In Ephesians 3.18 Paul prays that God would give his readers the strength they need to comprehend something of the limitless dimensions of the love of Christ, but he tucks a little phrase into the prayer that we can so easily skate over: ‘with all the saints’. We comprehend the love of Christ with all the saints. In other words, it’s just not possible to understand the love of Christ in isolation. Paul is not asking that the Ephesians would have thrilling individual revelations of the love of Christ as they each sit on top of a mountain or in their own home. He is praying that together, collectively, they will grow in their appreciation and experience of the love of God. It’s not far away from what he says in the next chapter, in verse 16, when he speaks of the body building itself up in love.
There is a corporateness, a togetherness, about New Testament Christianity that is lacking in so many Western churches. We are so focused on our own personal time with God and what he is saying to me and how he is blessing me that we lose this important emphasis: ‘with all the saints’.
Part of the reason for this phrase appearing at this point in Paul’s prayer is surely that the length, breadth, height and depth of Christ’s love for his people simply can’t be grasped from one perspective. It’s only as we share our stories of what God has done for each one of us that we come to see all the more clearly the scale of his love. We come to a new appreciation of the breadth of Christ’s love when we talk with brothers and sisters from China, Iceland, South Africa, India and Anguilla and share how the Lord has set his love upon us all. We see the depth of God’s love freshly illustrated when we talk with the converted drug dealer or murderer or jihadist. The length of Christ’s love comes home with power when we hear of how he pursued a covenant child down through many decades of stubborn rejection and rebellion. The height of his love shines all the more brilliantly as we see in those elderly saints the work of a lifetime of the Spirit’s sanctifying presence and we catch a glimpse of what is in store for all the Lord’s people who are being changed from one degree of glory into another. As we meet together week by week on the Lord's Day and in our fellowship meetings and speak of how we've experienced God's daily love to us in countless tiny ways, we build up such a clearer picture of the dimensions of that love.
This is why Christian fellowship is such a blessing and such a necessity. We are hobbling ourselves with a one-dimensional, blinkered view of the love of Christ when we cut ourselves off from the saints of God. And when our grasp of the love of Christ is small, according to the flow of the logic of Paul’s prayer we hamstring our ability to be ‘filled with all the fullness of God.’
Of course in heaven we will comprehend the dimensions of Christ’s love ‘with all the saints’ on a whole new level. Our opportunities in this world are so limited and the drag factor of our sinful hearts spoils the opportunities we do have. Imagine what it will be like to be made perfect in holiness so that we can interact with one another without the least trace of envy or pride, when we have all eternity to speak together literally ‘with all the saints’ and share our experiences of the love of God in Christ! And yet even then we will still not be able to grasp the dimensions of its infinite immensity – this love of Christ that surpasses knowledge!