Proper 12 (B), July 20, 2003
Ephesians 3:14-21

One of the scariest moments growing up is when you say something
that sounds exactly like your parents, and you suddenly realize it is
not them but you. When I was about seven we visited my aunt in
Lubbock, Texas. Dad had already admonished us to be what we thought
was perfection. But it was not long before the child in us broke out.
My sister and I were in a fight. Dad stood to his feet and said,
“Bedroom!” We knew what that meant. Dad was a preacher and his
fatherly sermons hurt worse than corporal punishment. We didn’t know
what we would get, but we knew we were getting it. My grandmother
spoke up and said, “Now don’t you be too hard on those children.”

About twenty years passed and my parents were visiting in our
home, our daughter was now the one misbehaving. I stood to my feet
and said, “Bedroom!” Dad looked at me and said “Don’t you be too hard
on her.” For those twenty years I thought I understood what happened
in Lubbock. Now there was a fullness to my understanding. Something
my Dad could have never explained in words.
In this passage Paul
makes an intercessory prayer for the believers to have knowledge of
God that was really beyond their understanding. He prayed for a
fullness of their understanding. The word used here means more than
knowledge or even understanding. It means, “to lay hold of.” Paul
wants them to seize, to personally posses the dimensions of Christ’s
love for them. He teaches them these dimensions are more than what
they appear on the surface. The love of God is complex and
multi-faceted. Yet it is accepted in child-like faith.

To understand the passage it might help if we put it in the
context of the world’s greatest demonstration of love, God’s gift –
His Son. Ephesians speaks of four specific dimensions. What is the
width and length and depth and height of His love? Each of these
dimensions can be seen in a verse many people can quote, but don’t
really “lay hold of.” That verse is John 3:16.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son,
that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting
life” (John 3:16).

Taken in phrases, this familiar verse demonstrates and defines the four dimensions of which Paul speaks.

The width is represented in the phrase, “For God so loved the
world.” One cannot begin to describe God in physical terms. Suffice
it to say that the width of God’s love is so broad that when Jesus
stretched out His arms on the cross He encompassed the entire
universe, even me . . . even you.

The length is represented in the phrase, “That He gave His only
begotten Son.” Think about it this way. If someone who had shown
contempt for you needed a heart transplant, would you take your son
to the hospital and say, “Take my son’s heart and give it to him”?
Imagine a love that is so forgiving that it gives up the very thing
it loves the most. That is what God did for even me . . . even you.

The depth is represented in the phrase “whoever believes.” The
people around the foot of the cross did not understand that the death
they were watching meant life. Certainly, they didn’t seize the
concept of life for Jews, Gentiles, or the “whoever” of the world.
But, the reality was and is that death meant life for even me . . .
even you.

The height is represented in the phrase, “everlasting life.” This
life they would later come to understand was not just some earthly
carnal form. Its very nature would be eternal. But, the height would
not be contained in some life form. You can only “lay hold” of the
height when you realize that this life is a personal, permanent
relationship with Christ, Himself. In other words: For God loved YOU
so much that He gave His only begotten Son that YOU might have
everlasting life.

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Sermon brief provided by: John Burke, Nolensville, TN

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