“… that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge…”Ephesians 3:17-19
One of my previous careers before becoming a pastor was working for the South Dakota State Historical Society. My favorite thing I ever got to do as part of that job was going about a mile down underground into the old Homestake Gold Mine in the city of Lead in the Black Hills of South Dakota.
That former gold mine, which has now been converted into a science lab, was at one point the largest and deepest gold mine in North America until it closed in 2002. It extended over 8,000 feet underground. And along with the underground part of the mine, there’s also an open-cut portion that is an incredibly massive hole.
The vastness of that mine is amazing, although it’s also hard to comprehend because so much of it is underground. The vast open-cut, which is visible to the public, is amazing in and of itself. But then combine it with the unseen, underground system and it’s all the more amazing.
Comprehend The Incomprehensible
In Ephesians 3:18, Paul prays that God would help the Ephesian believers comprehend how incomprehensible the love of God really is. He asks God to grant them “strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth” of God’s love.
I think about my trip down into the Homestake Mine when I read about this passage. Like that mine, God’s love is so vast and deep and wide that it just stops you in your tracks in amazement. That someone of such infinite, immense power loves and cares for us at a personal, heart level. It’s amazing. And it’s true.
To me, that mine is such a great picture of God’s love. Like that mine, on the surface, there’s a lot we can know and see about how God loves us. Most believers can easily identify ways that we believe God has blessed us. Maybe through life-giving relationships, maybe through help and comfort during a difficult time, or maybe through other opportunities in life. We can easily see much of God’s love and care for us.
But there’s also so much more of God’s love that’s under the surface. There’s so much he is doing in our lives that we don’t ever see or realize. I think of my years before coming to faith in Jesus. He cared for me, looked out for me, and guided me in so many ways that I never thanked or praised him for at the time because I was blind to them. As John Piper says, “God is always doing 10,000 things in your life, and you may be aware of three of them.” His love and care for us always exceeds what we know and grasp.
Know What Surpasses Knowledge
Paul also prays in verse 19 of Ephesians 3 that we would “know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge.” How can you know something that surpasses knowledge? What Paul is saying here is that the experience of God’s love at a personal, heart level is far beyond any type of head knowledge we might gather about God’s love.
Take the Homestake Gold mine again, for example. There really are two ways you can learn about that mine. You can learn about it intellectually. You can read books about it. You can look at pictures online. If you go to the visitors center in Lead today, you can see an impressive 3-D model that maps out all of the shafts and drifts of the mine. You can look at this model and get an idea of its complexity and depth. And by doing these things you would know something about the mine.
But the only way to truly begin to grasp how amazing that mine is, is to both stand on the deck of the visitors center and look out over the open-cut and then also get in the lift and go down into it and see it for yourself. You can look at the model and you can look at pictures. But pictures will never let you feel how warm the air is down in the lower levels. You’ll never get to experience the extreme darkness or smell the smells or touch the rough surfaces of the walls or see the machinery (and now lab equipment) thousands of feet below ground.
The same is true of the love of Christ. You can talk about it. You can read book after book about it. You can listen to sermon after sermon about it. Or you can experience it personally for yourself in your own life. You can know it from a book. Or you can know it experientially by the way his love carried you through a dark time in your life.
‘For God So Loved The World’ Translates Down To The Individual Level
This is not to say that experience somehow trumps what the Word of God says about the love of God. This does not mean we should always chase after emotional experiences to know God’s love. I’m not talking about hyped-up, artificial, emotionally-manipulative, manufactured, mountain-top experiences. That’s not what I’m saying.
What I’m saying is that we can’t just read about God’s love for us and never truly know God’s love for us as a personal, real love. We can’t say “For God so loved the world” and believe that intellectually, yet not believe that his love translates down to each of us at an individual level. God so loves the world means God so loves [insert your name here].
Know that this incomprehensible love is for you. It’s for you.
The chief way God demonstrated his love for each of us was that while we were still sinners, while we were at our worst, Jesus Christ died for us. He died in our place, taking the punishment we deserve, so that we could find peace with God if we would only believe.
I pray that any who read this would believe that Christ really showed his love to you by dying for you, rising again, and in countless other ways that you’ll never know about this side of eternity.
I pray you would comprehend how incomprehensible God’s love for you truly is.