Tuesday, February 10, 2009


Knowledge is a wonderful thing. We born into this world knowing nothing but our instincts. We know enough to cry when we are hungry, or uncomfortable, or lonely. But then we learn--how to walk, how to talk, how to learn even more. And we go to school, to work, or to church--and we learn and we grow in knowledge of many things.

Of all the things that we will ever learn or ever know, there is one thing that rises in importance above every other thing, there is one knowledge that far surpasses all others in virtue or value--it is the knowledge of Christ and His love.

To that end the Apostle Paul prayed in Ephesians ch. 3. He prayed that we, as believers, would know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge. It is a curious thing--to know something which is unknowable. It makes us wonder what Paul was thinking! How are we to know something which surpasses knowledge? His prayer holds within it some clues:

1. It is a knowledge that is bound up in knowledge of Christ: "so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith." True love is bound up in the person of Christ. 1 John 3:16, "We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us." He defines love, for He is love. There can be no knowledge of the love of Christ apart from a genuine relationship with Christ. And to the extent that we grow in Christ, we will grow in our knowledge of His love. The same apostle who yearned "that I may know Him," is the same apostle who prayed that we might know the full measure of His love.

2. It is a knowledge that is known only by the Spirit of God. We are earthbound in our thinking. Like fearful Adam and Eve hiding in the garden, we are not naturally inclined to comprehend His love. It was only by the Spirit that we could ever understand the truth of the gospel, and it is only by the Spirit that we can grow in our understanding. We need to be "strengthened with power through the Spirit in the inner man" (Eph. 3:16) if we are to rise above our natural lowly thoughts of God and His love. And as we do we will find His love to be far greater than we would have ever thought. The oft quoted passage, "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Neither are your ways My ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts higher than your thoughts" (Isaiah 55:8-9), has to do with our understanding of God’s compassion, God’s love. Only the Spirit can communicate such truths to our little minds.

3. It is a knowledge that is borne out of experience. The term "know" carries with it this thought. Paul is not speaking here of intellectual knowledge, the term speaks to experiential knowledge. The knowledge of the love of Christ Paul speaks of is only gained by those who are "rooted and grounded" in love (Eph. 3:17). It is grounded in love. It is founded upon love. It was by love that we were drawn into this relationship with Christ. His love was revealed to us in the gospel. It reached down from heaven and grabbed a hold of us. It is rooted in love. And like a massive tree with deep roots, our knowledge of His love grows only inasmuch as we draw from His love, are nourished and strengthened by it, and allow it to flow through us to bear His fruit. "Let your love flow through me," is the plea which will lead to an ever increasing knowledge of Christ’s love.

Paul gives us a framework for thinking about Christ’s love. It is not an exhaustive presentation, because our finite minds can only comprehend so much. There is much room for growth. And so he speaks in broad terms. But they are wonderful terms which describe for us the immensity of His love:

1. The breadth of His love. It is a love which is as broad as the world itself: John 3:16, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son." It is a love which offers salvation to all men: Rom. 10:13, "For whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved." His love has reached out to all men. "Red, brown, yellow, black, and white" they are all precious in His sight. Indeed heaven will be populated with recipients of His love "from every tribe and tongue and people and nation." The breadth of His love is such that you yourself have become a recipient of it and now stand in the privileged position of being one of God’s own children. 1 John 3:1, "See how great a love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called children of God." Jesus stretched out His arms upon a cross and they reached, as it were, around the whole world to receive unto Himself repentant sinners.

2. The length of His love. God is love and God is eternal. He is eternal and unchanging in His love. Our capacity to love varies to the extent that we walk in the Spirit. God’s love knows no such variation. His love for us existed before the world was. Ephesians 1:4, "Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world." And it will last, unwavering, forevermore. We look to our future dwelling place with Him in heaven and see how "he will wipe away ever tear" from our eyes (Rev. 21:4). His love for us is such that no force in heaven or on earth can separate us from His love. Rom. 8:38-39, "For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." His love is for us is long in length, indeed His love "bears all things, endures all things,...(and) never fails." (1 Cor. 13:7-8). Charles Spurgeon, "It is so long that your old age cannot wear it out, so long your continual tribulation cannot exhaust it, your successive temptations shall not drain it dry; like eternity it knows no bounds."

3. The height of His love. How high is the love of Christ? So high that it brought Him down from heaven to die for us. "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners" (1 Tim. 1:15). "He left His Father’s throne above, So free, so infinite His grace! Emptied Himself of all but love, and bled for Adam’s helpless race! ‘Tis mercy all, immense and free, For, O my God, it found out me. Amazing love! How can it be That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me!" 2 Cor. 5:9 puts it this way, "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich."

How high is the love of Christ? So high that it saves to the uttermost those who place their trust in Him. It is not just that he saved us from hell, that would be one thing, but "He made us alive together with Christ, and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus" (Eph. 2:5-6). So high is the love of Christ that it will, according to Paul’s own testimony, bring us safely home to heaven: "The Lord will deliver me from every evil deed, and will bring me safely to His heavenly kingdom" (2 Tim. 4:18). How high is the love of Christ? It is so high that it is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think. It is so high that it will work to fill us up to the very fulness of God (Eph. 3:19).

4. The depth of His love. The depth of His love speaks to the extent of the sacrifice that was made for our sins. He who "knew no sin" became sin for us. He who was perfect in holiness was made sin for us and cried out on the cross, "My God, My God why hast Thou forsaken me?" The creator of all things subjected Himself to brutal mistreatment at the hands of sinful men, but then was "crushed for our iniquities" (Isa. 53:5) by the Father Himself. No greater act of love has ever been conceived or carried out. His work on the cross defines love. Sometimes good men heroically give their lives for others, but "God demonstrates His own love towards us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Rom. 5:8).

How deep is the love of Christ? It reached down to a violent agressor, a blasphemer, and persecutor of Christians and saved him. Paul knew something of the love of Christ! He was engaged in the work of killing Christians, when Jesus Christ saved him. He wrote of his experience: "It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all. And yet for this reason I found mercy, in order that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience, as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life" (1 Tim. 15-16). So great is Christ’s love that it saved Saul the Christian killer, and if Christ could save Saul, He can save anyone.

How deep is the love of Christ? By all accounts John Newton was a depraved young man. It was only after nearly dying in a storm that he trusted in Christ. He lived to be eighty-two years old and continued to preach and have an active ministry until beset by fading health in the last two years of his life. Even then, Newton never ceased to be amazed by God's grace and told his friends: My memory is nearly gone;but I remember two things;That I am a great sinner, andthat Christ is a great Saviour.

How deep is the love of Christ? So deep that it reached down to me--a lost, dead, helpless sinner. He reached even me with the gospel and began His work of changing me. It is all a work of His love. I brought nothing to Him but my broken and sinful life, He has shown nothing to me but His patient and redeeming love. Praise God for the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge!

"The love of God is greater far, Than tongue or pen can ever tell, It goes beyond the highest star, And reaches to the lowest hell; The guilty pair, bowed down in care, God gave His Son to win: His erring child He reconciled And pardoned from his sin. O Love of God, how rich and pure! How measureless and strong! It shall forever more endure--the saints and angels’ song."

Someone has written,

"Love ever gives.
Forgives, outlives,
And ever stands
With open hands.
And while it lives,
It gives,
For this is love’s prerogative
—To give, and give, and give.

Christ’s love is like that. He wants for us to know Him. As we grow in the knowledge of Him we grow in the knowledge of His love. As we grow in the knowledge of His love, we grow in our capacity to show His love to others.

Pastor Jerry

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