Luther’s Testimony in Song

(can be sung to the tune of MIT FREUDEN ZART, “Sing Praise to God, Who Reigns Above”):

1 Dear Christians, one and all, rejoice,
With exultation springing,
And with united heart and voice
And holy rapture singing,
Proclaim the wonders God has done,
How His right arm the vict’ry won,
What price our ransom cost Him!

2 Fast bound in Satan’s chains I lay;
Death brooded darkly o’er me.
Sin was my torment night and day;
In sin my mother bore me.
But daily deeper still I fell;
My life became a living hell,
So firmly sin possessed me.

3 My own good works all came to naught,
No grace or merit gaining;
Free will against God’s judgment fought,
Dead to all good remaining.
My fears increased till sheer despair
Left only death to be my share;
The pangs of hell I suffered.

4 But God had seen my wretched state
Before the world’s foundation,
And mindful of His mercies great,
He planned for my salvation.
He turned to me a father’s heart;
He did not choose the easy part
But gave His dearest treasure.

5 God said to His beloved Son:
“It’s time to have compassion.
Then go, bright jewel of My crown,
And bring to all salvation.
From sin and sorrow set them free;
Slay bitter death for them that they
May live with You forever.”

6 The Son obeyed His Father’s will,
Was born of virgin mother;
And God’s good pleasure to fulfill,
He came to be my brother.
His royal pow’r disguised He bore;
A servant’s form, like mine, He wore
To lead the devil captive.

7 To me He said: “Stay close to Me,
I am your rock and castle.
Your ransom I Myself will be;
For you I strive and wrestle.
For I am yours, and you are Mine,
And where I am you may remain;
The foe shall not divide us.

8 “Though he will shed My precious blood,
Me of My life bereaving,
All this I suffer for your good;
Be steadfast and believing.
Life will from death the vict’ry win;
My innocence shall bear your sin,
And you are blest forever.

9 “Now to My Father I depart,
From earth to heav’n ascending,
And, heav’nly wisdom to impart,
The Holy Spirit sending;
In trouble He will comfort you
And teach you always to be true
And into truth shall guide you.

10 “What I on earth have done and taught
Guide all your life and teaching;
So shall the kingdom’s work be wrought
And honored in your preaching.
But watch lest foes with base alloy
The heav’nly treasure should destroy;
This final word I leave you.”

The Plan

It’s not, I think, unwarranted to ponder the fellowship of the Trinity, and the Father and the Son conceiving (no coercion whatsoever) a plan whereby the Father consults with the Son of His willingness, and the Son consults with the Father of His intention, and a most magnificent agreement is reached: that the Son will, after the universe is created and has fallen, and after God has shown everything He wants to show about His holy self through 2000 years of Jewish history, then the Son would enter and die. That was the plan.

Again, Paul says in 2 Timothy 1:9: “God called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of His own purpose and grace, which He gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began.” So, before the ages of time began, the plan was for the revelation of the glory of the grace of God specifically through Christ Jesus.

SEPTEMBER 22, 2012

—John Piper, “Why Did God Create the World? John Piper” (sermon: September 22, 2012)  https://www.desiringgod.org/messages/why-did-god-create-the-world

Emmanuel! (29)

Though in our sin we are rebels deserving only the censure and judgment of God, in our human state apart from sin, that human experience into which Jesus entered, we are the glory of the entire creation. We are made like Him, as like Him as any creature could be made; and we are made for Him, for fellowship with Him to all eternity. The real marvel of incarnation is not that God should become man, but that He should do so for us men and for our salvation. At the end of the day, it is not chiefly a marvel of the mind, but a marvel of the heart.

—Nigel M. de S. Cameron, Complete in Christ, 28

Why do we call this Friday “Good”?

Although Catholics and Protestants in the past have followed somewhat different forms, in both camps the observances have been such as to cause people to ask, “Then why do we call this Friday ‘good’?” Emphasis has been on the seemingly senseless suffering of Jesus rather than on the purposeful humiliation of God through which redemption comes. In other words, we have failed once again to read the sacred story backward. Friday has been observed as if Sunday had never come.

Good Friday can and should proclaim divine purpose as paramount. Indeed, the term “Good Friday” may be a corruption of the English phrase “God’s Friday.”

This day is good precisely because God was in control at Calvary. The crucifixion of Jesus was not some bad deal that God had to try to make the best of; it was a working out of divine intention with a view to the salvation of an otherwise doomed creation.

—Laurence Hill Stookey, Calendar: Christ’s Time for the Church, 96

Exult!

Exult, O morning stars aflame!
with all the works of God proclaim
the Child of Bethlehem who came
for love and love alone.

Come earth and air and sky and sea,
bear witness to His deity
who lived, the Man of Galilee,
for love and love alone.

By faith behold the Crucified,
His arms of mercy open wide,
the Lamb of Calvary, who died
for love and love alone.

Let every eye His glories see,
who was, and is, and is to be;
who reigns as Christ in Majesty
for love and love alone.

* (pause) *

O world, by strife and sorrow torn,
new hope is yours on Christmas morn,
the Prince of Peace a child is born,
for love and love alone.

—Timothy Dudley-Smith, Great Is the Glory: 36 New Hymns written between
1993 & 1996 (Hope Publishing Company)

Love with Feet

Evangelicals often sing contemporary songs and choruses that celebrate the love of God but without reference to how God has shown this love in time and space. Subjective sentimental lyrics that reflect a generic affection toward a loving divine being are inappropriate for Christian worship. Hymns and songs that are purely subjective reflections of an undefined, disembodied divine affection unattached from the historical reality of the faith should be eliminated or at least minimized and given context in some way. 

—Robbie F. Castleman, Story Shaped Worship: Following Patterns from the Bible and History, 198.

Martin Luther’s Easter Hymn

Christ Jesus lay in death’s strong bands,
For our offenses given;
But now at God’s right hand He stands,
And brings us life from Heaven.
Wherefore let us joyful be,
And sing to God right thankfully
Loud songs of Alleluia!

No son of man could conquer Death,
Such mischief sin had wrought us,
For innocence dwelt not on earth,
And therefore Death had brought us
Into thralldom from of old
And ever grew more strong and bold
And kept us in his bondage.

But Jesus Christ, God’s only Son,
To our low state descended,
The cause of Death He has undone,
His power forever ended,
Ruined all his right and claim
And left him nothing but the name,
His sting is lost forever.

It was a strange and dreadful strife
When life and death contended;
The victory remained with life;
The reign of death was ended.
Stripped of power, no more it reigns,
An empty form alone remains
Death’s sting is lost forever!

Here the true Paschal Lamb we see,
Whom God so freely gave us;
He died on the accursed tree—
So strong His love!—to save us.
See, His blood doth mark our door;
Faith points to it, Death passes o’er,
And Satan cannot harm us.

So let us keep the festival
Whereto the Lord invites us;
Christ is Himself the joy of all,
The Sun that warms and lights us.
By His grace He doth impart
Eternal sunshine to the heart;
The night of sin is ended!

Then let us feast this Easter day
On the true Bread of Heaven;
The Word of grace hath purged away
The old and wicked leaven.
Christ alone our souls will feed;
He is our Meat and Drink indeed;
Faith lives upon no other!

—Martin Luther (1524), translated Richard Massie (1854)

(may be sung to the hymn tune MIT FREUDEN ZART [“Sing Praise to God Who Reigns Above”])

 

Holy Saturday (2)

Today a grave holds Him
who holds creation in the palm of His hand.
A stone covers Him
who covers with glory the heavens.
Life is asleep and hell trembles,
and Adam is freed from his chains.
Glory to Your saving work,
by which You have done all things!
You have given us eternal rest,
Your holy resurrection from the dead.

—Orthodox Church, The Matins of Holy Saturday (excerpt)

Holy Saturday

In a tomb they laid you,
O Christ the Life.
The angelic hosts were overcome with awe,
And glorified Your condescension.

O Life, how can You die?
How can you dwell in a tomb?
Yet by Your death You have destroyed the reign of death,
And raised all the dead from hell.

Earth’s bounds You have measured,
O Jesus, King of all,
Yet today You dwell in a narrow tomb,
Raising the dead from their graves.

Lo, the sovereign Ruler
Of creation is dead.
Almighty God is laid in a new tomb,
To empty the graves of all their dead.

In a tomb they laid you,
O Christ the Life.
By Your death You have cast down the might of death
And become the font of life for all the world.

You have been numbered
Among transgressors, O Christ.
You have justified us all, O Lamb of God,
By freeing us from the devil’s works.

He who holds the earth
In the hollow of His hand
Has been put to death and held fast by the earth,
To save the dead from hell’s grasping hand.

O my Life, my Savior,
Dwelling with the dead in death,
You have destroyed the iron bars of hell,
And have risen from corruption.

—Orthodox Church, The Matins of Holy Saturday (excerpt)

SEE ALSO: Bruce Benedict, “Poem for Easter”

“It is finished!”

The Savior meant that the satisfaction which He rendered to the justice of God was finished. The debt was now, to the last farthing, all discharged. The atonement and propitiation were made once and for all and forever—by the one offering made in Jesus’ body on the Tree. There was the cup, Hell was in it, the Savior drank it—not a sip and then a pause—not a draught and then a ceasing. He drained it till there is not a dreg left for any of His people. The great ten-thronged whip of the Law was worn out upon His back. There is no lash left with which to smite one for whom Jesus died. The great cannonade of God’s justice has exhausted all its ammunition—there is nothing left to be hurled against a child of God.

Sheathed is your sword, O Justice! Silenced is your thunder, O Law! There remains nothing now of all the griefs and pains and agonies which chosen sinners ought to have suffered for their sins, for Christ has endured all for His own Beloved and “it is finished.”

—Charles H. Spurgeon, “It Is Finished!” Sermon delivered at Metropolitan Tabernacle, December 1, 1861 (full sermon HERE)

What Makes This Friday “Good”?

Although Catholics and Protestant in the past have followed somewhat different forms, in both camps the observances have been such as to cause people to ask, “Then why do we call this Friday ‘good’?” Emphasis has been on the seemingly senseless suffering of Jesus rather than on the purposeful humiliation of God through which redemption comes. In other words, we have failed once again to read the sacred story backward. Friday has been observed as if Sunday had never come.

Good Friday can and should proclaim divine purpose as paramount. Indeed, the term “Good Friday” may be a corruption of the English phrase “God’s Friday.” This day is good precisely because God was in control at Calvary. The crucifixion of Jesus was not some bad deal that God had to try to make the best of; it was a working out of divine intention with a view to the salvation of an otherwise doomed creation.

—Laurence Hill Stookey, Calendar: Christ’s Time for the Church, 95-96

Come to the Table

Question 75. How does the Lord’s Supper signify and seal to you that you share in Christ’s one sacrifice on the cross and in all His gifts?

Answer. In this way: Christ has commanded me and all believers to eat of this broken bread and drink of this cup in remembrance of Him. With this command He gave these promises:[1] First, as surely as I see with my eyes the bread of the Lord broken for me and the cup given to me, so surely was His body offered for me and His blood poured out for me on the cross. Second, as surely as I receive from the hand of the minister and taste with my mouth the bread and the cup of the Lord as sure signs of Christ’s body and blood, so surely does He Himself nourish and refresh my soul to everlasting life with His crucified body and shed blood.

[1] Matt. 26:26-28; Mark 14:22-24; Luke 22:19, 20; I Cor. 11:23-25.

Heidelberg Cathechism

The Great Exchange

Christ was all anguish that I might be all joy,
– cast off that I might be brought in,
– trodden down as an enemy that I might be welcomed as a friend,
– surrendered to hell’s worst that I might attain heaven’s best,
– stripped that I might be clothed,
– wounded that I might be healed,
– athirst that I might drink,
– tormented that I might be comforted,
– made a shame that I might inherit glory,
– entered darkness that I might have eternal light.

My Savior wept that all tears might be wiped from my eyes,
– groaned that I might have endless song,
– endured all pain that I might have unfading health,
– bore a thorned crown that I might have a glory-diadem,
– bowed his head that I might uplift mine,
– experienced reproach that I might receive welcome,
– closed his eyes in death that I might gaze on unclouded brightness,
– expired that I might for ever live.

–from The Valley of Vision