And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge.
The knowledge of Christ, and of his love, is deservedly, in this place, set down among the desiderata Christianorum, the most desirable enjoyments of believers in this world. This love of Christ had entered the apostle’s heart; he was swallowed up in the meditation and admiration of it, and would have all hearts inflamed and affected with it, as his was.
Some think the apostle speaks extatically in this place, and knows not how to make the parts of his discourse consistent with each other, when he puts them upon endeavours to know that love of Christ, which himself confesses to pass knowledge.
But though his heart was ravished with the love of Christ, yet there is no contradiction or inconsistency in his discourse. He doth earnestly desire for the Ephesians, that they may know the love of Christ; i.e. that they may experimentally know his love, which passeth knowledge: That is, as some expound it, all other kinds of knowledge; yea, and all knowledge of Christ, which is not practical and experimental. Or thus: Labour to get the clearest and fullest apprehensive knowledge of Christ and his love, that is attainable in this world, though you cannot arrive to a perfect comprehensive knowledge of either.
There was a citizen of Gaunt who had never been outside the city walls. For some reason or other the magistrate passed an order that he should not go outside. Strange to tell, up to the moment that the command had passed, the man had been perfectly easy, and never thought of passing the line, but as soon as ever he was forbidden to do it, he pined, and sickened, and even died moaning over the restriction.
If a man sees a thing to be law, he wants to break that law. Our nature is so evil, that forbid us to do a thing, and at once we want to do the thing that is forbidden, and in many minds the principle of law instead of leading to purity has even offered opportunities for greater impurity. Although you may point out the way of uprightness to a man, and tell him what is right and what is wrong, with all the wisdom and force of counsel and caution, unless you can give him a heart to choose the right, and a heart to love the true, you have not done much for him.
—Charles H. Spurgeon
Gospel Extracts (Passmore and Alabaster, 1899).
If man does not give his highest respect to the God that made him, there will be something else that has the possession of it. Men will either worship the true God, or some idol. It is impossible it should be otherwise; something will have the heart of man. And that which a man gives his heart to, may be called his god.
The true Christian is one whose religion is in his heart and life. It is felt by himself in his heart. It is seen by others in his conduct and life. He feels his sinfulness, guilt, and badness, and repents. He sees Jesus Christ to be that Divine Saviour whom his soul needs, and commits himself to Him. He puts off the old man with his corrupt and carnal habits, and puts on the new man. He lives a new and holy life, fighting habitually against the world, the flesh, and the devil. Christ Himself is the corner stone of His Christianity. Ask him in what he trusts for the forgiveness of his many sins, and he will tell you, in the death of Christ.—Ask him in what righteousness he hopes to stand innocent at the judgment day, and he will tell You it is the righteousness of Christ.—Ask him by what pattern he tries to frame his life, and he will tell you that it is the example of Christ.
But, beside all this, there is one thing in a true Christian which is eminently peculiar to him. That thing is love to Christ. Knowledge, faith, hope, reverence, obedience, are all marked features in a true Christian’s character. But his picture would be very imperfect if you omitted his “love” to his Divine Master. He not only knows, trusts, and obeys. He goes further than this,—he loves.
—J. C. Ryle
Holiness: Its Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties and Roots (London: William Hunt and Company, 1889), 341.
Love will dispose to walk humbly among men. For real and dear love will dispose men to high thoughts of [others]; and Christian love disposes men to think others better than themselves. Love will dispose men to honor one another. For we are naturally inclined to think honorably of those whom we love, and to give them honor. So that those precepts in 1 Peter 2:17 are fulfilled by love, “Honor all men.” And Philippians 2:3, “In lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.” Love will dispose to contentment in the station in which God hath set him, without coveting anything which his neighbor possesses, or envying him any good thing which he has. Love will dispose men to meekness and gentleness in their carriage towards their neighbors, and not to treat them with passion or violence, but with moderation and calmness. Love checks and restrains a bitter spirit. For love has no bitterness in it. It is altogether a sweet disposition and affection of the soul. Love will prevent broils and quarrels, and will dispose to peaceableness. Love will dispose men to forgive injuries, which they receive from their neighbors. Proverbs 10:12, “Hatred stirreth up strifes; but love covereth all sins.” Love will dispose men to all acts of mercy towards our neighbor who is under any affliction or calamity. For we are naturally disposed to pity those whom we love when they are afflicted. This would dispose men to give to the poor, and bear one another’s burdens, to weep with those that weep, and rejoice with those that rejoice.
Ethical Writings, The Works of Jonathan Edwards (Yale University Press, 1989), 135–136.