The Unknowable Love of Christ
We pray… that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God.
If we think some of the things we've been learning about praying are awesome, the prayer for this month is even more so. As Paul led us toward praying about love, he admitted that God’s love is beyond knowing. Yet he is teaching us to expect it in our hearts. Romans 10:10 tells us, With the heart man believeth. So, with our hearts we grasp Ephesians 3:19 and start praying that we—and the ones we hold before the Lord—might be filled with ...all the fullness of God.
I discerned three supplications in the passage as I observed the little word hina in the Greek New Testament. It’s in this passage three times. Hina is an important word that Paul used to tell what he was praying. He used it frequently through all the passages from which we have gained our prayers for intercession. It became a “marker” for me through these Scriptures as I was finding his prayers and adopting them for our use. We started sharing them with you over twenty-five years ago. After all this time, I just can’t get away from them. They keep saying more and more to me—and I hope to you too.
To grasp the connection of all the prayers, we read the whole passage again. Take note of the three that’s.
As you go through this Ephesians passage, mark the word hina, translated that in your Bible. Each that points to a prayer. But take note of this, the word that at the beginning of verse 17 is different. It goes with the Infinitive form of the Greek katoikéo which means “to have a dwelling place.” It connects with the prayer that started in verse 16.
Looking at these Ephesians verses together, we find two things leading up to being filled with all the fullness of God. first is the bringing of one's life under the dominion of the Holy Spirit so as to become a fit habitation for Christ. The second is laying hold on the love of Christ, which surpasses knowledge. On coming through these, we come to the place where knowing the fullness of God is possible.
The third takes these two and leads us on to being filled with all the fullness of God. What we look to God for in each prayer can never come by self-will or mental comprehension. It can only be brought to birth in us by the Holy Spirit.
Never have I been so thrown on the enabling grace of the Lord as I am in these days. The more I learn of His grace and of His love, the more I realize there is more to know. It all reaches into eternity.
In fact, who is there who can describe the love of God, or the fullness of God, or the fullness of God that was expressed in Christ Jesus, or the fullness that is to be known in Christ’s Body the Church? But, the Scripture dares to speak of all this. Paul, especially, in Ephesians and Colossians, draws us on toward knowing the fullness.
Fullness is an incredible word. It is from the Greek pleórma and means “the perfect completion of a thing.” The Verb pleróo, “to be made full, complete,” and its Noun pleórma, “fullness,” occur a total of one hundred and seven times in the Greek New Testament. This is pretty strong evidence that the fullness is an important matter for our attention.
Let’s see some of the passages of Scripture that address this.
God sent His Son when time had reached its fullness. If this was so of His first advent, then we can expect it shall be so of His second. He shall come again in the fullness of times.
See this Word—oh, see this Word!—in Ephesians 1:10. Let the longing of your heart reach for it. Then, let it begin laying hold on your understanding.
The above word dispensation means an administration of government. There is a governmental administration that will come in the fullness of times. The Covenants, the Words of promise, the actions of God are all drawing us on toward this powerful administration.
What Government is this? It is the Government of God’s Kingdom under the administration of Christ Jesus. It reaches unto the uttermost parts of the earth. Just as we share in the death, burial and resurrection of Christ Jesus, we share also in His ascension to the right hand of the Majesty on high. What a fullness!
The fullness meant a great deal to Paul. It became especially dear to him while he was a prisoner in Rome. When he was alone, with the darkness and despair of an unjust prison sentence upon him, he grew in his knowledge of Christ. In those days of painful difficulty, he came to the point he could say, In Him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete (literally “brought to your fullness”) in Him—Colossians 2:9, 10.
This was not a remote and impersonal thing to Paul. He saw that the fullness—or completion—of God was in Christ. He also saw that we come into our fullness—or completion—in Christ. In Him is where we meet God and are made complete. There is no fullness, nothing to bring about more completion and nothing to be desired, outside of Him.
In spite of the reality of his situation, Paul made it a point of emphasis in Ephesians that he had been elected, called out by God, to bring the good news of salvation to the Gentiles. With that emphasis coming through time and again in this Epistle, he made it a further point of emphasis that God’s grace is offering a fullness for us who may not be of Jewish lineage. But, here is a common ground on which we all stand. We have all been born into a line of humanity that has been corrupted by sin. This means we all have begun our stance before God on one common ground. Because we are sinners, every one of us is in need of the grace that comes to us through His only begotten Son.
From a point of having no hope, and existing without God in the world, the Holy Spirit has drawn us into the bosom of God’s love. And now, loving us, caressing us with His healing hands of mercy and speaking His Truth into our hearts, He is drawing us on to know His fullness. Only the Holy Spirit can ever make this substantial and real to us. He is doing that very thing because God loves us unconditionally.
The fullness of His love into which we are being drawn is sealed with the Covenants and made certain by the offering of Christ’s Own blood. It is reaching so deep into the sin that once possessed us that there is no boundary left beyond which it cannot go. In other words, there is not a one of us who is too great a sinner for God’s love to embrace and draw in to know its fullness.
For years I’ve been taken with Paul’s revelation of grace as he presented it in chapter 2 of Ephesians. Take note of the word you in Ephesians 2:1. It is one of two objects of the Verb raised in Ephesians 1:20. The other object of this Verb is Him, that is, Christ Jesus. God raised Him, ...and you.Seeing what took place in the resurrection lets us in on the fullness toward which we are moving. If our minds have difficulty taking this in, we just have to let our hearts come into action.
What we’re moving on to see is the condition in which we existed before God’s grace reached us. There was a fullness there too. To know how lost we were helps us grasp how full is the salvation by which He is drawing us unto Himself. Take note of the bullets we’ve placed throughout these verses. They draw our attention to the fullness of the lostness that was ours before the fullness of salvation began its work in us.
Whatever was the fullness of our lost estate, and however great is the fullness of what His grace has accomplished in us, there is yet more—immeasurably more—fullness that is to be ours in the ages to come.
Oh, we can’t grasp this with our minds! Can we? That’s the reason it’s really only our hearts that can begin reaching for this fullness.
The prayer we’re learning to pray moves us toward this wondrous thing. It's something so far beyond the grasp of human thinking it must be born in us out of the mind of the Spirit. For this reason, we hold ourselves, and others before God's throne for its release.
But let us move on to see more of the fullness toward which Ephesians is drawing us. The amazement grows. See this from Ephesians 1:22,23.
I remember when I first saw this. It was too amazing for my mind to take in, but my heart received it. In studying this with another believer, I saw that the word fullness, from pleróma, could mean also “full formation.” This Scripture began saying to us that the Church—the true Church, the universal Church—is Who Christ is now. It is the full formation of Him.
Does this do away with Who Christ is in the heavens? No! He is the Head of the Body. Our Head is in the heavens. His Body is on earth.
That the Church is the full formation of Him may be hard to comprehend. Our understanding may fall short. But, because it entered my heart many years ago, I have been able to acknowledge Christ’s Body anywhere I’ve gone in the world. What amazing joy, and grace! We’re not joined in denomination, or doctrine, or practice, or in the way we dress, or in where we “go to church,” or in whether we have rituals or not.” We’re joined in Christ.
Paul used the word pleórma again in the following important passage to which more and more ministries are giving attention today. Take note in verse 13.
Measure is from the Greek word métron, meaning “a specific portion or a measured-out part.“ Stature is from elikías, a word denoting the full and mature expression of what one is meant to be. Thus, the ministries listed in verse 11 above are appointed by Christ to bring us all to our certain measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.
If we could but receive it, all the ministries are to function until we all arrive unto the same faith and acknowledgment of Christ, each with our own measure of what He is to become in His fullness. There is a measured out part, a divinely ordained portion, for each person in the full and mature expression of Christ. It is for this—as high and seemingly remote as it may be for some individuals—that praying people are to reach in their supplications.
One person alone can never express or know all the fullness of Christ. Neither can a single congregation of persons. It would take all the persons in the entire world who are joined to Christ to express His fullness. And the glory of it all is this: when His fullness is expressed, all the fullness of God will be expressed. We’re moving toward this as we hold before the Throne in prayer those for whom we care. Our prayer is that each individual who knows Christ will come into his or her own measured out part in the full expression of Him.
The fullness reaches in two directions. One is the completion we can know in our own lives, brought about by the indwelling Christ in us as individuals. The other is the completion of which we each can become a part in the entire body of Christ.
In Ephesians 5:18, Paul again spoke of fullness. He said, ...Be filled with the Spirit. This is as it occurs in the King James Version. The Greek, however, gives a different insight, leading us to translate it differently. There is no Definite Article in the Greek before pneúma. It simply means “spirit”, not “the spirit.” This leads us to consider Paul is speaking of the human spirit and not the Holy Spirit.
The word translated with in Ephesians 5:18, is from the Greek en. It clearly means “in.” This makes Paul say, “Be filled in spirit,” that is, in your human spirit. But there is more to see. Be filled is from another form of the same word translated fullness that we saw in Ephesians 3:19 where we gain our present prayer. Here it is a Verb in its Present Imperative form, making it say, “Be always in the process of being filled in spirit. Let it never cease. Let its process go on continually.”
Glenda and I thought of this passage often, especially when our faith came under trial. Upon returning home from receiving her first chemotherapy treatment in 1992, we were weary—especially her. Being too weak to complain, we began quoting Scriptures to one another, especially from the Psalms. Then we worshiped the Lord together. As we traveled, she was quickened. Life came.
Ephesians 5:18-21 began coming to her mind. We'd learned years ago that the main Verb in the overall passage is be filled. Supporting it are several Participles, or helping Verbs, that make being filled a down to earth reality. They are (1) speaking to yourselves in Psalms and hymns and spiritual songs; (2)singing and making melody in your hearts to the Lord; (3)giving thanks always for all things; and (4) submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.
As we did these things—speaking the Scriptures and hymns; singing...., making melody...., giving thanks ...., submitting...., we discovered a fresh release of this fullness about which we are now learning to pray.The understanding of this is immense and reaches toward eternal values and truths, yet its day-by-day unfolding reaches right where we live. It is a fullness that is complete now, perfect and encompassing all of life there is. Yet, it is a perfection that grows as we grow in our relationships with Christ.
We are learning to simply hold others before the Lord for the release of this fullness in their lives. It becomes a beautiful and growing thing coming from the heart of God. We desire for each one of you a completion in your own measured out place in the full expression of Christ.
John 1:16 gives us a beautiful expression with regard to this fullness in a Word we receive from the Lord Jesus. And of his fullness have all we received, and grace for grace. This term grace for grace is intriguing. Literally it is cháris ánti cháris, “grace against grace.” This is best understood by comparison with the waves that beat upon the shore of an ocean. They come one wave after the other. As one is retreating back into the fullness of the ocean, but before it is gone, comes another wave overflowing the retreating one, only in turn to be met by another. Oh, it is a never ending procedure, this grace of His that comes flowing over our lives bringing, and bringing, and bringing unto us of His fullness.
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