For this cause I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,…
The special object of St. Paul's prayer for the Ephesians is that their knowledge may be enlarged, and the one direction in which he desires for them the increase of knowledge is in regard to the love of Christ. That is the most wonderful and the most vital theme of Christian meditation; it can only be rightly contemplated under spiritual aid; but the true understanding of it will be fruitful in rich blessings.
I. THE GREAT MYSTERY OF THE LOVE OF CHRIST. Everything in Christ is wonderful, but nothing more so than his love. The multitude were astonished at his miraculous powers. Keen antagonists were confounded before his superlative wisdom; but his friends and disciples were above all and growingly touched by the gentleness, the goodness, the sympathy, the self-sacrifice, and the love which filled his life. This "passeth knowledge" in many respects.
(1) Disinterestedness amounting to the extreme of self-denial. Christ never sought his own pleasure. He lived wholly for others. Measure his self-sacrifice by the depth of the descent from the glory of the only begotten Son to the agony and shame of the cross.
(2) Intensity. The toil, suffering, and fruitful energy of Christ's love reveal this.
(3) Endurance. It is sustained by an infinite patience, like God's long-suffering goodness, like "the mercy of the Lord" which "endureth forever." Christ stands long at the door and knocks.
(1) Extending to the whole world. The objects of our affection are necessarily limited in number. Who can understand a love that embraces Jew and Gentile, Greek and barbarian, and every man, woman, and child in the world?
(2) Including the most uninviting subjects. We love those whom we admire or those to whom we are drawn by some attraction, sympathy, or relationship. Christ loves the base, despicable, and corrupt men, remote and obscure folk - "the dim multitude" and those who seem even less lovable - the great mass of dreary, uninteresting people.
3. Objects. These are the highest and purest. A low love indulges, pampers, and spoils in weakly trying to please its objects. Christ's love often gives pain, demands sac, trice, perplexes and troubles us. It seeks the redemption, the purification, and the highest glory of men.
II. THE WAY TO KNOW THE LOVE OF CHRIST. It "passeth knowledge." Nevertheless, though we cannot comprehend, we may apprehend it, as one who cannot see the mountain's cloud-capped towers may explore its base, as one who can never define an illimitable ocean may grow familiar with its home waters and neighboring bays. Now, such knowledge as we may have of the supreme mystery of the love of Christ is not to be got by merely reading the New Testament history, nor by any amount of theological discussion. It is spiritual, sympathetic, inward, and attained through Divine grace. St. Paul prays for the means of acquiring it. They are three, in successive gradations - one leading on to the other.
1. Spiritual strength. This is to have life, vigor, and energy in the inner nature. For so long as the spiritual faculties are dead, or slumbering, or only move languidly, they cannot rise to grasp great, Divine things. An inspiration of God's Spirit, to be measured only "by the riches of his glory," will supply this strength.
2. The indwelling Christ. The first act of the awakened, energized spiritual nature is to receive Christ through faith. While he is only outside us we can neither know hint nor love him.
3. Our love to Christ. When we by faith receive Christ into our hearts we learn to love him. Then only can we understand his love. It is true that "we love him because he first loved us;" still, the vague, wondering sense of Christ's love that wins our hearts to him is a poor perception compared with what we shall experience when we look at him with the enlightened eyes of love. Only love can understand love.
III. THE SPIRITUAL BLESSEDNESS THAT FLOWS FROM KNOWING THE LOVE OF CHRIST. This is to "be filled unto all the fullness of God." Men have sought union with God by ascetic devotion, by mystic contemplation, by sacramental grace; for all spiritually awakened souls have felt a void which only God can fill. The secret which priest and pietist have searched after in vain is here revealed. By understanding the love of Christ we are brought into sympathetic connection with him in whom dwelleth the fullness of the Godhead bodily, and through his mediation we receive the graces and glories of the Divine nature (John 17:21). - W.F.A.
Parallel VersesKJV: For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,