21 October 2010

Ephesians 3:14-21

"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." (v.18-19)


In writing today's passage, Paul has been led to a state of worship and prayer - "I bow my knees ... I pray that..." This is because, as he is explaining to the readers of this letter, he believes his ministry to be an outworking of the mystery of God.

The way in which Paul acknowledged God in worship has risen directly out of his belief that God is the god of both Jews and Gentiles (non-Jews) alike. There is a perfect match between what Paul has said he believed about God and how he then came to worship God - the god of all people. Likewise, there was a similar match between what Paul has been saying about Christ and how he prayed.

It is in Christ that Paul has discovered the love of God and this led him to pray that his readers too might come to know the fullness of God's love. For Paul, love was the crown of being in Christ. It began with knowing Christ's love and resulted in a life "rooted and grounded in love". This rooting and grounding in love was not merely a superior human characteristic, or an attitude to be cultivated through one's character; it was possible only through the 'indwelling' of Christ.

In speaking about God's work in human lives in this way, Paul used what might later be recognised as 'trinitarian' language: he bowed before the Father; the power for living came through the Spirit; and Christ dwelt in his heart. This passage is a good illustration of how the Church gradually began to express its experience and understanding of God in trinitarian terms. It was a process which took centuries to complete, in formal, agreed language, but its seeds are to be found here in the experience and thinking of Paul as he struggled to find new ways to express a new experience of God. It was fresh experience which led to fresh theology.

To Ponder

Do you struggle to find adequate ways to put into words your experience of God? What do you find helps?

To what exent is the trinitarian language of Father, Son and Spirit an adequate tool for you to express your experience of God?

What contemporary examples come to mind when you hear the words about the breadth and length and height and depth of the love of God?

How do you imagine your life might be filled with all the fullness of God?

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr David Calvert

David is a retired Methodist minister whose active ministry included a mixture of circuit ministry and theological education..