|artwork by Tamara Peterson|
Composer Frederick M. Lehman describes the process of writing this hymn, which he composed in 1917 in Pasadena, California: “The lyrics are based on the Jewish poem, Haddamut, written in Aramaic in 1050 by Meir Ben Isaac Nehorai, a cantor in Worms, Germany. One day, during short intervals of inattention to our work, we picked up a scrap of paper and, seated upon an empty lemon box pushed against the wall, with a stub pencil, added the first two stanzas and chorus of the song, since the lines of the third stanza, Could we with ink the ocean fill and were the skies of parchment made, were every stalk on earth a quill and every man a scribe by trade, to write the love of God above would drain the ocean dry, nor could the scroll contain the whole though stretched from sky to sky, had been found penciled on the wall of a patient’s room in a hospital after he died.” This drew my heart to a word study of the word fullness from Ephesians 3:19…
NIV: and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Amplified: [That you may really come] to know [practically, through experience for yourselves] the love of Christ, which far surpasses mere knowledge [without experience]; that you may be filled [through all your being] unto all the fullness of God [may have the richest measure of the divine Presence, and become a body wholly filled and flooded with God Himself]!
Fullness in Greek is pleroma from pleroo means to make full, fill, fill up, fullness, full measure, abundance, completion or what fills. Pleroma describes a full measure or abundance with emphasis upon completeness. Pleroma is completion and describes what is fulfilled or is completed without any gap. The sum total. The totality. Pleroma speaks of the total quantity and emphasizes completeness. Pleroma was a recognized technical term in theology, denoting the totality of the Divine powers and attributes.
Greek scholar Kenneth Wuest writes: “The word “fullness” is pleroma. Thayer’s Greek Lexicon gives the following: “that which is or has been filled; used of a ship inasmuch as it is filled (i.e., manned) with sailors, rowers, and soldiers; in the New Testament, the body of believers, as that which is filled with the presence, power, agency, riches of God and of Christ.”
Pastor John MacArthur has said, “To be filled up to all the fullness of God therefore means to be totally dominated by Him, with nothing left of self or any part of the old man. By definition, then, to be filled with God is to be emptied of self. It is not to have much of God and little of self, but all of God and none of self.”
Pastor Steven Cole writes: “The top rung of the ladder (to use Spurgeon’s phrase) is, “that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:19). “The fullness of God” probably refers to the perfection of which God Himself is full. Paul is praying that we will attain to spiritual perfection, having all that God is fill us to overflowing. As our capacity to receive it grows, He keeps filling us again and again. The idea of fullness implies total dominance or control, so that God perfectly controls our minds, our emotions, and our will.”
What are you filled with? What is coming out of your life? Look at your life. Are you filled with fear and jealousy or are you filled with the Holy Spirit of God?
Lord Jesus, we believe that whatever fills a person dominates that person. Fill us today so that our mind, soul, and body is dominated of the Spirit of Christ. Thank You that You don’t want to give us more head knowledge about Your love. Thank You that You help us understand and comprehend Your love for us—so that it really sinks in and goes from being head knowledge to heart knowledge about how very much You love us. Thank You that You give us a heart to experience for ourselves the limitless love of Christ. Knowledge isn’t enough. Great speeches or sermons won’t suffice, neither will hearing what You did in someone else’s life. It takes the Holy Spirit imparting power to each of us to fathom the depth and length and width, the incomparable nature, of God’s amazing love for us in Your finished work on the cross. Thank You that You cause our roots to go down deep into the soil of God’s marvelous love for us. Thank You that as we receive and experience Your love in our own hearts, Your love can flow through us to others. Grant us the power to understand the limitless extent of Your love. Be the center of our lives, our homes, our churches. In Your precious name we pray, amen.
Look Up—meditate on Ephesians 3:19
Look In—as you meditate on Ephesians 3:19 pray to see how you might apply it to your life.
Look Out—as you meditate on Ephesians 3:19 pray to see how you might apply it to your relationships with others.