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God’s Immense Love
Seeing that tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, I have for the past 25 years always given messages of God’s love for us, and our love for God. And then, during 2020 and the initial outbreak of the COVID virus, did a series of message on the topics of faith, hope, and love. All of this to say that I’ve done quite a few messages about love.
And so, as we approach Valentine’s Day, I was wondering what I could possibly talk about, or what I could bring forth that would be new and expand our understanding on this all important quality. And then I realized that I never took it the next step, that is, I never looked at it from the perspective that Paul talks about it in his letter to the Ephesians Church.
And so, I’d like to share with you what I see as the absolute immensity of God’s love for us.
Prior to our verse, Paul is telling them not to lose heart, and that’s because he is praying that Jesus would dwell in their hearts through faith, so that they can be rooted and grounded in His love.
But the question is, why, which is what Paul then goes on to explain in the verses that we’ll be studying today.
(So that they) “May be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height, to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:18-19 NKJV)
Now, our first take, and what most commentators look at are the dimensions Paul gives to explain this all-encompassing love of Christ in our lives.
But Paul begins with some pretty strong words as to why this is so important.
He begins by saying that they “may be able to comprehend.” This is huge and should be understood in its entirety. The words, “May be able,” is from two Greek words, “ek,” meaning “from out of,” and the word “ischuo,” or “to be strong.”
It is said that this compound word is one of the strongest Greek words for strength, and thus signifies that we were fully able and capable of understanding, doing, or experiencing what is being talked about.
The word, comprehend literally means to eagerly take or to seize something to make it our own. It means to gain control of something and gives the idea of grasping something intellectually.
Maybe this is why the Amplified Bible translates this saying, “That you may have the power and be strong to apprehend and grasp.”
Therefore, to grasp the full significance of what Paul is saying was that he was genuinely concerned that we don’t miss Christ’s love for us, and that we then lay hold of its vast expanses and thus live supernaturally within these four dimensions.
We see a similar principle in Joshua when the Lord tells Joshua, “Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given you, as I said to Moses.” (Joshua 1:3 NKJV) In other words, God had already promised it, but it would take Joshua and the people’s obedience to step out by faith and acquire it.
And the reason it is so important for us to lay hold of this truth about the immensity of God’s love, and not let it go of it is because we have a whole generation, a whole world that is perishing because they don’t know, they haven’t comprehended, they haven’t yet grasped the totality of God’s love towards them, or as Paul states, they don’t know the love of Christ that surpasses anything that humanity can think of when it comes to love.
Again, why is this important. It’s because of what the Lord through the prophet Hosea makes so abundantly clear. “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge.” (Hosea 4:6a NKJV)
What it seems like is that the Ephesian church hadn’t considered and grasped hold of the immensity of Christ’s love for them. A love that is rich in mercy and grace. The Apostle Paul brings this out earlier in his letter.
“But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)” (Ephesians 2:4-5 NKJV)
And then Paul goes on to say that because of God’s great love He has now, “Raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2:6-7 NKJV)
It’s also a love that describes the very nature and character of Jesus. We see this as He went through humiliation upon the cross where He suffered and died.
“And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.” (Philippians 2:8 NKJV)
We see this same thing about the coming Messiah when the prophet Isaiah describes Him saying that He was “Despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him.” (Isaiah 53:3 NKJV)
Apostle Paul tells the church in Corinth how they knew “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.” (2 Corinthians 8:9 NKJV)
Therefore, we are then to know the love of Christ for us in how He delivered us from guilt and the curse of the law, which is eternal death. And instead, He gives to us His love peace, holiness, and eternal life.
Now does it make sense as to why it is so important for humanity to grasp hold of Christ unbelievable and incomprehensible love.
But this isn’t a solitary, individualistic pursuit, rather we are to do it with all the saints Paul says. We are to study, discuss, share, and observe this love in community with other believers, which is what Paul said in Ephesians 2:6 in how the Lord “raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places.”
This then goes to the writer of Hebrews admonition to all believers, not to forsake assembling with other believers, which seems to be what so many not only were doing, but are still doing today, but even more we need to gather and exhort and encourage each other because the time is getting short (Hebrews 10:25).
Paul in our passage is therefore praying that we might better grasp and experience Christ’s immense love for us in the fellowship of the church.
So, what are these four dimensions Paul uses to describe the unfathomable love of Christ.
Breadth might also be described as width, or from East is to West, from one side to another, and so the expanse is enormous. Breadth means something of full width or that which is comprehensive in nature.
Jesus describes it as a love that is wide enough to embrace the entire world.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16 NKJV)
Jesus loves everyone, not just some as certain doctrines like to say that is “for the elect.” This comprehensive love is seen in that Jesus said, “For God so loved the world (and) that whosoever believes,” That is, Jesus died for everyone, including you and me.
If His death was only for a few and not for all, then there is no breadth of His love, thus making this a lie.
Everyone needs the love of Christ, because we are all guilty before a holy and righteous God. We are all miserable, condemned, and perishing, but Jesus took on sin and death for everyone.
“All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:6 NKJV)
Length means that there is no starting point nor is there an ending point. It just keeps on going. It speaks to the durability of Christ’s love. That is, the love of Christ precedes the world’s existence, and it lasts beyond the end of time. Therefore, the love of Christ is a love that is long enough to last forever, that is, it is a love that is eternal.
18th century pastor, Charles Spurgeon said, “It is so long that your old age cannot wear it out, so long that your continual tribulation cannot exhaust it, your successive temptations shall not drain it dry; like eternity itself it knows no bounds.”
In his first letter to the Corinthian Church, Paul, in what is known as the Bible’s love chapter, said, “Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away.” (1 Corinthians 13:8 NKJV)
And so, the length of God’s love for us is beyond everything else.
Depth means something that is far deeper than what we can see from the surface. It is love that is so deep that it took Jesus to the very depths in order to reach the lowest sinner.
To the church in Philippi, Paul said, “And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.” (Philippians 2:8 NKJV)
Corrie Ten Boom said it this way.
“There is no pit so deep, that God’s love is not deeper still.” (Corrie Ten Boom)
Jesus, in His love for us, stooped down, came to this earth for the worst of the worst, to those who hated and rebelled against God, those whom the Bible called children of wrath, that is for each and every one of us.
“And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.” (Ephesians 2:1-3 NKJV)
And so, in His love, Jesus went to depths to lift us to the heights of heaven.
Height has the meaning of elevation. It is a love that is high enough to take sinners to heaven through belief in Jesus Christ.
Christ’s love conveys to us all the blessings of heaven. It raises fallen humanity and transforms us into the likeness of Christ by faith, not to mention children of God, and as His children we are then heirs of His eternal kingdom.
To the last days church, the church of Laodicea, Jesus said, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.” (Revelation 3:20-21 NKJV)
And so the height of Christ’s love for us is that He saves us to be with Him forever.
Therefore, from what we have seen, and what Paul talks about throughout the book of Ephesians, is the full extent of Jesus’s love for us, that is, it is wide enough to reach the entire world and beyond. It is long enough to stretch into eternity. It is deep enough to rescue people from sin, Satan, and an eternity in hell. And it is high enough to raise all who believe into heaven itself and the presence of God.
And so, what these dimensions describe is an infinite, incomprehensible love. We can never plumb its depths, nor reach its heights, nor can we comprehend the magnitude of its width or length.
The measurements that Paul gives emphasize the immensity of Christ’s love. You can go left or right, forward or backward, or up or down as far as you can, and you still haven’t explored all that there is to know of Christ’s great love. No matter how much we know of the love of Christ, and how fully we enter into His love, there is always more to know and experience.
“Because 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.” (A.W. Tozier)
And so, in our passage Paul is describing something that is bigger than anything we can or could ever possibly know. He is speaking of that which is bigger than the breadth, length, height, and depth, of God’s plans and promises for Israel. And that is Christ’s love for us.
Paul is speaking about the love God has shown through Jesus Christ. He’s speaking how God has taken us, who were undeserving and spiritually dead, and has forgiven our sins, adopted us as His children, raised us to new life, and given to us an eternal home in heaven.
And so, if these are the four dimensions which describes the love of Christ, what this is telling me is that love is beyond each one of us, in that because we are living in a universe that is ever expanding in its width, length, depth, and height, so then is Christ’s love for us. What we could say is that Christ love for us is the fifth dimension.
And this is found in the next part of our verse where it says, “To know the love of Christ which passes knowledge.” (Ephesians 3:19a NKJV)
The word, “love,” is the Greek word, “agape,” which means an unconditional and sacrificial love. It is a love that is evident in what Jesus came to do for us, dying upon the cross for our sins so that we can have eternal life.
Now, the word for “passes,” might better be interpreted as “surpasses.” In the Greek language it expresses something that is beyond comparison.
We see this in other aspects of Christ that Paul brings out in other places like the surpassing greatness of His glory (1 Corinthians 3:10), or the surpassing greatness of His power (Ephesians 1:19), and the surpassing riches of His grace (Ephesians 2:7).
But here in our passage it is the love of Christ that surpassing knowledge. The word for knowledge is “gnosis,” or that which can be known intellectually. And so, to surpass what we might know intellectually would indicate that it is beyond our ability not only to understand it, but also to experience its fullness.
And so, we can never exhaust our knowledge of the love of Christ for our lives, which goes along with the ever-expanding dimensions we just looked at.
And then he ends by saying, “That you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:19b NKJV)
The word for “may be filled,” means to be filled to the brim, to which I get to be overflowing, which goes along with our four dimensions that is our filling is ever expanding.
I see this fullness of Christ in us through what Paul said in his letter to the Colossians.
“You have come to fulness of life in him, who is the head of all rule and authority.” (Colossians 2:10 RSV)
And then there’s what the Apostle John said about Jesus.
“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth … And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace.” (John 1:14, 16 NKJV)
And if I could, I’d like to end with these words, and that is, we can never be filled to fullness, because our spirits are not contained by any physical dimensions. They are ever expanding through the breath, length, depth, and height of the love that Jesus has for us.
Wednesday Evening Bible Study