Monday, September 9, 2013


In 2001 Keith Getty and Stuart Townend wrote the contemporary hymn, "In Christ Alone".  It was composed in the style of an old Irish folk melody and written to express key elements of the Christian faith and to pass them on to later generations.

"God really is our protector," said Townend.  "Our lives are in His unshakable hands."  I believe that is very Biblical.  Townend went on to say, "Songs remain in the mind in a way sermons do not, so songwriters have an important role and a huge responsibility."

However, a major denomination  has dropped this popular hymn, "In Christ Alone", from their hymnal because the publisher refuses to allow them to change the lyrics.  The original lyrics say, "on that cross, as Jesus died, the wrath of God was satisfied."  This denomination’s committee wanted to change that phrase to "on that cross, as Jesus died, the love of God was magnified."  Songwriters Stuart Townend and Keith Getty objected to the change, so the committee dropped the song from their hymnal.  I believe this denomination did the right thing in asking before they changed something.  I also believe that the authors of the song did the right thing by not changing the words.

My problem is the reason why this denomination wanted to change the words in the first place.  They said the issue was not the "wrath" of God, as some might think, but rather the word "satisfied," which the committee said did not conform to their theology.  They said the words of the song don't work.  That the lyric comes close to saying that God killed Jesus.  They don’t believe the cross is an instrument of God’s wrath.

I don’t think the song is a small matter.  I don’t think that God’s wrath is a small thing.  I don’t think that God’s satisfaction is a small thing.  If God’s wrath is not the issue, but His satisfaction with how sin was paid for is, then how do you put those two together.  The cross was God’s idea.  Jesus sacrificing Himself for our sins was planned before the creation even happened.  "He [Jesus] was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake." (1 Peter 1:20 NIV)

If we take away the satisfaction of God’s wrath toward sin, then we have nothing left but a goody, goody kind of god.  We can’t take sin lightly.  God sure doesn’t.  Consider this Scripture; "Since we have now been justified by His [Jesus’] blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through Him!" (Romans 5:9 NIV)  It seems from these words we can surmise that Jesus’ blood satisfied God’s wrath.

The cross of Calvary is as much about our salvation as it is about satisfying God’s wrath toward sin.  At the cross of Calvary, God’s own wrath falls on Himself.  What the cross of Calvary resists and defeats is as much the wrath of God as it is the power of hell.  Amazingly, God disarms Himself at Calvary.  To put it another way: At the cross, God made a way for His mercy and love to triumph over His justice and judgment!  Think about that for a moment.  The old theologians put it this way: We take refuge from God in God.  The only escape from God’s wrath is God’s mercy.

If you are interested; here is what the lyrics say: (I high lighted the offending phrase.)

In Christ alone my hope is found,
He is my light, my strength, my song;
this Cornerstone, this solid Ground,
firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
when fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My Comforter, my All in All,
here in the love of Christ I stand.

In Christ alone! who took on flesh
Fullness of God in helpless babe!
This gift of love and righteousness
Scorned by the ones he came to save:
Till on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied -
For every sin on Him was laid;
Here in the death of Christ I live.

There in the ground His body lay
Light of the world by darkness slain:
Then bursting forth in glorious Day
Up from the grave he rose again!
And as He stands in victory
Sin's curse has lost its grip on me,
For I am His and He is mine -
Bought with the precious blood of Christ.

No guilt in life, no fear in death,
This is the power of Christ in me;
From life's first cry to final breath.
Jesus commands my destiny.
No power of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns or calls me home,
Here in the power of Christ I'll stand.

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