In our being made strong to apprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge. It is not enough that we love, we must know the love of Christ, but that love passeth knowledge.
Chapter XII. The Holy Spirit Forming Christ Within Us.
It is a wonderful and deeply significant prayer that Paul offers in Eph. iii. 16-19 for the believers in Ephesus and for all believers who read the Epistle. Paul writes, “For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, that ye may be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inward man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; to the end that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be strong to apprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length, and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge, that ye may be filled unto all the fullness of God” (R. V.). We have here an advance in the thought over that which we have just been studying in the preceding chapter. It is the carrying out of the former work to its completion. Here the power of the Spirit manifests itself, not merely in giving us victory over sin but in four things:
I. In Christ dwelling in our hearts. The word translated “dwell” in this passage is a very strong word. It means literally, “to dwell down,” “to settle,” “to dwell deep.” It is the work of the Holy Spirit to form the living Christ within us, dwelling deep down [pg 123]in the deepest depths of our being. We have already seen that this was a part of the significance of the name sometimes used of the Holy Spirit, “the Spirit of Christ.” In Christ on the cross of Calvary, made an atoning sacrifice for sin, bearing the curse of the broken law in our place, we have Christ for us. But by the power of the Holy Spirit bestowed upon us by the risen Christ we have Christ in us. Herein lies the secret of a Christlike life. We hear a great deal in these days about doing as Jesus would do. Certainly we ought as Christians to live like Christ. “He that saith he abideth in Him, ought himself so to walk even as He walked” (1 John ii. 6). But any attempt on our part to imitate Christ in our own strength will only result in utter disappointment and despair. There is nothing more futile that we can possibly attempt than to imitate Christ in the power of our own will. If we fancy that we succeed it will be simply because we have a very incomplete knowledge of Christ. The more we study Him, and the more perfectly we understand His conduct, the more clearly will we see how far short we have come from imitating Him. But God does not demand of us the impossible, He does not demand of us that we imitate Christ in our own strength. He offers to us something infinitely better, He offers to form Christ in us by the power of His Holy Spirit. And when Christ is thus formed in us by the Holy Spirit's power, all we have to do is to let this indwelling Christ live out His own life in us, and then we shall be like Christ without struggle and effort of our own. A woman, who had a deep knowledge of the Word and [pg 124]a rare experience of the fullness that there is in Christ, stood one morning before a body of ministers as they plied her with questions. “Do you mean to say, Mrs. H——,” one of the ministers asked, “that you are holy?” Quickly but very meekly and gently, the elect lady replied, “Christ in me is holy.” No, we are not holy. To the end of the chapter in and of ourselves we are full of weakness and failure, but the Holy Spirit is able to form within us the Holy One of God, the indwelling Christ, and He will live out His life through us in all the humblest relations of life as well as in those relations of life that are considered greater. He will live out His life through the mother in the home, through the day-labourer in the pit, through the business man in his office—everywhere.
II. In our being rooted and grounded in love (v. 17). Paul multiplies figures here. The first figure is taken from the tree shooting its roots down deep into the earth and taking fast hold upon it. The second figure is taken from a great building with its foundations laid deep in the earth on the rock. Paul therefore tells us that by the strengthening of the Spirit in the inward man we send the roots of our life down deep into the soil of love and also that the foundations of the superstructure of our character are built upon the rock of love. Love is the sum of holiness, the fulfilling of the law (Rom. xiii. 10); love is what we all most need in our relations to God, to Jesus Christ and to one another; and it is the work of the Holy Spirit to root and ground our lives in love. There is the most intimate relation between Christ being formed within us, or [pg 125]made to dwell in us, and our being rooted and grounded in love, for Jesus Christ Himself is the absolutely perfect embodiment of divine love.
The more we study Him, and the more perfectly we understand His conduct, the more clearly will we see how far short we have come from imitating Him.
III. In our being made strong to apprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge. It is not enough that we love, we must know the love of Christ, but that love passeth knowledge. It is so broad, so long, so high, so deep, that no one can comprehend it. But we can “apprehend” it, we can lay hold upon it; we can make it our own; we can hold it before us as the object of our meditation, our wonder, and our joy. But it is only in the power of the Holy Spirit that we can thus apprehend it. The mind cannot grasp it at all, in its own native strength. A man untaught and unstrengthened by the Spirit of God may talk about the love of Christ, he may write poetry about it, he may go into rhapsodies over it, but it is only words, words, words. There is no real apprehension. But the Spirit of God makes us strong to really apprehend it in all its breadth, in all its length, in all its depth, and in all its height.