Next he prays about growth in love:
"And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love...." (3:17b)
Being indwelt by Christ, the believers naturally have a basic understanding of love. Paul refers to their present level of understanding as being rooted (rizoō) and grounded (NIV, KJV) or established (NRSV) in love. The second verb is themelioō, "to provide a base for some material object or structure, lay a foundation," then figuratively, "to provide a secure basis for the inner life and its resources, establish, strengthen."30His prayer is, however, that they go beyond a rudimentary level
"And I pray that you ... may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge. " (3:17-19a)
He prays for them "power to grasp," a phrase with two verbs. The first (exischuō) means, "to be fully capable of doing or experiencing something, be strong enough."31The second (katalambanō) involves the imagery of chasing someone and seizing them, then used figuratively, to "understand, grasp, learn about something through the process of inquiry."32
When I was in college, I worked hard to understand calculus. As a chemistry major I needed it, but despite my efforts, my grades in calculus over three quarters were C, C-minus, C-minus. I passed -- barely -- but I just didn't "get it." I couldn't wrap my mind around it for some reason. I ended up changing to a major in biology instead.
Love can be like that, too. Love is the basic thing, but so easily we miss it. We go on acting in our old selfish manner oblivious to the new life of Christ inside of us. Paul prays that the Ephesian believers will be able to shift into hyperdrive (as StarWars would put it). To grasp that love isn't just the foundation, but also the whole thing -- "how wide and long and high and deep."
Paul doesn't want their love to stop with mere dimensions; he prays a paradox -- that they may "know the unknowable," literally "to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge" (NRSV). He employs the verb huperballō that we saw in Paul's prayer in 1:19, which means, "to attain a degree that extraordinarily exceeds a point on a scale of extent, go beyond, surpass, outdo."33In other words, Paul is praying that they might know Christ's love to the nth degree.
Is he praying that they are able to understand Christ's love for them or that they themselves would be able to love others? Both probably. Grammatically, the term "love of Christ" can be taken as either subjective genitive or objective genitive. But no doubt it begins with understanding Christ's love for us and grows from there.
Why does Paul pray that the believers grasp the fullest extent of Christ's love for them? How does comprehending
this love change a person's spiritual life? Is there any end to Christ's love for a person?