Christianity 201

April 6, 2014

Devotions from the Hymnbook

But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin.  (I John 1:7 NLT)

He entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. (Hebrews 9:22 ESV)

How much worse punishment do you think is deserved by the person who walks all over God’s Son, who acts as if the blood of the covenant that made us holy is just ordinary blood, and who insults the Spirit of grace? (Hebrews 10:29 CEB)

As someone who has been responsible for helping to introduce modern worship at two different churches, I am very supportive of what many of today’s worship leaders and modern hymn-writers are doing, and believe very strongly in the “theology of ‘New Song'” as expressed in Isaiah 42:10 and other scriptures.  However, I’m also very appreciative of the richness in many of the old hymns.

The challenge with many of the hymns however is that they were written at a time when the style dictated following a certain format. Many started with a strong thought, but were evangelistic in nature, imploring and pleading with the hearer in successive verses to cross the line of faith before it is too late.  For that reason, some of the first verses of many of these hymns are worth remembering, but successive verses seem out of date, and also don’t conform to the nature of what we now call ‘vertical worship,’ that is songs directed directly to God.

Still, this morning I got to thinking about many of those first verses, especially in songs that could have application either to a communion service or Good Friday. These lines may be foreign to you, or familiar, but I hope they resonate with you.  If you’re under a certain age, I hope you’ll stick with this today.

He The Pearly Gates Will Open

Most of these songs focus intensely on the saving work of Christ on the cross. Many mention the blood of Jesus. Today, some preachers shy away from talking about the blood of Christ and people are uncomfortable singing “Are you washed in the blood.” There are very few contemporary books being written about the blood of Jesus.

Love divine, so great and wondrous
Deep and mighty, pure sublime;
Coming from the heart of Jesus
Just the same through tests of time

He the pearly will gates will enter
So that I may enter in
For he purchased my redemption
And forgave me all my sin.

Love divine, so great and wondrous
All my sins He then forgave
I will sing His praise forever
For His blood; His power to save.

My Savior First of All

This song takes an end-of-life perspective and also introduces the idea that in the age to come, Jesus will still be recognizable by the nail scars in his hands. Certainly when he appeared to Thomas — in what we describe as a ‘glorified body’ — Thomas was invited to see the scars in his side and his hands.

When my life work is ended
And I cross the swelling tide
When the bright and glorious morning I shall see
I shall my redeemer when I reach the other side
And His smile will be the first to welcome me.

I shall know Him, I shall know Him
As redeemed by His side I shall stand
I shall know Him, I shall know Him
By the print of the nails in His hand.

Glory to His Name

This is a rousing song that expresses thankfulness and praise for salvation. It’s a song of personal testimony that ends, “I am so wondrously saved from sin…”

Down at the cross where my Savior died
Down where for cleansing from sin I cried
There to my heart was the blood applied
Glory to His name

Once for All

This song has a strong basis in the book of Romans and is more doctrinal or theological, looking at our position in Christ. The chorus is more evangelistic than what we’re including here — it’s an invitation song, though a bit up-tempo — but two of the verses showcase the writing.

Free from the law, oh happy condition
Jesus has bled and there is remission
Cursed by the law, and bruised by the fall
Grace has redeemed us, once for all

Now we are free, there’s no condemnation
Jesus provides a perfect salvation
“Come unto me,” Oh hear His sweet call
Come and He saves us, once for all

Yes I Know

This one is actually the third verse of a more obscure piece that was revived a few years ago by the Gaither Gospel Series, a series of DVDs and CDs that provided a nostalgic return to hymns and gospel songs for an older generation. (See video below.)

In temptation He is near thee,
Holds the pow’rs of hell at bay;
Guides you to the path of safety,
Gives you grace for every day.

And I know, yes, I know
Jesus’ blood can make the vilest sinner clean,
And I know, yes, I know
Jesus’ blood can make the vilest sinner clean.

In a few days we’ll return to this theme and look at a single hymn that chronicles the final hours of Jesus leading up to the cross.

Read more scripture verses relating to the blood of Jesus.