17 “…so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—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.” (Ephesians 3:17–19 (ESV)
Ephesians 3:17-19 contains the purpose for the Apostle’s Paul prayer on behalf of the Ephesian believers, within the immediate and historical context, and on behalf of all believers in Christ at all times, within the overall context. The prayer’s ultimate purpose is based upon the apostle’s previous statements contained in Ephesians 3:14-16: “14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 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,…”
What was the ultimate purpose for Paul’s prayer? Examining Ephesians 3:17-19 separately will contribute to our understanding. Today, we examine the first portion of vs. 19.
The reason for the Apostle Paul’s prayer was that Christ would be at home in all believers’ hearts; in other words their thinking, feelings and decisions. Additionally, he desired all believers to continue to be firmly rooted and grounded in the self-sacrificial love of God. This love is to be expressed not only in our love for the Lord, but also in our love for one another. Paul also wanted each believer to have a comprehensive understanding of this love. Finally, Paul’s last request was two-fold in content.
First, he desired that all believers know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge. To know (γινώσκω; ginosko) means not only to acknowledge but also to have understanding. In this context, it means to not only acknowledge but also to understand the love of Christ.
Once again, love (ἀγάπη; agape) is a self-sacrificial love of the will. It is a love which is spoken of here as being sourced and originating solely in Jesus Christ. It is also a love which surpasses knowledge. Surpasses (ὑπερβάλλω; hyperballo) means to go beyond, to be extreme, and to surpass the ordinary. The word, in this particular context, is a present active participle. This love of Christ is to be known and understood by all believers. However, it is a love which is continually supreme and surpass all our knowledge and capabilities of understanding. In other words, believers in Christ never achieve full and complete understanding of God’s love during this life.
Understanding that believers in Christ never, so to speak, arrive in their understanding of God’s love should prompt each of us to pursue our comprehension of this love in all areas of our lives. This quest begins in a daily diet of reading, studying and meditating upon God’s Word.
Soli deo Gloria!