Preaching the Great Hymns of Easter: Jesus Paid it All
Jesus Paid it All is one of a group of hymns often referred to as Grace Hymns. Grace has been a major theme of the Christian Church for centuries. Christians have lived it, preached it, taught it, shared it, written about it and sung it. Tonight we want to look at this great Easter Hymn and what it teaches us about grace.
The text of the hymn was written by a lay woman named Elvina Hall. She wrote the words one Sunday morning, in 1865, while seated in the choir loft of the Monument Street Methodist Church of Baltimore, Maryland. She was supposedly listening to her pastor, the Rev. George Schrick, give his pastoral prayer. It was a very long prayer. As he prayed on, her mind began to wander, and she began scribbling the words of a poem in the flyleaf of her hymnal. After church she showed the poem to her pastor.
The title of her poem were “All to Him I Owe.”
The Choir Director of the same church was John Thomas Grape (1835-1915). Unaware of Elvina's composition, Grape had earlier that week composed a tune he called Jesus Paid It All.
The pastor of Monument Street Methodist Church, Rev.George W. Schreck heard the music written by Grape and immediately thought of the poem written by Elvina Hall. At the pastor's suggestion, Hall's lyrics and Grape's music were combined, and then sent to Professor Theodore Perkins, publisher of the periodical Sabbath Carols. The hymn quickly became a favorite and has been published in and sung from hymnals across America ever since.
The hymn appeared in The Baptist Hymn and Praise Book of 1904, and has been in every Baptist Hymnal since.
I marvel at the workings of God on our behalf. An obscure woman scribbles a poem on the flyleaf of her hymnal, an amateur church musician unknowingly creates a matching tune, an unknown pastor provides encouragement to both and another great hymn of the faith is born. It is a hymn that has found an important place in our church hymnals and it has ministered spiritual challenge and blessing to countless numbers of people for more than a century.
The message of the hymn speaks of the incredible grace that was poured out on Calvary for lost sinners.
I. GRACE REMINDS US THAT OUR STRENGTH INDEED IS SMALL — WE ARE DEAD IN SIN
- “I hear the Savior say, “Thy strength indeed is small; Child of weakness, watch and pray, Find in Me thine all in all.”
- Ephesians 2:1-3 “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.” NIV
- Paul reminds the believers at Ephesus that they were at one time dead in your transgressions and sins
- in other words, there was nothing we could do about our spiritual condition because dead men have no strength
- our strength to save ourselves is not just small it’s non-existant
- a children's nursery song reminds us man's spiritual condition outside of Christ
- you all know the poem ... Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall, Humpty Dumpty had a great fall; All the king's horses And all the king's men Couldn't put Humpty together again
- man has had a great fall in his life
- the evidence is the havoc sin produces in our lives and in our world
- like Humpty Dumpty we too are helpless in putting ourselves back together again
- if the lost person will listen, they will hear the voice of the Savior saying, “Thy strength indeed is small ...”
A. WITHOUT CHRIST A MAN IS SPIRITUALLY DEAD AND ETERNALLY DOOMED
- in v. 1Paul reminds his readers that there was a time, not to far in the distant past, that they were dead in trespasses and sin
- they may have felt very much alive, and may have been in perfect physical health, but they were actually in a state of prolonged death
- they were dead and doomed, but were not aware of it
- ILLUS. Off the coast of North Carolina lies Cape Hatteras. It is known as the "Graveyard of the Atlantic." It is estimated that 2,300 ships lie buried in this graveyard's sands. Some are there by accident, but most of these ships found their death through treachery. On moonless or stormy nights, men called "wreckers" would build bonfires or set up lanterns upon the grassy knolls overlooking the beaches. Ship's captains, mistaking the lights for beacons of safety, would steer toward the lights only to go aground and be wrecked by the pounding surf. Eventually the sands would hide the wreck, but not before every last thing of value had been stripped from the ships by these men who had lured the vessel to its death.
- the Bible calls those wreckers the world, the flesh and the devil
- in their confusion they often mistake the wrecker's lights for the true light of safety
B. REMEMBERING WHAT WE WERE HELPS US APPRECIATE WHAT WE'VE BECOME
- Ephesians 2:3 “All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.”
- in v. 3, Paul reminds the Ephesian Christians (and us) of where they once were spiritually and what they now are by the grace of God
- because they were dead in their transgressions and their sins, their way of life was characterized by evil, ungodliness, and unrighteous attitudes and action
- Paul says that we were by nature objects of wrath
- while it is true that—by worldly standards—many people live moral and respectable lives outwardly, the wicked, sinful nature is still there
- it may be held in check by training, teaching, laws, folkways or social mores, but the wicked, depraved nature of fallen man resides in the heart of every man
- if given opportunity, it will spring into action like a lion who has been stalking his prey
- ILLUS. Schindler’s List: Men who brutalized, tortured, and killed Jews by the thousands, would go home to their families at the end of the day and be loving, caring, compassionate husbands and fathers.
- follows the ways of the world
- his allegiance is to the ruler of the kingdom of the air
- that phrase all of us in v. 3 reminds us that the believer should never be smug in the grace he or she has received
- Why? because according to Paul there was a time when we too were lost, living among the lost, gratifying the desires of our baser nature and doing whatever we felt like and thought about
- here is why the saving grace of God is such a supreme blessing
- disobedience, following the ways of the world, and giving our allegiance to Satan makes a man the object of God's wrath
- if you want to find out about God's wrath you need to be reading the book of Revelation
- on the other hand, obedience, following the ways of God and giving allegiance to Christ make a man an object of grace
- ILLUS. In his book Lincoln, Gore Vidal tells about the day when the president's cabinet came together to discuss what would happen after the war was over. How should the Union treat the rebellious southerners. Most wanted to punish the South as a vanquished enemy. When they asked Lincoln how he planned to deal with the South, Lincoln said, "I will treat them as if they never left."
II. GRACE REMINDS US THAT HIS POWER ALONE CAN CHANGE THE LEPER’S SPOTS — GOD, IS RICH IN MERCY
- “Lord, now indeed I find Thy pow’r, and Thine alone, Can change the leper’s spots And melt the heart of stone.”
- Ephesians 2:4-5 “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions -- it is by grace you have been saved.”
- God's judgment reveals who we are
- God's mercy reveals who God is
- ILLUS. In 1978 Velma Barfield, a woman from rural North Carolina, was charged with first degree murder. As she was booked, no one could have surmised the effect her life and death would have upon so many people. She was arrested for murdering four people, including her mother and fiancé. She never denied her guilt, but told the chilling story of her drug-dazed life, beginning with the tranquilizers which were prescribed following a painful injury. Velma was a victim of incest as a child and the abuse of prescription drugs as an adult. After she admitted her guilt, she was taken to prison and confined in a cell by herself. Desperate and alone in her cell, Velma heard the words of an evangelist as he spoke to another prisoner and she allowed Jesus Christ to enter her life. She wrote, "I had been in and out of churches all my life and I could explain all about God. But I had never understood before that Jesus had died for me." Her conversion was genuine. For six years on death row she ministered to many of her cellmates. The outside world began to hear about Velma Barfield as the story of her remarkable rehabilitation became known. God turned cell on Death Row into a most unusual pulpit. Before her final sentence, Velma wrote: "If I am executed on August 31, I know the Lord will give me dying grace, just as He gave me saving grace, and has given me living grace." Velma Barfield was the first woman in twenty-two years to be executed in the United States. She walked through the valley of the shadow for many years and at her memorial service the Reverend Hugh Hoyle said, "She died with dignity and she died with purpose. Velma is a living demonstration of "by the grace of God you shall be saved.'"
A. GOD'S MERCY HAS MADE US ALIVE WITH CHRIST
- Ephesians 2:5 “[He has] made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.” NIV
- the KJV uses the term quickened
- it is an interesting word
- it means that God has taken something that was dead and infused life into it by joining it together with something that was alive
- this verse teaches us one of the greatest, but most misunderstood truths of the Scriptures
- God did not send His son into the world to make bad people good
- God sent His only begotten son into the world to make dead people live
B. GOD'S MERCY HAS RAISED US UP IN CHRIST
- Ephesians 2:6 “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,” NIV
- in verse five Paul describes the reason for God's grace
- it is to take that which was dead and make it alive
- in verse six he reveals the goal of God's grace
- it is to resurrect us in Christ and establish our rule Christ in the heavenlies
C. GOD'S MERCY IS A JUSTIFICATION OF HIS INCOMPARABLE GRACE
- Ephesians 2:7 “in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.” NIV
- no man will be able to stand before God and accuse Him of being unfair in the distribution of His grace and mercy
- for us, the best is yet to come
- that’s what the 4th stanza of Hall’s hymn sings about
- "And when, before the throne, I stand in Him complete, “Jesus died my soul to save,” My lips shall still repeat. Jesus paid it all, All to Him I owe; Sin had left a crimson stain, He washed it white as snow."
III. GRACE REMINDS US THAT WE STAND IN HIM COMPLETE — WE ARE SAVED
- "For nothing good have I whereby they grace to claim; I'll wash my garment white in the blood of Calvary's Lamb"
- Ephesians 2:8-9 “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.” NIV
- all that is necessary for the justification of the sinner is given by God
- as a lost sinner, nothing good have I whereby they grace to claim
- my only hope was to plead the blood of Calvary’s Lamb
- when I did that, Jesus washed the garment of my life white
- grace is not of ourselves—it is God’s gift—no amount of good deeds can merit it
- even the faith necessary to accept the grace is a gift from God
- there will be no room for bragging in God’s Kingdom
- when it comes to salvation, God gets all the glory
- in salvation, men who deserve hell obtain heaven
- this cannot be explained apart from God’s grace
- ILLUS. Every conversion in Scripture is an example of God’s grace. When Paul (Saul) met the Lord on the Damascus Road, Paul was a persecutor of the church. Yet God made him one of the church’s chief preachers.
- the refrain echoes back, "Nothing but the blood of Jesus!"
- the fourth stanza rings out, "This is all my righteousness, nothing but the blood of Jesus."
- a man's own efforts at goodness and right-living can never earn him a declaration of righteousness from God
- simple trust in the Son of God can
- we don’t have to go around wondering, Is there some good work I’ve left undone that may keep me out of heaven?
- grace lets us stand in Him complete
A. SALVATION IS BOTH A GIFT AND A DEMAND
- Ephesians 2:10 “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” NIV
- this last verse in our passage reminds us that we are not saved by good works, but we are saved for good works
- the moment God saves us by His grace He has a plan of good works for our lives
- God does not save us to inactivity
- John 20:21 “Again Jesus said, ‘Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.’”
Jesus paid it all, All to Him I owe; Sin had left a crimson stain, He washed it white as snow.