Peas

I’m not sure we can teach people about the love of God.

Not for them to fully get it.

I was reading in Ephesians 3 again this morning, which is one of my favorite passages, and there were things that, even this, my umpteenth time reading, I had missed.

Paul prays for believers, that they would “grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,” and “know this love that surpasses knowledge,” that they “might be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God” (18-19).

The meaning of the text comes through clearly enough- a passionate plea to God from a pastor who desperately longs for his people to find the intimacy and beauty in God that he himself has found.

I guess what I had never noticed was the wordplay.

A seemingly-impossible set of contradictions.

I read from the Greek New Testament this morning, where the intricacies and subtleties of Paul’s original penning are intact.

He prays two things that almost seem to contradict each other:

That they would:

“know a love that surpasses knowledge,”

and

“be filled with all the fullness of God.”

In both of these there’s a wordplay. And it doesn’t really change the meaning so you don’t really miss anything by not noticing it, but it’s so much cooler if you do.

Paul prays they would know something that SURPASSES knowledge.

To know something that can’t really be known.

To know Someone we’re not really capable of truly knowing.

The word for “know” has two meanings: intellectual knowledge, and intimate relationship.

Paul uses both meanings of the same word in one phrase.

To “know a love that surpasses knowledge.”

To be intimately connected to Him who cannot be intellectually ascended to.

Further, the word for SURPASSES is a compound word.

“Hypo” which means “SUPER” and “ballo” which means “POUR.”

Literally, to super pour. Or flood.

Paul is praying that this agape love of Christ which cannot be intellectually known or measured or quantified or calculated will be SUPER-poured into people in an intimate way, so that they will then be able to intimately know Someone their little pea brains would otherwise not be able to contain.

And that this “pouring” into us from a limitless source will then
fill us “to the measure” with Him.

Finally, the word for FILL and FULNESS in the phrase “be filled with all the fullness” is the same word.

If Paul were an English poet, he might say something more like “be full of fullness.” Even that kind of misses it though.

To know (intimately) a love that can’t be known (intellectually),

To be filled with Him who can’t be emptied.

Like I said, none of this really changes the meaning. It just enhances it. It fills it to its fullness.

 

Paul SUPER POURED a meaning-

-a meaning that surpasses the plain text one-

-into a passage describing a Jesus who, by His Spirit (see verse 16), SUPER POURS intimacy with Him-

-an intimacy that surpasses mere intellectualism-

-which never really convey His depth anyway-

into us.

 

Paul’s words communicate the meaning of the text.

But Paul’s wordplay communicates it too.

As if it was divinely inspired.

In 2 Peter 1, Peter closes out a long string of qualities that we should work to “add to our faith,” with the one that seems to embody all of them at once: “love.”

And while I’ll probably look back over this later and regret writing it because I don’t think I’ve done a very good job capturing the meaning,

I think it’s because I’m barely able to grab onto the most beautiful parts of the Ephesians 3 passage long enough to understand them, and then try to describe them before they get away from me again.

I have a pea brain.

But maybe God will pour some meaning into this too and allow you a glimpse into His glory.

Because the longer I follow Him, the more I see that to be true-
that we do not convince the unconvinced.

He does.

And He does it by allowing them an experience, not by sending them an intellectual.

It happens through the heart.

Often by way of the ears or the eyes.

Sometimes after all of my words have been spent and I’ve talked myself dry, I’ve found the best I can do for Jesus is to shut up and point.

The best I can do for others is to shut up and point them to Him.

So, like Paul, I pray for people to experience Him for themselves.

Because, like Paul, I believe there’s nothing greater. And I believe this experiential intimacy is so much stronger and so much longer-lasting than habits or rules or intellectualism. Because all of those words describe religion. And in the words of Bono, “religion is what is left when the Spirit has left the Church.”

I don’t want religion. I want Jesus. And I want to be filled with Him through His Spirit. I want His love to fill me. And to fill you.

At the end of the day, I think that’s all any of us really needs. We can work on this list set out by Peter- and we should- but if we boiled all of those things down into one thing, if we simplified, then like Paul, my prayer is that we would all be filled with this love, a love that confounds all our best words and attempts and explanations. A love that defies logic or language or time or space.

Because, if that limitless, inexhaustible resource is placed inside of us,

the rest pretty much takes care of itself, right?

And the thing is, I can’t do that for you. I can’t do that for anyone.

No one can.

But we can pray for it.

 

So, like Paul,

“for this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 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.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”

Amen.

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