In Ephesians 3:19, Paul's prays that we should "know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge". Can you think of anything else that you and I need to know, that would transcend this?
Surely there is nothing more necessary than "to know the love of Christ." Paul himself says as much. He reckons that the love of Christ "surpasses knowledge". So we begin with this simple idea:
If you don't know Christ's love, then, as the saying goes, you “don’t know nothin’ ”.
You might object that therefore we all must “know nothin’ ” and be virtually ignorant, because the love of Christ is surely too profound for anybody to even begin to know. But you would be wrong about that. The love of Christ is not too deep for us, rather our deepest need is to know that love.
Certainly, the more you come to know Christ's love, the more there seems to be to learn. Yet it is possible to know his love in depth and in a mature way. We insult Christ if our knowledge of his love is puerile and superficial. We are capable of much more, and owe him much more.
Paul himself expects that we be "rooted and grounded" in Christ's love, and that we be "able to comprehend with all saints what is the width and length and depth and height" (Ephesians 3:17-18) .
These dimensions of Christ's love are not bewildering, but rather enthralling. Good friends are often surprised to discover new things about the other. Even after years of close friendship, one may suddenly see a whole new dimension to the other person that one never realised before.
Being friends with Jesus is always a rich experience of discovery. But his love is richly knowable. It is not beyond anyone's reach.
There is something else to be said, before we get into the lesson: Our knowledge of Christ's love should be shared. It should be no secret. A common greeting in our Australian community is, "G'day mate, whadda ya know?" Of course, no answer is expected. But it rather tempts one to say, "I know the love of Christ, mate, what about you?"
Naturally you don't say anything quite so "holier than thou", but it should be always on the tip of your tongue to humbly impart your knowledge of the wonderful love of Christ. When we share it with others, we enrich our own measure of it. Truly, the person who does not share Christ's love, does not know Christ's love.
The love of Christ can be known in several ways. I suggest to you three themes which run through all Paul has said to the Ephesians, in leading up to the verse (Ephesians 3:19) that we chose as our text. These three themes are the cross, counsel, and coming of Christ. You may like to read the first three chapters of Ephesians to observe this triad.
Perhaps it has occurred to you that these themes encompass the entire Christian age.
We consider it an act of supreme love when someone lays down their life for a friend (Romans 5:7). Jesus laid down his life for those who were not his friends, that they might become his friends.
How well do you know the crucified Lord? What does his cross mean to you? In the rush of daily life, do you pause to think of your dying Saviour? In church, as your body goes through the motions of eating and drinking the Lord's Supper, whereabouts is your mind? Is your mind “on that hill far away”? Or is it, instead, far away from that hill?
The reason that I urge you to consider the cross of Christ, is that this engenders in you a love for Christ. This begins a spiritual spiral which ascends from strength to strength. In the cross you see Christ's true love for you, and you are led to reciprocate that love. As your love for him grows, you come to understand appreciate his love for you more and more.
We are not talking about a morbid obsession with the cross, which some people have such that they develop “stigmata” —wound marks on their bodies in semblance of the wounds of Christ. Our thoughts of the cross should centre upon the love behind the blood and the pain (Galatians 2:20). That love is a soul-healing love.
The purpose of the cross was to remove our guilt and to restore our worthiness. To know the love of Christ crucified, is to become not physically wounded, but spiritually whole. We are cleansed in the blood of Jesus (1John 1:7), warmly embraced and fully reconciled in the family of God's love.
In the cross of Christ we find a basis for our love of Christ, through which we build a deep comprehension of his love. But we remember that whilst love is the greater of the three, we live in faith, hope, and love. In the other two points of this lesson, we see how faith and hope join with love.
The counsel of Christ brings consolation. Paul spoke of the "encouragement in Christ" and "the consolation of love" (Philippians 2:1).
The prophet Isaiah, in chapter 9, tells of the Son to be born, whose name would be called, "Wonderful counsellor..." Truly Christ the Son of Man is a wonderful priest who understands our weaknesses because he became man (Hebrews 4:15) .
Have you ever suffered some deep hurt, or been close to someone who has? Have you ever come to realise how vulnerable and weak you really are? When everything has gone wrong, and you feel hopeless and abandoned, can you go to Christ?
Can you say, "Well, I know the love of Christ. I will run to his arms!" Yes, you can say it. Christ's love is available to you, especially you. But will you know that love? Will you worship Christ as Wonderful Counsellor?
You,of course, know how to approach Christ, and to receive from him the comfort and counsel you need. Through prayer and through reading the scriptures meditatively, the "peace of God" and the "comfort of the scriptures" are gifts for the taking, provided by God's love. (Philippians 4:6-7; Romans 15:4)
Sometimes we sense a barrier which prevents us from taking comfort from the scriptures and from prayer. This is usually a sense of unworthiness. You need to realise that nobody is ever worthy of Christ's love. Nevertheless, you must open yourself to his love.
Sometimes in new marriages, one of the partners experiences difficulty with the intimacy that is a necessary part of married life. The problem is a lack of trust (or faith) in the other's love. Trusting (having faith in) your partner's love means being willing for the other to see you and address you as you really are.
Do you trust Jesus enough to let him see you and address you as you are? Do you have faith that He will accept you? With such faith, you won't feel the barrier between you and Him anymore.
While you can love Christ now, and know his love by faith, there is a moment coming in which you will know the love of Christ in face-to-face reality. That is the moment of rapture when Jesus Christ will personally welcome you with open arms: "Come you blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world!" (Matthew 25:34) .
That moment will be truly wonderful, but it will be no surprise. Because you know the love of Christ, you have already "a full assurance of hope until the end" (Hebrews 6:11) . This hope is part of the spiritual spiral of strength (I call it the DNA of the soul) that we mentioned in the introduction to this lesson.
Peter says that we have been "born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead". He goes on to describe the everlasting inheritance we have in Christ. Then he says, "whom having not seen you love. Though you do not now see him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory..." (1Peter 1:3-9) .
May you know the love of Christ in his cross, his counsel, and his coming, and thus grow ever upward in love, faith, and hope in him.