I. The First Part of the Text: Breadth, Length, Depth, Height
“That ye may be able to comprehend with all saints, what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge.” Ephesians 3:18-19
The apostle having in the first chapter [of Ephesians] treated of the doctrine of election, and in the second of the reconciling of the Gentiles with the Jews to the Father by His Son, through the preaching of the gospel, comes in the third chapter to shew that that also was, as that of election, determined before the world began. Now, lest the afflictions that attend the gospel should, by its raging among these Ephesians, darken the glory of these things unto them; therefore he makes here a brief repetition and explanation, to the end they might be supported and made live above them. He also joins thereto a fervent prayer for them: that God would let them see, in the spirit and faith, how they, by God and by Christ, are secured from the evil of the worst that might come upon them.
“For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named; that he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints, what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge” (Eph 3:14-19).
Knowing that, their deep understanding what good by these were reserved for them, they would never be discouraged, whatever troubles should attend their profession.
“Breadth,” “length,” “depth,” and “height” are words that in themselves are both ambiguous and to wonderment: ambiguous because [they are] unexplained, and to wonderment because they carry in them an inexpressible something — and that something [is] that which far out-goes all those things that can be found in this world. The apostle here was under a spiritual surprise, for while meditating and writing, he was caught — the strength and glory of the truths that he was endeavouring to fasten upon the people to whom he wrote, took him away into their glory, beyond what could to the full be uttered. Besides, many times things are thus expressed on purpose to command attention — a stop and pause in the mind about them — and to divert, by their greatness, the heart from the world, unto which they naturally are so inclined. Also, truths are often delivered to us like wheat in full ears, to the end we should rub them out before we eat them; and take pains about them, before we have the comfort of them.
Breadth, length, depth, and height. In my attempting to open these words, I will give you some that are of the same kind. And then show you, first, the reasons of them; and then also, secondly, something of their fullness.
Those [words] of the same kind are used sometimes a) to shew us the power, force, and subtlety of the enemies of God’s Church (Dan 4:11; Rom 8:38-39), but [sometimes] b) most properly to shew us the infinite and unsearchable greatness of God (Job 11:7-9; Rom 11:33). They are here to be taken in this second sense, that is, to suggest unto us the unsearchable and infinite greatness of God — Who is a breadth beyond all breadths, a length beyond all lengths, a depth beyond all depths, and a height beyond all heights; and that in all His attributes. He is an eternal being, an everlasting being, and in that respect He is beyond all measures, whether they be of breadth, length, depth, or height. In all His attributes, He is beyond all measure: whether you measure by words, by thoughts, or by the most enlarged and exquisite apprehension. His greatness is unsearchable; His judgments are unsearchable (Job 5:9); He is infinite in wisdom. “O! the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!” (Rom 11:33). “If I speak of strength, lo, he is strong” (Job 9:19); yea, “the thunder of his power who can understand?” (Job 26:14). “There is none holy as the Lord” (1Sa 2:2); and, “his mercy is from everlasting to everlasting, upon them that fear him” (Psa 103:17).
If rightly considered, the greatness of God, of the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, is that which will support the spirits of those of His people that are frighted with the greatness of their adversaries — for here is a greatness against a greatness. Pharaoh was great, but God more great: more great in power, more great in wisdom, more great every way for the help of His people; wherein they dealt proudly, He was above them. These words for this people, therefore, take in the great God, Who in His immensity and infinite greatness is beyond all beings.