…and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge…
It is not enough to be schooled and taught in regard to the biblical principles of the love of God – though it is a wonderful beginning. Paul the scholar had been taught and disciplined as a Pharisee. He had had the finest Jewish religious education of his day, and we expect that what he said of his Christian experience would have applied to him as a young Pharisee as well – he had worked harder than them all (1 Cor 15:10). Yet of his former Jewish legalism it could not be said that Christ had been at work in him. It had all been Paul, and something in his heart ached for more.
But Christ had found him and redirected his entire life. The new motto of his existence was Christ in him – this was the experience he was missing – living everyday by faith in Him who loved Paul and gave Himself for Paul (Phil. 1:21 and Gal 2:20).
This experience is not an unusual one for believers to have, rather it is what every Christian is called to experience. It is the life that Christ died and rose again to give us. This is our norm. Anything else is abnormal for the Christian life. Paul specifically said, “The love of Christ,” focusing on the Second Person of the Trinity, who is God’s chosen vessel to reveal Himself to the world. The only way to know the love of God is to know the love of Christ. We cannot forget that the Spirit reveals to us the “face of Christ” when we read His word (2 Cor. 4:6), and that means a person-to-person revelation of who God is.
The Christian in relation to the love of Christ is like a man who had come to a new continent, one whose land was beyond his ability to measure, its length and its breadth stretching further than he could see or even explore in a life time. There is more than plenty of land for him to grow food to feed himself and his family. But that alone could not satisfy him. That idea of vastness could not satisfy his stomach nor the stomach of his wife and children. He must choose one spot and make his farm there. The vastness means little until someone is farming somewhere and becoming familiar with the land on a personal and practical basis.
We can say the same thing about the love of Christ. There is plenty of love for the whole world – “vast, beyond all measure” – but the concept alone does not satisfy our hearts. We must experience His love personally, intimately, so he wrote, “know the love of Christ.” How do we know His love? We know it by knowing Him: by speaking and listening to His Spirit, by studying and meditating on His Word, by abiding in Him in our hearts and minds. This experience surpasses learning and though we are commanded to study to gain biblical knowledge, showing ourselves workmen who do not need to be ashamed (2 Tim. 2:15), the revelation in our hearts of the love of Christ for us and for the whole world is overwhelming to our minds.
The knowledge of Christ’s love is experiential, personal, and the deepest and more profound of all Christian experiences. I remember a group of men in a meeting years ago in the Philippines – poor, mountain farmers – being so touched by the love of Christ in a meeting than they wept and worshiped, spontaneously singing praises to Him long after the official meeting had ended. They were not highly educated in the world’s estimation, most not even completing high school, but the love of Christ for them was communicated to their hearts by His Spirit.
Whatever else we experience in the Christian life, this must be the heart – to know the love of Christ. Read the gospels, study His life, listen to His Spirit, surrender your thoughts to Him until He reveals Himself to you in a personal way.