In Ephesians 3:18, Paul prays that the knowledge he wants his readers to grow strong enough to “understand” is a knowledge of something immense! But what is it? What is “wide, long, high, and deep”? What Paul is about to point out here is that the knowledge of the four dimensions of God’s “secret” [Ephesians 1:9, 3:3-5, 3:9] cannot be easily mastered. It requires a strength only God can give. As Paul says elsewhere: “We don’t speak about these things with words taught us by human wisdom, but with words taught by the Spirit, as we explain spiritual things to spiritual people. A person who isn’t spiritual doesn’t accept the things of God’s Spirit, for they are nonsense to him. He can’t understand them because they are spiritually evaluated. The spiritual person evaluates everything but is subject to no one else’s evaluation.” [1 Corinthians 2:13– 15].
Paul is telling us that “the love of the Messiah” [Ephesians 3:19], exemplified in his magnanimity to every human, is too large to be confined by any geometrical measurements in our 10D universe! It is “wide” enough to reach the whole world and beyond [Ephesians 1:10]. It is “long” enough to stretch from eternity to eternity [Ephesians 1:4–6]. It is “high” enough to raise both gentiles and Jews to “the heavenly realm” [Ephesians 2:6]. It is “deep” enough to rescue people from sin’s degradation [Ephesians 2:1–5].
Marius Victorinus [3rd century] says: “God is through all and in all, and is all things and the source of all, through whom all things come and over all. In this aspect the task of understanding is to note and know what ‘the breadth, the length, the height and the depth’ of divine grace. How all these exist together or may be understood to exist in God and according to these aspects requires another, higher comprehension. Hence he prays finally that the Ephesians may understand them all together. And so that they will not despair through their inability to comprehend them together, he adds: ‘so that you may be able to comprehend with all the saints.’ Therefore the saints comprehend these things together and can expound them.”
Ambrosiaster [4th century] says: “What is meant when Paul speaks of ‘length and breadth and depth and height?’ Think of a sphere. The length is the same as the breadth and the height the same as the depth. So too all is proportional within the immeasurable infinity of God. A sphere is enclosed in a definite manner. God, being unenclosed, not only fills all things but exceeds all things. God is not confined but has everything within himself, so that he is the only one to be reckoned infinite. We cannot sufficiently thank him for the fact that, being so great, he deigned through Christ to visit human beings when they were subject to death and sin.”
Finally, Jerome [4th century] anticipates 21st century physics by saying: “The consequence is that one draws near as a neighbour either to those things above or to those below. Whatever begins to advance one’s path toward better things so as to rise to the heavenly height, that is what Paul is calling ‘length’. Whatever brings one to the lower things as one lapses toward vice he is calling ‘breadth’.”
Through Special Relativity, we learn that no absolute frame of reference exists for measuring motions in space. Through General Relativity we learn one reason for that impossibility: the universe’s matter and energy reside on a 3D surface of a 4D system. This means that we humans can never locate the center of the universe. We can only make measurements along its space-time surface:
Our situation is analogous to that of 2D beings residing on the surface of a 3D sphere. Their bodies extend only over 2D, length and width [longitude and latitude]. They have no thickness [no radius dimension]. They can only make length and width measurements. Even though they may be able to determine that their physical environment is a 3D globe, they will never be able to determine where they are relative to the center of the globe. Likewise, we cannot determine where we are relative to the center of the universe. The only advantage we have over the 2D beings on a 3D globe is that our 4D universe is expanding, and we 3D beings can measure that growth. Thus, we can determine more easily that our system has some kind of center. But the actual location remains hidden from us. Here’s the point: only a being transcending our 4D cosmos can see it! Thus in Ephesians 3:19, Paul says: “you will know the love of the Messiah—which transcends knowledge, and will be filled with all the fullness of God.”
More physics analogies are needed to grasp the reality of God’s love and his Tri-Unity that makes this possible:
Here we see Mr. and Mrs. Flat as 2D beings confined to the plane of length and width on a computer screen. A 3D human can approach their plane from the depth dimension and place a fingertip just 10^-35 m [called a Planck length] from the body of either one of them. Despite this close proximity, Mr. and Mrs. Flat would be unable to detect the fingertip’s presence, much less understand and describe its physical characteristics! As close as they may come to each other on the screen, they will remain unable to detect certain things about themselves, characteristics that we can easily observe from our 3D perspective. Because we experience depth, we can stand outside from them and instantly see their complete outline or shape. All they can perceive of one another are various lines. We observe something else about Mr. and Mrs. Flat that they can never see. We can see what is inside them. The details and workings of their interior body parts, for example, are fully exposed to us. In this simple analogy, just 1D separates them from us 3D humans. And yet, the advantage of that +1D suffices to explain how we could be closer to them than they are to each other, fully comprehending them inside and out, while remaining invisible and untouchable to them. God’s dimensional advantage over us goes far beyond this 1D difference. He can operate in at least the 10D established by string theory, and beyond! His capacity to maintain close and comprehensive contact with us, despite our incapacity to experience him physically through our space-bound dimensions, becomes a comprehensible reality. Paul’s multi-dimensional view of Christ’s love starts to make sense. The doctrine of the Trinity did not originate by men!
Looking at the edge of Mr. and Mrs. Flat’s plane, if the fingertip of the 3D hand were to enter their existence, it shows up only as a single point, a point that would disappear and reappear as the fingertip is pushed into and away from the screen. Thus this fits the language of Jerome, describing the “near” nature of God’s proximity, alongside the hands position as “above” or “below” the screen. If the finger poking through their plane were at any angle other than perpendicular, Mr. and Mrs. Flat would start to see a 2D ellipse:
If four fingers of the 3D hand penetrated their plane, Mr. and Mrs. Flat would see four irregular circles:
We can well imagine the debates between Mr. and Mrs. Flat who saw dots, lines, circles, and ellipses, staying still or moving, appearing or disappearing, enlarging or shrinking. We can imagine that at some point, Mr. Flat establishes the Church of the Three Circles, while Mrs. Flat establishes the Church of the One Circle. The great irony of the disagreement about the higher being is that none of these Churches have a tiny clue about who that being is and what that being can do. All have an incredibly limited perspective on the attributes of the being, especially on the powers available to the being. The intent of this analogy of our hand visiting screenland is to stimulate our thinking about God’s powers and attributes, including his Tri-Unity, from an extra-dimensional perspective. It’s to stimulate the significance of Paul’s words in Ephesians 3:17-19: “that the Messiah would make his home in your hearts through faith. Then, having been rooted and grounded in love, you will be able to understand, along with all the saints, what is wide, long, high, and deep—that is, you will know the love of the Messiah—which transcends knowledge, and will be filled with all the fullness of God.”
How many of us are willing to admit that God soars infinitely above the horizon of our 10D realm? Mr. and Mrs. Flat made their gross underestimates in a realm just -1D of the hand’s realm. Our human realm falls at least -7D short of God’s realm! This dimensional difference means that our underestimation of God is many geometric orders of magnitude greater than we can imagine, even with the help of a dimension-crossing illustration. Mathematically, Mr. and Mrs. Flat underestimated the 3D hand’s reality by a factor of 10^12. Since God possesses at least +7D of advantage over us, rather than just +1D the hand had over Mr. and Mrs. Flat, we orthodox Christians potentially underestimate God’s nature, powers, and capacities by at least a factor of:
Given the limitations of our universe, we humans could never even write out this number in standard notation. But, the underestimating factor really would be more like:
Sometimes we Christians glibly declare our belief that God is infinitely greater than we can think or imagine, never realizing that the attributions of just a 1st order infinity to God absurdly underestimates him! We verbally acknowledge his immeasurable power, grace, wisdom, and love, yet our prayers, concerns, actions, and attitudes treat him as one who is only one order of magnitude beyond us. The value of mathematically calculating a minimum limit of the superiority of God’s powers and capabilities over ours, lies in its potential to deliver us from such a tremendous underestimation of God. It should certainly sweep away doubts about God’s capacity to manifest himself truly as a Triune being.
Ambrosiaster [4th century] concludes: “Can any words adequately describe this mystery, that God is born as a man? That God dies for the human race, the master for his servants, the Creator for his creation, the righteous for the unrighteous? In the greatness of his majesty he became lowly to do on our behalf what was worthy of his love, so that we, insofar as we can, should join his household. Faith is never directed solely to the Father or solely to the Son. Hence he adds ‘that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.’ Thus by confessing Christ and giving thanks to him in the same glorious terms, the same honour is reserved for the Son as for the Father. All things that come from God the Father have been restored through his Son. By this, the faithful confess the divine perfection in its wholeness.”