that according to the riches of His glory He may grant you to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith -- that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength 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, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (Eph 3:16-19)Now, to be fair, Paul wasn't well acquainted with the laws and preferences of the English language. Because of that, he could get ... wordy. So let's break it down. If you look carefully, Paul has made two requests on behalf of his readers under one cover petition. That petition was for them "to be strengthened with power through His Spirit." (Eph 3:16) That, in essence, was the overarching prayer.
For what would the Ephesian believers need this strength of the Spirit? There were two things. First, they would need this strength "so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith." (Eph 3:17) Second, they would need this strength "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." (Eph 3:18-19)
That last one is a bit odd if you read it through. Taking out descriptions and adjectives, it is simply a prayer that they would know the love of Christ. Hey, what's so hard about that? I mean, don't all believers know that? Paul suggests we don't. Paul (under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit) claims it is much, much bigger than we realize. We know this because it requires the strength of the Spirit. We know that because of the conditions and descriptions he uses.
One condition is the empowerment of the Spirit. The other is that to know the love of Christ, we must first be "rooted and grounded in love" (Eph 3:17). Faith and love go together. Faith establishes love when it is weak. God's Spirit empowers us for both faith and love. And grasping God's love requires that we be planted in love, grounded in love, deriving our nourishment and life from love.
Having been empowered by the Spirit and rooted in love -- love giving us our nourishment and grounding -- we can then, by God's grace, begin to grasp God's love. Mind you, I said "begin to grasp". It is interesting that Paul says here that we are to "comprehend" and "know" (apparently these are not the same thing) Christ's love which "surpasses knowledge". There's a description for you of the love of Christ. That love surpasses knowledge. It is long and wide and deep.
Picture being out on a row boat in the middle of Lake Superior (the world's largest freshwater lake), vast amounts of water in all directions. And you want to "know the lake". You want to comprehend the water. So you dip in a cup and taste the water. Now you know the lake. But, you don't. You know part. To actually know the lake intimately in all of its parts would be impossible. Too big. It surpasses knowing. Still, you can grasp it. You can get a sense of it. You can taste it, touch it, feel it, swim in it. You can totally immerse yourself in it. You can begin to know the unknowable. That's the image Paul is painting of the love of Christ.
No wonder he ends up with a doxology.
Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Eph 3:20-21)Only Him who is able to do "far more abundantly" beyond what we could even dream -- using the power "at work within us" -- could accomplish this prayer. Paul wants his readers to know God's unknowable love. He wants us, by the power of the Spirit, to grasp the vast love of Christ. He wants us to do this by means of Christ living in us and on the bedrock of love. It is a daunting task, accomplished only by God in His people. We could spend a lifetime learning the love of Christ. It is ultimately byond our comprehension. But we can taste. We can get a feel for it. We can taste and see that love. At least, Paul prayed we would.