Ephesians 3: 19 (“… the love of the Christ”)
Exodus 21: 1-6
John 14: 30, 31
Ephesians 5: 22-27; 1, 2
SWD In this part of Paul’s prayer, he desired for the saints that the Father would grant “according to the riches of His glory” (v 16), involving the strengthening of the Spirit’s power. One of the things he mentions is, “and to know the love of the Christ which surpasses knowledge”. It does not say to know about the love of the Christ, which in itself would be good, but, “to know the love of the Christ” which would involve what is experimental and experiential.
In Exodus 21, the Hebrew bondman is a beautiful type of Christ in taking up servitude: “the Son of man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many”, Matt 20: 28. It speaks of his love for his master, and I thought we can see that in John 14. As I recollect, it is the only time the Lord refers directly to His love for the Father. Scripture often speaks about the Father’s love for Him. I thought “I love my wife” is perhaps set out in Ephesians 5, Christ “loved the assembly, and has delivered himself up for it”. “I love my children” is in Ephesians 5 verse 2: “even as the Christ loved us, and delivered himself up for us”. These descriptions of the way He has gone and what He has done, are freshly calculated to endear Himself to us. In view of all this, a brother once said, ‘the measure of our love for Christ is the measure of our appreciation of His love for us’.
KAO I was thinking regarding the matter of the Lord’s love for the Father that He says, “as the Father has commanded me, thus I do”. John 14 is the only time I think we have the Lord saying, “I love”. Do you think we might see something of that in Genesis 22 with Isaac, even though it is mainly presented as Abraham’s love for Isaac, but the way that Isaac was with Abraham?
SWD This is very beautiful, that they went both of them together: “as the Father has commanded me, thus I do”; that involves Him delivering Himself up.
TSO He did always those things which pleased the Father, John 8: 29.
SWD Yes, but when this time comes, He says, “On this account the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it again”, John 10: 17. A brother who was blind, but was able to quote most of the scriptures, said that in John 10 the Lord gives the Father an additional reason for loving.
TSO Love is demonstrated, is it not? It is not merely a feeling but it is brought into display; it is real.
SWD It is a very extensive subject and we could expand it and look at John 3, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son” (v 16); He gave, and how love was demonstrated! He gave. So it is in every area, “Hereby we have known love, because he has laid down his life for us; and we ought for the brethren to lay down our lives”, 1 John 3: 16. I thought we could limit ourselves to this expression, “the love of the Christ”, in these three connections. It is something to build us up and encourage us in our most holy faith.
WSC Do you have more to say about the fact that the apostle did not say ‘about’ the love of the Christ.
SWD He knew what it was. He says, “the Son of God, who has loved me and given himself for me” (Gal 2: 20), which would be the equivalent to delivering Himself up. It was an expression of love for him personally that he retained and expressed in his love for the saints.
DMW These three scriptures in Ephesians refer to “the Christ” - would there be something in that as to the anointing and what goes with the anointing? We often speak of that.
SWD The Lord Jesus was ever pleasurable to the Father, right from His coming into the world; how attractive to the Father’s eye was that babe, that boy, that youth, that man. We have those eighteen years of which we are not told anything specifically from the time when He was about twelve until He began to be about thirty. They are the same length of time as that woman who was bound and unable to lift herself up. The Lord says as to her, “whom Satan has bound, lo, these eighteen years”, Luke 13: 16. The same period of time in the Lord’s life; I wonder whether there might be some reference to that in the hidden manna (Rev 2: 17), that perhaps the Father might share this with us sometimes, communicate with us. Perhaps you would say more about your impression of it, the love of the Christ?
DMW It is not “Christ” exactly, which refers to Him as a glorious Person, but it is “the Christ”. It just appeals to me that when the anointing is expressed it is expressed in love and power.
SWD That was at the banks of the Jordan when He was anointed by the Holy Spirit and power, and went about doing good: “how that God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself”, 2 Cor 5: 19. Divine love lay behind all that, “not reckoning to them their offences”. Paul says that God “was putting in us the word of that reconciliation”. In the same way, we are to reflect that attitude amongst our brethren and amongst our fellow men. Wherever Paul went the outgoing of his heart was, “Be reconciled to God”, 2 Cor 5: 20. Mr Darby leaves the “ye” out, the Authorised Version says ‘ye’ as if it was limited to the Corinthians. It was not limited to the Corinthians; that was the attitude of God to all men, “Be reconciled to God”.
DMW Would that be because God’s eye rested on one Man?
SWD One Man, how beautiful that is; after the failure of the first man, and those that pursued that line, that there should be a Man of whom the Father could say, “in whom I have found my delight”, Matt 3: 17. We are to be occupied with Him; we could not have anything better. The truth generally is very important, “the faith once delivered to the saints” (Jude 1: 3), and the detail of it. We can profitably converse and encourage one another, but what it is to concentrate on the Man in the glory, “to know the love of the Christ which surpasses knowledge”!
JAO Are you suggesting then that this is not so much of an historical event, but a current matter?
SWD Very much so.
DMW Would you say it is personalised, as we get in Exodus 21?
SWD Yes, so John makes it very current in Revelation, “To him who loves us”, Rev 1: 5. Exodus 21 it is current. It is “I love my master, my wife, and my children”. That was seen in Christ when He was here. So He went to the cross and carried out the will of His Father, the Father who loved Him. The intention is that we should love Him in our measure as the Father loves. The verse in John 17 says, “I have made known to them thy name, and will make it known; that the love with which thou hast loved me may be in them and I in them” (v 26); I think that is the Father’s love for the Man of the gospels. “Hast loved me”, is the past tense; I think “may be in them” is that we should begin, in our measure, to love Christ as the Father loved Him and to appreciate all the words of this life. They were a testimony to Him in the early part of Acts.
DMW I have often enjoyed that thought, that we can in measure love the Lord Jesus as the Father loves Him.
KAO I think what you have suggested is helpful, this matter of “the love of the Christ” involving these three aspects; His love for the Father, love for the assembly and His love for us individually, but do you think we need most help about the matter of His love for the Father? It is one thing to be conscious of His love for me, but it all springs from His love for the Father, does it not?
SWD It was demonstrated every day and every hour of every day so that He only has to say it once, “that the world may know that I love the Father”. That would, in its expansiveness, touch John 3: 16. Alas, it may not be realised because man in his arrogance will not believe. Thank God there are some, “but as many as received him, to them gave he the right to be children of God, to those that believe on his name; who have been born …”, John 1: 12. We are shut up to God’s sovereignty.
LPC Are you linking the love of the Christ here with “the love of the Christ which surpasses knowledge”? He says, “No one has greater love than this, that one should lay down his life for his friends”, John 15: 13. Would you say that the “love of the Christ” is demonstrated in Him laying down his life?
SWD These allusions to delivering Himself up show the way that it is demonstrated.
I thought Exodus 21 gave us the type. The bondman says distinctly, “I love my master, my wife, and my children, I will not go free”. It has been suggested that He could have gone free at the mount of transfiguration, I suppose; but, as it says elsewhere, “How then should the scriptures be fulfilled that thus it must be?”, Matt 26: 54. What committal! I think this is all involved in the love of the Christ.
KAO As to the Lord’s saying distinctly, we should be clear that there is no question about it. There was no question about it in regards to this bondman, and there is no question about it in regards to Christ. We may be frail in what we may enter into but without any question it is established.
SWD That is very good. Luke says that he writes his gospel, “that thou mightest know the certainty of those things in which thou hast been instructed”, Luke 1: 4. That is like the bondman saying distinctly; there is no question in mind whatsoever. We need to be founded and grounded. In this chapter in Ephesians we have both, what is agricultural and what is structural, “that the Christ may dwell, through faith, in your hearts, being rooted and founded in love, in order that ye may be fully able to apprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and depth and height; and to know the love of the Christ which surpasses knowledge”, Eph 3: 17-19.
WSC When you are speaking about decisiveness, John was decisive; he said, “That disciple therefore whom Jesus loved”, John 21: 7. He does not call himself John in his gospel.
SWD I think it is a fine thing that every one of us, from the oldest to the youngest, is able to take these things in if we are to think of ourselves as the one that Jesus loves.
RMS Why in Exodus 21 was the bondman brought before the judges? How would that apply to us?
SWD I am not sure I could answer that.
WSC Paul says, “do ye judge what I say”, 1 Cor 10: 15.
JFK This was a picture of Christ. It was not done anywhere hidden. It was done out in the open and Christ allowed Himself to be on the cross, He was lifted up between heaven and earth for all to see and to witness. Would these judges be a picture of God’s love to the world, and witness what men were going to do with this One on the cross?
SWD Very good, “that the world may know that I love the Father”. That is the last that the world saw of Jesus, suspended on the cross. He was taken down and put in the tomb where no one had ever been laid, and the world never saw Him again. But they will see Him.
WSC Judging is also a personal thing. Each of us has to do that personally: we need to judge.
SWD We had that recently in Calgary, the apostle’s desire for the Philippians that they might “judgeof and approve the things that are more excellent”, Phil 1: 10. I think we might say reverently that this is the most excellent of the excellent, “the love of the Christ which surpasses knowledge”. That means you cannot know it all. It is like the old figure of the basket in the ocean, filled and yet not able in any way to encompass the ocean.
TSO We all may have to go over these things but it is in no way hidden. “God commends his love to us”, Rom 5: 8. We need to see that His love is there, we cannot escape it. God is in no way hindered in being made known in testimony.
SWD I think that is very wonderful, nothing “shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord”, Rom 8: 39.
KAO Is there something for us even in the added word in Exodus, “I will not go free”? It is not only that he said distinctly, “I love”, but, “I will not go free”. The piercing of the ear by the judges was the public evidence of his remaining as it says at the end of verse 6, “and he shall be his bondman for ever”. Is that not intended to affect us that that is the position that Christ has come into?
SWD That is very wonderful. The Son of man did not come to be served but to serve, that is the bondman. Nor did he come to be ministered to, but to minister.
KAO Do you think there is some link in that with His humanity, He remains a Man? As to the glory of His Person, we could never overshadow that, and yet it is, “the man Christ Jesus”, 1 Tim 2: 5.
SWD Very good, “For God is one, and the mediator of God and men one, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself a ransom for all”; we were contrasting the 'all' and the 'many' recently. The gospel in all its wonderful encompassing grace is for all.
DMW It is the anointed Man, is it not? It is “the Christ”, He is the anointed Man. The question earlier as to the bondman being brought before the judges can be traced back to Psalm 82: “I have said, Ye are gods” (v 6) and the note there says ‘judges’, and the Lord repeats that in John 10, “Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods?” (v 34), so that the term 'judges' is a very typical term that the Spirit of God uses in Exodus 21. He could have gone back into the glory, in the right of His own Person, but He did not do that. He went back on the basis of redemption. John 10 goes on to say, “If he called them gods to whom the word of God came (and the scripture cannot be broken), do ye say of him whom the Father has sanctified and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest, because I said, I am Son of God?”, vv 35, 36.
SWD “Sanctified and sent into the world”, that is the Christ. When He was exalted they were to “know assuredly that God has made him, this Jesus whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ”, Acts 2: 36. The actions attributed to Him here in Ephesians 5 were in the days of His flesh, “delivered himself up”.
JAO Is there an aspect of this too that is very precious that is brought out in Exodus 21, “then his master shall bring him before the judges”. Peter says in his preaching, “Menof Israel, hear these words: Jesus the Nazaraean, a man borne witness to by God to you by works of power and wonders and signs, which God wrought by him in your midst, as yourselves know - him, given up by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye, by the hand of lawless men, have crucified and slain”, vv 22, 23. There was a testimony of His Master and Father, “not my will, but thine be done”, Luke 22: 42.
SWD That is very good, and when you follow that a little further into the Acts when they pray they speak to God about His “holy servant Jesus”, Acts 4: 27. There is amplification of that in Isaiah, “Behold my servant”, Isa 42: 1.
TSO He was delivered up by, “the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God”, Acts 2: 23.
SWD That is the aspect of the Master, “I love my master”. The Lord filled that out perfectly in His life. We were reading in Luke this morning and the Lord spent a whole night in prayer before He chose the twelve (chap 6: 13), illustrating the perfection of the dependent Man, and yet who in His Person is no less than, “the Christ, who is over all, God blessed for ever”, Rom 9: 5. I think the consideration of this should cause us to love Him more. There is an old hymn - ‘More love to thee, O Christ’. That would be one’s desire in bringing this before the brethren.
TSO Would the matter of the bondman be important? It would take us out of the range of just thinking about this with our minds. Christ took up a bondman’s form and came in on God’s behalf. The way that He came in is remarkable.
SWD Philippians 2 is deliberate, “who, subsisting in the form of God, did not esteem it an object of rapine to be on an equality with God; but emptied himself, taking a bondman’s form”, vv 6, 7.
TSO That brings it down to us personally. He has come to serve and that is how love is made known and manifest. It is not something merely out there, it is something that each of us can be a beneficiary of.
SWD And we can take character from it ourselves. Paul speaks of himself as, “Paul, bondman of God, and apostle of Jesus Christ”, Titus 1: 1. I do not much like the newer translations that insist on rendering that word as ‘slave’; that brings in the idea of slavish fear. The Hebrew bondman is a very dignified idea. “If thou buy a Hebrew bondman”: do not lose sight of the fact that he really is a Hebrew and at the end of six years you have to let him go.
DMW The bondman is devoted to his master, doing everything that his master desires, for the pleasure of his master. A slave might be there by obligation and obligation only and he would like to get out of it as quickly as possible. I think your discernment is helpful. It is the descriptive word for the true Bondman, the One who was devoted to the Father’s will.
SWD We have thought a little of His devotion to the Father in our passage in John 3; now in Ephesians 5, it is “evenas the Christ also loved the assembly”.
DMW Does the thought of bondmanship peculiarly applied to Him, as we have thought of in Philippians 2, complemented by, “the Word became flesh”, John 1: 14? It is His own act, but that thought continues. Is He not serving now and will He not serve in the day to come?
SWD It is very interesting when the Lord describes Himself in the gospels in a future time, He says, “and coming up will serve them”, Luke 12: 37. I think that is exceedingly attractive. We see how He does it in John 13, the attractive scene when He “began to wash the feet of the disciples, and to wipe them with the linen towel with which he was girded”, v 5. It says, “coming up will serve them”; and that is after He appears in glory. He is just the same, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and to-day, and to the ages to come”, Heb 13: 8.
RMS The scripture says, “For the love of the Christ constrains us” (2 Cor 5: 14): do you think that is appropriate?
SWD “The love of the Christ constrains us” is not exactly there binding us with rules and regulations as to the way we have to behave ourselves, but rather, “the love of the Christ constrains us”. That is very fine.
RMS What does that word mean? You said it is not being bound by rules and regulations, but how does it attract our hearts more?
SWD It says, “I drew them with bands of a man, with cords of love” (Hos 11: 4); I should think that is love’s constraint.
KAO In the scripture in Ephesians 5 the exhortation is very practical about husbands and wives, and he says, “Husbands, love your own wives, even as the Christ also loved the assembly”.
SWD What a standard. Do we love our wives like this? What a standard that is!
TSO The principle there too would go into John’s ministry, “We love because he has first loved us”, 1 John 4: 19. His love is there first, so if we need help on these lines, where do we go?
SWD The apostle’s desire for the Ephesians was, “to know the love of the Christ which surpasses knowledge”. You see something of the detail of it in the way that He loved the assembly.
LPC Do you think the love of the Christ is also reflected in His joy in securing a company of believers to Himself? It says, “in view of the joy lying before him, endured the cross, having despised the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God”, Heb 12: 2. Do you think there is eternal joy and a divine joy in Himself that He can secure those that are His to Himself; because of this joy He “endured the cross, having despised the shame”? That is also reflected in His love?
SWD I am sure that is what is indicated and I think you can link it with these three expressions of His love that we have been speaking about because He had His own joy in fulfilling the Father’s will, and He has His own joy. We know something of it experientially on Lord’s day morning; there is something of the Lord’s joy in His assembly. Speaking humbly, it includes the joy that He has in every one of us as the trophies of His grace; that is very good, “the joy lying before him”.
KAO “Christ also loved the assembly”, it is difficult to see that He loved it when it did not exactly exist in a concrete way. The assembly in expression awaits His ascension and the Spirit’s coming down. But on the other hand we have indications in the gospels, for example in John 13, “having loved his own who were in the world, loved them to the end”, v 1. He loved something that was about to be brought into existence through His death, but there was a touch of it because of His reference to His own, do you think?
SWD “Christ also loved” is in the past tense: I think He saw glimpses of it in His earthly ministry. Take the woman that cast in two mites, He said, “but she of her destitution has cast in all that she had, the whole of her living”, Mark 12: 44. I think there is a glimpse there of what He loved in the assembly. She is to be like Him, she is like Him. Paul saw (which was the light Mr Darby had as to the Head in heaven and the body here) that He is reflected, not only represented, but reflected in His body here. The same kind of feeling.
DMW “So also is the Christ”, 1 Cor 12: 12.
SWD The Corinthians needed a little help to come up to that, but you help the saints less by pointing out their deficiencies than by holding up the standard. Do you think that is right?
DMW I do. Since we are in mixed conditions and we have to keep short accounts with God. The question is, 'what is the standard?' I may think about myself and what I have done, my failure, but the standard is still the Christ. That way I can judge rightly.
SWD “Herebywe have known love, because he has laid down his life for us; and we ought for the brethren to lay down our lives”, 1 John 3: 16.
WSC I was wondering about Joseph. Pharaoh told all his people to regulate themselves by Joseph, Gen 41: 40. I was wondering about this matter of the assembly also in what you are saying. If we would regulate ourselves to stay in the area of the love of Christ, I think it relates to what we were saying about constraint, regulating ourselves.
SWD We have a hymn that refers that to the Lord personally:
‘Twas mighty love's constraining power
That made Thee, blessed Saviour, die
Then, that is to have its affect on us. As I said earlier - and I do not mind quoting it again - perhaps we could get a hold of this: the measure of our love for Christ is the measure of our appreciation of His love for us.
DMW The idea of being in an honoured place is to be subjected to the Christ for a reason. And that is so that He can love us. That is the idea of being subjected, it is a place of honour so that we can be loved.
SWD That sentence peculiarly bears on our sisters. I have spoken of this in the past at a marriage meeting. The bride at a marriage should have a certain dignity in being able to convey something of the subjection of the assembly. It is not exactly what a brother does, because, “But even as the assembly is subjected to the Christ, so also wives to their own husbands in everything”. What a lustre that gives to the position of the wife in marriage. She can set out in herself something of what the assembly sets out in her subjection to the Christ. When you come to the brothers, it never says that the wife must love her husband, but what it says is, “Husbands, love your own wives, even as the Christ also loved the assembly, and has delivered himself up for it”. It is in order that this preventative service should be carried on, “that He might present the assembly to himself glorious, having no spot, or wrinkle, or any of such things; but that it might be holy and blameless”. That is the first thing that the Father has in mind for us in chapter 1. There is no disparity.
TSO The love here is not only for something that He has loved, but it goes on. It goes on to our day. We should see that that is there and that it is true and that is so. Christ is moving in this way in relation to the assembly.
SWD “To him who loves us, and has washed us from our sins in his blood, and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father: to him be the glory and the might”, Rev 1: 5, 6. What ascriptions we can make to Him, the One who has done it. His love is current. He loves us right now, every one of us. My desire is that we might not only know more about it, but know it too.
DMW “This mystery is great, but I speak as to Christ, and as to the assembly”, Eph 5: 32. We have it in another place, “my assembly” (Matt 16: 18); so this idea of own husbands and own wives is an important matter because the Lord Jesus is very jealous of the assembly. It is His personal possession. He personalises His love to the assembly; He wants to pour it out constantly.
SWD That is very good, “on this rock I will build my assembly”, Matt 16: 18.
JAO Would you think it would then be right to say that the assembly is a product of the love of Christ? And it changes everything as to our perspective and relations with the assembly if we see that, the greatness of that vessel, what the assembly means to Him. It is His.
SWD “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?”, Acts 22: 7. It gave authority in the apostle’s ministry and he never forgot that.
Turning to the start of Ephesians 5, “Be ye therefore imitators of God, as beloved children, and walk in love. I think it is, even as ...”: “even as the assembly is subjected to the Christ”. This comes into all these things we have been speaking of, “Husbands, love your own wives, even as the Christ also loved the assembly”. Here I think it involves every one of us individually, “even as the Christ loved us”. It is not exactly the corporate vessel here, but “even as the Christ loved us, and delivered himself up for us, an offering and sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour”. It is the burnt-offering as we have it expanded in Leviticus.
WSC Is any one exempt from this? Are there any believers that do not have to do this, walk in love?
SWD I do not think any one is exempt from it and I do not think any true believer is exempted from having this appreciation of the Christ having loved us and delivered Himself up for us.
WSC It is our responsibility.
SWD If we have really been affected by the love of the Christ, how could it be otherwise? In Galatians, we have the idea of biting and devouring one another, chap 5: 15. In addition to that, Paul says, “see that ye are not consumed one of another”. How foreign that is to these passages in which there is what is normal and what is for the delight and pleasure of the heart of God Himself.
DMW As we love God, a generation that is “of God” is coming to light: that would be the children of God. There is no misrepresentation of God in His children.
SWD That is John 1 again, “to them gave he the right to be children of God”, (v 12): children take character from their parents.
KAO Therefore, is it important for us as we speak about these things to read the passages before and after where we read. There are very specific things that are said, and we need help about these things that are practical. For example, speaking about fornication, “But fornication and all uncleanness or unbridled lust, let it not be even named among you, as it becomes saints”, Eph 5: 3. The matter of forgiveness precedes where we read, or, “Let no corrupt word go out of your mouth” (Eph 4: 29); I am not wanting to dwell on these things, but it is in the context of these exhortations that He says, “walk in love”. That is what marked the Lord Jesus in His walk. None of these things were seen in Him, it was a walk of love. We need help about these things.
SWD If we allow the divine love to flood our souls these exhortations will be easily followed up.
KAO I feel that sometimes we dwell a lot on the exhortation of walking in love, but we sometimes pass over these practical matters, because we do not like to touch them, and they touch on things that we find acting and working in us, but they go together. One side of it is the standard we have in the Lord Jesus Christ, but then this practical exhortation to help us as to how we walk.
SWD The best thing to do is to show it. Before 1 Corinthians 13, the great love chapter, he ends up chapter 12 by saying, “yet shew I unto you a way of more surpassing excellence”, v 31.
TSO That should involve suffering. The Lord never saw an answer in testimony publicly to His love at the time that He was here. We need to set ourselves for these things, regardless of what we may find.
SWD We had a hymn in the book:
Thy suff'ring love, Lord Jesus,
Our hearts delight to trace;
The love that sought and claimed us,
In strong yet tender grace.
Suffering love. I think perhaps if we have grasped this we will have grasped quite a bit!
8 December 2007