And to know the love of Christ, which passes knowledge, that you might be filled with all the fullness of God.
This inquiry will oblige us to speak something by way of supposition, and then something further by way of direct solution. That which is necessary to be spoken by way of supposition will fall under these two heads:
I. It is presupposed to this inquiry, THAT THERE IS A FULNESS IN GOD WITH WHICH WE CANNOT BE FILLED, AND THEREFORE OUGHT NOT TO PRAY, OUGHT NOT TO STRIVE, TO BE FILLED WITH IT. It was the destructive suggestion and temptation of Satan, to persuade our first parents to be ambitious of being like to God — "Ye shall be as gods" (Genesis 3:5). And the tempter never shewed himself to be more a devil than when he prosecuted this design; nor did man ever fall more below himself than when he was blown up to an ambition to be above himself.
1. God is essentially full of all Divine excellences. He is so by nature, by essence; what we are, we are by grace.
2. The holiness of God is a self-holiness. God is not only full, but self-full, full with His own fulness: He lends to all, borrows of none. But the fulness of a believer is a borrowed, a precarious fulness.
3. The fulness of holiness, of grace, of all perfections that are in God, is unlimited, boundless, and infinite. God is a sea without a shore; an ocean of grace without a bottom. The fulness of believers is circumscribed within the bounds and limits of their narrow and finite beings; and this finiteness of nature will forever cleave to the saints, when they shall be enlarged in their souls to the utmost capacity.
4. Hence, the fulness of God is inexhaustible. It is also undiminishable.
II. A SECOND THING WE MUST SUPPOSE, IS, THAT THERE IS A FULNESS OF GOD WITH WHICH WE MAY, AND THEREFORE OUGHT TO PRAY AND LABOUR THAT WE MAY, BE FILLED. We cannot Teach the original fulness, but we may a borrowed, derivative fulness. We cannot be filled with the formal holiness of God, for that holiness is God; yet may we derive holiness from Him as an efficient cause, "who worketh all things according to the counsel of His will" (Ephesians 1:11). What is that fulness of God which every true Christian ought to pray and strive to be filled with? What is the matter of that fulness of God which we are to pray and strive to be filled with?
1. To speak generally: That which we are to pray and strive to be filled with is the Spirit of God: "Be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be ye filled with the Spirit" (Ephesians 5:18).
(1) Do you find an emptiness of grace, and do you long to have your souls replenished with it? Pray to God to fill your souls with His Spirit.
(2) Would you answer the glorious title of "a child of God" with a more glorious and suitable spirit, that you may pray as children, walk as dear children? Pray for the Spirit of God, that He may be a Spirit of adoption to you, as well as of regeneration; pray in the Spirit for the Spirit, that you may have the frame of a child, [be] filled with zeal for the Father's name and interest.
(3) Pray for the Spirit, that He would perform His whole office to you, that you may not partake only of the work of the Spirit in some one or some few of His operations, but in all that are common to believers. And especially that He that has been an anointing Spirit to you, would be a sealing Spirit to you also; that He that has sealed you, may be a witnessing Spirit to His own work; and that He would be the earnest of your inheritance, a pledge of what God has further promised and purposed for you.
2. To speak a little more particularly.
(1) Let us pray and strive, and strive and pray again, adding endeavours to prayers, and prayers to endeavours, "that we may be filled with the knowledge of God's will."(2) Let us pray again that we be "filled with all wisdom" in the doing of the will of God. We want knowledge much, we want wisdom more; we need more light into the will of God, and more judgment how to perform it. For(a) It is one great instance of wisdom, to know the seasons of duty, and what every day calls for.
(b) We need wisdom, that we be not deluded with shadows instead of substances, that we take not appearances for realities; for want of which, O how often are we cheated out of our interests, our real concerns, our integrity of heart, and peace of conscience!
(c) Another point of wisdom which we need to be instructed in is the worth of time, and what a weight of eternity depends on these short and flitting moments.
(d) Wisdom would teach us the due order and method of all things; what first, what last, ought to be our study and our concern. Wisdom would teach us to "seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness" (Matthew 6:33); and then, if there be time to spare, to bestow some small portion of it for those other things which God in His bounty will not deny, and in His wisdom knows in what measure to bestow.
(e) Wisdom would teach us the true worth and value of all things; to labour, pray, and strive for them proportionably to their true intrinsic dignities; to think that heaven cannot be too dear, whatever we pay for it; nor hell cheap, how easily soever we come by it.
(3) Let us pray and strive, strive in the due and diligent use of means, and pray for a blessing upon them, that we may be "filled with a spiritual understanding."(4) Let us pray again, and strive, that "we may walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing." What is the measure of that fulness of God, with which every true Christian ought to pray and strive that he may be filled?
1. Every gracious soul ought to pray and strive to be filled with such a measure of the fulness of God, anti of His grace, as the Holy Spirit, who is the proper Judge of that measure, shall see fit to communicate to us.
2. Every gracious soul ought to pray for such a measure of grace as may fit his capacity, None are so full, but they may receive more; we have so little of grace, because we ask no more — "Ye have not, because ye ask not" (James 4:2).
3. We ought to pray and strive that our narrow vessels may be widened, our capacities enlarged, that we may be more capable of grace. The vessels of Divine grace are of different sizes; as "one star differs from another in glory," so one saint differs from another in grace. And as the Spirit enlarges the heart, He will enlarge His own hand — "I am the Lord," even "thy God: open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it."
4. We ought to pray and strive, that all the powers and faculties of the whole man may be filled according to their measures. There is much room in our souls that is not furnished; much waste ground there that is not cultivated and improved to its utmost.
5. Every gracious soul ought to pray and strive for such a measure of grace, that he may be qualified for any duty and service that God shall call him to, and engage him in.
6. Every true Christian ought to pray and strive for such a measure of grace, as may enable him to bear patiently, cheerfully, and creditably, "those afflictions and sufferings, which either God's good pleasure shall lay upon us, or for His name's sake we may draw upon ourselves.
7. Every true Christian ought to pray and strive for such a measure of grace, as may bring the soul to a settlement and stability, that he be not soon shaken by the cross and adverse evils that he shall meet with in this life.
(V. Alsop, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.