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At Calvary

Theology of the Hymns  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Looking atscriptural basis for the 4 verses of At Calvary

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After 8.5 years of being your Pastor, by now you know that I love many of the old hymns
Now that is not to say that I don’t love the new worship music, I think that we are fortunate that we don’t have to choose one or the other but that we can worship with both
But I want to take an opportunity over this month of August to focus in on the old hymns
Having said that, during August I am going to focus my preaching on a few of the old hymns that I love, or more specifically on the theology that they teach
Now before you say, “But Pastor those new arrangements are not as good as the original.” keep in mind that many of the hymns that we love and know are not actually the way that they were originally written anyway
Unfortunately we don’t have the time to dedicate to this that I would like to but maybe if it works out we will try it again some other time, maybe even a Sunday night series
For example in the Chris Tomlin version of Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone) Chris didn’t write new verses, the verses that he uses are the original verses written by John Newton
But as for this month I only have 3 Sundays and so I have had to narrow it down to 3 hymns and they are, #465 At Calvary, #316 It Is Well With My Soul, and #193 I Know Whom I Have Believed
The version in our hymnal is actually the changed version
With today being the first Sunday of the month which traditionally also means communion I felt that the best place to start was with hymn #465 At Calvary
For the sake of variety I am going to try to use a different format when looking at each of these hymns and so this morning what I want to do is consider the scriptural basis for each of the 4 verses of this hymn
But I digress, I
As I have always said, make sure that you take everything and measure it against the Word of God for that is the only measuring stick that truly matters and is the only one that God will be using when it comes to judgement
The same rule holds true of the songs that we sing, if they don’t hold up to the critic of the Word than we ought not to be singing them
At Calvary was written in 1895 by William Newell who was a professor at Moody Bible Institute at the time
He wrote the song as a poem meant to reflect his own personal testimony and the music was provided by his fellow professor Dr. Daniel Towner
So let’s begin with verse 1
Years I spent in vanity and pride, Caring not my Lord was crucified, Knowing not it was for me He died On Calvary.
Although having been raised in a Christian home, William Newell had a rough background of rebellion against God
And so I think there are a couple of things for us to be reminded of by this verse
The first can be found in
Romans 3:23 NIV
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
It is important for us to remember where it is that we came from, that we were sinners deserving of God’s wrath
I find that the longer I serve Christ the more susceptible I am to the idea that God chose me because I was deserving to be chosen by Him, that somehow I was better than the rest
It then becomes more important than ever for me to remember that nothing could be farther from the truth, that I was a sinner of the worst kind, I was as Paul describes it, an enemy of God by virtue of my own choices
However a couple of chapters later Paul reminds us of this truth nugget
Romans 5:6–8 NIV
You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 5:
The truth spoken in this first verse of the hymn is that you are never too good that you don’t need saving and you are never so bad that you are beyond saving
We were all sinners deserving of judgement and Hell but it was while we were in that condition that Christ was sacrificed on our behalf
So let’s move on to verse 2
By God’s Word at last my sin I learned; Then I trembled at the law I’d spurned, Till my guilty soul imploring turned To Calvary.
We were sinners, Christ died for sinners and so now we turn to 1 John and we read,
1 John 1:9 NIV
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
1 John 1:8–9 NIV
If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
Ephesians 2:13 NIV
But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
Romans 8:1–4 NIV
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
Romans 8:1-
There is no other cure for a sin-sick soul but the shed blood of Jesus Christ and God’s Word is clear on that and how we can appropriate that in our lives
By asking forgiveness and walking in purity
Verse 3
Now I’ve giv’n to Jesus everything, Now I gladly own Him as my King, Now my raptured soul can only sing Of Calvary!
Jesus was very clear when it came to the cost of following Him
Mark 8:34–37 NIV
Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?
Mark 8:34-3
I believe that one of the greatest flaws with our modern day brand of North American style Christianity is that we have made the gospel too accessible
That’s right I said too accessible
What I mean by that is that in order to try and see as many people saved as possible we have made following Jesus easy, too easy, there is no cost
We proclaim that you can have all that you had and have Jesus on top of it but that’s not how Jesus did things
Jesus turned away the rich young ruler who was a very religious man, show a Pastor today that would kick that man out of their church, especially if he was a tither
Jesus message was very clear, if you were not willing to forsake everything in order to follow Him, you were not ready to follow Him
Saul was a man that likely had it all, power, prestige, position, money but there was a price to be paid when he met Jesus on the road to Damascus and he had to choose whether or not he was willing to pay that price
I think that we all know the answer but listen to what he said to the Philippian Christians
Philippians 3:7–11 NIV
But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.
William Newell came to that point in his life where he recognized that nothing in this world was worth more than knowing and serving Jesus Christ
Listen to Christ’s words from ,
Matthew 7:21–23 NIV
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’
Matthew 7:21-
What is the difference between those who knew Christ and those whom Christ knew?
I think that the answer is as simple as those who knew Christ but were not known by Him are those who wanted Christ in addition to what they already had
Those who were unwilling to give up all for the sake of the gospel
Now does that mean we have to get rid of all our possessions and forsake all our friends and live a life of simplistic solitude?
No. But it does mean that we need to take stock of our lives and be truthful with ourselves as to whether there is anything, ANYTHING, that is more important to us than knowing Christ, anything we wouldn’t give up for Him should He ask
Okay let’s move onto the 4th verse,
Oh, the love that drew salvation’s plan! Oh, the grace that brought it down to man! Oh, the mighty gulf that God did span At Calvary!
Let me share with you a couple of my favourite Bible passages
1 John 3:1 NIV
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.
1 John 3:1-
Romans 8:38–39 NIV
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
I don’t think that it’s possible for us to be able to describe in quantitative terms the depth or height or width of God’s love for us
“He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all” ()
I believe that just as important as knowing that God loved me enough to redeem me through the shed blood of His Son is knowing that this love continues today
He is still “lavishing” me with His love and there is nothing that I or anyone else can do do to prevent this from continuing as long as I walk in it
So there we have it, William Newell may have written these lyrics in a few short minutes on the back of an envelope while on his way to teach a class but there the Biblical truth of what he wrote stands up
We were all once sinners, but Christ died for us so that we could belong to God and get to know Him above all other things and there is nothing, absolutely nothing that can get in our way
Let’s pray
#465 At Calvary
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