Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Depth of the Love of Christ

16I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:16-19)

Paul is praying here, for the Ephesians, a very similar thing as he prayed for the Colossians. “Christ in you,” (Colossians 1:27-29) was the driving force behind all his ministry. Here he is praying that Christ would dwell in the hearts of the Ephesians through faith. Does that seem like an odd prayer to pray for Christians? It shouldn't. The goal of the Christian life is indeed that Christ be formed in us.

Here in Ephesians 3, Paul prays that this dwelling of Christ in our hearts would so root us in His love that we would have power to lay hold of that love, that we too would be filled to the measure of the fullness of God. This isn't merely a prayer that we would know it, but rather than we would live it.

I wonder if Paul placed the word “deep” or “depth” (depending on translation), at the end of the list for emphasis. I am much more inclined to think of how wide and long, or how high the love of Christ is, especially if I am thinking of how I am to live it out in my own life toward others. But it is the depth of the love that I am less amicable toward. But it is the depth of Christ's love that seems to be the crux of the matter. It is almost as if I hear a pause after “deep” so that I might take it in when I go through that verse.

It was from the depth that we needed to be rescued (Psalm 69:14). And it was to the depth that Christ had to descend when He came to “the lower earthly regions” (Ephesians 4:9-10). In fact it is in the depth of Christ's love that the height of His love is really discovered.

Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name... (Philippians 2:6-9)

We are called to proclaim the glorious love of Christ, and we are called to grab onto the depth of the love of Christ: humbling ourselves, laying down our lives, taking up our cross and following Him. No doubt it is because of this very reason that Paul had finished his previous prayer of Ephesians 1 by asking that we would see “his [God's] incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms...” (19-20). We are indeed going to need to know the power that raises the dead, and see it clearly by faith, if we are going to grasp onto the depth of the love of Christ in our living the Gospel to others.

It is there, in the depth of the love of Christ that we will be “filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” And it is rooted in this prayer that Paul can immediately say,

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” (4:2-3)

It is our grasping on to the depth of the love of Christ that will produce the community life to which the church is called. Without it, we only have the self-life; the self-life somehow enhanced by a religious idea of Jesus, but the self-life nonetheless.

It is our grasping on to the depth of the love of Christ that will bring a harvest of souls through the Gospel. Just as Jesus told Peter, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch,” I believe Christ is calling us to put out into the depth of the love of Christ, and there we will find our nets being filled with a catch.

Love the Gospel, Live the Gospel, Advance the Gospel