Amazing, Indescribable, Unfathomable Love
An Amazing, Indescribable, Unfathomable Love
Brothers and sisters, how do you explain the inexplicable, the unfathomable, and the incomprehensible? This is what the apostle Paul did in our Scripture reading. I want to take a moment to look at the mystery of God’s amazing, indescribable and unfathomable love. The apostle Paul made various attempt to explain this:
In Romans 11:33–34, Paul’s fascination with God’s mysterious and unfathomable greatness leads to a doxology: “33 Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! 34 ‘Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counsellor?’”
In Colossians 2:2–3, Paul revealed the purpose of his ministry: “2 My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge”.
And in our text verses Ephesians 3:17-19 Paul says, “I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”
When everything is said that can be said about God, Paul is asking: “How can we explain and know God’s love?“ And his answer is: “Jesus!”
Dear friends, the people of Paul’s day struggled to understand this. It just didn’t make sense to them. I’ll try to explain it this way: If I say: “Jules Verne”, what would be the first thing popping into your mind? Yes, you are right. He was indeed a famous writer in the late nineteenth century who was known for his science fiction and his ability to envision things beyond imagination. He is best known for his novels indeed are: Journey to the Centre of the Earth, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, and Around the World in Eighty Days. Those of you who have read his books would know that Verne wrote about space, air, and underwater travel long before navigable aircraft and practical submarines were invented, and before any means of space travel had been devised. Ships were just converting from sail to steam, but Verne wrote of a submarine that was powered by a strange force—he foretold nuclear power. The people of Jules Verne’s day did not believe that any of the things he wrote about would ever happen, because they were beyond imagination. He tried to describe what indescribable in his time. I am suggesting that like Jules Verne the apostle Paul wrote of things beyond the imagination of mere mortals when he described Jesus as God’s love revealed.
In our text Paul is saying: “I pray that you may really and practically come to know for yourselves, through the experience of Christ love, a love which far surpasses mere knowledge without experience…” What is Paul meaning when he talks about knowledge here: “that you may come to know for yourselves...”? Put simply, the more we see Jesus’ love at work in our lives, the more our knowledge that He will love us grows.
Paul’s prayer is made up of two requests. The first, in verses 16–17, is for God’s mighty empowering by the Spirit in the inner being. This is spelt out as Christ dwelling more fully in Christians, so that they will be rooted in and founded on love. This is not a prayer for mystical experience. Paul’s prayer is that Christ should dwell in us by or through faith; that we should live our lives with fuller loving trust in him, being more and more deeply moulded by the Christ-event. It is this indwelling of Christ that strengthens the believer’s life, and keeps him or her on a firm foundation—especially in times of trial.
The second request comes in verses 18–19a. It is a prayer for deep spiritual understanding and a real knowledge of the love of Christ, which paradoxically is great beyond any human knowing. Paul does not seek a solo virtuoso knowledge of Christ’s love, but the love that is known corporately and unites. Paul wants all Christians ‘to grasp the mysterious breadth and length and height and depth the love of Christ’.
God’s love is the foundation of all of life, it is the root that ties us down and nourishes us. God’s love is the very basis of who we are and all we do. Every phone call we make, every e-mail we send, every church service we attend, every television program we watch, every friendship we cultivate is meant to be rooted in the fabulous love of God. If we fail to root deep in the fertile soil of God’s love the only thing that can result is a shallow and sickly life, ending in death.
Friends, the indescribable love of God in Christ is an amazing thing. It heals, it strengthens, it restores, it builds up, it saves and it encourages. Listen to how the mysteries of God is explained in Job 11:5–9: “5 Oh, how I wish that God would speak, that he would open his lips against you 6 and disclose to you the secrets of wisdom, for true wisdom has two sides. Know this: God has even forgotten some of your sin. 7“Can you fathom the mysteries of God? Can you probe the limits of the Almighty? 8 They are higher than the heavens—what can you do? They are deeper than the depths of the grave—what can you know? 9 Their measure is longer than the earth and wider than the sea.” I want you to listen to a modern attempt to glorify God by describing his unfathomable greatness. Levina is going to play us a song from Christ Tomlin...
There are those who often ask: “How can you say that Jesus loves us when we are faced with sicknesses, tornadoes, earthquakes, tsunamis, murders, wars, and terrorism?” Those who look at the fallen world of nature and the history of man and claim that what they see and what they experience is proof that Jesus cannot love us, reveal three things:
1. Their lack of focus,
2. Their lack of knowledge, and
3. Their lack of relationship with Christ.
Those who see the love of God despite nature and history, indicate an experience full of Christ-centeredness and an understanding of His love.
Paul speaks experientially. This is a knowledge that we know with all the saints even though by mere human approach it is unknowable and indescribable. It is an unscaleable mountain that the Christian climbs. It is an unfathomable secret that is revealed to the heart of the child of God. This knowledge generates in us a hope for a better future and a better life. And this hope gives us the strength to go on, to face our giants, to deal with our demons and to persevere to the very end. And like the knowledge this hope is indescribable but real; it is indescribable and yet we know it because we experience it. In Romans 5:5 Paul links to this when he says: “And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.”
Just look at our text verses with me again. Paul says, “I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”
No special interpretations are to be given to the words in verse 18. The general idea of vastness is expressed in these ordinary terms for dimension. Therefore, I would suggest that when we look at:
- The Width of His Love. We must understand the incomprehensible that God’s outstretched arms extended in Christ include all humanity (John 3:16). When we look at the width of His love we must remember that this love removes our sins “as far as the east from the west” (Psalm 103:12).
- The Length of His Love. We must keep in mind that it is eternal, providing His children with everlasting life. It is being extended through all ages (Ephesians 3:21).
- The Depth of His Love. Reaching down to the most horrid and hopeless sinner. John 3:16 says, “…so that everyone who believes in Him…” Note that everyone is who Jesus was after. No matter how bad you are, no matter how sinful: Jesus loves you! It is the profound wisdom which no creature can fathom (Romans 11:33).
- The Height of His Love. We should remember what the Psalmist said in Psalm 103:11: “As the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward us”. John 3:16 says, “…will not perish but have eternal life…”The height of Jesus’ love is all the way to the heavens; all the way to eternal life! It places us beyond the reach of any enemy (Ephesians 4:8).
Like Paul I pray that you will have the inner strength of the Holy Spirit. I pray that through the Holy Spirit, you will have a core strength that can withstand and overcome all of the opposing forces that we as Christians might encounter. Like Paul l envision Jesus Christ in your hearts. God no longer dwells on the fringes of the universe. God has pitched his tent in the hearts and lives of every Christian. God is present in the centre of the individual at the seat of the individual’s will. God is present—guiding, instructing, comforting.
Yes it is true that God’s abundance is beyond imagination. But the fact that we cannot fully describe His greatness does not take away the truth that God is pouring out his blessings in our lives in overflowing proportions. If we ever harboured the idea of keeping God’s blessings for ourselves, we would discover that we couldn’t because they were coming in too fast and furious a manner. This truth enables us to give freely, trusting that we will never run out of blessings. God moves powerfully in our lives.
Friends, God moves in our lives and in our world in ways that we cannot possible comprehend at this point in our lives. In what ways do you imagine God moving in your lives? God is doing more than we think and imagine God will do. God moves in our congregation. God will surprise us with what He is doing. I must confess that when I begin to ponder the truth of this verse, I get excited. I’m impressed with what God is doing now, just think how “bowled over” I’m going to be in the future. It’s going to be a fun ride experiencing God’s power at work in and through us.
The wisdom of God comes to focus in his uniting love in Christ. Where Christ’s love is deeply known, there he is already exercising his rule, uniting the cosmos in himself in new-creation harmony with God. The transformation that takes place in a Christian’s life goes beyond surface changes and looks. Christians are changed inwardly. In Christ, God transforms the world beyond our greatest dreams and fondest hopes. Such knowledge gives us strength, faith and hope to endure and to wait with anticipation. With hope and determination, patience and expectation we can pray, “Your kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven.”
God moves in a greater manner and more powerfully than we can ever imagine. And we should respond to this indescribable, unfathomable, amazing love. I think Josh Groban did just that in his song “You raised me up.” I am going to ask Levina to play that song for us now.
The life that Paul envisions is not boring. It is not based on empty religious rituals, or a God that exists to do our bidding. The Christian life that Paul imagines is one based on God’s love and power. It is a life of faith and hope. It is a life of abundance and excitement as we are used by God in unimaginable ways to accomplish God’s will that goes beyond our dreams. All this is possible only because God is “able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us.” Amen.