on Ephesians 3 :19
To know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge - It is only by the love of Christ that we can know the love of God: the love of God to man induced him to give Christ for his redemption; Christ's love to man induced him to give his life's blood for his salvation. The gift of Christ to man is the measure of God's love; the death of Christ for man is the measure of Christ's love. God so loved the world, etc. Christ loved us, and gave himself for us.
But how can the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, be known? Many have labored to reconcile this seeming contradiction. If we take the verb γνωναι in a sense in which it is frequently used in the New Testament, to approve, acknowledge, or acknowledge with approbation, and γνωσις to signify comprehension, then the difficulty will be partly removed: "That ye may acknowledge, approve, and publicly acknowledge, that love of God which surpasseth knowledge." We can acknowledge and approve of that which surpasses our comprehension. We cannot comprehend God; yet we can know that he is; approve of, love, adore, and serve him. In like manner, though we cannot comprehend, the immensity of the love of Christ, yet we know that he has loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood; and we approve of, and acknowledge, him as our only Lord and Savior. In this sense we may be said to know the love of Christ that passeth knowledge.
But it is more likely that the word γνωσις, which we translate knowledge, signifies here science in general, and particularly that science of which the rabbins boasted, and that in which the Greeks greatly exulted. The former professed to have the key of knowledge; the secret of all Divine mysteries; the latter considered their philosophers, and their systems of philosophy, superior to every thing that had ever been known among men, and reputed on this account all other nations as barbarians. When the apostle prays that they may know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge, he may refer to all the boasted knowledge of the Jewish doctors, and to all the greatly extolled science of the Greek philosophers. To know the love of Christ, infinitely surpasseth all other science. This gives a clear and satisfactory sense.
That ye might be filled with all the fullness of God - Among all the great sayings in this prayer, this is the greatest. To be Filled with God is a great thing; to be filled with the Fulness of God is still greater; but to be filled with All the fullness of God, παν το πληρωμα του Θεου, utterly bewilders the sense and confounds the understanding.
Most people, in quoting these words, endeavor to correct or explain the apostle, by adding the word communicable; but this is as idle as it is useless and impertinent. The apostle means what he says, and would be understood in his own meaning. By the fullness of God, we are to understand all those gifts and graces which he has promised to bestow on man, and which he dispenses to the Church. To be filled with all the fullness of God, is to have the whole soul filled with meekness, gentleness, goodness, love, justice, holiness, mercy, and truth. And as what God fills, neither sin nor Satan can fill; consequently, it implies that the soul shall be emptied of sin, that sin shall neither have dominion over it, nor a being in it. It is impossible for us to understand these words in a lower sense than this. But how much more they imply, (for more they do imply), I cannot tell. As there is no end to the merits of Christ, no bounds to the mercy and love of God, no limits to the improvability of the human soul, so there can be no bounds set to the saving influence which God will dispense to the heart of every believer. We may ask, and we shall receive, and our joy shall be full.
on Ephesians 3 :19
And to know the love of Christ - The love of Christ toward us; the immensity of redeeming love. It is not merely the love which he showed for the Gentiles in calling them into his kingdom, which is here referred to; it is the love which is shown for the lost world in giving himself to die. This love is often referred to in the New Testament, and is declared to surpass all other which has ever been evinced; see the Romans 5:7-8, notes; John 15:13, note. To know this; to feel this; to have a lively sense of it, is one of the highest privileges of the Christian. Nothing will so much excite gratitude in our hearts; nothing will prompt us so much to a life of self-denial; nothing will make us so benevolent and so dead to the world; see the notes on 2 Corinthians 5:14.
Which passeth knowledge - There "seems" to be a slight contradiction here in expressing a wish to know what cannot be known, or in a desire that they should understand that which cannot be understood. But it is the language of a man whose heart was full to overflowing. He had a deep sense of the love of Christ, and he expressed a wish that they should understand it. Suddenly he has such an apprehension of it, that he says it is indeed infinite. No one can attain to a full view of it. It had no limit. It was unlike anything which had ever been evinced before. It was love which led the Son of God to become incarnate; to leave the heavens: to be a man of sorrows; to be reviled and persecured; to be put to death in the most shameful manner - on a cross. Who could understand that? Where else had there been anything like that? What was there with which to compare it? What was there by which it could be illustrated? And how could it be fully understood Yet "something" of it might be seen, known, felt; and the apostle desired that as far as possible they should understand that great love which the Lord Jesus had manifested for a dying world.
That ye might be filled with all the fulness of God - What an expression! How rich and glorious Who can comprehend all that it implies? Let us inquire into its meaning. There "may" be here in these verses an allusion to the "temple." The apostle had spoken of their being founded in love, and of surveying the length, and breadth, and depth, and height of that love, as of a vast and splendid edifice, and he now desires that those whom he addressed might be pervaded or filled with the indwelling of God. The language here is cumulative, and is full of meaning and richness.
(1) they were to be "full of God." That is, he would dwell in them.
(2) they were to be filled with "the fulness of God" - τὸ πλήρωμα τοῦ Θεοῦ to plērōma tou Theou. On the word rendered "fulness," see on Ephesians 1:10, note, 23, note. It is a favorite word with Paul. Thus, he speaks of the "fulness" of the Gentiles, Romans 11:25; the "fulness" of time, Galatians 4:4; the fulness of him that filleth all in all, Ephesians 1:23; the "fulness" of Christ, Ephesians 4:13; the "fulness" of the Godhead in Christ, Colossians 1:19; Colossians 2:9. It means here, "that you may have the richest measures of divine consolation and of the divine presence; that you may partake of the entire enjoyment of God in the most ample measure in which he bestows his favors on his people."
(3) it was to be with "all" the fulness of God; not with partial and stinted measures of his gracious presence, but with "all" which he ever bestows. Religion is not a name. It is not a matter of form. It is not a trifle. It is the richest, best gift of God to man. It ennobles our nature. It more clearly teaches us our true dignity than all the profound discoveries which people can make in science; for none of them will ever fill us with the fulness of God. Religion is spiritual, elevating, pure, Godlike. We dwell with God; walk with God; live with God; commune with God; are like God. We become partakers of the divine nature 2 Peter 1:4; in rank we are associated with angels; in happiness and purity we are associated with God!
on Ephesians 3 :19
3:19 And to know - But the apostle corrects himself, and immediately observes, it cannot be fully known. This only we know, that the love of Christ surpasses all knowledge. That ye may be filled - Which is the sum of all. With all the fulness of God - With all his light, love, wisdom, holiness, power, and glory. A perfection far beyond a bare freedom from sin.