengthened by earthly food, the inward man, by spiritual and heavenly influences. Knowledge, love, peace, and holiness, are the food of the inward man; or rather Jesus Christ, that bread of life which came down from heaven: he that eateth this bread shall live and be strengthened by it. The soul must be as truly fed and nourished by Divine food as the body by natural food.

Adam Clarke 3 said...

Verse 17. That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith
In this as well as in many other passages, and particularly that in Ephesians 2:21, (where see the note,) the apostle compares the body or Church of true believers to a temple, which, like that of Solomon, is built up to be a habitation of God through the Spirit. Here, as Solomon did at the dedication of the temple at Jerusalem, 2 Chronicles 6:1, having considered the Church at Ephesus completely formed, as to every external thing, prays that God may come down and dwell in it. And as there could be no indwelling of God but by Christ, and no indwelling of Christ but by faith, he prays that they may have such faith in Christ, as shall keep them in constant possession of his love and presence. God, at the beginning, formed man to be his temple, and while in a state of purity he inhabited this temple; when the temple became defiled, God left it. In the order of his eternal mercy, Christ, the repairer of the breach, comes to purify the temple, that it may again become a fit habitation for the blessed God. This is what the apostle points out to the believing Ephesians, in praying that Christ, might intensely and constantly dwell in their hearts by faith: for the man's heart, which is not God's house, must be a hold of every foul and unclean spirit; as Satan and his angels will endeavour to fill what God does not.

Adam Clarke 4 said...

Verse 19. To know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge
It is only by the love of Christ that we can know the love of God: the love of God to man induced him to give Christ for his redemption; Christ's love to man induced him to give his life's blood for his salvation. The gift of Christ to man is the measure of God's love; the death of Christ for man is the measure of Christ's love. God so loved the world, Christ loved us, and gave himself for us.

But how can the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, be known? Many have laboured to reconcile this seeming contradiction. If we take the verb in a sense in which it is frequently used in the New Testament, to approve, acknowledge, or acknowledge with approbation, and ‚ to signify comprehension, then the difficulty will be partly removed: "That ye may acknowledge, approve, and publicly acknowledge, that love of God which surpasseth knowledge." We can acknowledge and approve of that which surpasses our comprehension. We cannot comprehend GOD; yet we can know that he is; approve of, love, adore, and serve him. In like manner, though we cannot comprehend, the immensity of the love of Christ, yet we know that he has loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood; and we approve of, and acknowledge, him as our only Lord and Saviour. In this sense we may be said to know the love of Christ that passeth knowledge.

But it is more likely that the word, which we translate knowledge, signifies here science in general, and particularly that science of which the rabbins boasted, and that in which the Greeks greatly exulted. The former professed to have the key of knowledge; the secret of all Divine mysteries; the latter considered their philosophers, and their systems of philosophy, superior to every thing that had ever been known among men, and reputed on this account all other nations as barbarians. When the apostle prays that they may know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge, he may refer to all the boasted knowledge of the Jewish doctors, and to all the greatly extolled science of the Greek philosophers. To know the love of Christ, infinitely surpasseth all other science. This gives a clear and satisfactory sense.

Wesley's Notes said...

Verse 15
[15] Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named,

Of whom — The Father. The whole family of angels in heaven, saints in paradise, and believers on earth is named. Being the "children of God," (a more honourable title than "children of Abraham,") and depending on him as the Father of the family.

Verse 16
[16] That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man;

The riches of his glory — The immense fulness of his glorious wisdom, power, and mercy.

The inner man — The soul.

Verse 17
[17] That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love,

Dwell — That is, constantly and sensibly abide.

Verse 18
[18] May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height;

That being rooted and grounded — That is, deeply fixed and firmly established, in love. Ye may comprehend - So far as an human mind is capable.

What is the breadth of the love of Christ — Embracing all mankind.

And length — From everlasting to everlasting.

And depth — Not to be fathomed by any creature.

And height — Not to be reached by any enemy.

Verse 19
[19] And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.

And to know — But the apostle corrects himself, and immediately observes, it cannot be fully known. This only we know, that the love of Christ surpasses all knowledge. That ye may be filled - Which is the sum of all.

With all the fulness of God — With all his light, love, wisdom, holiness, power, and glory. A perfection far beyond a bare freedom from sin.

Verse 20
[20] Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us,

Now to him — This doxology is admirably adapted to strengthen our faith, that we may not stagger at the great things the apostle has been praying for, as if they were too much for God to give, or for us to expect from him.

That is able — Here is a most beautiful gradation. When he has given us exceeding, yea, abundant blessings, still we may ask for more. And he is able to do it. But we may think of more than we have asked. He is able to do this also. Yea, and above all this.

Above all we ask — Above all we can think. Nay, exceedingly, abundantly above all that we can either ask or think.

Verse 21
[21] Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.

In the church — On earth and in heaven

Anonymous said...

And Paul prays this for the church universal,

Ephesians 3:17-19

…that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength 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, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Imagine a church so overwhelmed with the love of Christ that we are willing to serve, to give generously and to even lay down our lives for one another. Imagine a church so astonished by the grace of God that fellowship becomes more intimate than that share by the closest relatives. Imagine a church so overwhelmed with the love of Christ that forgiveness becomes the first and most natural response when one is wronged.

Imagine a church filled with a people who, in turn, are filled with all the fullness of God…

This is what Paul prays for and envisages: a Church growing increasingly in maturity so that the glory of Christ and his glorious grace would shine most brightly in a dark and depraved world.

Anonymous said...


a. All Generations

Over the past two weeks we have been considering the second of Paul’s great prayers for the saints in Ephesus (beginning at Ephesians 3:14 through to verse 21).

Last week we discovered that the object and outcome of Paul’s prayer is breathtakingly expansive.

Firstly, we found that Paul’s prayer encompasses believers in Ephesus (obviously) and believers everywhere else. Indeed, Paul prays that believers in Ephesus, together ‘with all the saints’ (verse 18), might receive supernatural comprehension. Consequently, this prayer extends beyond Ephesus to Corinth, Galatia, Colossi, Thessalonica, Rome and everywhere else believers gather to worship Christ Jesus.

Secondly, Paul’s prayer extends beyond the First Century AD and into the future; Paul prays that the glory of God would resound in both the Church and in Christ Jesus ‘throughout all generations’ (verse 21).

This is, of course, glorious news for both you and I.

The scope of Paul’s concern gives us incredible confidence that the same God who transformed lives in Paul’s day still works powerfully today. Paul prays for the church in Ephesus and, strangely and marvellously, Paul prays for Firwood Church meeting in Westwood, Oldham, today.

Paul prays for the saints then and the saints now.

The glorious news is that this prayer is our prayer.

b. Power and Comprehension

The Apostle Paul’s concern is twofold.

Firstly, as we considered last week, Paul prays that believers would receive power,

Ephesians 3:17

so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith…

Secondly, and we shall consider this further this morning, Paul prays that believers would,

Ephesians 3:19

…know the love of Christ…


a. The Connection

The Apostle’s prayer begins with a request for power,

Ephesians 3:14–21

14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father [...] 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being

But Paul has a very specific outcome in mind, he prays,

Ephesians 3:17

…that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith…

The first part of Paul’s prayer is, therefore, huge. Paul prays that believers, in Ephesus and elsewhere, would be strengthened by the Holy Spirit at the very core of our being and that Christ Jesus might take up permanent residence in our hearts in such a way that we might be transformed into his glorious likeness.

And the evidence of this transformation is found in the succeeding clause,

Ephesians 3:17

…that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love

The effect of this strengthening by the Spirit and this indwelling by Christ Jesus is that we might be rooted and grounded in love.

Note how Paul mixes his metaphors, the former a reference to horticulture and the latter a reference to architecture. The unifying theme, however, is growth: plants (well rooted and well tended) grow and buildings (with right foundations) are built strong and tall.[1]

Paul’s point is that spiritual maturity is not possible without a firm and solid grounding in a love which is defined in relation to Christ Jesus. This explains the importance of Paul’s prayer for the saints everywhere and at every time.

b. The Need

Paul continues and prays that we might comprehend and know the love of Christ,

Ephesians 3:18, 19

may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ…

This is an astonishing prayer given that Paul is praying for Christians. Paul assumes that these believers and, indeed, believers generally, are unable to adequately comprehend and know the love of Christ.

Paul provides us with two explanations as to why our knowledge is deficient in respect of the love of Christ and why an intervention of God is necessary.

Anonymous said...

Consider, firstly, the nature of this knowing,

Ephesians 3:18, 19

may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge…

Paul prays because you and I need to comprehend and know the love of Christ in increasing measure. Paul prays because the comprehension and knowledge of this love is only possible through divine revelation.

This love surpasses knowledge.

And this calls for careful thinking.

There is an unhelpful (but popular) dichotomy at work in the church today in which ‘revelation’ is held in opposition to ‘experience’. As a consequence, theology (the study of God in accordance with his self-disclosure in the Scriptures) is often caricatured (by those of the other persuasion) as cold and stuffy, whereas those who considered themselves to be more ‘spiritual’/'experiential’ are regarded (by those who consider themselves theological) as flaky and overly emotional.

In truth, such a dichotomy would have been utterly alien to Paul.

Paul is not holding experience, spirituality or abstract revelation over and above theology. This is why it is important to read texts in their wider context.

Lest we forget, Paul has just spent three chapters outlining God’s monumental plan for salvation. Paul has just led us from ‘before the foundation of the world’ (Ephesians 1:4) to the consummation of all things (Ephesians 1:10). In all of this, Paul presents some of the weightiest theological consideration found anywhere in the New Testament.

And yet all of this is infused with concern for the love and grace of God.


Ephesians 1:4-6

…In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.

Ephesians 1:7-8

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us…

Ephesians 2:4-5

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us together alive with Christ – by grace you have been saved

Ephesians 2:8

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God

It is clear, as we read the writings of the Apostle Paul, that he wants us to know things about God. It is clear as we read more widely through the New Testament that the New Testament writers want us to know deep and profound truths about God.

This is why it is important that we study and meditate upon the Word of God. It is necessary that we know things about God. It is necessary that we know the truth of who God is and the truth of all he has done.

ii. Beyond Knowing

But theology and the knowledge of the Scriptures is not enough. It is not enough to know about God and it is not enough to simply know about the love of Christ.

Paul wants us to know the love of Christ.

This is why cold intellectualism is so deadly. This kind of thinking seeks to dissect and make a cold study of the things of God. This kind of thinking accumulates knowledge about him without ever coming to know him.

It is simply not enough to just know things about him. We remember that even the demons recognise truths about God and yet their hearts remain in enmity towards him (James 2:19).

It is not enough to profess a series of propositional truths: yes, Jesus is the Son of God; yes, Jesus died for sin; and, yes, Jesus rose from the dead. Paul wants us to move beyond this. Paul wants us to experience, to feel deeply about the truths of God.

And Scripture is the great example that to know God is to feel deeply about the things of God. Consider,

Anonymous said...

iii. The Necessity of Revelation

Paul’s prayer is necessary because we are unable to bridge the gap between what we know about God and actually experiencing and receiving the love of Christ as a present reality in our lives.

The unbeliever cannot know the love of Christ without divine intervention because he is spiritual dead and unable to see, think and feel as he/she ought (Ephesians 2:1-3). Moreover, the unbeliever is, in his/her natural state, in enmity towards God and, as such, a child of wrath (Ephesians 2:3). He/she cannot see God and, even if they were to see him, they would hate him.

This is why sharing the gospel with friends sometimes has the opposite effect, the more you tell them about the love of God, the angrier they become.

For the believer, supernatural revelation is necessary because of the sheer magnitude of the love of God exceeds the limitations of intellectual enquiry. Consider, therefore, Paul’s presentation of the magnificently bountiful love of Christ; indeed, Paul prays that we,

Ephesians 3:18, 19

may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ

In a very real sense, therefore, the love of Christ surpasses the limitations of human knowledge. This is why, as we ponder the deep truths of Ephesians chapter one, our minds spin with the dizzying complexity and grandeur of God’s great purposes in salvation.

Such is the depth and magnitude and expansiveness of Christ’s love for us.

Paul wants us to study the Scriptures and dwell deeply on all that Christ has done for us. Paul wants us to meditate upon the deep truths of God and his purposes for this universe. Paul wants us to return constantly to the glorious mysteries of the cross.

But we need more.

We need God himself to intervene and give us strength that we might comprehend and know the love of Christ in increasing measure.

And to know is to receive the love of Christ.

Theologian, John Stott, leads us in a meditation upon this great love,

…the love of Christ is ‘broad’ enough to encompass all mankind [...], ‘long’ enough to last for eternity, ‘deep’ enough to reach the most degraded sinner, and ‘high’ enough to exalt him to heaven.[2]

Paul wants us to search, to study and to think deeply. And Paul wants us to know that none of this is enough. This is why he prays and this is why such prayers are necessary.

Paul prays, and we must pray, that God would take our knowledge about him and that he would bring it alive, stretch it out and cause it to penetrate deeply into our souls. That we might know the love of Christ.

Paul wants us to know truth, but, more than this, Paul wants us to feel the weight, the glory and the magnificence of this truth.

Paul wants us to comprehend, know, feel, experience and receive the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge.

Anonymous said...


a. God Is Love[3]

It is necessary that we come to know the love of Christ because love is inseparable from the nature and character of God. Indeed, the God of the bible is a God who defines himself in relation to love,

1 John 4:8, 16

…God is love.

Consider the stunning nature of this truth. What other thing, creature or person in existence would make such a claim? God uniquely is able to define himself in relation to love. Moreover, and often we overlook this truth, love is itself defined in relation to God.

It is unsurprising, therefore, that when God chooses to act he does so in love,

1 John 4:10

In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

And so too, as believers, our identity is wrapped up in the notion of love,

1 John 4:11, 12

Beloved, if god so loved us, we ought to love one another [...] if we love one another, God abides in us…

God is love and, as such, love is not a created ‘thing’; rather love is an attribute of the Creator. Crucially, therefore, love can only every be truly defined and understood in relation to the God of the Bible,

1 John 3:16

By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us…

All of this makes sense of Paul’s prayer. To come to know the love of Christ is nothing less than coming to know Christ himself.

Paul is, in effect, praying that the God who defines himself in relation to love would reveal his love in increasing measure and, in doing so, we would come to know him more deeply. This is the glory of the gospel as revealed through this letter. God is at work displaying his glory in and through salvation, but, more specifically, he acts in order to display a specific aspect of his glory, namely, his glorious grace,

Ephesians 1:4–6

…In love 5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace…

God is at work in revealing the glory of his grace (which is immeasurable). In coming to know this love, we come to know him.

Which leads us to our final point.

b. Fullness

In praying, Paul has a final outcome in view; Paul prays,

Ephesians 3:17-19

…that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength 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, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

In praying that we might be filled with all the fullness of God, Paul is asking that we might experience the full effect of Christ’s indwelling, that we might become all Christ wants us to be and that we might attain full spiritual maturity.[4]

Paul wants the people of God to reflect the character of God.

Paul wants those who are saved by Christ to reflect the glory of Christ.

The question is, how does a realisation of the love of Christ accomplish this outcome?

The answer is that whatever commands our affections commands our obedience. In other words, we do what we want to do most. We act in accordance with whatever we are most passionate about. Our actions are shaped by what we cherish, value and love the most.

Paul understands this and he wants us to experience the love of Christ in increasing measure knowing full well that this is the solid ground into which we must sink deep roots and build firm foundations. He wants us to see and know all that Christ feels for us so that every other competing affection might be obliterated in the blazing light of his glorious grace.

Paul wants us to see and feel that we might grow. It is Paul’s prayer that believers everywhere would revel, and stand secure, in Christ’s great abounding love and, as we do so, we would grow up.

Andrew Kenny said...

THis prayer can be a model prayer for us to pray, both for ourselves,our family and our church.What greater blessing can you give someone than to pray that they would be filled with the fullness of God, that Christ would dwell in their hearts through faith and that they would know the wideness fo the love of Christ?

I challenge you to make this your own!

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