Cross (Mervyn)

“I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ and to know this love which surpasses knowledge…”(Ephesians 3vs17-18)

In Ephesians 3vs17 the apostle Paul gives us a rich and deeply encouraging description of what it means to be a Christian. As believers, says Paul, we are “rooted and established in love”. Although the NIV translates this phrase as “being rooted and established”, it is better to translate it as “having been rooted and established”. What Paul is describing in these words is an act of God’s grace – it is God who does the rooting and establishing; an act of grace which happened when we became believers but which continues to have an effect on our lives day by day.

The love that Paul is talking about here is not our love for God or our love for each other, important though these are. In context it is clear that the love that Paul is talking about here is God’s love for us in Christ – love that Paul has already mentioned in chapter 1vs4 and again in chapter 2vs4 of Ephesians. It was in love that God predestined believers to be adopted as His sons through Jesus Christ, and it was because of His great love for us that God who is rich in mercy made us alive with Christ. And it is this love of God in Jesus Christ which is the soil in which Christians are rooted and grow, the foundation on which our lives for Jesus are built. The love of God in Jesus is thus the environment in which we as believers flourish.

This is a very important lesson for us to grasp, especially given the world within which we live. So much in our world today focusses upon self – either self love and self indulgence, or performance based self esteem which inevitably leads to disappointment and at its worst, even self hatred. The way to thrive and progress in the world, we are told, is to believe in ourselves, better ourselves and always, of course, to try harder. How different the perspective of the New Testament, which urges us to be honest about ourselves, to face up to our weakness and sinfulness but then to realise that despite what we are and because of who He is – God loves us and has demonstrated this great love for us in and through Jesus Christ. The Bible thus confronts us with the truth that we are more sinful than we believe and more loved than we can imagine. Rooted and established in this truth we are then empowered to grow and to flourish.

It is because of the vital importance of the love of God in our lives that Paul follows his description of believers as those who “have been rooted and established in love” with a prayer to God that believers would be given “power to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ and to know this love which surpasses knowledge” (3vs18-19). The language which Paul uses here is very striking indeed for it declares that God’s love in Christ is beyond measure and beyond our imagination. The language has its roots in the Old Testament and in texts like Psalm 103vs11: “As high as the heavens are above the earth so great is His love for those who fear Him”. Here the Psalmist David is giving reasons for us to praise the LORD for His many blessings and benefits, not least His grace in removing our sins from us “as far as the east is from the west” because of His great and immeasurable love. One cannot measure how high the heavens are above the earth, and one cannot fathom how wide or long or high or deep God’s love for us in Jesus is. It is love beyond measure.

But God’s love in Christ is also love ‘beyond knowledge’ – not in the sense that we cannot truly know God’s love, for Paul is praying precisely that we will grasp and understand and appreciate this love. God’s love in Christ is beyond knowing in the sense that, try as we may, we can never exhaust the full extent of God’s love. The more we come to know about God’s love in Christ, the more there is to learn. Throughout this life and on into eternity we will have an ever growing experience of joy in the love of God shown to us in and through Jesus Christ. It is little wonder then that heaven is indeed filled with His praises!

Mervyn Eloff

St James Church, Kenilworth