Knowing the depth, height, and breadth of the love of Christ

Ephesians:14-21

For this reason, I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name. I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Exploring the Text: In Ephesians, Paul envisions the mainly non-Jewish believers as a “dwelling place” for God. Today’s text is connected to the end of chapter 2 linguistically. Paul prays, for God to “fill” this new “dwelling place” that is the church (3:14). The mysterious language of “breadth, length, height, and depth” echoes OT texts that instruct about temple proportions. 

Verse 18: “height and depth”: Paul uses these words in Romans 8:39. In the context of Ephesians, these words describe God’s plan of salvation or, more likely, the love of Christ.

Verse 17: “Christ may dwell”: Usually Paul refers to the Holy Spirit as dwelling in people, but to him, the Risen Christ and the Holy Spirit are interchangeable (see Romans 8:9-11) because the Risen Jesus is the source of the Spirit (Acts 2:23).

Verse 21: “the church” and “Christ Jesus” are connected and inseparable.

The apostle prays for a church filled in every dimension by God, with and for the glory of God. Paul talks about the depth of our commitment, our breadth of vision, our vision put into action, that people (and we ourselves) may come to grasp how deep the love of Christ is.

Going Deeper: Both grace and mercy are in deficit in the world we live in. In our world, we’re much more comfortable with posting a sign like “No strangers allowed” that reflects the suspicion and fear of our time. But perhaps it is time for us to acknowledge our fear, confront it, and turn that very slogan on its head. We recognize that God loves and accepts all persons through Jesus the Christ, and therefore we do too. In the Kingdom of God nobody is a stranger, therefore in this congregation, nobody is a stranger. The result of such a depth of experience of God’s relating to us in love in Christ is that we may find ourselves called to tasks we had not dreamed of facing. How can we broaden and deepen our ability to love? How can we help others to experience God more fully and deeply? There again, it does always start and end with relationships, doesn’t it?

Prayer: Teach us the economics of kingdom living: a shirt-sharing, extra-mile-walking, have-my-lunch way of life. For then many shall be the richer. And we shall be among them. Amen.

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