… that you 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.” (Eph. 3:18, 19)
We love to sing that hymn together: “Amazing love! How can it be that Thou My God shouldst die for me” (And Can It Be That I Should Gain, by Charles Wesley). We are immediately struck by the truth that the love of God in Christ towards us sinners is, as Wesley understood it, AMAZING! It doesn’t fit anything else we have seen, no love we have ever known, no category in which we can neatly place it, no box that we can neatly pack it away, for it will hang out on every side. In the Apostle’s language, it is at one and the same time something that we are to comprehend by God’s grace and something which passes knowledge. Try as we may, try on our own, we will never be able to plumb the depths of that love which reaches down to a depth of sin still unknown to us and lifts us up. Another great hymn (O Worship The King, first and last stanza)) captures the inability of sinners to comprehend God’s love in Christ:
O worship the King all-glorious above,
O gratefully sing his pow’r and his love;
our shield and Defender, the Ancient of Days,
pavilioned in splendor and girded with praise.
O measureless Might! Ineffable Love!
While angels delight to hymn you above,
the humbler creation, though feeble their lays,
with true adoration shall lisp to your praise.
But the very heart of Paul’s prayer for these Ephesian believers, who were once “darkness” but now are “light in the Lord” (Ephesians 5:8) because of His love, is that they might actually be able to comprehend that love and through it to know the power of God to walk as children of light. It is the knowledge of that love, Paul says, that will empower, strengthen and equip them to stand against sin and temptation. For it is that love which fills us and drives out any other love not worthy of God. When we are filled with all the fullness of God’s love, we can be filled with nothing else.
So let us more fully see that love of Christ to us sinners. See it in eternity past as Robert Murray McCheyne says so beautifully: “This river of love began to flow before the world was—from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was. Christ’s love to us is as old as the Father’s love to the Son. This river of light began to stream from Jesus toward us before the beams poured from the sun—before the rivers flowed to the ocean—before angel loved angel, or man loved man. Before creatures were, Christ loved us.” (From The Preacher’s Heart, p. 342). See it in His humiliation as the Son, being in the very form of God, made Himself of no reputation and became man, humbling Himself to the point of death. “Tis mystery all! The Immortal dies: who can explore His strange design?” Explore His design as you see the Savior in the Garden being pressed for your salvation as the olive was pressed, sending forth its oil of gladness. Search out His love upon the cross as He speaks words of pardon to a criminal, and through him to us who are just as deserving of death as he was. See His love at every turn, for in knowing that love you will know the fullness of God which drives out every idol.
McCheyne went on to search out the depths of Christ’s love in the following way, especially as it relates to our celebration of the Lord’s Supper (ibid, p. 343-44):
Sinners were sinking beneath the red-hot flames of hell; He plunged in and swam through the awful surge, and gathered His own into His bosom. The sword of justice was bare and glittering, ready to destroy us; He, the Man that was God’s fellow, opened His bosom and let the stroke fall on Him. We were set up as a mark for God’s arrows of vengeance; Jesus came between, and they pierced Him through and through—every arrow that should have pierced our souls stuck fast in Him. He, His own self, bare our sins in His own body on the tree. As far as east is from west, so far hath He removed our transgressions from us. This is the love of Christ that passeth knowledge. This is what is set before you today in the broken bread and poured-out wine. This is what we shall see on the throne—a Lamb as it had been slain. This will be the matter of our song through eternity: “Worthy is the Lamb!
Consider the love of Christ—how deep and wide and long and high. Make it your earnest prayer to comprehend it with all the saints. Understand anew that the comprehension of this love leads to one, great response: a life given, willingly and freely by His grace, to serve and honor such a God, such a Savior. Turn from sins for which He died; love them no more, for now you have become the object of this transforming love. By faith, as you prepare to come to the Lord’s Table this week, behold Him as your great Savior—“behold Him with affections suitable to such an object…” (John Flavel). Come to the Table believing that He loves you with an everlasting love.
In the Name of Christ, our Sufficient Savior, and Lover of your soul,
Pastor Ted Trefsgar