What Does It Mean? Pt. 8
Study Guide – July 24, 2016
Pastor Clay Olsen
No matter how much time you spend around the ocean or working on the ocean, as do commercial fishermen, you can’t help but be fascinated by it. It has a breadth and length and height and depth to it that is astounding. There is a place in the Pacific Ocean that measures 36,000 feet deep. It is called the ‘Marianas Trench’. It is so deep that you could take Mt. Everest and stuff it in this trench and it would still be covered by a mile of water. Speaking of mountains, the longest mountain range on Earth is the Mid-Ocean Ridge. How long is it, you ask? It is four times longer than the Andes, the Rockies, and the Himalayas combined! How about this? 90% of the volcanic activity occurs in the oceans. And this was really odd – the top ten feet of the water in the oceans holds as much heat as the entire atmosphere. And one more oddity – the pressure at the deepest point in the ocean is the equivalent of 50 jumbo jets sitting on your chest.1
The more we learn about the ocean the more we realize how much more there is to learn about the awesome wonders and dimensions of the ocean. But still, as fascinating as this is, this all pales in comparison to the dimensions of a kind of ocean that the Apostle Paul appeals to us to search out. And we find it in Ephesians 3. This is one of the most intense prayers found in Scripture, and it calls for us to be explorers of the breadth, the length, the height, and the depth of one particular wonder. Let’s look. Eph 3:14-19- “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.” NASU
As I studied through this passage it reminded me of early ocean explorers as they would spend weeks and months gathering supplies, charting their course, and readying their preparations to set sail on their journey. I remember the story about Sir Francis Drake gathering a group of men in England and sailing around the world. Most of the men were broke when they left England, but each was a millionaire when they returned. That’s what sailing the ocean of God’s love makes of us…wealthy people beyond measure.
The Apostle Paul speaks to us like one who had been on a long voyage, who is filled with wonder and awe over what he had seen and experienced, and had been deeply affected and changed, and then searches for words as he tries to describe it all. In fact, he says something that is startling. He says this ocean of God’s love, which he had been exploring, even surpasses knowledge. And not just meaning the knowledge of this love, but meaning ‘surpasses knowledge’ itself! Now, think about it: Think about what Paul is revealing to us here. Remember that the Apostle Paul was selected by God to be the author of most of the knowledge of the entire New Testament. This also required that God personally reveal to Paul the knowledge of God’s plans back through the Old Testament. In fact, God even revealed information to Paul about the way things were with the Godhead before the creation of the Universe. And on top of that, in order to enable Paul to understand the whole counsel of God, the Lord translated Paul into the third Heaven, or the Biblical place of ‘Paradise’, for a fact finding tour about what is in store for God’s people. So Paul had acquired knowledge from Eternity Past, the history of mankind, and Eternity Future. But then he says to these Ephesian believers, and to us, that even taking all of this into account, that above and beyond all of this there is something in existence that surpasses even this body of knowledge, and it is the sum total of the breadth, and length, and height, and depth of the love of Christ.
Next to everything he had learned and everything he had seen, still, he was overcome and overwhelmed by something about God Himself. While Christ was personally instructing Paul about every doctrine of Theology, it was the love of Christ that overcame his soul. While he was being given a tour of the dwelling place of God in the third Heaven, with its indescribable beauty and splendor, he couldn’t take his eyes off Christ. Remember, later on he wrote that we need to remove from our lives anything that deters us or detracts us from following Christ, and put away any sin that so often makes us fall. And the way we do this is by ‘fixing our eyes on Jesus’.
We tend to spend so much of our time with our eyes fixed on the problems of our lives when we are instructed to keep another focus; we’re instructed to ‘fix our eyes’ on the Person of Jesus. We be sheep, remember? We are prone to wander. So when we sheep don’t keep our eyes on the Shepherd we tend to default to our faults and we wander off into the thickets of life. If we spent more time looking to the Source of life’s solutions rather than just looking to solving problems themselves, it would change the way we go about solving everything we do or face in life. To live a Christ centered life, Christ has to be the central focus of everything in life. And when He is, then our eternal fascination with Christ and with His love for us grows and grows.
Think about it: Even when Paul would go to teach Jews and Gentiles about the way to live as disciples of Christ, in essence, he would say, “I’ll tell you about what the Lord Jesus Christ said – but mostly, I want to tell you about what He is like! I want to tell you about Him, especially about His love which surpasses even knowledge itself.”
Paul had been affected so deeply by the love of Christ that it changed his character, it melted and remolded his heart, and it transformed his life…so much that he said, “The love of Christ controls us…it controls me…” Brothers and Sisters, this experience of the love of Christ is what brings joy to your life and will enable you, as the Apostle said, to ‘be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith…being rooted and grounded in love’.
Maybe you’ve sensed it already. Maybe you know what it’s like to feel the ‘burning in your heart’ for the Word of God, like those who heard Jesus speaking the Scriptures to them on the Emmaus Road. Maybe you know the settled peace of the Apostle John as he said, “We love Him because He first loved us.” (1 Jn. 4:19) Maybe you know the inner passion of Paul when he said, “He died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all that they who live should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on our behalf.” (2 Cor. 5:14-15) Well, Praise God if you sense something of this longing for God and God’s Word and God’s Will, it’s because you’ve been exploring, like the Apostle, this love of Christ which surpasses even knowledge.
But if there’s not much of a burning at all in your heart for God’s Word, if there’s no anticipation or gratitude when you think about Christ and how He loves you, if the Apostle’s testimony sounds rather far off to you, well, even if you have received Christ’s salvation for your life, you haven’t really experienced much of the wonders of His love. You’ve sort of been hanging around the docks or walking around the shores, but you haven’t sailed out on the sea of God’s love. You can’t know the depths of God’s love by standing on the shore.
John Ortberg wrote a book called, ‘If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat’. Funny title, but it’s right on. But now in this case, if you want to sail the seas of God’s love, you’ve got to get into the boat. You’ve got to get into the boat with Jesus and let Him take you out further than you’ve ever gone before in finding out about and learning more about and experiencing the love of God which surpasses even knowledge itself. And don’t worry, you can’t get seasick on the ocean of Christ’s love. But you can see new wonders about God, and experience life in new dimensions, or in ways that are wider and longer and higher and deeper than you have experienced before.
But that means you have to be willing to go to where you haven’t gone before, or at least, to do life in ways that you haven’t done life before. You’ve got to not just let go of what’s been draining life from your life, you’ve got to to take hold of what really gives life to your life, and that is the love of Christ. The experience of the love of Christ is what gives life to your life. And this can be your experience in life because it’s what Paul prayed for us to experience. He prayed that the inner man might have spiritual strength, which will, in turn, lead to a deeper experience with Christ. And this deeper experience will enable us to apprehend or to get hold of God’s great love, which will result in our being filled unto all the fullness of God.
As I was thinking about this I thought that since we are right next to the boat ramp that maybe we should get a Chapel By The Sea tour boat. And the goal of the tour boat would be to take people out to look at the ocean in a new way…to see it as the ocean of God’s love. It would be a tour of discovery, of the wonders of the sea, the wonders of God’s world, and the wonders of God’s Word and God’s love, especially as shown in the Gospel. It’s just an idea at this point.
But something we can discover is what has already been revealed in 1 Cor.13 about love, but this time we’ll think about love as from God’s point of view. And since we know that passage well, we’ll just talk it through. And since ‘God is love’ we see that God is patient. He’s telling us that He suffers long with us. He endures our slights and neglects or injury or provocation from us because He longs to see the good fruit which will come from His patience with us. We discover that God is kind. He is courteous and does not take advantage of our weaknesses. He treats us respectfully and with honor. He seeks to work things together for good for us. We discover that God is not envious. He is happy that we have received good from Him, but will caution us to not place that good above God. We discover that God is not boastful. God does not look down on us or misuse or abuse us. He is concerned about our concerns and cares about every humble request and need of ours. We discover that God does not act unbecomingly or seek His own. God is not rude with us or does not look to gain anything at our expense. Rather, He left His riches and became poor, so that we could be rich in Christ. We discover that God does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with truth. God takes no pleasure in injury or harm. He wishes ill to no one. That’s why He despises evil and the damage it brings into people’s lives. But He rejoices in the Gospel. He rejoices when truth sets people’s hearts free. He rejoices when sinners ask Him to save them, and He rejoices when believers pledge their loyalty to Him and pledge their lives to worship and serve Him. And we discover that God bears all things, believes all things that are good, hopes for all things that are good, and endures all things, even when they’re not so good. God covers the multitude of our sins with His love. He buries our sins in the depths of the ocean of His love. He does not leave us when we go away from Him, rather He keeps close to us as a Shepherd calling His sheep to follow Him. He wants us to know that He has a ‘good life’ and a ‘life of good’ planned for us, if we will walk in His steps. And He wants us to know just what we really mean to Him. So He tells us in His Word: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you, and you are Mine. You are precious in My sight, and I love you.” (Isa. 43:1,5)
And we also discover from what Paul tells us in Ephesians 3 that even with everything we have learned about God and His love for us, still, it is only a fraction of what we have yet to learn and discover about God’s love, because even the knowledge of all things is surpassed by the love of Christ for all of us.
We often talk about what our activities will be when we get to Heaven, what we will do there. And while we know that all the activities of Heaven will be fascinating, from our service assignments to our reigning over all creation and more, still, our ultimate fascination will be with the Person of Christ Himself, especially the love of Christ that will engulf our experience every day of eternity. Like the Angels, we too, will be amazed at the holiness of God and at the perfection of His nature. And we will be in constant thanks for His mercy and grace, in which He withheld His judgment for our sins because He paid our debt Himself, and gave His favor to us without measure when we didn’t deserve it. And we will worship Him for all of His other attributes as well. But still, our eternal fascination will be over this love of Christ in which there is no limit to its breadth, and length, and height, and depth.
And so, you see, what will be our eternal fascination in Heaven is what Paul prayed would be our daily experience on Earth. For remember, your very quality of life depends upon your comprehension of Christ’s love.
“…that you…may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.” Eph 3:17-19 NASU
2. Some concepts gratefully gleaned from The Bible Exposition Commentary, Wiersbe, W.W. (Vol. 2), Victor Books)