“I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge…”
As a preacher I am sometimes asked to repeat a quote I have often used, as it seems to ring a bell for many:
To dwell above with the saints we love,
Oh, that will be glory.
But to dwell below with the saints we know,
Well, that’s another story!
Ah yes, the saints we know! The ones we rub shoulders with and sometimes aggravate us. What do they have to do with coming to know more of the love of Christ?
When Paul prays that we might comprehend the love of Christ with all the saints, he is not just talking about super-spiritual stars that have gone home to be with Jesus. Paul and the apostles use the word “saint” for any believer in Christ Jesus. Paul opens this letter to the Ephesian Christians, greeting them as saints: “the saints who are in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 1:11). God saves and sets apart the believers as “holy” to Him, making them “saints” (Ephesians 1:4). And it is “with all the saints” that we together come to know more of Christ’s surpassing love. In the laboratory of life with fellow saints, we learn more about being loved and loving.
Talking about saints, Paul picks up on a favorite theme, a theme dominating this Ephesian letter: the Body of Christ! the Church! John Wesley was on point in saying, “God knows nothing of solitary religion.” “No man,” Wesley added, “ever went to heaven alone.”
As believers are “in Christ Jesus”, so we “are built together spiritually into a dwelling-place for God” (Ephesians 2:22). Christ is the Head of this glorious Body, the Church, “from which the whole body, is joined and knit together…and promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love” (Ephesians 4:16). Paul prays knowing that no member of the Body of Christ can say to another, “I have no need of you” (1 Corinthians 1:21).
With the theme of “saints,” Paul picks up on the theme of “one another” scattered throughout his letters. Paul wants to emphasize how much we really do need “one another” to go on to Christlikeness. Consider just a few of Paul’s “one another” imperatives:
- “Love one another with mutual affection” (Romans 12:10)
- “Through love serve one another” (Galatians 5:13)
- “Bear one another’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2)
- “Bear with one another in love” (Ephesians 4:2)
- “Forgive one another” (Ephesians 4:32)
- “Encourage one another, and build each other up” (1 Thessalonians 5:11)
I am grateful for believers who have taught me about God’s forgiveness by the way they have forgiven me. I am grateful for the unconditional love of others who embody Christ’s love for me. And how would we ever learn patience if there were not some saints who seem to rub us the wrong way!
As Paul prays that we learn God’s love “with all the saints,” he knows we need believers from other cultures, other languages, other worship traditions, and even other centuries. Together we will complete God’s magnificent mosaic “so that through the church the wisdom of God in its rich variety might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 3:10). God is doing something big through us saints, something bigger than we can see at the moment!
THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
“It’s an incredible mystery of God’s love that the more you know how deeply you are loved, the more you will see how deeply your sisters and your brothers in the human family are loved.” Henri Nouwen