Measuring the Love of God

Measuring

Midway through Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus, the apostle described a prayer that he offered to the Father (Ephesians 3:14-21). Part of this prayer emphasized the greatness of the love of God.

So that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:17-19).

Paul began this chapter by describing what God has given – His grace in the gospel (v. 2-3), a way to understand His will (v. 4), salvation to the Gentiles (v. 6), His wisdom revealed (v. 10), the church (v. 10), and His eternal purpose carried out in Christ (v. 11). All of these were part of the demonstration of the love of God. As Paul said, God’s love “surpasses knowledge” (v. 19).

Paul described the greatness of God’s love in terms of measurements – breadth, length, height, and depth (Ephesians 3:18). What do these measurements mean? Some commentators suggest that God’s love is described in this way simply to emphasize the fact that it cannot be quantified. However, each of these terms mean something and the New Testament shows how they apply to the love of God.

Breadth

The love of God is broad, encompassing the world. Jesus said, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16). No one is beyond the reach of God’s love. This is why Peter said that the Lord is “not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). He “desires all men to be saved” (1 Timothy 2:4).

Therefore, the gospel with its message of salvation was sent “into all the world” (Mark 16:15-16). When Peter spoke with the household of Cornelius, he explained how he understood that everyone is welcome: “I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him” (Acts 10:34-35). Paul explained to the Galatians that those who are “sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus” and have been “baptized into Christ,” despite the diversity of background (nationality, economic status, or gender), are “all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:26-28). Isaiah prophesied that the Lord’s church would be made up of people from “all the nations” (Isaiah 2:2-3). This would be proof of God’s love for “the world” (John 3:16).

Length

The love of God extends from eternity to eternity. The Lord said to His people, “I have loved you with an everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3). He had a plan to save us from the beginning. Jesus was described as “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8, KJV). In the beginning, after sin was introduced into the world, God spoke of the redemption in Christ by prophesying of His defeat of Satan: “And I will put enmity between you [the serpent, as] and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel” (Genesis 3:15).

When God extended His love toward us, He did not do so for a limited period of time. It is unending: “The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-23). Paul assured the brethren in Rome that there is nothing that is “able to separate us from the love of God” (Romans 8:38-39). Through His love, we have hope of eternal life (John 3:16).

Height

The love of God reaches into heaven, where He is. The psalmist wrote, “The Lord is in His holy temple; the Lord’s throne is in heaven” (Psalm 11:4). Because His love reaches into heaven, we must have a greater love for Him than we do of the world. John wrote, “Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15). The reason why it is futile to love the world over God is because “the world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever” (1 John 2:17). God’s love gives us “eternal comfort and good hope by grace” (2 Thessalonians 2:16).

Jesus told His apostles, “Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love” (John 15:9-10). When Jesus talked about abiding in His love – or abiding in Him (John 15:4, 6-7) – He was referring to the fact that they would have fellowship with Him. While we are still here on the earth and not yet in heaven, we have fellowship with the Lord as part of His kingdom (cf. Colossians 1:13) and access to “the throne of grace” (Hebrews 4:16) because of the love that He has extended toward us.

Depth

The love of God reaches as deep as man can get in sin. After describing the wretched state of “both Jews and Greeks…under sin” (Romans 3:9-19), Paul explained that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Everyone who is of accountable age is in this lost condition. Yet Jesus came to save us from our sins. Paul wrote later, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). He also told these brethren, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Paul explained to Timothy that even he, as the “chief” of sinners, could be saved (1 Timothy 1:13-16).

Even though we have all sinned (Romans 3:23), there is nothing that we have done that would keep the Lord from saving us. Again, Peter wrote, “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). God does not want us to be lost in our sins, but we must turn from our sin and follow Him. Paul told the philosophers in Athens, “Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent” (Acts 17:30). He saves us from sin, not in sin. This was Paul’s point when he wrote, “But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness” (Romans 6:17-18). The love of God offers a way to be freed from the shackles of sin and enjoy the salvation that comes by following the way of righteousness.

Conclusion

The Scriptures teach that “God is love” (1 John 4:8). As God is infinite, so is His love.

  • His love is for the whole world.
  • His love extends from eternity to eternity.
  • His love opens up the way to heaven.
  • His love reaches us in the depths of sin.

Let us not reject the love of God. Instead, let us have Christ “dwell in [our] hearts through faith” and be “rooted and grounded in love” (Ephesians 3:17). If we recognize the greatness of God’s love and love Him in return, that love must necessarily manifest itself through obedience to His word. Jesus said, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (John 14:15). John wrote, “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3).

God has demonstrated His love for us. Let us show our love for Him.


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