surpass understanding, God's love, Grand Canyon

Ephesians includes two prayers by Paul concerning the readers of the letter.  Ephesians 3:14-21 is the second  of those prayers. [1]  It’s an extraordinary prayer asking Father God to strengthen his people by the power of the Holy Spirit and to have power to know Christ’s love in order that his people may be filled with the fullness of God.  This is a prayer that should often be read aloud in church gatherings.

In verse 19a Paul uses an oxymoron to make a significant point.  He writes, “…to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge” (NRSV).  Can a person know something if the something they know surpasses knowledge?

The Greek word for “surpass” is huperballo.  It is used several times in the New Testament [2] and in other first century literature.  The word originally meant to “out throw” someone else and gradually was used to “outbid” someone for something.  It is also the derivation of our contemporary English word hyperbole, which is an exaggerated statement to make a point.

However, Paul uses the word to describe something that is beyond one’s grasp.  It is extraordinary.  Paul prays that we would know the love of Christ, yet this love surpasses knowledge.  How can we know it?

I suggest what is being described in Paul’s prayers is a never-ending process.  The volume and depth of Christ’s love is so rich and full that the process of understanding Christ’s great love is an ongoing or never-ending process.

The goal of this knowledge of God’s love is so that we may be filled with all the fullness of God.  We are filled with the fullness of God when we know (experientially and mentally) God’s love.

God’s love is so vast (3:18).  It is no wonder that Christ’s love surpasses knowledge.  Throughout eternity we will consistently know and experience God’s love in deeper and wider ways.

It is awe-inspiring to think that this great and infinite God has taken the “time and effort” to include us into his family (3:15) and to dwell in us (3:17).  What love!  What amazing love!

With Paul and his prayer I say, “Amen, Lord, let it be!”



[1] The first prayer begins at 1:17

[2] Only in the Pauline corpus

surpassing knowledge [ephesians 3:14-21]

by Mark Lafler time to read: 2 min
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