Sermon Notes • March 14

Ephesians 3:17-19 Love

Ephesians 3:14-21 records Paul’s second prayer for the Christians in Ephesus and by extension for us. This is a prayer that they might be strengthened spiritually. Paul prayed that they would be strengthened so they could know more of the great riches that God has designed for all who belong to Him. Paul also prayed that they would be strengthened spiritually so as to be able to live as Christians, a lifestyle Paul will describe in the chapters that follow.  

At the core of our spiritual growth is a deeper awareness of God’s love for us. The New Testament pictures God as being “love,” which is a very general description of God. In this prayer we find Paul asked God that we would know what that truth should mean to each of us. Paul was not praying we would love God more deeply, but we would understand more fully His love for us. Read Ephesians 3:17-19. 

Ephesians 3:19 records that that Paul wants us, “to know this love that surpasses knowledge.” A quick readingcould lead to the conclusion that Paul was suggesting that we know what cannot be known. Paul, however, was simply noting that just as God is ultimately beyond our ability to fully understand Him, so too is His love for us. His love is so great that for all eternity we will undoubtedly continue to grow in our understanding of it. Each of us should make a lifelong commitment to continuing to grow in our understanding of God’s love for us. Paul prayed that as Christians we would be “rooted and established in love” and then that we would be able to grasp the dimensions of God’s love.

Paul introduced this aspect of his prayer by praying we would be rooted and established in love. Paul pulled into the discussion two very important but different illustrations. Rooted is an illustration from agriculture while established is actually an illustration from architecture that was used to describe a building with a firm foundation. Paul understood that coming to grips even in part with the love of God necessitated 2 things.

First, we need to be rooted in love. The roots of a plant are essential to its growth and ability to bear fruit. For a plant to grow it must send its roots into the soil and draw from that soil nourishment. Our lives should constantly draw strength from the soil of God’s love for us. Read Jeremiah 17:7-8. If the roots are shallow, the plant cannot grow. If the roots fail to draw the necessary nourishment the plant will not only not grow, it will ultimately die. So, it is with our Christian growth. Unless we extend the roots of our understanding deep into the soil of God’s love and draw from that love the essential nourishment, we will neither grow spiritually nor be able to grasp the fullness of the riches that are ours in Jesus. 

Second, just as every building needs to be constructed on a firm foundation if it is to survive the storms that inevitably come its way, so too the Christian life needs to be built upon an awareness of God’s love for us. Read Matthew 7:15-29.  Here, Paul was looking specifically at building a relationship with God that is secure on the foundation of His love for us. If we have that secure foundation, we will be able to stand when things don’t go right and will find encouragement to live as we should.

Inevitably life will throw tough things at us when things are not going as we wish they would. Satan then whispers in our ear that we are all alone in life, that no one cares about us. A strong foundation of God’s love and constantly drawing nourishment from the awareness of His love assures us we are not alone and that His love will see us through. 

In a similar way, Satan will throw all sorts of temptations our way. Those temptations will always come with the thought that no one really cares, and it will not, in the long run make any difference. The foundation of God’s love reminds us that it does matter because sin hurts God who loves us beyond measure. Paul was praying that as Christians we would know God loves us so much that when tempted to sin, we would remember that in the end it will hurt the One we love and who loves us in return. 

Paul moved on to describe the nature of the love he wants us to draw nourishment from and build our lives on by praying that we would be able “to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.” Paul did not explain any of the dimensions, perhaps because they are as all-encompassing as His love for us is and in the final analysis, beyond our ability to fully describe or grasp them.

While we cannot know exactly what Paul meant by each of the dimensions, let me share what has been the most common thinking from the early church on. Tt the same time let me relate those dimensions to what Paul wrote to the Christians in Ephesus.

In regard to the width of God’s love, one thing we know for sure is that it is wide enough to encompass all of humanity. In the context of this letter, it would be sufficiently wide to encompass both the Jewish and Gentile worlds (Ephesians 2:11-18). In the context of the Bible overall, it wide enough that Jesus said, according to John 3:16, God so loved the world.” God declared on a Cross 2000 years ago that to Him, all lives matter. Because of that love He sent His Son to provide redemption for the whole world. 

God’s love is so wide that “whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Redemption is available to all because God’s wide love includes His love for each individual. God’s love is so wide that it includes each of us. While we were sinners and totally undeserving of any provision, His wide love made salvation possible. God’s love is so wide that it includes those loved ones that we pray for daily. God’s love is wide enough to include those who have committed the most horrible sins you can imagine. He pours out His love on all.

How long is the love of God? God’s love spans eternity. God’s love for us began when He determined to create us in His image and will continue to display itself for all of eternity. Read what Paul wrote earlier in this letter in Ephesians 1:4-5.  His love for us began before we were even created. 

In addition, God’s love for us is so long that it will last forever. Read Romans 8:35-39 to see how long God’s love for us is.

How high is the love of God? The answer most often given is that His love is high enough to transport everyone who believes into His presence in heaven. Read in Ephesians 1:3 what Paul wrote earlier in this letter. Then read what Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:6. God’s love is high enough to ensure that He has prepared a place for us so we can spend the rest of eternity with Him and it is so high that He welcomes us now into His home. God’s love is so high that He raises us up to the place in which He can shower His love upon us.

How deep is God’s love for us? It is deep enough to, as Paul put it in Ephesians 2:1-3, to reach down into our depravity or sinfulness and lift us out of our trespasses and sin and give us life. His love is so deep that it reached down to us even when “we were by nature deserving of wrath.”

Before Paul closed out his prayer with a benediction found in verses 20-21, he noted in verse 19 that his desire was that every Christian might know this love that surpasses knowledge.” The Greek word Paul used for “know” is not the one that meant to know something intellectually but the one that specifically meant to “know by experience” or to know in an “intimate way.” The love of God is so wide, so long, so high, and so deep that we could contemplate it in our minds forever and still not completely understand it or be able to describe it. The real issue, however, is not being able to adequately put the truth of God’s love into words but to experience God’s love more intimately or personally each day. Paul wants us to experience God’s love for us more intimately or personally each day so when the going gets tough we won’t simply get going but we get going knowing our structure is secure. 

Contemplate often how marvelous God’s love is and you will be overwhelmed by praise, confidence, and thanksgiving.