Ephesians 3:14
From the noble idea of the elevation of the heathen to equal privileges with the Jews, the apostle proceeds to a second prayer for the Ephesian converts, in which he rises to still greater elevation of thought. Prostrating himself before the Father of all, he contemplates a family unity embracing both heaven and earth, and he prays that his friends at Ephesus may experience such inward illumination and strength as to be fitting members of the mighty family. The leading thought is, then, Christian brotherhood, which embraces angels as well as men. The following thoughts are suggested by the prayer: -

I. CHRISTIAN BROTHERHOOD IS TO BE REALIZED IN DEVOTION BEFORE A COMMON FATHER. (Ver. 14.) The words "of our Lord Jesus Christ" are not in the most ancient manuscripts, and are rightly omitted in the Revised Version. This clears the ground for the understanding of the family name. The word for "family" (πατριὰ) is etymologically connected with πατὴρ, so that it is God the Father who supplies the patronymic to "every family in heaven and on earth." All gather round the feet of a common Father, and realize in their devotion the true brotherhood. We do not sufficiently think of how much is accomplished when we get men everywhere on their knees with the Lord's Prayer upon their lips. As we say from the heart, "Our Father, which art in heaven," our hearts have become really one. However much we may squabble before we proceed to prayer, if our prayer to the infinite Father be true, we have entered by it into real brotherhood. Contention cannot stand "the light of the countenance" of the great "Peace-maker."

II. CHRISTIAN BROTHERHOOD IS SECURED THROUGH THE INDWELLING OF A COMMON SAVIOR. (Vers. 16, 17.) For the Holy Spirit, entering into the hearts of God's children, enables them to entertain the elder Brother as a Guest. Christ dwells within each of us. He comes to sup with us and to enable us to sup with him (John 14:21; Revelation 3:20). Christ within us becomes the unifying element. He is the Guest of each and of all. As a Divine Being, he can pervade all the hearts and ensure the brotherhood. The brotherhood is brought about and sustained by an indwelling Christ. Taking possession of our natures, Jesus moulds them to his own gracious purposes and secures the essential brotherhood all round.

III. CHRISTIAN BROTHERHOOD IS INTENSIFIED THROUGH THE GRADUAL COMPREHENSION OF CHRIST'S WONDROUS LOVE. (Vers. 18, 19.) Jesus by his indwelling becomes the object as well as instigator of our love. We get "rooted and grounded in love." The selfish, loveless life has ceased, and the loving and devoted life has begun. This is essential to the comprehension of another's love. As Robertson says, "You must love in order to understand love One act of charity will teach us more of the love of God than a thousand sermons." Only loving hearts, then, can appreciate the wondrous love of Christ. It passeth the knowledge of natural and unloving men. Love is a revelation only unto love. But now, supposing that the love of Christ has begun within us, then his wondrous love becomes a subject of endless contemplation. Its breadth and length, its depth and height, present a problem for our holy comprehension, which can never be exhausted. "The believer," says A. Monod, "who has been represented just now as rooted and grounded in the love of the Lord, is here represented as enveloped on all sides by this love, which extends itself in all directions around him beyond the limits of vision. Suspended in the very bosom of the infinite love, like the earth in the bosom of space, be looks before him, behind him, above him, below him, to seize the just measure of this love which has saved him, but all ends in demonstrating the impossibility of measuring it. The breadth? On his right and on his left, immensity. The length? Before him and behind him, immensity. The depth? Under his feet, immensity. The height? Over his head, still immensity." Here, then, in the infinite love of Christ there is material for eternal study, and the brotherhood realizes that it has begun an everlasting progress towards "the fullness of God." As we comprehend Christ's love, we find ourselves proportionally "partakers of the Divine nature" and filled with the Divine fullness. This is the infinitely distant goal; this is the straight line to which our hyperbolic orbit is continually making approach, though destined never actually to reach it. And as we approach the perfection and fullness of God, we become the more united in Christian brotherhood.

IV. CHRISTIAN BROTHERHOOD REMAINS UNBROKEN BY THE CHANGE OF WORLDS. (Ver. 15.) The family of love, who are gathering regularly round the feet of the heavenly Father, cannot be broken up by death or change of worlds. Heaven with its saints add angels, earth with its suffering and saintly souls, these constitute but one family circle, and are pervaded by the one Christ and the one Christian spirit. It is this thought which robs death of its sting and makes it appear but a sublime emigration. The majority are in the Father's house above; it is the minority that are left on earth; and our sainted dead have simply passed over to the majority and are awaiting us amid more perfect associations. "Death, in short," says Martineau, "under the Christian aspect, is but God's method of colonization; the transition from this mother-country of our race to the hirer and newer world of our emigration. What though no other passage thither is permitted to all the living, and by neither eye nor ear we can discover any trace of that unknown receptacle of vivid and more glorious life? So might the dwellers in any other sphere make complaint respecting our poor world. Intensely as it burns with life, dizzy as our thought becomes with the din of its eager passions and the cries of its many woes, yet from the nearest station that God's universe affords - nay, at a few miles beyond its own confines, all its strong force, its crowded cities, the breathless hurry and ferment of its nations, the whole apparition and chorus of humanity, is still and motionless as death; gathered all and lost within the circumference of a dark or illumined disc. And silent as those midnight heavens appear, well may there be, among their points of light, some one that thrills with the glow of our lost and immortal generations; busy with the fleet movements and happy energies of existence more vivid than our own; where, as we approach, we might catch the awful voices of the mighty dead, and the sweeter tones, lately heard in the last pain and sorrow, of our own departed ones."

V. THE CHRISTIAN BROTHERHOOD IS SUSTAINED BY THE ASSURANCE OF GOD'S SURPASSING POWER. (Vers. 20, 21.) In the doxology the apostle adds one other thought to round and complete his glorious theme. He wishes to ascribe glory unto God; but what attribute shall form the substance of the doxology? The attribute of power. Not, however, the physical power which obtains in the universe of sense, but the spiritual power which obtains in the "world of mind." And so he looks upward and pronounces the mighty God as "able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us." In the world of sense he does not work up to his full strength, nor is there any reason why he should. The physical universe speaks of his "eternal," but not necessarily of his "infinite power (Romans 1:20). It is in the domain of the spirit that he performs his chefs-de'ouvre. And such a thought is surely fitted to sustain the aspirations of the Christian brotherhood! - R.M.E.







For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named.
The worldly proverb is, "Every man for himself and God for us all"; the true Christian practice is, to follow Christ: — "I have prayed for thee, that thy strength fall not"; "Father, forgive them, they know not what they do." And in following the Lord, to follow St. Paul's advice and example: — "For this cause I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." What an intercession this is which St. Paul makes for the Ephesians! It is a pattern of intercessory prayer; it is rightly grounded; it seeks the most precious gifts on behalf of his brethren; it has the highest designs in view in asking their bestowment.

I. THE FAITH ON WHICH HIS PRAYER WAS FOUNDED.

1. The Fatherhood of God. This is the foundation thought of the Lord's prayer — "Our Father." The Father will not fail us.

2. The brotherhood of the saints in Christ. Heaven and earth are knit into one in Jesus. "Of whom the whole family," every race, "in heaven and earth is named." The sense is that all the classes and communities of heaven and earth own a common paternity.

II. THE GREAT GIFTS ST. PAUL SOUGHT FOR OTHERS IN THIS PRAYER.

1. The infusion of spiritual strength — "to be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man."

2. The indwelling of Christ — "that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith."

3. The establishment of their hearts in the love of God "rooted and grounded in love."

III. THE DESIGN OF HIS PRAYER FOR THE BESTOWMENT ON THEM OF THESE GIFTS. Such spiritual strength, and such an indwelling, were to lead to —

1. Their comprehension of the love of Christ. This is St. Paul's paradox; to know the unknowable, to know the nature, if we cannot know the extent, of the love of Christ.

2. Their being "filled with the fulness of God." Where the Son of God dwells, there is the fulness of God. Such is a brief outline of an exposition of this most precious of prayers.

(Canon Vernon Hutton.)

A great prayer all through. This may be seen from —

I. THE IDEAL IT PRESENTS. The loftiest possibilities of the Christian life are conceived of as open to Gentile equally with Jew.

II. THE PETITION IT EMBODIES.

1. Spiritual life as a whole is besought of God as His gift.

2. It is through the continuous operation of the Divine Being that spiritual life is sustained and advanced.

3. Yet is the growth of the spiritual life conceived of as involving the activity of the subject in whom it is manifested. Faith, love, and hope, are active principles in every child of God.

III. THE PLEA IT URGES.

(A. F. Muir, M. A.)

1. Our prayers should be addressed to God the Father.

2. Our prayers should be addressed to God as the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

3. Our prayers should be addressed to God with deep humility.

4. Our prayers should be addressed to God for Christian eminence.

5. Prayers should be addressed to God both by ministers and people.

(G. Brooks.)

1. You see that the prayer begins with the gracious petition that we may be strengthened — "strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man, according to the riches of His glory"; the object being, that Christ may dwell in our hearts by faith. Before the Lord can dwell in us we must be strengthened — mentally and spiritually strengthened. To entertain the high and holy one — to receive into our soul the indwelling Christ — it is necessary that the temple be strengthened, that there be more power put into every pillar and into every stone of the edifice. It is taken for granted that we have already been washed and cleansed, and so made fit for Christ to come and dwell within us. But we need also to be strengthened; for, unless we become stronger in all spiritual life, how is Christ to dwell in our hearts by faith? Unless we become stronger in love, and in all the graces of the Spirit, how can we worthily entertain such a guest as the Lord Jesus? Ay, and we even need that our spiritual perception should be strengthened, that we may be able to know Him when He does come and dwell in us. We must be strengthened into stability of mind, that so Christ may dwell, abide, reside in our hearts by faith.

2. Now, having stood on the first step of the ladder, Paul goes on to pray that, when we are strengthened, we may be inhabited: that Christ may dwell in our hearts by faith. When the house is ready to receive Him, and strong enough for such a wondrous inhabitant, may Jesus come, not to look about Him as He did when He went into the temple, but to abide with us — to "dwell in our hearts by faith."

3. This third step is a broad one, and it has three parts to it.(1) Its first part is establishment — "That ye, being rooted and grounded in love." When you are strengthened, and when Jesus dwells in your heart, then you are no longer "carried about with every wind of doctrine," but you are rooted, like a cedar in Lebanon which receives but recks not of the stormy wind.(2) Side by side with this very blessed establishment in the faith, for which I would bow my knee, as Paul did for the Ephesians, that you may all have it, comes a comprehension of Divine love. How anxiously do I desire your firm settlement in the truth, for this is an age which needs rooted and grounded saints. Side by side with that, however, we would have you receive this further blessing, namely, a comprehension of the love of Christ: "that ye may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the arithmetician makes calculations and arrives at clear ideas. As a mechanic cubes a quantity and takes its length, and depth, and height, so may the Lord Jesus Christ's love be to you no more an airy dream, but a substantial fact, about which you know distinctly, being taught of the living God by the Holy Spirit.(3) Acquaintance.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

"To know the love of Christ."

I. WHAT IT IS TO KNOW THE LOVE OF CHRIST.

1. The way in which we come by our knowledge. Personal acquaintance, by having Christ dwelling in you so that you see Him, hear Him, feel His touch, and enjoy His blessed company.

2. The certainty there is in it. "We cannot be certain of anything," says someone. Well, perhaps you cannot. But the man who has Christ dwelling in him says, "There is one thing I am certain of, and that is the love of Christ to me. I am assured of the loveliness of His character and the affection of His heart. He would not cheer and encourage me; He would not rebuke and chasten me, as He does, if He did not love me. He gives me every proof of His love, and therefore I am sure of it."

3. What a blessed knowledge this is! Talk they of science? No science can rival the science of Christ crucified. Knowledge? No knowledge can compare with the knowledge of the love that passeth knowledge. How sweet it is to know love! Who wants a better subject to exercise his mind upon? Who would not be a scholar, when the book he reads in is the heart of Christ?

II. TO KNOW SO AS TO BE FILLED. It is not every kind of knowledge that will fill a man. Many forms of knowledge make a man more empty than he was before. But if you get a knowledge of Christ's love, it is a filling knowledge, for it contents the soul. Imagination itself is content with Jesus. Hope cannot conceive anything more lovely; she gives up all attempts to paint a fairer than He; and she cries, "Yea, He is altogether lovely." Once more, when the love of Christ comes to work upon the soul, when it brings with it all its choice treasures, then the mind of the believer is filled with the fulness of God. Christ does not long dwell in an unfurnished house. Oh, the blessedness of knowing the love of Christ! It fills the spirit to the full.

III. WHAT IT IS TO BE FILLED WITH ALL THE FULNESS OF GOD. Does it not mean that self is banished; for if the fulness of God has filled you, where is room for self? Does it not mean that the soul is perfectly charmed with all that God does for it? "Filled with all the fulness of God." Does it not mean that every power of the entire nature is solaced and satisfied?

IV. WHEREVER CHRIST DWELLS IN THE HEART BY FAITH WE RECEIVE THE FULNESS OF GOD INTO OUR SPIRIT, WITH THE DESIGN THAT WE MAY OVERFLOW. If you go forth filled with God, you are provided for every emergency. Come calamity or prosperity, whatever shape the temptation may assume, if the love of Christ has filled you with the fulness of God you are ready for it. If you are full with a Divine fulness, your lips scatter gems more precious than pearls and diamonds. Filled with all the fulness of God, your paths, like God's paths, drop fatness. Do you not know Christian men of that sort? They are millionaire Christians who make others rich. If the Lord has brought us to His fulness, it is a very high state to be in. Oh, that the Holy Ghost would fill us also according to our capacity! If the water carts go along the road in dusty weather with nothing in them, they will not lay the dust; and if you Christians go about the world empty, you will not lay the dust of sin which blinds and defiles society. If you go to a fountain and find no water flowing, that fountain mocks your thirst; it is worse than useless: therefore do not forget that if you ever become empty of grace, you mock those who look to you.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

I. IT WAS HIS DESIRE THAT THEY MIGHT BE STRONG-MINDED MEN AND WOMEN. There exists a prejudice against strong-minded men, and a still greater prejudice against strong-minded women. This may be attributable to the circumstance that many strong-minded men and women are also strong-willed, and somewhat disposed to domineer. There exists, also, a prejudice, for which expression has been found in the assertion, that "ignorance is the mother of devotion." With none of these prejudices had the apostle any sympathy. He considered nothing so likely to awaken true worship as far-reaching, clear, comprehensive, and correct views of truth; and it was his desire that they to whom he wrote might have all the intellectual vigour necessary to the full enjoying of all the blessings of Christianity. Of "James Wait, the Pious Shepherd" — I quote from memory the title of his memoir, published many years ago, by Mr. Maclaurin of Coldingham — it is stated, that when seated at the Lord's table at Stitchel Brae, and subsequently at Kelso, there was vouchsafed to him an overpowering revelation of the glory of the Lord, and of His love to mankind sinners. He said, "I was no sooner set down at the table, than I found such a flood of the Spirit's consolation poured in upon my soul, that I was obliged to cover myself with my plaid, to keep it from the eyes of others. I found myself obliged to plead that the Lord would strengthen the vessel or hold His hand; for I found that I could not bear up." He felt that it was becoming more than he could stand, and that if carried further, he must expire in an agony of bliss. Thus would I illustrate what I mean. Yes I there are needed strong-minded men and women to sustain the conceptions which may be formed of infinite and eternal verities! Mark the phraseology employed by the apostle: "That He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man." When the ship by which he sailed from Myra was in peril at Clauda, they undergirded the ship. The expression before us is suggestive of strengthening by bracings within, as well as by girdings without; and it is expressive of a desire, that they to whom he wrote might be strong-minded men and women. But this exhausts not the expression of the apostle's desire on behalf of his brethren.

II. It was his desire that they might be strong-minded men and women, THOROUGHLY IMBUED WITH A CHRIST-LIKE SPIRIT. Mark his expression! "Strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man: that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith." What is it that is meant, when it is said, as sometimes it is, by persons who do not hesitate to speak profanely, "The devil is in the man"? Is it not this: the man acts as if the devil had taken possession of his heart, and was influencing him in his every act? Corresponding to this seems the import of the expression employed — "that Christ may dwell in your hearts" — that you may be strong-minded men and women, thoroughly imbued with a Christ-like spirit — strengthened with all might in the inner man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith.

III. That they might be strong-minded men and women, thoroughly imbued with a Christ-like spirit, and UNDERSTANDING HOW COMPREHENSIVE RELIGION IS. The views entertained by many in regard to what is comprehended in religion, are very narrow indeed. What is the love of Christ? Our love to Christ may be called the love of Christ: thus do we speak of the love of gold. Christ's love to us may be called the love of Christ: thus do we speak of a mother's love to her child. But there is yet another idea which may be expressed by the phrase, "the love of Christ;" and to express this idea, does it appear to me, that the phrase is employed by the apostle here. That idea I would illustrate thus: one doctrine of the apostle was, that the whole duty of man to man was comprehended in love. "A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples, if ye have love one to another." To this love, apparently, the apostle refers — the love inculcated by Christ, and manifested by Christ — a love embracing every duty of man, to himself, to his fellowmen, and to his God. It was his desire that they might be strong-minded men and women, thoroughly imbued with a Christ-like spirit; that they, being rooted and grounded in love, might be able to comprehend how all-comprehensive religion is, what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height of the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, extending, as it did, far far beyond what they knew or dreamed of. He says not, as many seem to suppose, that it cannot be known — on the contrary, he wished and prayed that it might be known by them. His wish was: Oh that they but knew how all-comprehensive religion is, and would live up to the conception which they attained! or, as I have expressed it, that they might be —

IV. Strong-minded men and women, thoroughly imbued with a Christ-like spirit, understanding how comprehensive religion is, and MAINTAINING A CORRESPONDING GOD-LIKE WALK AND CONVERSATION. It is to such a manifestation of godliness that we are destined and. called. A captious objector, or a careless unconcerned reader, may say, How can man be filled with all the fulness of God? — how can the finite comprehend the infinite? In a volume entitled, "The Tongue of Fire," there was given a beautiful illustration of the import of the apostle's figure. The illustration was double. The phraseology employed has long since escaped me, but the effect produced upon my mind remains. In substance the illustration was as follows: — There is a dewdrop hanging suspended from a blade of grass bent and pendent with its weight. While we are yet gazing on it, there falls upon it the slanting rays of the morning sun, and it shines as if it were itself a thing of light. It contains not, nor can it contain, the whole of the rays streaming from the orb of day. These illumine the whole hemisphere, and penetrate far on all sides into the depths of space — creating a sphere of light, sustained by successive rays, which it may require thousands of years to traverse, with all the velocity for which light is famous, the radius from the centre to the circumference, so vast the sphere; but that little dewdrop is filled with that fulness of light — to the full extent of its limited capacity full! Again: There is a marble cistern, filled to overflowing with the pellucid water of a perennial spring. It contains not, nor can it contain, all the waters of the fountain; it has been overflowing for years; but it is itself full — to its limited capacity filled — filled to overflowing — filled with the fulness of the fountain! Such is the illustration employed by the apostle: "filled with all the fulness of God." It is an illustration or expression suggestive, at least, of two ideas, both of them calling for consideration. "That ye might be filled," every faculty and affection of the soul sanctified — "filled." "Filled with all the fulness of God" — every Divine perfection having its counterpart in the life and spirit of the man; the justice of God having its counterpart in the justice of the man; the holiness of God its counterpart in the holiness of the man; the truthfulness of God in the truthfulness of the man; the long suffering of God its counterpart in long suffering manifested by the man. Every faculty and affection sanctified, and every perfection of God having its counterpart in the life and spirit of the man — the result of all being a God-like walk and conversation.

(J. C. Brown, LL. D.)

I. THE PECULIAR FITNESS REQUESTED FOR THEM AS FORMING THE MATERIAL OF THE SPIRITUAL TEMPLE (vers. 16, 17). It is very clear that the "building" idea pervades this passage throughout. The reference to the dwelling of Christ in the heart decides this. The apostle's mind was so engrossed by this figure of a temple — the knowledge that he was writing to people who were familiar with temple architecture having possibly something to do with it — that each individual Christian presents himself to his mind as a stone in a glorious temple. And all his thoughts assume a corresponding form and colouring. He asks that they "might be strengthened with might in the inner man." In this he shows his anxiety that they might prove true stones, possessing qualities befitting the glory and the character of the building; that they might be subjected to such a process as would impart to them the quality of soundness, a most desirable quality in a stone. Upon its soundness depends its capability of bearing strain, of carrying weight, and resisting the ravages of the elements. The quality of the stones composing a building determines the strength and stability of the building itself. Two things are declared respecting this process, namely, its manner and means.

1. The manner of it — "That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith." The strengthening is secured by the indwelling of Christ. This is not a literal or physical indwelling. The nature of the indwelling is implied by the expression "by faith." Contact of Christians with Him by faith results in the transmission to them of His qualities.

2. The text describes the means of the indwelling — by faith" and "by the Spirit." Here we have both the agent and the instrument employed to secure the indwelling. There is a beautiful interblending of the human and Divine in this transaction. The Spirit promotes faith; faith receives Christ; and Christ constitutes the strengthening. The strengthening consists in the transfusion of the soul with Christ's characteristic traits of strength and firmness. This process is effected by the operation of faith; faith, again, is a mental act prompted by the spirit. If we adhere to the figure of a house, as the term "dwell" seems to suggest, the whole process may be represented thus — Christ comes to "dwell in the heart" with a view to impart strength to it, but He must be admitted into it through the door, which is "faith"; then, again, this door must be opened by the porter, the Spirit, as in the example of Lydia, whose heart, we are expressly told, the Lord opened to the reception of the things spoken by Paul.

II. WE NOTICE THE SECOND REQUEST OF THIS PRAYER, THAT THEY MIGHT HAVE ENLARGED AND CHRIST-HONOURING CONCEPTIONS OF THE MAGNITUDE OF THE TEMPLE OF WHICH THEY FORMED A PART. Most people connect the words in verse 18 with the love of Christ referred to in the following verse. The structure of the Greek seems opposed to this interpretation; also the logic of the passage. Can it be true that the breadth, and length, and depth, and height of which we are so definitely to comprehend, is beyond our knowledge? We must look, then, for some other reference to fit the words. What had the apostle uppermost in his mind? Was it not the Christian temple so beautifully described in the last words of chapter 2 as being in course of building? The purport of the thought would seem to be this temple. The apostle knew how narrow and contracted the thoughts of many Jewish Christians, especially, were respecting this glorious institution. He is, therefore, anxious to lift their minds cut of the narrow rut of their traditional exclusiveness. He wants them to rise to a truer and nobler conception of this glorious spiritual temple — "to comprehend its breadth, and length, and depth, and height." By its breadth and length he describes its area as covering the whole earth, as contemplating all nations within its scope. By its depth and height he measures its elevation; it includes the whole family on earth and in heaven, the Church militant and the Church triumphant. In a word, then, we have the area and elevation of the spiritual temple, the Church, in the one ease covering the earth, in the other reaching to the heavens.

1. The source of it. The comprehension indicated comes as the result of being "rooted and grounded in love." A strange interblending of figures. Not only has the heart penetrated into the love, but the love penetrates into the heart, transfusing it with its own qualities. What is the result? It is that the heart, so affected, so wrought upon, possesses in its new instinct of love a key to all God's ways and operations.

2. The universality of its comprehension. It is implied that to comprehend the magnitude of the aim of the Christian Church was a matter which the Ephesian Christians were to attain to in common with all saints. It is the duty of every Christian to attain to clear views on this important matter. It is men who have comprehended this most clearly and appreciated it most fully who have succeeded best in doing great things for God. It is only by the inspiration and enthusiasm born of this great fact that such heroes of the faith as Wesley in England, Carey in India, and Livingstone in Africa, were stimulated and emboldened to attempt the mighty things they achieved in their day.

3. The use of it — "And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge." Here the apostle tells us that one of the advantages of the realization of the wide-reaching aims and benevolent purposes of the Church was the help it gives to realize the transcendent love of Christ. It sounds paradoxical to speak of knowing that which passeth knowledge. There is a sense, nevertheless, in which it is consistent. The fact of the love being Divine at once places it beyond the utmost stretch of the human mind to measure its force, to fathom its depth, or to scale its height. He to whom, both by reason of sympathy of nature and power of inspiration, was given more than to any other human being the power of fathoming its depth, and measuring its height, represents it as of the very essence of God. Yet this knowledge-defying love, the text tells us, we may know.This knowledge consists of two things.

1. In being convinced of it as a fact. As Intimated, this conviction, the apostle tells us, comes of duly comprehending the breadth, and length, and depth, and height of the Church. The Church, in the magnitude of its conception and comprehensive benevolence, is a standing monument of Christ's love, a proof indisputable of its existence and operative force. This much we know of the love of Christ. The sun far surpasses our power of comprehension. We can form no idea of its bulk, of the extent of its forces, of the influence it exerts upon myriad objects embraced by its light and heat. Nevertheless, there is nothing of the existence of which we are more convinced, or with the power of which we are more impressed. Thus it is with the love of Christ.

2. To know the love of Christ means also an assurance of a personal interest in it. It means the conviction that, however it may defy the utmost power of our imagination to measure its magnitude, we are, nevertheless, embraced by it; that it is our moral atmosphere in which we breathe inspiration and power; the spiritual light which infuses, sunlike, gladness and joy into the very core of our life, giving serene rest, and creating unflinching confidence in the midst of universal unrest, and of myriads of turbulent and conflicting elements.

3. The knowledge of Christ's love is a qualification for the reception of all the fulness of God. The love of Christ, apprehended in the sense explained, unlocks the soul for the entrance into it of all God's fulness. This is the apostle's climax thought. Here he describes the highest point of spiritual attainment the believing soul is capable of reaching, that is, becoming a depository for all the fulness of God. The love of Christ, apprehended in this deeper manner, brings the whole man under the complete sway of God. For this being filled with all the fulness of God means —(1) To have an all-pervading consciousness of God; it is to have God in His fulness — in the fact of His goodness, His love, His holiness in the profoundest sense pervading our every thought and action, inspiring them, moulding them, and directing them. In a word, it is God becoming the sole motive power of the soul.(2) It also means to be endowed to the utmost possible capacity of our being with spiritual power — to be God-endowed as well as God-motived. In this fulness God lays Himself, so to speak, at the service of the soul — in the wealth of His love and the treasures of His grace.

(A. J. Parry.)

You will see that this prayer is an ascending one. Each petition rises higher than the preceding. Meditating on this prayer is something like ascending an Alpine peak. The first hour or so is comparatively easy work. The giant flanks of the mountain are steep, but still their ascent is not over difficult; but the higher you go, the steeper it becomes, until at last there is just that one glittering pinnacle towering above your head, and it seems to say, "Thus far, but no farther! Scale me if you can." With the aid, though, of a trusty guide, who cuts steps in the very ice for us, and who lends us the strength of his arm, we are able to gain the summit, and drink in with our eyes the grandeur of the scene. Oh that the Spirit of God might come upon us, and, taking us by the hand, help us by His own mighty power to reach the very topmost pinnacle of the apostle's prayer, and understand in some measure what it is to be filled with all the fulness of God.

1. There must be an inward strengthening. Spiritual power must be developed to qualify us for attaining to eminence in the knowledge and service of Christ. Not life only, but vitality.

2. There must be an ever-acting faith on your part, so that a whole Christ may be received, and a whole Christ retained within the soul. A glorious realization of the person of the Lord Jesus, and by faith a living Christ dwelling within the breast. Not a portrait merely, but Christ Himself enshrined in the soul.

3. Then, you see, how naturally comes the next petition, "That ye may be filled with all the fulness of God." Ah! I am certain of this, that if I am filled with a living Christ, I am not far off being filled with all the fulness of God. If I am strengthened with all might by the Holy Ghost, and have a living Jesus within the soul, only one step higher and the pinnacle of the prayer is reached.(1) What it is to be filled with God. To have as much of God within us as our nature can contain. No low level of spiritual experience should satisfy us. We must ever be on the rise — ever seeking to reach perfection. He who only aims low cannot possibly have his arrow hit high; whereas he who aims high, though he may not hit the mark at which he aims, will have his arrow fly higher than that of the other marksman. "I would have you to be filled," says St. Paul, "with the Spirit of God; the Holy Ghost looking through your eyes, the Spirit of God on your lips, influencing, sweetening, savouring every word that you speak; the Holy Ghost in your hands, ennobling all the everyday actions of life; the Spirit of God guiding your feet, so that your every day walk honours Him."(2) What it is to be filled with all the fulness of God. In Christ all fulness dwells, and it is bestowed on Him in order that He may communicate it to His people. All weakness, I may bring the vacuum of my weakness up to the fulness of His all-power, and then am I strong because I am weak. All foolishness in myself, there is all wisdom in Him to guide and direct. With utter nothingness in myself, there is all-sufficiency in Him. It is no longer a question of what I am, or what I can do, but who Christ is, and what He can do in me. To Him we may go for fulness: but, for fulness of what?(a) Fulness of joy (John 15:11;. 16:24; 17:13). No piety in being miserable. It is no token of grace to be depressed or disconsolate. It rather shows there is something wrong somewhere, because, included in the all-fulness that Christ has to supply His saints, there is the fulness of joy.(b) Fulness of peace (Romans 15:13). Joy is peace singing; peace is joy reposing.(c) Fulness of hope.(d) The fruits of righteousness (Philippians 1:2). Not just a stray fruit here and there upon your boughs, but all your boughs filled with fruit, until through the very weight of their load they bend down and kiss the ground. The more fruitful the branch, the lower it will hang; and the more fruit there is upon a believer, the less conceit and pride there will be about him.(e) The knowledge of God's will (Colossians 1:9).All these are but a few items of the different things with which the Lord is willing to fill us. Would you lead a calm, restful life? Then you must know the meaning of being filled. To use a very simple illustration — take a water bottle, and if that water bottle be only half full, every time you move the bottle the water in it washes to and fro. Why? How is it that it feels every motion? Because it is not full. But if you fill that water bottle right up until it cannot hold another drop, and then cork it in, you may turn the bottle which way you like, and the water within it will not move. There is no movement, no washing about. Why? Because it is too full to be agitated. The reason why you and I live such poor restless lives is that we are not filled up with the fulness of God. Do you also want to live a life of power? Then remember that the measure of any man's power is in proportion to the measure with which he is filled with God.

(A. G. Brown.)

The deepest thoughts of the heart of a spiritual man are sure to come out in his prayer. Hear a man of God pray, and you hear the real man speaking. I suppose there are none of us here who have not often had cause to confess with shame that we should not like to be judged by our converse with man. How often in society and amongst friends we are led to talk and chat in a way quite sufficient to mislead those who are with us, and make them think we are very different men from what we really are. But when after such a season we have gone to our own home, and dropped down on our knees before God, and begun to speak to Him, then, perhaps with bitter tears, we have told Him that it was not the true self speaking a few hours back. If you could only overhear the talk which a saintly heart has with its God, then you would know the man himself. And you may also rest assured that that which a man prays for, for his friends, is in his estimation the choicest blessing they can receive. Only know what your dearest friend asks God to give you, and you know what, in his opinion, is your greatest need. Oh, if we could but sometimes hear those who love us best, and those who know us best, pray for us, it would be a revelation to us. We should then see what, in their judgment, was our deficiency — what, in their estimation, our greatest requirement. Now, if there be so deep an interest attaching itself to the prayers of all, surely, without fear of contradiction, we may say that when it is an apostle who bends the knee, and when it is such an apostle as Paul who prays, we may well be all attention to catch every syllable. If the deepest thoughts of the heart come out in prayer, let there be a holy hush as we hear the apostle of the Gentiles pray. What, in his mind, is the chiefest thing to be desired for a saint? What, according to his judgment, is the choicest blessing that a believer can receive? We have only to listen to his prayer, and we shall discover.

(A. G. Brown.)

1. Ministers must pray for their people as well as teach them.(1) Whatsoever we do, yet people's untowardness is such, that they have no ability to entertain it fruitfully.(2) Whatsoever we do, yet it is but planting and watering, and all is nothing, if God bless not.(3) We must also pray that our own wants may be supplied.(4) As ministers are the mouth of God to the people, so they are the mouth of the people to God.(5) Ministers are co-workers with God, and it is chiefly God's work, and the people are God's husbandry and God's building.

2. In prayer we must compose our outward man to due reverance, for the body as well as the soul has been redeemed.(1) Outward gestures are to express inward affections.(2) And to stir them up.

3. Kneeling is the most fitting attitude.

4. Yet there are some cautions to which we must pay attention.(1) We must take heed not to rest in outward gestures and attitudes. The humiliation and prostration of the heart must go along with that of the body.(2) If, for any reason, we are prevented from kneeling or other expressions of reverence, we must not therefore neglect prayer.

(Paul Bayne.)

There was an old clergyman who was much troubled because his wife would sit in church instead of kneeling. He spoke about it to her, but she gave no heed. No; she was more comfortable sitting, and she thought she could pray just as well in one position as another. "You may pray as well," he said, "but I doubt you're being heard as well." However, it was no good; he might just as well have spoken to a stone wall. So then he went one day to his wife's old servant, and said to her, "Hannah, I will give you a crown if you will go to my wife, and sit down on the sofa at her side, and ask her to give you a holiday tomorrow, because you want to go home to your friends." Hannah was shy. However, the prospect of the crown encouraged her, and she opened the door timidly, went in, and walking up to the sofa, where her mistress was knitting, sat down at her side. The old lady looked up in great astonishment, and asked what in the world she wanted. "A holiday tomorrow, ma'am." "Leave the room instantly, you impudent woman," exclaimed the old lady, "and if you want to have a request granted, learn to ask it in a proper manner." Then the husband put his head in and said, "My dear! is not this preaching to Hannah the lesson I have been preaching to you for years? If you want to have a request granted, learn to ask it in a proper manner." Next Sunday, and ever after, the old lady knelt in church. She saw it would not do to treat Jesus Christ in that way in which she did not like at all to be treated herself.

Philip the Third of Spain would never be addressed but on the knees, for which he gave the excuse, that as he was of low stature everyone would have appeared too high for him. And if men claim to be approached in this way, how shall we draw near to the living God, the Maker of heaven and earth?

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