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Sermon #47 — Ephesians Sermons

 

Title:                           The Love of Christ

 

Text:                            Ephesians 3:19

Subject:                     Knowing the Love of Christ

Date:                          Tuesday Evening — October 4, 2016

Readings:     Larry Brown and Allen Kibby

Introduction:

 

Let’s read Ephesians 3:14-19 together. In this passage the Apostle Paul tells us how he prayed for God’s people, and what he sought for them at the Throne of Grace. Remember who God’s people are, as they are described in this Epistle.

Š      His Chosen People

Š      His Predestined People

Š      His Redeemed People

Š      His Forgiven People

Š      His Blessed People

Š      His Accepted People

Š      His Regenerated People

 

Now, look at what this man, the Apostle Paul, sought for God’s people when he prayed.

 

(Ephesians 3:14-19) “For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, (15) Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, (16) That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; (17) That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, (18) May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; (19) And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.”

 

I want to talk to you about The Love of Christ.” I want you “to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.”

 

“Oh, hope of every contrite heart!

Oh, joy of all the meek!

To those who fall, how kind Thou art!

How good to those who seek!

 

But what to those who find? Ah! This

Nor tongue nor pen can show,

The love of Jesus —– What it is,

None but His loved ones know.”

 

One distinguishing mark of God’s people is that they know the love of Christ. There are no exceptions. All those who have passed from death to life, whatever they may be ignorant of, they know the love of Christ. And, without exception, those who are not saved, whatever else they may know, they know nothing of the Savior’s love.

 

Do not misunderstand me. An ungodly man may know something about the love of Christ. He may realize the fact of it. He may see the theory of it. He may even be able to talk like a believer, expressing joy because of it. But to know the love itself, to taste its sweets, to realize personally, experimentally, and practically the love of Christ shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, is the privilege of the child of God, and the child of God alone. Into this experience the stranger cannot enter. This is the garden of the Lord, so well protected by walls and hedges that no wild boar of the woods can enter. This is the pasture for the Good Shepherd’s sheep, where he feeds them, refreshes them, and causes them to lie down in peace. Only the redeemed of the Lord can walk here.

 

Self-examination

 

So at the very outset of my message, I have a question of self-examination to put before you, and I will continue to press this question home to your hearts and consciences throughout my message. — Do I know the love of Christ? Do I know its power? Is it shed abroad in my heart? Do I know that the Son of God loved me and gave himself for me? Is my heart quickened, and warmed, and attracted to him by the recognition of the fact that Christ has loved me, chose me, redeemed me, and set me as a seal upon his heart?

 

Every child of God knows the love of Christ.; but God’s children do not all know that love in the same measure. In the family of God there are babes, young men, strong men, and even a few fathers. As we grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, we grow in the knowledge of the love of Christ.

Š      The more I am made to know my unloveliness, the more I know his love.

Š      The more I know my weakness, the more I know the strength of my Savior’s love.

Š      The more I know my sin, the more I know the love of him who bare my sin in his own body on the tree.

Š      The more I know my unfaithfulness, the more I know the fulness and faithfulness of his love.

Š      The more I know my want of love, the more I know the fulness of his love.

 

(Song of Songs 8:7) Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it: if a man would give all the substance of his house for love, it would utterly be contemned.”

 

May God the Holy Ghost take us into the inner chamber with our dear Savior and cause us drink of the spiced wine. Oh, may he be pleased this hour to bring us into his heavenly banqueting house and set over us his banner of love! Come, my brother, come, my sister, to Pisgah’s lofty heights, and see all the length and breadth, and depth and height of the love of Christ that passes knowledge!

 

The love of Christ might be compared to Jacob’s ladder, reaching from heaven to earth. By it, God is brought down to man, and man is brought up to God. Some of us are standing on the lower rounds. There are others who have ascended a bit higher. And there are some who, perhaps, at this hour, have just reached the top round of the ladder, almost ready to step into the arms of Christ, who awaits them. There they shall rest in his love; and with the eternal songs of heaven, they shall rejoice forever and ever.

 

I want to know the love of Christ. I want to grow in the knowledge of his love. And I want you to know that love which passes knowledge. This is the desire of my soul and my prayer for you.“That ye may know the love of Christ that passeth knowledge.” In whatever direction you look, you will find nothing in God’s salvation that is not built upon and flowing from the love of Christ. To know the love of Christ is to have acquaintance with the greatest wisdom of the universe. In his commentary on our text, John Calvin made this observation.

 

“Almost all men are infected with the disease of desiring useless knowledge. Therefore, this admonition is very useful: what is necessary for us to know, and what the Lord desires for us to contemplate, above and below, on the right hand and on the left, before and behind. The love of Christ is held out to us to meditate on day and night, and to be wholly immersed in. He who holds to this alone has enough. Beyond it there is nothing solid, nothing useful, nothing, in short, that is right or sound. Go abroad in heaven, and earth, and sea, and you will never go beyond this without overstepping the lawful bounds of wisdom.”

 

In preaching this message, I want to bring you who are the people of God to the bottom of the ladder. I want to encourage you to put your feet on the first rung of the ladder, and then go step by step with you, describing to the best of my ability, and with the help of the Holy Ghost, the love of Christ.

 

Proposition: The Lord Jesus Christ teaches his people his love, little by little, until (at last) he alone is the love of our hearts.

 

His admonition, when we are first converted, is, “My son, give me thy heart.” For, the hardest thing before conversion, is to win the heart to him. Then, when we are his children by faith, it is, “Keep thy heart with all diligence.” For the most difficult thing for God’s child is to keep his heart for the Savior.

 

Divisions: I am going to give you some of the ways by which we may know the love of Christ. Yet, we must never suppose that we know his love as we ought; for when we have come at last to heaven itself, the love of Christ is still such that it surpasses all knowledge. May God the Holy Spirit give us grace to know the love of Christ…

1.    Doctrinally.

2.    Gratefully.

3.    Practically.

4.    By Meditation.

5.    Absorbingly.

 

Doctrinally

 

1stLet us know the love of Christ is doctrinally. — I am often denounced as a preacher of doctrine. I take the denouncement as a compliment. I make no apology for preaching the doctrine of God my Savior. If we would know the love of Christ, we must know what the Word of God teaches about it. And if we would know what God teaches us in his Word about the love of Christ, we must study the Word of God. We ought to study the Scriptures with care, attention, and regularity, always depending upon the grace of God the Holy Spirit to teach us.

Š      We are admonished to search the Scriptures, for they speak of Christ.

Š      The servant of God is required to give himself constantly to the study of God’s Word, so that he may feed the people of God. — A pastor’s work is done in his study, laboring in the Word of God.

Š      Every believer should seek to be thoroughly established in the faith once delivered to the saints.

 

“Depend upon it, doctrinal ignorance will always make churches weak; but where saints are fed upon the finest of the wheat, and are made to suck honey out of the rock, and to eat the manna and fatness of the Gospel, they will, all other things being equal, become the strongest and most valiant believers on the face of the earth.” C. H. Spurgeon

 

This generation of lost religionists needs to be told that there are certain things taught in the Word of God. — This Book is our Doctrine Book. This Book is our Creed. This Book is our Confession of Faith. We ought to be, and want to be, as charitable as possible to all men. But we must believe and preach what God has written in his Word. This Book alone is true. Anything that contradicts it is a lie.

 

The Word of God teaches us some very precious truths about the love of Christ. — “And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour.” — “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it(Ephesians 5:2, 25). Christ loved the church and gave himself for it for a specific reason (Ephesians 5:26-32).

 

(Ephesians 5:26-32) That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, (27) That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. (28) So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. (29) For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: (30) For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. (31) For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. (32) This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.

 

It is a sweet and blessed thing to know that Christ’s love is without beginning. When as yet the world had not been made, when the sun, the moon, and the stars slept in the mind of God, when there had never been heard the songs of the angels, when God dwelt alone in the delight of his own holy Being, it is delightful to know that he loved us.

 

“Before the day star knew its place,

Or planets went their rounds,

The saints in bonds of sovereign grace,

Were one with Jesus found.”

 

Our hearts leap for joy when we are made to see that God’s Word teaches that there are no changes in Christ’s love. “Having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them to the end.” How precious did the truth that the love of Christ is without end come into our hearts making us shout his praise! — The Scriptures give us many demonstrations of Christ’s love.

Š      He chose us to be his bride, because he loved us.

Š      His delights were with us before the world was, because he loved us.

Š      He became our Surety and Representative, because he loved us.

Š      He took upon himself our nature, because he loved us.

Š      He laid down his life in our place, because he loved us.

Š      He intercedes for us in heaven, setting us as a seal upon his heart, because he loved us.

Š      He is coming to receive us into his house, because he loved us.

 

Sadly, there is a tendency in some to make doctrinal knowledge everything. To my great sorrow, I have seen the doctrines of grace turned into a huge stone to be rolled at the mouth of the tomb of a dead Christ. I have seen what men call sound doctrine made into a seal to seal the dead Christ, lest by any means, the power of his grace should come out to the salvation of sinners.

Š      Doctrine is the throne upon which Christ sits, and when the throne is vacant, it has no attraction for us. — It is the King, not the throne that we worship.

Š      The doctrines of the Gospel are but the tongs of the altar. — Christ is the Sacrifice of sweet smelling savor.

Š      Doctrines are the garments of our Beloved. They all smell of myrrh, cassia, and aloes. But it is not the garments we love, but the person of our Lord.

 

Learn the doctrine. Learn it well. But, if your knowledge of the love of Christ is only what is taught in the catechism, you know nothing of his love. Let our doctrinal knowledge be precise, but let it be only the beginning.

 

Gratefully

 

2nd — Now, let us lift our feet to the next rung of this ladder. All who have experienced the love of Christ know it gratefully. Upon such a subject as this, I have neither desire nor ability to say anything that might be new to you. I want simply to refresh your memories and stir up your affections.

 

Do you not hold in grateful memory the hour when Christ first came into your heart? Some of us can remember the place, and the hour that Christ met us. Oh! That day of days, that first day of spiritual life! Other days have lost their freshness to us, but not that day.

Š      That was the day of our marriage to our faithful and loving husband.

Š      That was the day when first our souls were allowed to feast at the Father’s table.

Š      That was a day when heaven came to earth and filled our souls.

 

Just at that time we had come to the end of ourselves, God the Holy Ghost came to us in saving power and shed abroad in our hearts the love of Christ to our souls!

Š      We had walked in the prodigal’s way.

Š      We were burdened with the awesome load of sin.

Š      We felt that soon we would be turned into hell.

Š      Well does my soul recall the bitterness of those days. My eyes would not close in sleep for fear.

Š      But, just then the Savior revealed himself to our hearts.

 

Oh, child of God, do you not remember that happy day? The blessed Savior spoke to your soul, as you gazed with broken-hearted wonder upon him.

Š               He said, “I die that you may live.”

Š               He said, “Come weary one and rest.”

Š               He said, “Come naked one and be clothed.”

Š               He said, “Come sinful one and be cleansed.”

 

Do you not well remember the joy that flooded your soul when you first trusted him, and he spoke peace to your heart?

Š      Neither do I condemn thee!

Š      Thy faith hath made thee whole!

Š      Thy sins are forgiven!

You had heard of him before. You read about him. But, now you have him; and you have learned of him (John 6:45).

 

We know his love, and we are grateful for it, because with the revelation of his love our dear Savior reveals himself to us.

Š      He reveals himself to us in a way that the world cannot know.

Š      He teaches us his secrets.

Š      He opens his heart to us.

Š      He is with us day by day.

 

Day after day, he comes to us. Night after night, he tucks us into bed. He is ever with us; and all that he has is ours. He speaks to us by the way. He makes our bed in sickness. He goes with us in sorrow. He comforts us in affliction. He makes our hearts to burn within us when we think of him. Yes, we do know something of his love, for gratitude has been our teacher.

 

We are so grateful to Christ our Savior that we have grown in love to him since the day we met him. Sometimes Satan tries to rob us of the joy of our Lord, insinuating that since we do not have the same feelings we had when first we knew the Lord our knowledge of his love is not real. You know that he is liar from the beginning. — Is Christ such a one that the more you know him the less you love him? Perish the thought!

 

(1 John 4:19) We love him, because he first loved us.”

 

My heart rejoices to tell you that I have found that my Lord and Master improves with acquaintance. The more I know of Christ, the more I want to know. And I think that I speak for all of God’s people, when I say that the more we experience of his lovingkindness, the more intensely we love him.

 

When we were first converted, our hearts were full of fire and glitter. Why, we could hardly contain ourselves. But, then our love was a very shallow thing. Now, perhaps, there is not so much flame, but there is an intense heat. Still waters run deep. When you first light a fire the kindling burns with great flame. Then the kindling goes out. But, it leaves the coals red hot with an intense warmth.

 

Illustration: The love I have for my wife is fuller and truer now than it has ever been, but it is not quite as flashy! — Our First Kiss

 

Grateful souls, saved by the grace of God, receive every token of mercy as a letter from their absent friend, whom having not seen we love, because “he loved me and gave himself for me.” Having been much loved and much forgiven, we much love.

 

Practically

 

3rd — Let’s take another step upwards. Saved sinners, God’s people also know Christ’s love practically. If you are going to make a soldier, you can never do it at West Point. The place to make a soldier is to put him beside a veteran on the battlefield. If a young man wants to become a farmer, it will never be enough for him to read books on agriculture. The books are fine and good in their place. But farming is learned by going out into the fields with the farmer. — And the more we walk with Christ among men, imitating him, walking in his steps, the more we know his love in this practical sense (Ephesians 4:30-5:2).

 

(Ephesians 4:30-5:2) “And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. (31) Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: (32) And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you. —— (5:1) Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; (2) And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour.”

 

Our Lord Jesus tenderly cared for the needs of men. He was kind, compassionate, and good.

Š      He entered into the sorrows of others, sympathizing with them. — “Jesus wept!

Š      He served his friends humbly and gladly, washing their feet.

Š      The love of Christ is patient and longsuffering.

Š      The love of Christ is forgiving.

Š      The love of Christ is not vengeful.

Š      The love of Christ is self-sacrificing (1 John 3:16).

Š      The love of Christ is anxious to restore the fallen.

 

We learn the love of Christ practically by obeying his commands. We live by his rule (1 John 3:23; 5:1-3).

Š      We live by faith in him.

Š      We serve one another.

 

(1 John 3:23) “And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment.”

 

(1 John 5:1-3)Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him. (2) By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. (3) For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.”

 

If we would know the love of Christ, we must seek his will in all things and obey it.

 

His love is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost in such a way that, as we come to know the love of Christ that passes knowledge, we begin to feel for the souls of men as he felt. — That’s what it is to know the love of Christ practically.

Š      See him weeping over Jerusalem!

Š      See him as he beheld the rich young ruler and loved him!

Š      See him, as he had compassion upon the multitudes and fed them!

 

Meditation

 

3rdOne of the most effectual ways of knowing the love of Christ is meditation. If you would know Christ and his love, meditate on him and his love. Spend time embracing him, just holding him in your heart’s arms, meditating on his sin-atoning sacrifice, the five wounds in his body, the bloody sweat, the cross, the passion. Think much about the God-man, the cross, the nails, the vinegar, the spear, the agonizing cries. If you would Christ’s love, meditate upon him.

 

You men take time to embrace your wives. You take time to show them your love. You women take time to lovingly embrace your husbands. If you don’t, you need to learn to do so. Children of God, take time to embrace your Savior and to be embraced by him.

Š      Take Mary’s place at his feet to hear what he has to say.

Š      Take John’s place at his bosom to feel the beat of his heart.

Š      Go on further and cry, “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth, for his love is better than wine.”

Let your lip of prayer meet his lip of blessing. Let your lip of thanksgiving meet his lip of benediction. There are heights and depths of Christ’s love to be found by meditation that I cannot put into words. Oh, for grace to swoon at the feet of our Beloved! — “He brought me to his banqueting house, and his banner over me was love. Stay me with flagons, comfort me with apples; for I am sick of love. His left hand is under my head, and his right hand doth embrace me.”

 

We shall never want for a subject of meditation if we know Christ’s love.

Š      Meditate upon his work.

Š      Meditate upon his sufferings.

Š      Meditate upon his triumphs.

Š      Meditate upon his glorious Person.

That blood is mine. That Christ is my joy. His love is my love. His presence is my heaven. His character is my example. I trust him.

 

(Galatians 2:20) I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”

 

(Philippians 3:7-10) “What things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. (8) Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, (9) And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: (10) That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death.”

 

Absorbingly

 

5th — Now, I have come to my last thought, about which I shall say little, for I must confess, I know but little of it. This is the last rung of the ladder. There are, perhaps, many others which I have not mentioned. But, the highest knowledge of the love of Christ is an absorbing knowledge, that knowledge of his love that causes a person to be “filled with all the fulness of God.”

 

“Oh, love divine, how sweet thou art!

When shall I find my willing heart

All taken up with thee?

 

I thirst, I faint, I die to prove

The fulness of redeeming love,

The love of Christ to me!”

 

May it please God to fill our hearts to overflowing with the love of Christ (John 4:14; 7:37-38).

 

(John 4:14) But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.”

 

(John 7:37-38) In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. (38) He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.”

 

Š      Be filled with that love which died in your stead.

Š      Be filled with that love that brings salvation.

Š      Be filled with that love which so tenderly cares for you day by day.

Š      My soul longs to be so full of the knowledge of the love of Christ that there is neither room nor desire for anything but Christ and his love.

Š      Let us seek to be so full of Christ’s love, that his love governs our hearts.

 

Oh, that we might be lost in the immense ocean of the love of Christ!

 

“Plunged into the Godhead’s sea,

And lost in its immensity!”

 

Š      Then we can say, “I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.”

Š      Then it will be true of our souls, “For me to live is Christ, to die is gain.”

Š      Then we will be lost to this world and the world lost to us. I’m not talking about mysticism. I’m talking about reality!

 

Application

 

1.    Some of you do not know the love of Christ. Do you desire to know his love? The way to know his love is simply to trust him. Trust him now. He says, “My son give me thine heart.” Lose yourself in his love.

Š      The Prodigal

Š      Gomer

Š      Mary Magdalene

 

2.    Children of God, this is my prayer, my heart’s desire for you, that you may “know the love of Christ that passeth knowledge.”

  • Doctrinally
  • Gratefully
  • Practically
  • By Meditation
  • Absorbingly

 

How blessed are they who know the love

Which moved the Son of God

To undertake their cause above,

And ransom them with blood!

 

Its length and breadth, its depth, and height,

Surpass all human thought;

Its sovereign acts, its conquering might,

Are by His Spirit taught.

 

O God, my God, I long to know

My dear Redeemer’s love: —

His covenant bonds! — His work below! —

His deeds of grace above!

 

It is eternal, matchless, free,

Immutable, and strong!

I know it, for it conquered me;

And now it is my song!

 

(Jude 1:20-21) But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, (21) Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.”

 

Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don Fortner

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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