Amplified: That you may have the power and be strong to apprehend and grasp with all the saints [God’s devoted people, the experience of that love] what is the breadth and length and height and depth [of it]; (Amplified Bible - Lockman)
Barclay: you may have the strength fully to grasp the meaning of the breadth and length and depth and height of Christ’s love, (Westminster Press)
NET: you may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, (NET Bible)
NLT: And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. (NLT - Tyndale House)
Phillips: may be able to grasp (with all Christians) how wide and deep and long and high is the love of Christ - (Phillips: Touchstone)
Wuest: in order that you may be able to grasp with all the saints what is the breadth and width and height and depth, (Eerdmans)
Young's Literal: that ye may be in strength to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height,
MAY BE ABLE TO COMPREHEND WITH ALL THE SAINTS: hina exischusete (2PPAAS) katalabesthai (AMN) sun pasin tois hagiois: (Eph 3:19; 1:18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23; Job 11:7, 8, 9; Psalms 103:11,12,17; 139:6; Isaiah 55:9; John 15:13; Galatians 2:20; 3:13; Philippians 2:5, 6, 7, 8; 3:8, 9, 10; 1Ti 1:14, 15, 16; 3:16; Titus 2:13,14; Re 3:21) (Ep 1:10,15; Dt 33:2,3; 2Chr 6:41; Ps 116:15; 132:9; 145:10; Zech 14:5; 2Co 13:13; Col 1:4)
Hina (2443) introduces a purpose clause but is left untranslated in the NAS (as does ESV, NIV, KJV, RSV, NET, HCSB) which makes it more difficult to recognize this as a purpose clause.. The Amplified translates it "that you have the power..." Young's Literal (always worth comparing although it not always easy to read) = "that ye may be in strength to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height." Let me encourage you whenever you see a term of purpose or result, pause to ponder asking at least what is the purpose or result.
Eadie explains hina writing that this "conjunction expresses the design which these previous petitions had in view. Their being strengthened, their being inhabited by Christ, and their “having been rooted and grounded in love,” not only prepared them for this special study, but had made it their grand object. By a prior invigoration they were disciplined to it, and braced up for it—“that ye may be fully able”—fully matched to the enterprise." (Ephesians 3 Commentary)
Cole - The focus shifts in verse 18, from love in general to Christ’s love for us. The Greek verb translated, “may be able,” means, “to have the strength.” The verb translated, “comprehend,” means, “to lay hold of or seize.” So Paul is praying that we may have the power to lay hold of or comprehend the immensity of Christ’s love for us, which, paradoxically, is beyond comprehension. (Knowing the Unknowable Love of Christ)
May be able (1840) (exischuo from ek = an intensifies + ischuo = to be strong, able - see related word ischus) means to be eminently able, to have strength enough, to be quite able to do, to be in full strength, to be fully able. This compound word is one of the strongest Greek words for strength and signifies one completely capable of doing or experiencing something.
In the English rendering it is easy to pass over the may be able which is brought out more graphically in other translations like the Amplified which renders it "That you may have the power and be strong to apprehend and grasp."
The point is that the preface asking for power to grasp implies that divine enabling is essential. It conveys the ability to attain an objective, in this case to lay hold of.
Vincent writes that exischuo "occurs only here. The preposition ex has the force of fully or eminently. Ischus is strength embodied; inhering in organized power. Hence it is an advance on dunamei or might in Eph 3:16. Paul prays that the inward might or virtue may issue in ability to grasp. Compare Lu 14:30; 16:3; Acts 27:16; Jas. 5:16, and see notes."
Comprehend (2638) (katalambano [word study] from katá = intensifies + lambáno = take <> English - catalepsy = condition characterized by a trance or seizure and of suspended animation and loss of sensation and of voluntary motion in which the limbs remain rigidly in whatever position they are placed) means literally to take eagerly or to seize and thus to make something one's own or to hold as one's own. Katalambano can mean to gain control of someone through pursuit. In secular Greek katalambano was employed to describe a fight against a strong opponent or sacking an acropolis, where strength was required to accomplish both tasks.
Figuratively, as used in this verse katalambano means to "seize", grasp or apprehend with the mind, and thus to perceive or comprehend. The idea is of grasping mentally.
Our English word comprehend carries the idea of mentally grasping something, while apprehend suggests laying hold of it for yourself. In other words, it is possible to understand something but not really make it your own. Paul’s concern is that we lay hold of the vast expanses of the love of God. He wants us to live supernaturally in four dimensions. When God gave the land to Abraham, He told him to “walk through the land in the length of it and in the breadth of it” (Genesis 13:17).
Abraham had to step out by faith and claim his inheritance. A similar principle is seen in Joshua, in which Jehovah states that..
Warren Wiersbe adds that "The English words “comprehend” and “apprehend” both stem from the Latin word prehendere which means “to grasp.” We say that a monkey has a “prehensile tail.” That is, its tail is able to grasp a tree limb and hold on. Our word comprehend carries the idea of mentally grasping something; while apprehend suggests laying hold of it for yourself. In other words, it is possible to understand something but not really make it your own. Paul’s concern is that we lay hold of the vast expanses of the love of God. He wants us to live in four dimensions. When God gave the land to Abraham, He told him to “walk through the land in the length of it and in the breadth of it” (Ge 13:17). Abraham had to step out by faith and claim his inheritance. But we today have an inheritance in four dimensions: breadth, length, depth, and height. God’s fourth dimension is love! (Wiersbe, W: Bible Exposition Commentary. 1989. Victor)
A believer cannot understand the fullness of God’s love apart from genuine, Spirit-empowered love in his own life.
With all the saints - Wuest says that this phrase indicates "that this spiritual capacity is not limited to a few select saints, but is the common property of all those saints who are the recipients of the strengthening fulness of the Holy Spirit." (Wuest's Word Studies from the Greek New Testament: Eerdmans)
Saints (40) (hagios) is literally holy one and refers to one set apart (sanctified) for a special purpose. Hagios describes every saint's position in Christ as set apart from that which is secular, profane, and evil and on the other hand dedicated to worship and service of God. We are holy ones both in character and conduct set apart by God to be exclusively His, dedicated to Him and manifesting holiness of heart and conduct.
Hagios was used throughout the NT to speak of anyone or anything that represents God’s holiness: Christ as the Holy One of God, the Holy Spirit, the Holy Father, holy Scriptures, holy angels, holy brethren, and so on.
The Gentiles understood this term because among the pagans, hagios signified separated and dedicated to the idolatrous gods and carried no idea of moral or spiritual purity. The manmade gods were as sinful and degraded as the men who made them and there simply was no need for a word that represented righteousness! The worshipper of the pagan god acquired the character of that pagan god and the religious ceremonies connected with its worship. The Greek temple at Corinth housed a large number of harlots who were connected with the "worship" of the Greek god. Thus, the set-apartness or holiness of the Greek worshipper was in character licentious, totally depraved, and sinful.
Steven Cole - “To be able to comprehend,” or, “to have the strength to grasp” this immense love of Christ shows that it is not an easy or a humanly attainable goal. We must have God’s power. And, as we will consider in a moment, this is not a one-time attainment, but a lifetime and even an eternal quest. We can never say, “I’ve arrived!” And, we will not grow towards this goal if we are not experiencing God’s power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ is coming to dwell in our hearts through faith.
We have to be careful, because we all flatter ourselves by thinking, “I’m just a naturally loving person. The problem is all of these selfish, unloving people I have to live with! But me, hey, I’m just a naturally loving guy!” Nonsense! To become a loving person and to be able to grasp the love of Christ, you must die to self. To do that, you need God’s power.
B. COMPREHENDING CHRIST’S LOVE IS THE NEED OF BELIEVERS.
D. A. Carson (A Call to Spiritual Reformation [Baker/IVP], p. 191) points out that the remarkable thing about this prayer is that Paul “assumes that his readers, Christians though they are, do not adequately appreciate the love of Christ.” It’s not a prayer that we might love Christ more, although we should. Rather, Paul is praying that we might better grasp Christ’s immense love for us. While there is an intellectual side to this, it is not merely intellectual. Paul is praying that we who already know Christ’s great love might come to experience it at ever-deepening levels.
Every child of God knows the love of Christ in some way. Probably when you first heard the gospel, you heard John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” Or, you heard Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Coming to know the great love of God in Christ is at the heart of responding to the gospel. Yet, while every true Christian knows something of Christ’s great love as shown at the cross, we do not all know it to the same extent. Some are babes in Christ, who, like all babies, are quite self-centered. They assume that Christ loves them because they are so loveable! But as you grow in Christ, you begin to see how wretchedly sinful your heart was and, apart from God’s preserving grace, still is. And yet, wonder of wonders, He still loves you! You see examples in the Bible, such as Peter, who denied the Lord. And yet, the Lord still loved Peter and restored him. You grow deeper in Christ’s love as you realize that He loves you in spite of all your failures and sins.
I was blessed to grow up in a home where my parents loved me and made me feel secure in their love. But I never appreciated how much they loved me until I held our firstborn in my arms. I felt this wave of love for her as I thought, “I would lay down my life to protect this helpless little one, who depends totally on me!” Then, it hit me, “That’s how much my parents loved me!” And then I realized, “And God loves me far more than that!” So comprehending Christ’s love requires God’s supernatural power, because it is not naturally discerned. It is our need as believers, no matter how long we’ve known Christ, to know His love on an even deeper level. But, also…
C. COMPREHENDING CHRIST’S LOVE MUST HAPPEN IN COMMUNITY.
Paul prays that we may be able to comprehend with all the saints this measureless love of Christ. Saints, of course, is a reference to all believers, not just to some superior believers. The word means, “holy ones,” or those who are set apart from the world unto God.
There are at least two ways in which it requires all the saints for us to grow in our comprehension of Christ’s great love. First, we grow in our own comprehension of Christ’s love when we hear other believers tell of how He saved them and how He has sustained them through difficult trials. No one of us has even come close to experiencing the fullness of Christ’s love, so we grow to appreciate it and comprehend it more as we hear the stories of His love toward others. Even if we could pile up all the stories of all the saints down through history, we’d still fall short of the depths of His love, but we’d be closer. That’s a good reason to read Christian biographies. You gain a richer experience of His love.
A second reason that it requires all the saints to grow in our comprehension of Christ’s great love is that the outworking or expression of His love comes to us through other believers. Quite often we grow in love when another believer demonstrates the love of Christ to us during a time of need. Sometimes, we grow in Christ’s love when we have to work through relational difficulties with another believer. Any love that is merely theoretical and has not been forged in the fires of real life relationships is not tested. Genuine love must be worked out with people. That requires that we grow in forbearance, patience, kindness, and forgiveness. John Stott (cited by Carson, p. 198) writes, “It needs the whole people of God to understand the whole love of God.” So, the Christian life is rooted and grounded in love. Being built on love, we must have God’s power to comprehend Christ’s love with all the saints. (Knowing the Unknowable Love of Christ)
WHAT IS THE BREADTH AND LENGTH AND HEIGHT AND DEPTH: ti to platos kai mekos kai hupsos kai bathos : (Romans 10:3,11,12)
Although it does not specifically state what these measurements represent, from the context many commentators interpret this as a reference to the love of Christ, which is immeasurable.
Expositor's Bible Commentary interprets this passage as "The apostle is simply telling us that the love of Christ, exemplified in his magnanimity to the Gentiles, is too large to be confined by any geometrical measurements. It is wide enough to reach the whole world and beyond (Eph 1:9, 10, 20). It is long enough to stretch from eternity to eternity (Eph 1:4, 5, 6, 18; 3:9). It is high enough to raise both Gentiles and Jews to heavenly places in Christ Jesus (Eph 1:13; 2:6). It is deep enough to rescue people from sin's degradation and even from the grip of Satan himself (Eph 2:1, 2, 3, 4, 5; 6:11, 12). The love of Christ is the love he has for the church as a united body (Eph 5:25, 29, 30) and for those who trust in him as individuals (Eph 3:17). (Expositor's Bible Commentary)
Barnes agrees writing "The apostle evidently meant to express the strongest sense of the greatness of the love of the Redeemer, and to show, in the most emphatic manner, how-much he wished that they should fully understand it." (Barnes NT Commentary)
The Stoics resorted to these terms to express the totality of the universe and the astrologers utilized them in their calculations. Such applications, however, are not reflected here.
Breadth (4114) (platos from platus = broad) is a measurement of width or extent from side to side and is used figuratively to refer to great expanses. Breadth means something of full width or of comprehensive quality.
Length (3372) (mekos) means the longer dimension of something and is used figuratively.
Height (5311) (hupsos from húpsi = high, aloft) means elevation.
O'Brien notes that "Paul asks first that his readers might comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth, length, height, and depth (v.18b). This request is made without any mention of an object of these four dimensions. Does this formula stand for the dimensions of the cosmos? Or the inexhaustible greatness of some object? And what is the relationship of this formula to the second element of the petition, namely, that the readers might know the love of Christ?... (after surveying the major contenders for the object of this phrase O'Brien writes that) Although it is not possible to be certain, on contextual grounds a reference to the love of Christ is preferable." (The Letter to the Ephesians. W. B. Eerdmans. 1999)
A T Pierson once wrote that Paul "treats the love of God as a cube, having breadth and length, depth and height. The reason is that the cube in the Bible is treated as a perfection of form. Every side of a cube is a perfect square, and from every angle it presents the same appearance. Turn it over, and it is still a cube—just as high, deep, and broad as it was before." (Comment: As someone has also noted the Holy of Holies was cube-shaped, so is the New Jerusalem, and so is the love of God!)
F. B. Meyer writes that "There will always be as much horizon before us as behind us. And when we have been gazing on the face of Jesus for millenniums, its beauty will be as fresh and fascinating and fathomless as when we first saw it from the gate of Paradise."
Morris comments that "The love of Christ is thus four-dimensional, with "depth" and "height" considered as separate dimensions. Since the height of the universe is also infinite (Isaiah 55:9), this suggests the time dimension. "Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love," God says, "therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee" (Jeremiah 31:3). (Morris, Henry: Defenders Study Bible. World Publishing)
Ryrie expresses these dimensions as follows "The love of Christ includes all, extends from eternity to eternity, seats us in the heavenlies, and reaches down to our alienated position." (The Ryrie Study Bible)
Boice offers the following illustration writing that "In the last century, when Napoleon’s armies opened a prison that had been used by the Spanish Inquisition they found the remains of a prisoner who had been incarcerated for his faith. The dungeon was underground. The body had long since decayed. Only a chain fastened around an anklebone cried out his confinement. But this prisoner, long since dead, had left a witness. On the wall of his small, dismal cell this faithful soldier of Christ had scratched a rough cross with four words surrounding it in Spanish. Above the cross was the Spanish word for “height.” Below it was the word for “depth.” To the left the word “width.” To the right, the word “length.” Clearly this prisoner wanted to testify to the surpassing greatness of the love of Christ, perceived even in his suffering." (Ephesians: An Expositional Commentary)
Elisabeth Barrett Browning wrote “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. I love thee to the depth and breadth and height My soul can reach.”
Steven Cole - Knowing Christ’s love is a never-ending process, because it is unknowable. Paul writes (Eph 3:18-19), that we may be able to comprehend “what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge….” It is a deliberate paradox. We can know something of His great love, and it is definite knowledge, not just speculation. But, in another sense we can never know it completely, because it is unfathomable. Throughout eternity we will never come to the place of saying that we know all that there is to know of Christ’s great love for us. The measurements that Paul gives emphasize the immensity of Christ’s love. You can go left or right, forward or backward, or up or down as far as you can, and you still haven’t explored all that there is to know of Christ’s great love. While Paul probably did not have anything in particular in mind with each dimension, many writers have expounded on the various aspects of it. (Spurgeon, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit [Pilgrim Publications], 12:475-479) goes into great detail on each of these dimensions. Lloyd-Jones devotes an entire chapter to it, pp. 218-229.) Briefly, we can consider that the breadth of Christ’s love encompasses a great multitude that is beyond number, consisting of people from every nation and tribe and people and tongue (Rev. 7:9). It also takes in every concern of every child of God in every age. No care of ours is beyond the breadth of His love. The length of Christ’s love extends from eternity to eternity. We have already seen (Eph. 1:4-5) that “He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will.” It is an eternal love that will not let us go! The height of His love lifts us up to our exalted position of being seated with Him in the heavenly places (Eph. 2:6). His eternal purpose for us is that we will be holy and blameless, lifted far above the temptations here below that so easily beset us. The depth of His love caused Him to leave the glory of heaven and His exalted position there and come to this earth to be born as a baby. It moved Him to go to the extreme suffering of the cross, where He who knew no sin was made sin for us (2 Cor. 5:21). It reached all the way down to where we were in our sin. Although we were rebels and enemies of God, the love of Christ redeemed us from the slave market of sin and made us heirs with Him. As Charles Wesley wrote, “Amazing love, how can it be, that Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?” We can never get to the end of such immense love! We need to ask ourselves, “Am I growing more and more to know this unknowable love of Christ?” Do I know His love experientially more today than I did a year ago? (Knowing the Unknowable Love of Christ )
However only God loves us with infinite dimensions and to an endless degree!
The love of God is greater far than tongue or pen can ever tell,
When years of time shall pass away and earthly thrones and kingdoms fall,
Could we with ink the ocean fill and were the skies of parchment made,
O love of God, how rich and pure!
The story behind the words in this famous hymn is as follows...
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F B Meyer writes the following devotional entitled "The Dimensions of God's Love" in "Our Daily Walk"
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The Puritan Thomas Brooks writes devotional thoughts on Ephesians 3:18, 19 ...
Amplified: [That you may really come] to know [practically, through experience for yourselves] the love of Christ, which far surpasses mere knowledge [without experience]; that you may be filled [through all your being] unto all the fullness of God [may have the richest measure of the divine Presence, and become a body wholly filled and flooded with God Himself]! (Amplified Bible - Lockman)
Barclay: and to know the love of Christ which is beyond all knowledge, that you may be filled until you reach the fullness of God himself. (Westminster Press)
NET: and thus to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. (NET Bible)
NLT: May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. (NLT - Tyndale House)
Phillips: and to know for yourselves that love so far beyond our comprehension. May you be filled though all your being with God himself! (Phillips: Touchstone)
Wuest: and to know experientially the love of the Christ which surpasses experiential knowledge in order that you may be filled up to the measure of all the fulness of God. (Eerdmans)
Young's Literal: to know also the love of the Christ that is exceeding the knowledge, that ye may be filled--to all the fulness of God;
AND TO KNOW THE LOVE OF CHRIST WHICH SURPASSES KNOWLEDGE: gnonai (AAN) te ten huperballousan (PPPMSD) tes gnoseos agapen tou Christou: (Ep 3:18; 5:2,25; John 17:3; 2Corinthians 5:14; Galatians 2:20; Philippians 2:5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12; Colossians 1:10; 2Peter 3:18; 1John 4:9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14) (Philippians 1:7)
These are "deep" verses as shown by the fact that Martyn Lloyd-Jones devotes ten messages to these verses (The Unsearchable Riches of Christ pp. 181-301)
Paul wants the readers to be empowered so as to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge. Note that this is not a petition that the believers might love Christ more, as important as that is but rather that they might understand in the experiential dimension Christ's love for them. He is not referring to their knowing as simply a mental exercise or simple intellectual reflection. Paul wants them to be empowered so as to grasp the dimensions of that love in their own experience. The paradox of course is that he prays for them to experientially know the unknowable, which parallels "breadth and length and height and depth" (assuming that those parameter also refer to the love of Christ which as discussed above is difficult to state with dogmatism).
As O'Brien explains regarding the love of Christ - We can never plumb its depths or comprehend its magnitude. No matter how much we know of the love of Christ, how fully we enter into His love for us, there is always more to know and experience. And the implication, in the light of the following words, is that we cannot be as spiritually mature as we should be unless we are empowered by God to grasp the limitless dimensions of the love of Christ. (O'Brien, P. T. The Letter to the Ephesians. W. B. Eerdmans. 1999)
Steven Cole - Do you find that spending consistent time alone each day with the Lord in the Word and in prayer is a difficult duty, not a joyous delight? Is your spiritual life often dry and routine? Are you often defeated by temptation and sin? At the risk of being overly simplistic, I believe that all of these problems stem from a common source: You do not know experientially the love of Jesus Christ as deeply as you should. A young man who has just fallen in love doesn’t regard spending time with his new love as a difficult duty! He doesn’t think, “I really should spend time with her today but, nah, I think I’ll skip it.” Why not? Because he is motivated and captivated by love. He rearranges everything else in his schedule to make time to be with her. Such love is a powerful force that literally changes your life. It motivates you in ways that you do not understand. But, as we all know, it’s one thing to fall in love, but it’s another thing to sustain it and cause it to grow deeper over the years. It doesn’t run on autopilot! It requires focus and effort. The same is true with regard to knowing the love of Christ. You come to know it at salvation, but you’ve got to work at growing to know Him (Ed: While I understand what Cole is saying, I submit that our "working" absolutely must be a response to His Spirit's working in us giving us the desire and the power) and His love in deeper and deeper ways. (Knowing the Unknowable Love of Christ)
Know (1097) (ginosko) conveys the basic meaning of taking in knowledge in regard to something or someone and speaks of knowledge that goes beyond the merely factual and into the realm of the experiential. By extension, the term frequently was used of a special relationship between the person who knows and the object of the knowledge. It was often used of the intimate relationship between husband and wife and between God and His people.
Moule - An aorist verb, expressing a new and decisive development of knowledge, knowledge of the spiritual kind, the intuition of the regenerate spirit, realized in its own responsive adoring love. (Ephesians 3 Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges)
Paul wanted them to experience the love of Christ, which in its fullest extent surpasses human knowledge. Thus the idea is that in this knowledge there is a personal involvement with the "love of Christ", to know by experience the unknowable!
Vincent writes that "to know" means "Practically, through experience; while apprehend marks the knowledge as conception.
Love of Christ - Christ’s love to us. Human love to Christ could not be described in these terms.
Moule on the love of Christ - Who “loved the Church, and gave Himself for it” (Ephesians 5:25); “Who loved me, and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). See further Romans 8:35, with Ro 8:39; 2 Corinthians 5:14; Revelation 1:5.—The context favors the chief reference here of these sacred words to the Lord’s love for the true Church, without excluding, what cannot be excluded in the matter, His love, and the sense of it, for the individual saint. (Ephesians 3 Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges)
Love (26) (agape [word study]) is unconditional, sacrificial love which God is. It is love which is commanded in believers, empowered by His Spirit, activated by personal choice of one's will, is not based on one's feelings toward the object of one's love and is manifested by specific actions (see 1Cor 13:4-8 for a succinct list of these actions)
It’s Just Like His Great Love
Surpasses (4138) (huperballo from hupér = above + ballo = cast) literally means throwing beyond the usual mark and figuratively referring to a degree which exceeds extraordinary, a point on an implied or overt scale of extent. Expressing a degree beyond comparison. Extraordinary, extreme, supreme, far more, much greater, to a far greater degree. To transcend. Immeasurable
Moule on surpasses knowledge - knowledge of every sort, spiritual as much as intellectual. Here is an Object eternally transcending, while it eternally invites, the effort after a complete cognition. Forever, there is more to know....a passage glowing with the highest truths in their loveliest aspects. For a similar phrase, cp. Php 4:7. (Ephesians 3 Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges)
It is cast into a totally different realm where the normal faculties of rational apprehension are incapable of functioning.
TDNT - This verb, having an original sense of “to throw beyond,” means “to go beyond,” “to stand out,” “to excel,” or, censoriously, “to transgress the proper measure.” The noun means “excess” or “supreme stage or measure.”
Huperballo - 5x in 5v in NAS - Take a moment and observe the following 5 uses for the entity or attribute which is modified by huperballo. Interesting.
Huperballo is found only in the NT and in the apocryphal writings (not the non-apocryphal writings) - 2 Macc 4:13, 24; 7:42; 3 Macc 2:23; Sir 5:7; 25:11
Vincent makes the apt observation: Compounds with hyper (huper), over, beyond, are characteristic of Paul's intensity of style, and mark the struggle of language with the immensity of the divine mystery, and the opulence of divine grace.
Earle writes on Paul's use of "hyper"...
Knowledge (1108) (gnosis) is the content of what is known. It describes the comprehension or intellectual grasp of something. It refers to experiential knowledge or knowledge gained by experience (as contrasting with intuitive knowledge that one has innately). As an aside gnosis was the characteristic word of the Gnostics, one of the most formidable enemies of the Church of the second century. The Gnostics claimed a superior knowledge peculiar to an intellectual caste (they are still "alive and well" in 21st century Christianity!)
This phrase parallels “the unfathomable riches of Christ” (Ep 3:8-note)
Boice asks a reasonable question...
Steven Cole - The top rung of the ladder (to use Spurgeon’s phrase) is, “that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God” (Eph 3:19). “The fullness of God” probably refers to the perfection of which God Himself is full. Paul is praying that we will attain to spiritual perfection, having all that God is fill us to overflowing. As our capacity to receive it grows, He keeps filling us again and again. The idea of fullness implies total dominance or control, so that God perfectly controls our minds, our emotions, and our will. Paul uses similar language in Ephesians 4:13, where he says that the goal of the ministry is that “we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.”
Can we ever attain such perfection in this life? The greatest of the saints have all lamented on their deathbeds that they are miserable sinners, saved by God’s grace alone. They all have been quick to admit their many remaining faults and shortcomings. But, as Paul states (Rom. 8:29), God has predestined us to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. We know that He will accomplish His purpose for all of His elect. As John tells us (1 John 3:2, 3), “We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.” So we should join Paul (Phil. 3:14) in pressing “on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
Conclusion - D. A. Carson (ibid., p. 196) points out that just as a loving home is required for children to grow to personal maturity, so we must come into the knowledge of Christ’s great love for us, in His household, the church, if we are to grow to spiritual maturity. Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote (ibid., p. 219), “Indeed, our chief defect as Christians is that we fail to realize Christ’s love to us.” He adds (p. 223), “How important it is that we should meditate upon this love and contemplate it! It is because we fail to do so that we tend to think at times that He has forgotten us, or that He has left us.”
If you were to ask the apostle Paul, “What motivated you to give up everything for Christ and the gospel? How could you endure all that you did for Christ and keep going?” I believe you would see tears well up in his eyes and he would answer, “I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me” (Gal. 2:20). He might add (Rom. 8:38-39), “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Live there and you will grow to spiritual maturity! (Knowing the Unknowable Love of Christ)
Devotional from Amazing Grace on the Amazing Love of Jesus...
O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus
Ruth Paxson writes...
"It passeth knowledge, that dear love of thine,
THAT YOU MAY BE FILLED UP TO ALL THE FULLNESS OF GOD: hina plerothete (2PAPS) eis pan to pleroma tou theou: (Ep 1:23; Psalms 17:15; 43:4; Matthew 5:6; John 1:16; Colossians 2:9,10; Revelation 7:15, 16, 17; Revelation 21:22, 23, 24; 22:3, 4, 5)
Paul's prayer to the Father reaches its climax in this final, summarizing request. Thus we note that as believers are strengthened in the inner man through the Spirit and Christ dwells comfortably at home in their hearts through faith and they know in a personal, experiential way more of the immeasurable love of Christ, based on these spiritual dynamics, believers will be filled to the measure of all the fulness of God.
That (hina) introduces a purpose clause which depicts the grand purpose and result. (See terms of purpose or result)
Filled up to - to the measure or standard of.
Moule on filled up - The idea is of a vessel connected with an abundant source external to itself, and which will be filled, up to its capacity, if the connection is complete. The vessel is the Church, and also the saint. It may be only partially filled; it may be full—every faculty of the individual, every part of life and circumstances, every member of the community, “ful-filled with grace and heavenly benediction.” And this latter state is what the Apostle looks for. (Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges)
Moule on up to - The “fulfilling” is to be limited only by the Divine resources. Not, of course, that either Church or soul can contain the Infinite; but they can receive the whole, the plenitude, of those blessings which the Infinite One is willing and able at each moment to bestow on the finite recipient.
You may be filled up (4137)(pleroo [word study]) means to be filled (plural and passive voice = saints acted on by outside force) to the brim (a net, Mt 13:48, a building, Jn 12:3, Acts 2:2, a city, Acts 5:28, needs Phil 4:19). It means to make complete in every particular and so to cause to abound. It means to furnish liberally diffusing throughout and pervading thus taking possession of and ultimately controlling the one who is "filled up".
Note that filled up is in the passive voice, which some writers have referred to as the "divine passive", indicating that it is God Who brings about the action in this case of filling the believer up.
Just as a balloon inflates when we blow into it, so the Bible (and our obedience to the truth it reveals) deepens and expands our capacities so that we are filled increasingly (progressive sanctification), like an expanding balloon, with the fullness of God. When we are filled with His fullness (which will never end for God is infinite!), we will begin to love like Him, we will begin to give like Him, we will begin to reach out to the lost like Him, etc. What a glorious way to live -- surely this is life abundant! Why are believers not praying this prayer in our churches and our families? We have not His fullness I fear because we ask not. If you are a pastor reading these words, I challenge you to test God to answer this earth shaking prayer in your local church. What would happen in your church if you and your people committed to praying this prayer for the next 365 days, not in mechanical repetition, of course, but from the heart with a sense of desperation, pleading for God's power, love and fullness. I think God tells us what would happen. He says...
God will answer this prayer from His children and will do so exceeding, abundantly beyond all that we can ever ask or think!
Of God - O'Brien explains that "The genitive of God is subjective and thus refers to God in all his perfection, including his presence, life, and power. That fulness or perfection is the standard or level to which they are to be filled." (O'Brien, P. T. The Letter to the Ephesians. W. B. Eerdmans. 1999)
Vincent - Fulness of God is the fulness which God imparts through the dwelling of Christ in the heart; Christ, in Whom the Father was pleased that all the fulness should dwell (Col 1:19-note), and in Whom dwells all the fulness of the Godhead (Colossians 2:9-note).
Moule on all the fullness of God - i.e., as in Colossians 2:9 (and see note on Ephesians 1:23), the totality of the Divine riches, whether viewed as Attributes as in God, or Graces as in us; whatever, being in Him, is spiritually communicable to the saints, the “partakers of Divine nature” (2Peter 1:4). The believing reader will find inexhaustible matter in such a phrase for thought, prayer, and faith. (Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges)
MEANS AND MEASURE
Wiersbe on fullness - The means of our fullness is the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18-note), and the measure of our fullness is God Himself (Ep 4:11-16 see notes Ep 4:11; 4:12; 4:13; 4:14; 4:15; 4:16). It is tragic when Christians use the wrong measurements in examining their own spiritual lives. We like to measure ourselves by the weakest Christians that we know, and then boast, “Well, I’m better than they are.” Paul tells us that the measure is Christ, and that we cannot boast about anything (nor should we). When we have reached His fullness, then we have reached the limit. In one sense, the Christian is already “made full in Christ” (Col 2:9-note; Col 2:10-note, where “complete” means “filled full”). Positionally, we are complete in Him, but practically, we enjoy only the grace that we apprehend by faith. The resources are there. All we need do is accept them and enjoy them. Paul will have more to say about this fullness (Ep 5:18-21-see notes Ep 5:18; 19; 20; 21) (Bible Exposition Commentary. 1989. Victor)
Boice commenting on filled to fullness - The phrase “fullness of God” can be either of two grammatical constructions. It can be an objective genitive; in that case, the fullness of God would be the fullness of grace God bestows on us. Or it can be a subjective genitive; in that case, the fullness would be God’s own fullness, that which fills himself. Because of the preposition eis, which means “unto,” it seems that the second is to be preferred. Overwhelming as the petition may be, Paul seems to be praying that we (and all other Christians) may be filled up to or unto all the fullness that is in God Himself. How can this be? Ironside found it so impossible that he changed the meaning to suggest that some of the fullness of God is to be in us like some of the ocean in an empty shell. I think that falls short of the idea. Here is the highest rung of the ladder, the highest step of the stairs. We are to be filled with all God’s fullness, an infinite thing. But then, we have all eternity (an infinite time) to be so filled. I think Paul is praying that we will be filled and filled and filled and filled and filled—and so on forever, as God out of His infinite resources increasingly pours Himself out into those sinful but now redeemed creatures he has rescued through the work of Christ. (Boice, J. M.: Ephesians: An Expositional Commentary)
Sam Storms on fullness of God - See Eph. 4:13. God's "fullness" = his moral perfections or excellencies, as well as his empowering presence; i.e., all that God is as God. "That fulness or perfection is the standard or level to which they are to be filled" (O'Brien, 265). What does that do to our low expectations of what is available to us in this life? But with what are we to be filled? The "power of God?" The "love of Christ?" "The Spirit?" Certainly, but there is more in Paul's mind. Note well: they are to be filled by God, "and presumably if they are to be filled up to the fullness of God, it is with this fullness [emphasis mine] that they are to be filled" (Lincoln, 214) (Ephesians 3:14-21)
John Eadie - “All the fulness of God” is all the fulness which God possesses, or by which He is characterized... The pleroma—that with which He is filled—appears to be the entire moral excellence of God—the fulness and luster of His spiritual perfections. Such is the climax of the prayer...The whole fulness of God can never contract itself so as to lodge in any created heart. But the smaller vessel may have its own fulness poured into it from one of larger dimensions. The communicable fulness of God will in every element of it impart itself to the capacious and exalted bosom, for Christ dwells in their hearts. The difference between God and the saint will be not in kind, but in degree and extent. His fulness is infinite; theirs is limited by the essential conditions of a created nature. Theirs is the correspondence of a miniature to the full face and form which it represents...The apostle prays for strength, for the indwelling of Jesus, for unmovable foundation in love, for a comprehension of the size and vastness of the spiritual temple, and for a knowledge of the love of Christ; and when such blessings are conferred and enjoyed, they are the means of bringing into the heart this Divine fulness. (Ephesians 3 Commentary)
Wayne Barber on filled with the fullness of God - In other words, everything that fills God fills me and controls me and satisfies me. I am living in a realm now that I didn’t know was possible. I am loving people I didn’t think were lovable. I have put up with people who used to give me a fit. I am handling circumstances like never before. God, what is going on inside of me? God says, "You haven’t seen anything yet. Keep on trusting Me. I have other levels I want to take you to. Walk in the fullness of what I have to offer you." That is it. That is the Christian life. Paul is praying that all of God would dominate all that you are. In other words, that all of God would dominate all of you. I picked that word "dominate" very carefully because the word "filled" implies dominate. The Greek word is pleroo. It is the word that means "to be filled to the brim." If you fill a glass of water and fill it to the brim, that’s pleroo. It is filled full. There is no room for anything else. There is the implied meaning of satisfaction. You have a satisfied glass if it is full of water. What is a glass for? To be filled up. When you put the liquid to the top it must be satisfied. Nothing else is needed to satisfy the glass. So in light of Paul’s prayer, Paul is saying when we are empty of sin and we are empty of self and filled up with the fullness of God, then we begin to understand what satisfaction is all about. There is also the implicit meaning of dominance. Whatever fills a person dominates that person. What are you filled with? What is coming out of your life? Look at your life. Are you filled with fear and jealousy or are you filled with the Holy Spirit of God?
Ruth Paxson writes that this section is "To Ensure the Plenitude of Christ's Life in Us"
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In Morning and Evening C H Spurgeon writes...
Immortal love, forever full,
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G Campbell Morgan wrote the following thoughts on the phrases "The Love of Christ...the fullness of God" in Ephesians 3:19...
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Our Daily Bread devotional "Deeper Than The Deep Blue Sea"...
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Our Daily Bread devotional "God's Great Love"...