Song Spotlight | Salvation Hymn
Though the Scripture is closed, the hymnal is not. It is continually growing with every generation as the Church writes new songs in order to give fresh expression to its praise. Though most songs will never be a “Rock of Ages” or “It Is Well”—spanning centuries of usage in the Church—it is the joy and privilege of saints to write songs that give voice to our theology and experience. Out of a desire to continue in this tradition, the GBF Song Initiative was born.
The GBF Song Initiative is a collaborative ministry focused on writing in-house songs for use in our times of worship through singing which can teach and admonish the Church (Col 3:16). It arose from conversations among Austin Thompson, Bryan Lee, and me about our shared desire to see theologically rich songs sung in the church, and the possibility of expanding the in-house writing Austin had already been working on. Since we began collaborating, our aim has been to write songs about God and His work of salvation, to adapt specific Scripture passages for song, and also to write songs where there might be topical gaps in hymnody.
“Salvation Hymn” was written by Austin Thompson and myself. The idea for the song came directly from Romans 5 where Paul discusses Christ’s substitutionary work, our justification by faith, and our eternal reconciliation with God. Each verse begins with an ascription of praise to God and then details His work on our behalf. Beside each line will be the primary Scripture reference to which it refers.
Praise Him, the One who took our place;
We had no hope to claim. (Rom 5:6)
Behold the mercy of our Lord,
The Lamb, for sinners slain. (Rom 5:8)
We languished ‘neath sin’s burden long --
Guilt growing every hour. (Rom 5:20)
Now reconciled by Jesus through (Rom 5:10)
His blood’s eternal pow’r. (Rom 5:9)
Verse 1 focuses on the substitutionary atonement of Christ on behalf of wretched sinners. Romans 5:6 says that “while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.” Our state was such that all hope was lost. We had worked our entire lives only to earn God’s judgment. Our guilt accumulated, weighing us down every moment, keeping us slaves of sin. But God displayed His mercy towards us in Christ. He came to be the perfect substitute, dying in our place that we might have peace through His blood. And this peace we have is sure because His atonement has eternal power that can never be undone.
Hail Him, the risen Son of Man –
Death trembles in His wake – (Rom 6:9)
Who once was dead, is now alive.
He’s risen from the grave! (Matt 28:6-7)
In Christ we have been justified; (Rom 5:1)
His rising does assure. (Rom 5:10)
The Dayspring of our righteousness, (Mal 4:2; Luke 1:78)
In whom our hope’s secure.
Verse 2 discusses the connection between Christ’s resurrection and our justification. Romans 5 says, “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” The confidence of our justification is fixed upon the fact that Christ rose from the dead, defeating death. Malachi 4:2 talks about the “Sun of Righteousness” rising upon His people, and also in Luke 1, Zacharias prophecies that the “Sunrise” will visit us. Christ is the “dayspring” (or dawn) of righteousness, and we know that we who are in Christ by faith have a true, perfect righteousness in Him.
Bless Him, our reconciling God, (Rom 5:11)
Whose wrath the Savior bore; (Rom 5:9)
His Spirit sent to testify,
We’re sons forevermore. (Rom 8:16)
Our names inscribed upon His hands, (Isa 49:16)
Can never be erased,
For we are His inheritance – (1 Pet 2:9)
Held fast by sovereign grace.
A distinctive of the songs we sing should be clear Trinitarian teaching. This is why verse 3 begins with a reference to each person of the Trinity and an aspect of their work in our salvation. God, the Father, secures our reconciliation by sending His Son, the Savior, to be the sin-bearer, absorbing His wrath, and then gives His Spirit to dwell within us and assure us that we are His children. When we see each person of the Trinity working out our salvation for us, it should cast out all fear and doubt that God’s sovereign work could ever fail. God calls His people His own inheritance, and He assures us that we can never be cast out, saying, “Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands” (Isa 49:16).
We exult in Thee; (Rm 5:2-3, 11)
For Thy great work we sing!
All the glory be
To Jesus Christ our King! (Rm 11:36)
The chorus is just a simple declaration taken from Ro- mans 5:2-3 and 11, where Paul says three times in response to God’s work, “we exult.” Paul doesn’t expect us to read his discussion of the atonement of Christ, justification, and reconciliation with mere intellectual examination, but to respond with true heartfelt affection. Did Christ die for you? Exult! Are you justified? Exult! Have you been reconciled? Exult! The reason we rejoice and sing is not because of anything in us, or because of how wonderful we are, but be- cause of how great our God is. For this reason all the glory is—and forever will be—His alone.
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