The Love Of Christ, Which Passeth Knowledge
"The love of Christ, which passeth knowledge"(Eph. 3:19).
I would that thou shouldst hear the Bridegroom say to thee, "I love thee." There is as much love for each as though there were no other being in heaven or upon earth to share the love of Christ. "Thou art as much His care as if beside no man nor angel lived in heaven or earth." We are told in the text that the love of Christ passeth knowledge, or, as I suppose the Greek might be rendered, passeth limit. It is without limit. The love of Christ to you, and me, and each is illimitable.
The whole wealth of Christís heart, the infinite wealth of Christís infinite heart, is thine today as though the sun should shine to light one firefly, or the Amazon flow to water the roots of one daisy. Jesus Christ, who combines the sympathy and tenderness of man with the infinite capacity of God, loves the lowly, weary, sinning, worthless soul with all His force and gentleness and strength. It passes knowledge, and yet we may know it.
That is the divine paradox. First, that the love of Christ passeth knowledge; and second, that we may yet know it.
It Passeth Knowledge
We would be prepared to believe it because God is always passing out of knowledge. Whichever path we take, and begin to explore the love of God, we shall discover that His love, like all the rest of His attributes, will soon leave us behind, and we shall find ourselves face to face with the limitation of our ignorance, because love passeth knowledge.
Is it not well that it should? Do you not think that the sublimity of nature comes from infinite distance and infinite depth? What is it which at night gives to the upward view that sense of magnificence? Is it not the thought of unlimited space? Why do your children love to get down to the seaside? Is it not the sense of space and distance to the far horizon line? So it is with the glaciers blue with depth. There is a sense of grandeur in being loved with a love like this. You may dive into it with no fear of collision, deeper, deeper always, yet it is ever beyond you. Now let us just take two texts to show why we cannot know this love.
"Having loved His own which were in the world, He (our Lord) loved them unto the end" (John 13:1). Too often that word is taken to mean that He loved them to the end of His mortal career, surely altogether inadequate. I believe that He loved them unto the uttermost. As much as to say that He loved them to the uttermost possibility of love, that there was nothing in the conception of love which the love of Jesus left unexhausted or unexplored.
Take another text: "As the Father hath loved Me, so have I loved you: continue ye in My love" (John 15:9). Do you want to know how much Jesus loves you? Ah! soul, before thou canst master that arithmetic thou must learn another mode of computation. Tell me first the love of God Ė the Father to His Son, and I will tell thee of the Son to thee. Dost thou wonder at the love of Jesus, sinful, weak, ignorant man? Dost thou wonder that it passeth knowledge? It is because our powers are so limited that we cannot take it in.
And yet there is one other thought: We are not holy enough. We must be saints to know the love of Christ, and the more saintly we are the more we shall know, because anything which is not perfectly saint-like casts a blur upon the mirror and dims it. I would we might be quiet a minute, and each say to himself and herself, "It is not simply a feeling of complacency, it is love. If it were complacency God would only like me when I am good. But He loves me. It is not benevolence, that is only a kind feeling. It is better than this. God who fills everything loves me in Christ with a love that Ďpasseth knowledge.í"
You may not feel it, but you must believe it. You may have no responsive emotion, but that does not alter it. The earth may wrap itself in clouds, but that does not affect the sunshine; and that you feel weary, depressed, sin-stricken, almost helpless, does not alter or affect the fact that the whole Deity is pouring out its tides towards you through the channel of Jesus Christ. Is not that enough to banish loneliness, depression, and the fear of ultimately being cast away?
It is impossible that God should ever let one go upon whom He has set His love. The unlimited love of Christ to the soul has sometimes so engrossed and overpowered holy men that they have been beside themselves.
I was reading of Flavel (1630-1699), who on one occasion was traveling by himself through the country on horseback. He tells us that he became suddenly conscious of a very sweet and powerful sense of Godís personal love to him, so much so that he became oblivious to the road, the country, and all that was happening.
He says, "I did verily think that as I stood there," for his horse had come to a stand, "that if I were in heaven I could hardly hope to have more blessedness than I then enjoyed."
A passerby startled him, and he found his way to the inn where he was to spend the night, but he said that all that night his consciousness of being loved by God swept over him wave on wave, and he could not sleep; only he adds, "I was more rested than I had been by many nights of sleep, and I saw in my soul things I had not known."
May it not be that God is wanting to say as much to some of us, but we are so busy, so hurried, and so monopolized by little things that we let the great stream pass by, indifferent to the murmur of its waves.
Though Godís Love Passeth Knowledge, Yet We May Know It
It is conceivable that a settler should receive many acres, and even square miles, of territory of which he knows but little in its whole expanse; but he may know something of the character of the soil in the few acres which he first enclosed and cultivated. Cannot you see him arriving there?
Selecting some corner of it, he will erect a shanty to shelter himself and his dear ones; and when he has done all he can in a few weeks of labour, he says to his wife, "Wife, I am going to survey our property." He climbs some mountain, and looks far away to the horizon, or the flashing waters of lake and river, and all is his. How little he knows of the wealth of his estate.
But presently he goes back and says, "Wife, we shall be old and grey before we know all that we possess in this place. But we will begin to cultivate the little plot round our house, and every year put the fence further back, bringing the limit of our experience ever nearer that of possession."
So, men and women, we are settlers upon the continent of the love of God. We only know a little of its coastline, we fringe its shores; but what the wealth of that continent is we shall never know, for it has no limit, no bound, no end. Let us, however, follow on to know and enjoy this wonderful love.
We Should Know It First As a Matter of Doctrine
It is a great thing to increase our knowledge of the love of God by the reverent study of His Word. I have not much faith in a man who discounts doctrine. What the bones are to the body, doctrine is to the fabric of the moral and spiritual life. What law is to the material universe, doctrine is to the spiritual. Get an intelligent knowledge of doctrine, the doctrines of the grace of God, and hold them fast. If you have time additional to give to the Bible, study strong books, books that will give you true conceptions of the love of God, and the lines on which it runs, and the laws which it has followed and will follow. We need to know the love of God doctrinally.
We Should Know the Love of God by Meditation
I was reading one called Isaac Andrews, of whom Dr. Calamy writes. He was a devoted minister in the North of England. He wrote a book called Looking Unto Jesus, which is very sweet and fragrant. It is said that he was in the habit of preaching eleven months in the year, and spending the twelfth in a little hut in the woods, that he might have uninterrupted leisure for meditating upon the love of God to him. Do you not remember what Samuel Rutherford said when he was put into prison? "My enemies thought that they would put me in prison; but they have put me into the Kingís banqueting house, and the banner of His love has been unfurled over my head."
We Should Know the Love of Christ Experimentally
That is, we should sit down and ask for spiritual discernment to see the thread of love running through the beads of our life. "Whoso is wise, and will observe these things, even they shall understand the lovingkindness of the Lord" (Psa. 107:43).
If you read that psalm you will find there is an account of storm, of a march through an arid waste, and of five more different episodes, many of them fraught with pain, and at the end of it the psalmist has what you may call the audacity to say, "If a man wants it he will find the lovingkindness of the Lord in the storm, in the wilderness, and even in the prison house."
Let us therefore sit down and let that thought permeate the heart.
Have your pencil, if you will, and begin to put down all the manifestations in your life of Godís love to you, and methinks the more you write, like John Bunyanís Pilgrimís Progress, the more it will grow on you, and you will fill one sheet of paper and want another, and then another and another.
I would like a man who is disappointed, whose heart is full of depression and desolateness, to try my recipe, to put down in order the manifestations of Christís love, the sin which has been forgiven, the iniquity pardoned, the waywardness and wickedness with which He has borne. Oh, man, come sum it up, and I think you will throw down your pencil when you are but half way through the enumeration, and cry, "It passeth knowledge!"
Kepler, the great astronomer, who laid the foundation of much of our knowledge of the stars, one day exclaimed, after spending hours in surveying the heavens, "I have been thinking over again the earliest thoughts of the Creator," and surely every time a man sacrifices himself, or takes up the cross for another he is thinking over again the earliest, deepest thought of the love of Christ.
Every time you do a gentle act for another who does not deserve it, every time you lay down your life to save others, every time you endure shame and spitting and scorn to rescue lost women and lost men, in the glow of your human interest, and amidst disappointment and rebuff you say, "Well, thank God, I am seeing deeper than ever I saw before into what Jesus has been feeling for me." Abraham learned more of the love of God the day he was led up Mount Moriah than anything else could have taught him.
Perhaps there are men and women who have been hearing all this, and who are saying, "Well, well, my life has been so dreary, so perplexed, that I cannot think God loves me." I pray you remember a text which says that "we have known and believed the love that God hath to us" (1 John 4:16).
Standing upon the granite block of redemption and providence, and the blessings which have come to our life, we must dare to face the inexplicable, the dark, and the mysterious; and reason that the pathway of love lies through these also, and when we have traversed them we shall look back on a trail of light. The love of God has never once failed me, and though I cannot see it, or how that trouble which menaces me is consistent with it, it is only the text over again, "The love of God passeth knowledge."
You cannot know it, you cannot tell its great track. "Thy way is in the sea, and Thy path in the great waters and Thy footsteps are not known" (Psa. 77:19). You cannot always follow Him, but you may always believe that there is love, though it passeth knowledge.
We need a baptism of love today. We all need it. Many are leading such a miserable life of repression; they are ever flying to jealousy and hatred and ill will and suspicion and dislike. Of course we do not admit these things, and yet they incessantly torment us and follow our footsteps, as the dog which we meant to leave at home, but which follows us. And in so far as they are permitted in heart or life they exclude the consciousness of our Saviourís infinite love.
Let us absolutely and for ever put away all these: wrath, anger, malice, ill will and all uncharitableness. Let us reckon that such have neither part nor lot in our new resurrection life. Let us give up our ill will about each other and all who may have injured us, or at least tell Christ that we are willing to be channels through which His love may flow to them.
And when this is so, and in no part of our heart there is cherished anything that is inconsistent with perfect love, we shall not only understand as never before the unsearchable love of Christ, but we shall be able to claim a baptism of the Holy Spirit, who sheds abroad the love of God in willing, obedient, and believing souls.