WDTHT is an ongoing series that exams hymns and songs and discusses how clearly they preach the vital message of Christ crucified.
For this WDTHT post I've selected Christian Scheidt's hymn By Grace I'm Saved. It's number 566 in the Lutheran Service Book.
By grace I’m saved, grace free and boundless;
My soul, believe and doubt it not.
Why stagger at this word of promise?
Has Scripture ever falsehood taught?
No; then this word must true remain;
By grace you too will life obtain.
WDTHT? The soul has absolutely no reason to doubt the saving grace of God. There is no need to stagger, to doubt, to question God’s boundless power. That’s not the truth the devil wants you to hear but it is the truth found in Scripture. I like how Scheidt immediately contrasts the power and benefit of God’s grace to the doubting, sinful mind of mankind. The answer to our doubt is found in the truth of God’s Word: we are saved by grace, free and boundless.
By grace! None dare lay claim to merit;
Our works and conduct have no worth,
God in His love sent our Redeemer,
Christ Jesus, to this sinful earth;
His death did for our sins atone,
And we are saved by grace alone.
WDTHT? Scheidt knows man’s feeble mind and the devil’s treachery. Verse one speaks to our doubt and verse two speaks to our ego. By grace I’m saved doesn’t mean we have anything to do with our salvation. As clearly stated, “God in His love sent our Redeemer, Christ Jesus , to this sinful earth; His death did for our sins atone.,” The devil’s plan A is doubt; plan B is self-righteousness. Both false claims to salvation are put to rest with the clear message of Christ crucified for our sins.
By grace God’s Son, our only Savior,
Came down to earth to bear our sin.
Was it because of your own merit
That Jesus died your soul to win?
No, it was grace, and grace alone,
That brought him from his heavenly throne.
WDTHT? Verse three is why this hymn trumps praise songs. It’s why those young or old in their faith need to sing this hymn, hear these truths. Who is this Christ that atoned our sins in verse two? “By grace God’s Son, our only Savior.” Scheidt's diction is perfect. Christ is our only Savior. There is no room for pluralism here. There is no room for vague allusions to a deity. There is only Christ, God’s Son, our only Savior. “This is life eternal that they might know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent.” John 17:8
The teaching continues as the verse closes by emphasizing it was by God’s choosing, God’s love, God’s grace that brought Christ to us. Christ comes to us by God’s grace not by our efforts, our praise, our works, our prayers. We are Lazarus dead in our sins and, as spiritual corpses, are unholy in His sight. That’s the glory and power of God’s gracious gift of Christ to His people. He sent Christ to us to redeem us from sins. Today God’s grace continues to come to us through Christ in the Word, Christ in baptism and Christ in the Lord’s Supper.
By grace! This ground of faith is certain;
As long as God is true, it stands.
What saints have penned by inspiration,
What in his word our God commands,
Our faith in what our God has done
Depends on grace - grace through his Son.
WDTHT? This verse continues teaching us that God’s Word remains true and clarifies that our faith is a gift from God and it does not depend on us but on God’s grace through His Son.
By grace to timid hearts that tremble,
In tribulation’s furnace tried,
By grace, in spite of fear and trouble,
The Father’s heart is open wide.
Where could I help and strength secure
If grace were not my anchor sure?
WDTHT? This may be my favorite verse of this hymn because it contains my favorite line. “By grace, in spite of fear and trouble.” I love the truth packed into those eight words. God’s grace does not mean we won’t have fear or trouble. We are sinful people, living in a sinful world. However, even in the face of fear and trouble we have God’s grace and our eternal Father’s heart is open wide for His children. Our source and strength is secure in God’s grace, not our feeble, failed attempts at redemption. God’s grace in Christ is our anchor.
By grace! On this I’ll rest when dying;
In Jesus’ promise I rejoice;
For though I know my heart’s condition,
I also know my Savior’s voice.
My heart is glad, all grief has flown
Since I am saved by grace alone.
WDTHT? Sin will always be present in our earthly lives. However, as redeemed children of God it matters not. The promise of Christ is real: salvation is ours and all because we are saved by grace alone. This gives us reason to rejoice. We are so focused on cholesterol levels, mono and saturated fats and the factors that lead to heart disease that leads to temporal death. This focus is good but our primary concentration and understanding must be on the antidote for eternal death: Christ. Our Savior cleansed eternal heart disease, “all grief has flown.” We are saved by Grace alone.
To saints and sinners, to young and old, to seasoned Christians and those walking with wobbly first steps, the message in this hymn is clear: we are saved by God’s grace in His Son’s, our only Savior’s death on the cross. This concrete truth revealed in the concrete message is one that delivers comfort and strength. The same truth is echoed in The Lutheran Confessions:
The service and worship of the Gospel is to receive good things from God….The highest worship in the Gospel is the desire to receive the forgiveness of sins, grace, and righteousness.
In this hymn we have received good things in the clear and focused message of the Gospel of Christ. Issues, Etc. is sponsoring a What-is-your-favorite-hymn poll. By Grace I’m Saved got my vote.
I recently discovered a praise song by Chris Tomlin entitled, “Your Grace is Enough.” Although both titles allude to God’s grace, only LSB # 566 clearly proclaims Christ crucified.