Key text: “And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ” (Ephesians 3:17b-18).
Lesson objective: To understand that although we are finite beings, yet through the working of God’s power via the Spirit we can come to the knowledge of the incomprehensibility of the love of Christ and the fullness of all that God is!
Introduction: Philosophers have often pondered over the reasonableness of finite beings ever being able to comprehend the infinite. Almost by definition one would think the concept is unattainable. Humans are finite beings and thus limited in ability and capacity to grasp only that which their finite minds can extend themselves to: other finite things. When we say something is infinite, one is saying that the principle is beyond our ability to understand! As far as scientists are concerned, they have no choice but to “limit” their knowledge to what they can observe. For science has no “eyes” to see further than the limited reach of the Hubble Space Telescope, and other finite instruments. No matter how good those instruments are, they will always be finite, that is, limited.
On the other hand, theologians for centuries have pondered over the incomprehensibility of God. Since God is an infinite being, how can humankind ever come to know him? Let us dispel at least one myth. Because something is infinite does not mean that we cannot know something about it. We would need an infinite mind to grasp infinite knowledge, but not in order to understand a finite amount of that infinite knowledge. I may not be able to understand it all, but I can understand a portion of it! I can understand enough of numbers to do basic math without fully grasping the concept of infinite numbers, and we admit that they exist! So, when theologians speak about the incomprehensibility of God, they do not mean that people cannot know anything at all about God. Indeed, people do have knowledge about God, although in a limited way (Romans 1:20).
But Paul in his prayer for all believers in Christ goes far beyond some obscure limited knowledge about God (Ephesians 3:14-21). The infinite God has intervened in the history of the human race, became finite, and entered this world. In the person of Jesus Christ, God was present in his fullness in bodily form (Colossians 2:9). The attribute of his love embraced us while we were yet sinners, and he gave his earthly life as atonement for our sins by dying in our place on the cross. God wants us to fully comprehend his love by the very power that raised Jesus from the dead, the power that abides in every believer. The Holy Spirit imparts the love of Christ, so that we may come to know its width, length, depth and height!
From infinity, God has reached down and touched the earth and bathed it with the blood of his only Son. Our ultimate delight, through the Holy Spirit, is to come to know the divine love of Christ in all its fullness to the glory of the Father. The love that God has given his sons and daughters in Christ is not a philosophical contemplation or a scientific theory or a theological treatise, but a living and binding love to be shared with one another and with our Lord. Amen.
Questions for Bible study
Read the following verses and respond to the questions:
1. 1 Corinthians 13:1-13
a. In Paul’s classic passage on divine love (Gr. agape) in Christ, what is a person with the gift of tongues like, when he or she has no love? v. 1. Have you ever heard music badly out of tune? What was your impression?
b. According to Paul, what is the gift of prophecy able to do? v. 2a. Very impressive, don’t you think so? What can the gift of faith do? v. 2b.
c. What do these gifts mean if the person has no love? v. 2c. Why?
d. What if one has the gift of generosity to the poor and even becomes a martyr, but has no love? v. 3. Don’t these noble works count for something? Explain.
e. What five attributes of divine love are mentioned in this verse? v. 4. Briefly describe each one.
f. What are the next four attributes? v. 5. Briefly explain each one.
g. What five attributes are mentioned next? vv. 6-7. Are these Christian characteristics to be cultivated in our spiritual walk with Christ? Or does Paul expect too much from us? If we can’t live up to the high calling of divine love, why not quit trying? Note: Even though in experience we may fall far short of God’s high calling, yet in Christ we are seated with him in the highest position in heaven, not on account of what we do, but because of what he has done on our behalf. Now that is good news!
h. In the end, what will fail and what will not fail? v. 8. Why will all of this happen? v. 9-10.
i. What is the point of comparison that Paul is making with this illustration? v. 11.
j. How does Paul see now in comparison to then? v. 12a. What does Paul know now in comparison to then? v. 12b. What do you think Paul is referring to when he speaks of now vs. then?
k. What remains for now? v. 13a. Of the three mentioned, which is the greatest one? v. 13b. Why?
2. Ephesians 3:14-21
a. Before whom does Paul kneel? v. 14. How is the Father described? v. 15.
b. What does Paul pray for on behalf of his readers? v. 16a. How is this accomplished? v. 16b. For what reason? v. 17a.
c. What second thing does the apostle pray for? v. 17b-18.
d. What is Paul’s third petition for them? v. 19a. With what desired results? v. 19b. See Colossians 2:6-9.
e. Can God give us such infinite knowledge of his being and love? v. 20a. Through what means? v. 20b; see 1:19-20.
3. Romans 8:31-39
a. Paul captures the width and length and height and depth of the divine love for us in this passage. What is the answer to Paul’s rhetorical question? v. 31. How can we be sure? v. 32.
b. What accusations can be made against us? v. 33a. Why not? v. 33b.
c. What condemnation can be brought against us? v. 34a. Why not? v. 34b.
d. What things are mentioned that might threaten the divine love for us? vv. 35-36. What answer is given? v. 37.
e. What is Paul so convinced of? vv. 38-39. Why?
Respond to the following questions:
1. Through the Holy Spirit, we come to comprehend God’s love in Christ for us, especially through the gospel message. How far do you think his love for us transcends our understanding to reach our hearts to enable us to love one another as he loves us?
2. Are there times when you feel unlovable, times when you lash out and hurt others by what you say or don’t say, times when your forgiveness is superficial and lacks depth? How do we overcome?
3. Express in your own words the dimensions of God’s divine love for you in Christ.
The invisible God made himself visible and demonstrated his great love while we were yet unlovable sinners. Christ became the unlovable man of sorrows, so that by his sacrifice we might become the most loved of all, in him. Hallelujah!
Author: Lorenzo Arroyo