Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Church devotion: In Christ Alone - Romans 5:18

Romans 5:18  Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men.

            The other day one of my Facebook friends sent me an article concerning my denomination, the PCUSA. It was about our Committee on Song’s rejection of the beautiful contemporary hymn, “In Christ Alone.” It was expected to be included in the new hymnal, mainly because congregations like my own love to frequently sing it. However, it was rejected by the PCUSA committee because the original writers of the hymn, Keith Getty and Stuart Townend, would not allow the lyrics to be changed.

            The original song contains the lines:
“Till on that cross as Jesus died
The wrath of God was satisfied.”

The Committee proposed an alternative:
“Till on that cross as Jesus died
The love of God was magnified.”

Some members of the Committee were repulsed by the idea of God being wrathful; the original lyricists would not permit their words to be changed because they believed it would change the entire theology of the whole song.

            It’s moments like this which cause me to question the road that my denomination is traveling down. We seem to take great offence of being reminded that we are sinners, condemned by a just and holy God, in need of total and absolute salvation. If we do not acknowledge or understand the depths of our sinful depravity which is offensive to God, then we will never accept the need for salvation from our sins.

            I admire Getty and Townend for their insistence on keeping to the original lyrics; I deplore the Committee on Song for having surrendered Reformed theology and replacing it with New Age mentality. It’s a sad day for the church when we go into denial about the wrath of God, the gravity of which sent Jesus to the Cross instead of ourselves.

            As a much better pastor than I will ever attain to be once wrote, “Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession.... Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer: The Cost of Discipleship.

Question for personal reflection

Do I honestly believe that my sins have no eternal consequences? Do I really feel as though God will forgive me of anything through repenting of nothing?

Prayer:            Lord Jesus, we stand condemned as sinful creatures under a holy and perfect God. Without You, we would have no forgiveness; without Your bloody sacrifice, we could not be redeemed or restored to God. In You alone, we have salvation. Keep us from taking Your grace for granted by reminding us of the terrible cost. In Your Holy Name, we pray. Amen.

John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. If you would like to comment on today’s message, please send him an email to

Today’s image is one of my 2013 Easter drawings called “Outside a City Wall.” If you would like to view a larger version, please click on the following link:

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