MUSINGS CONCERNING SPIRITUAL INTIMACY
Pondering the Possibility of Spiritual Intimacy (Conclusion)
“May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God.” (Eph. 3:18-19)
Not that we as believers first loved Christ, but rather He first loved us. There would be no love in the heart of man for God if Jesus did not first communicate His love for the elect. Each verse, especially verses 7-19, are totally contingent upon the love of Jesus being manifested toward the redeemed. We love Him because He first loved us. (1 John 4:10 & 19) The greater our knowledge of that love the more expansive it becomes. When faith, strong faith, that gives glory to God (Rom. 4:20) is operative, love is its birthplace. Faith, even little faith, works by love. (Gal. 5:6) Therefore, when by the grace of God Christ dwells in the heart, spiritual love and its fruits will be evident. The greater the understanding of Christ’s love for His beloved, the more secure becomes their faith in Him. Jesus is therefore the avenue that opens up to the saved an extended comprehension of Divine love.
Being rooted and grounded in love solidifies our being in the faith. At the same time, faith must be granted before love can have any true anchorage or existence. In short, it is inconceivable of having love without faith or faith without love. Spiritual wisdom understands that “God is love” (1 John 4:8) and that same wisdom affirms that Jesus Christ is the author and finisher of true faith. (Heb. 12:2) Christ therefore dwelling in our hearts by faith and being rooted and grounded in love are absolute prerequisites for comprehending the breadth, length, depth, and height of that supreme immeasurable love. If this love therefore is comprehended and functional in the believer, therein is the beginning of affectionate intimacy.
Biblical love has two paramount and permanent distinctions — love towards the Godhead and love for the brethren. The believer, however, is in a position where he can of himself produce neither of these affections apart from the work of Divine influence and tutelage. Truly a revealing test of believers’ love for the Godhead is their love for the saints. “A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; as I 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.” (John 13:34-35) This is often a saddening rebuke for great is our failure in this area. Personalities, differences, jealousies, and other all too human tendencies blight our profession of brotherly love. If, however, we pleaded this sin and confessed it before God rather than ignore or justify its ramifications, we no doubt would see many hindrances removed. Would to our Lord and Saviour we might be as the Church at Thessalonica, that being taught of God how to love the brethren. “But as touching brotherly love ye need not that I write unto you: for ye yourselves are taught of God to love another.” (1 Thess. 4:9) Not until we receive this instruction is it possible to comprehend the love of Christ to usward. It is seemingly very rare that this iniquity is clearly discovered by many and therefore deliverance from it is not diligently sought nor is its presence wholeheartedly despised by us. Factions and pride are tools of Satin and each will retard the progress in every spiritual endeavor whether it be knowledge or practice.
Be it ever remembered, those that truly manifest a broken and contrite heart God will show the secret of His covenant. (See Is. 57:15; Ps. 34:18, 25:14)
“May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height.” (Eph. 3:18) Much can be made of the different directions, “breadth, length, depth, and height concerning the comprehending but perhaps if we seek to make each have a specific significance, we make less of the intended value of the declaration. “Here, as I see it, the expositor should be on his guard. He should not pluck this expression apart, so that a separate meaning is ascribed to each of these dimensions. What is meant is simply this: Paul prays that the Ephesians (and all believers down through the centuries) may be so earnest and zealous in the pursuit of their objective that they will never get to the point where they will say, “We have arrived. Now we know all there is to know about the love of Christ.” (William Hendriksen)
It would be like standing on the Atlantic sea coast, we are not on the Pacific coast, but we know that there is one. We have some understanding of the terrain between Atlantic and Pacific. Still we are not omnipresent and cannot take it all in at one time or enjoy every aspect of its vastness at once. Nonetheless, we have adequate knowledge to declare that all exists and we desire to see and comprehend more and more of it while never exhausting each and every feature of the same.
The intent of the Apostle was simply to describe the immense peripheries of the great subject of the love of Christ and its unsearchable value. “Canst thou by searching find out God? Canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection?” (Job 11:7)
“And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God.” (Eph. 3:19)
“And to know the love of Christ.” John Eadie has stated that what is meant here is “the love of Christ to us.” This must be considered the peak of revelatory knowledge, the love of Christ to us. “Draw me, we will run after thee. . .” (Song Of Solomon 1:4) This knowledge casts out fear and turns one toward an unending expanse of filial affection. “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. We love him, because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:18-19)
The Prophet Jeremiah declared “..turn thou me, and I shall be turned; for thou art the LORD my God.” Divine love engages the heart of man and sovereignly directs the course of redemption into an ocean of compassionate grace, everlasting mercy, and effectual instruction. Let us remember that all who learn of the Father, come unto Jesus. (John 6:45) Well might Jeremiah passionately announce, “Surely, after that I was turned, I repented; and after that I was instructed, I smote upon my thigh: I was ashamed, yea, even confounded, because I did bear the reproach of my youth.” (Jer. 31:18-19)
One just does not decide to love the Godhead, or to even begin to love or know the love of Christ. It is redemptive instruction pure and simple. It was the Apostle’s desire that all believers might know this love or better stated be known by this love. Paul did not eulogize human effort or intention in this regard. What he does reveal to believers, however, is that this knowledge of the eternal Divine love of Christ is not off limits nor is it impenetrable to them. Still he makes it quite clear that such knowledge is not to be had as the result of human ingenuity or intellect. You and I cannot attain it, and yet it can be ours to the fullest as the result of Holy teaching and revelation.
Many believers either can’t conceive of intimacy so profound or else are quite infatuated with their emotional feelings regarding their love for Christ and the knowledge of the same. Such corruptions of the love of Christ, however, are best termed irrational sentimentality.
It makes for much better commentary to read about and experience the love of Christ to us than our love toward Him. Our love and faithfulness for Jesus can be defined by a few lines, while His love for the elect will never be fully discovered or digested though we be granted an eternity to meditate upon the contents thereof.
“Which passeth knowledge, The Unsearchable Riches of Christ, Knowing the Unknowable.”
“All of this looks to be a contradiction, and truly it is in finite terms,. Human intellect has its limits even in the purest form. No one can truly say he knows it all; however, when the Holy Spirit instructs, the knowledge comes from the instructor whose power of revelation is boundless in every respect. What Jesus did with the five loaves, and two fishes in feeding five thousand hungry people is exactly what the Godhead is able to do with spiritual love, knowledge, and understanding. (Matt. 14:16-20; 16:9-10) The Divine superiority in imparting knowledge is so preeminent that believers may also find baskets full of leftovers to take up for later consumption.” (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones)
This revelatory knowledge is only realized when by His wonderful grace God empties the vessels of mercy of themselves. A task that none other than a long suffering God can accomplish because man by nature is so inclined toward evil, pride, and self-exaltation.
There is “according to” the Scriptures a love that “passeth knowledge” and a peace which “passeth all understanding.” (Phil. 4:7) These are obviously Spiritual blessings and gifts granted, and not attributes naturally possessed.
What precisely is the meaning of this “knowledge-surpassing love of Christ?” “It may be known in some features and to some extent, but at the same time it stretches away into infinitude, far beyond the ken of human discovery and analysis. As a fact manifested in time and embodied in the incarnation, life, teaching, and death of the Son of God, it may be understood, for it assumed a nature of clay, bled on the cross, and lay prostrate in the tomb; but in its unbeginning existence as an eternal passion, antedating alike the Creation and the fall, it “passeth knowledge.” In the blessings which it confers-the pardon, grace, and glory which it provides-it may be seen in palpable exhibition, and experienced in happy consciousness; but in its limitless power and endless resources it baffles thought and description. In the terrible sufferings and death to which it led, and in the self-denial and sacrifices which it involved, it may be known so far by the application of human instincts and analogies; but the fathomless fervor of a Divine affection surpasses the measurements of created intellect. As the attachment of a man, it may be gauged; but as the love of a God, who can by searching find it out? Uncaused itself, it originated salvation; unresponded to amidst the “contradiction of sinners,” it neither pined nor collapsed. It led from Divine immortality to human agonies and dissolution, for the victim was bound to the cross not by the nails of the military executioner, but by the “cords of love.” It loved repulsive unloveliness, and unnourished by reciprocated attachment, its ardor was unquenched, nay, is unquenchable, for it is changeless as the bosom in which it dwells. Thus it may be known, while yet it “passeth knowledge” thus it may be experimentally known, while still in its origin and glory it surpasses comprehension, and presents new and newer phases to the loving and inquiring spirit. For one may drink of the spring and be refreshed, and his eye may take in at one view its extent and circuit, while he may be able neither to fathom the depth nor mete out the volume of the ocean whence it has its origin.” (John Eadie)
“That ye might be filled with all the fullness of God.” One may liken it unto a sponge cast into the ocean. The sponge absorbs until it can absorb no more. Still the effect upon the ocean is nothing, but the sponge is filled with completeness. What does the sponge now contain? It has taken in some of every particle that is present in the water but has reached its saturation point without diminishing the oceans contents. In fact it is now part of the ocean and will remain so until removed from the water.
The fullness spoken of in this phrase might very well have an inference of spiritual maturity. In Ephesians 4:13, it is called the “fullness of Christ” — the context of the surrounding verses promote the sense of Christian adulthood. Spiritual gifts given are for the benefit of others, for perfecting, edifying believers in the faith, and producing a knowledge of the full measure and glory of Jesus Christ. Advanced or mature believers should not be easily deceived, diluted, tossed, exalted, or self-serving. The fullness of the Godhead powerfully expels childish dispositions which permeate our everyday existence. Note the context in these verses. “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:” (Eph. 4:11-15)
Colossians 2:6-10 reiterates the same august representation of fullness as does Ephesians 4:11-15 and 3:16-21. Because the redeemed have Jesus Christ, so let us walk in Him. The opposite is devastating to Christians and wretchedly destructive to salvation’s joy. See Romans 8:5-8 and Galatians 5:14-26.
Compare the similarities of Ephesians 3 and Colossians 2 regarding the fullness of and the fullness in the Godhead, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. How can we evade the striking precepts divulged in the two chapters without having some serious questions about our convictions and resolve, not to mention our adherence to Divine instruction. Spirit-wrought teaching does not produce much of what we possess as believers. “But ye have not so learned Christ; If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth by him, as the truth is in Jesus.” (Eph. 4:20-21) Note also verses 22-23 of the same chapter.
The “being rooted and grounded in love” of Ephesians 3:17 is the same as the “rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith” of Colossians 2:7. It is the response of Divine teaching, the being taught of God. The first result of Holy instruction is that as many as have learned of the Father come to Jesus Christ. (John 6:44-45) The second issue is loving properly the brethren. (1 Thess. 4:9) This is also a pointed consequence of being in Christ.
There will never be an appreciation of the fullness of God without Spiritual knowledge imparted with regard to the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge. It is in Jesus that the fullness of the Godhead dwells. (Col. 2:9) Real fullness is therefore only accessible when human as well as religious efforts are completely vanquished — when by powerful instruction, and by an infallible teacher who effectively causes the believer to apprehend spiritually that he is complete in Jesus. (Col. 2:10) This is conspicuously the workings of the Godhead. The redeemed are powerless to bring such spiritual heights into existence, but God for Jesus Christ’s great name sake, and for His glory, is able to effectuate these blessings in seemingly the least likely. For it is stated in the very next phrase, “Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, ACCORDING TO the power that worketh in us.” (Eph. 3:20) AMEN!