Knowing the Surpassing-Knowledge-Love of Christ

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
Bluff 1 Copy

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Ephesians 3:19

In Ephesians 3:18, Paul prays that we might "grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ." In verse 19 he adds, "and to know this love that surpasses knowledge." The Greek of this phrase reads very literally, "[that you might have the power] to know the surpassing-knowledge-love of Christ."

How can we know that which surpasses knowledge? At first, this might seem self-contradictory. It doesn't seem possible to know the unknowable. But Paul is not saying that Christ's love cannot be known, only that it will always exceed our knowing. No matter how much we understand the love of Christ, we will never completely understand it. Yet, we are able to fathom Christ's love truly, however imperfectly.

If you think about it for a while, you'll come up with all kinds of analogies for our incomplete knowledge. For example, I know something about how car engines operate. Years ago, when they were more simple, I could actually work on them a bit. But the days of flathead, straight-six Rambler engines are long gone. I can barely understand how car engines work today, and I don't even try to monkey around with them. It wouldn't be too far off to say that I know car engines, even though they surpass my knowledge.

Yet I must qualify what I've just said in two ways. First, there are some people who really do understand how today's automobile engines work. These engineers and mechanics know everything (or just about everything) there is to know about motors. In the case of the love of Christ, however, no human being in the world will ever be able to fully understand the love of Christ. It exceeds, not just my knowing, but all human knowing.

Second, remember that when Scripture speaks of knowing, it almost always envisions a relational, experiential kind of knowing, a knowing that includes but goes beyond intellectual understanding. You and I are privileged to know the love of Christ, not just as a wonderful idea, but also as something to be felt and treasured. Yet, even in the realm of personal knowing, there is always more of Christ's love to be experienced. To put it plainly, Christ loves you more than you can understand, and he has still more love for you to experience.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: What helps you to understand the love of Christ for you? In what ways do you struggle to know Christ's love?


O the deep, deep love of Jesus, vast, unmeasured, boundless, free!
Rolling as a mighty ocean in its fullness over me!
Underneath me, all around me, is the current of Thy love
Leading onward, leading homeward to Thy glorious rest above!

O the deep, deep love of Jesus, spread His praise from shore to shore!
How He loveth, ever loveth, changeth never, nevermore!
How He watches o'er His loved ones, died to call them all His own;
How for them He intercedeth, watcheth o'er them from the throne!

O the deep, deep love of Jesus, love of every love the best!
'Tis an ocean vast of blessing, 'tis a haven sweet of rest!
O the deep, deep love of Jesus, 'tis a heaven of heavens to me;
And it lifts me up to glory, for it lifts me up to Thee! Amen.

"O, the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus," by Samuel Trevor Francis, 1875. Public domain.
Image courtesy of Laity Lodge, one of our sister programs in the Foundations for Laity Renewal.