By Stan Brown
Ephesians 3:18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth,
When we describe God, we often discuss love and holiness as being His primary attributes. Love without holiness leaves us struggling in sentimentality while holiness without love would leave us absolutely hopeless. God remains perfect in both His holiness and His love. He also possesses all power. Although we never leave His holiness behind, this passage, including his prayer, emphasizes the concepts of power in all its aspects and love in all its power. (I have lost track of all the words he uses for power in Ephesians.) The main clause of this prayer asks that we be empowered in our inner person through the power of the Holy Spirit. In this verse the concept of power rests between two expressions of love. The previous verse has spoken of being rooted and grounded in love. In this verse Paul asks that we might understand breadth and length and height and depth of love.
(1) The word translated be able is used only here in the New Testament. It means to ‘have strength or power enough’. The Holy Spirit gives us the power to comprehend as we ‘seize’ or ‘grasp hold of’ the understanding of God’s love. The most powerful weapon that God has placed in our internal arsenal is His love. Remember that it is always paired with His holiness lest it descend into the realm of mere sentimentality. Now, Paul will describe the riches of His love that are part of the riches of His glory.
(2) what is the breadth and length and height and depth. These words refer back to the love of the previous verse. The commentators give a vast array of what these words mean, some of them fanciful such as the one that suggests they picture the shape of the cross (a powerful sermon could certainly be built on that picture.). Yet, it seems best to keep it simple. The previous verse makes it clear that it refers to the love of Christ. The picture here is of the vastness of Christ’s love. “The more we know of God’s love the more we are amazed by it. (Hoehner)” The more we know of God’s love, the more it can empower our lives.
(3) We cannot forget the three words with all the saints. Remember that Paul has been speaking of the unity of Gentiles and Jews in one body, into one building that is becoming the dwelling place of God. Understanding God’s love is not just an individual effort nor even an effort of one local body of believers. It is an effort that involves all of God’s saints together. This understanding is not achieved by only associating with the believers whom we especially like or who are just like us. It involves association with all believers.
We are empowered by the Holy Spirit as we work together in the body of Christ to understand the love of Christ and the vast power that it exhibits to the world. We are an expression of God’s love as we are the message that proclaims His love.