23 November 2015Ephesians 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 that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God." (vv. 18-19)
Psalm: Psalm 132
Any passage that begins "For this reason" should make you want
to look back and ask "For what reason?" And the reason Paul has
just given is that "we have access to God in boldness and
confidence through faith in Christ" (verse 12). Because of this, he
says, his readers, Jews and Gentiles (non-Jews) alike, belong to
one family united by God's love for them.
And we catch a glimpse here too, of a growing understanding that God's love is experienced in three ways - through the Father, through Christ and through the Spirit. This is some way off the much later doctrine of the Trinity (the word 'Trinity' in this form only being used for the first time in the late 2nd century AD), but it is a step in that direction. There is, however, something here about the relationship that lies at the very heart of God, and something too about the way that we can share in that relationship, which is the basis of the Church.
This becomes the basis of a pastoral prayer for the Ephesians, which describes three related aspects of the encounter with the love of God:
- comprehension (or reasoned understanding)
- knowledge (or lived experience)
- fullness (or inner transformation).
We shouldn't imagine that the writer is setting out some
kind of precise three-stage pathway for Christian growth which
leads to spiritual ecstasy (if only it was that simple!) but what
he is suggesting is that the love of God is all-embracing and
all-consuming - a love that fills everything everywhere and for all
eternity, and which we can understand, experience and be changed
This love is the transforming power of God at work in the Church and in the world, and this is how God is going to "accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine". The uniting of Jew and Gentile in one shared humanity is just the beginning.
- Before we get too carried away, we should ask if, after 2000 years, we are any closer to this prayer being answered?
- How closely does this overwhelming sense of the love of God compare to your experience of the Church?
- What do you think Paul (or whoever wrote this letter) might want to pray for us today?