Editor’s note: The posts you’ll read this month will all center around the word “perissos” as found in Ephesians 3:20 and John 10:10. In the future, we’ll offer a greater variety and breadth of scripture, but we wanted to explore some of the depths of these two passages first.
“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father [that you might] know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:14, 19)
I really like knowing things and unknowns make me anxious. This eventually sent me off to seminary: a drive to finally figure things out which couldn’t be known any easier way. In Ephesians 3:19, though, Paul prays that the Ephesians might know a love that surpasses knowledge. This makes it tough to imagine what the use of studying theology would be as well as putting a pretty big question mark next to the entire plan for Perissos – how can we lead people into a deeper understanding of God’s love if it is ultimately beyond us?
The knowledge that Paul is talking about is only possible by grace. It is a revelation rather than something we work ourselves to. This grace loves us even when we are unlovable: as Paul says in Titus 3, we were hated and hated one another when the kindness and love of God appeared. If this love is by grace, then any knowledge that we have about it can only be by the same grace.
We can’t logic our way to understanding God’s love but only God can show it to us (particularly humbling for someone like me who tends to trust his own reason). But the abundance of God’s infinity ought to be difficult to explain. If we think we have a grasp of it, that’s a good sign that we are missing something important.
Not knowing shouldn’t leave us despairing or anxious though: even if we can’t completely comprehend what God is doing now we can know what he has done in the past. Whenever I strain to see God’s grace in a time when he is particularly unknowable or seems unloving I can turn to God’s past faithfulness to me and to others in the Church.
Our God has history with us and with his people and this is a history of love and compassion: starting even in the Bible when he rescued his people from slavery in Egypt and conquered death through his son. In my life, he has proven faithful and the example of my church gives even more places where he has lavished his love. Even though we can’t know the depth of God’s own love, we can see how it has overflowed in our lives and have confidence in that.
This is why telling each other stories of God’s goodness, though it feels terribly corny, is so vital. We need to tell each other the stories of God’s faithfulness in order that we might know better some of the depths of his love.
And that is what Paul is praying for the Ephesians – that they might experience God’s love in their lives and not just know it intellectually. And that is what we pray for you that as we tell stories of God’s grace we might grow in our love of him and our knowledge of his love for us.
Magnificat (a prayer of the Virgin Mary, and a way to remember God’s love and faithfulness, from Luke 1:46-55):
“My soul proclaims the Greatness of the Lord,
My spirit rejoices in God my Savior;
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed;
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm,
he has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel,
for he has remembered his promise of mercy,
The promise he made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children forever.”