I am the song leader in my church. I am not very proficient as a musician or a choral director. I pray that, someday soon, God will send someone more capable, to take this ministry from me. But for the time being it is my responsibility to select the music and lead the congregation in the singing every week.

I take that responsibility seriously. The hymns and songs that I select must be doctrinally sound, they must be appropriate for worship with a God-centered worldview, and, withing those parameters, I try to select music that will reinforce and, support the text and subject of my pastor’s messages.

Some of us have been singing the hymns for years; the words roll off our lips but the messages often don't engage our minds or penetrate our hearts. With the apostle Paul, I want the congregation to "sing with understanding."

So for the past couple years, it has been my practice to select one hymn each week, research it, and then highlight it with a short introductory commentary so that the congregation will be more informed regarding the origin, the author's testimony, or the doctrinal significance of the hymns we sing.

It is my intention here with this blog, to archive these hymn commentaries for my reference and to make them freely available to other church song leaders. For ease of reference, all the hymn commentaries in this blog will be titled IN ALL CAPITAL LETTERS. Other posts (which will be music ministry related opinion pieces) will be printed in lower case letters.

I know that some of the comments contain traces of my unique style, but please feel free to adapt them and use the content any way you can for the edification of your congregation and to the glory of God.

All I ask is that you leave a little comment should you find something helpful.

Ralph M. Petersen

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Friday, March 18, 2016


Pastor Samuel Stone, at the age of  27, wrote, The Church’s One Foundation, in 1866 during the time of a great doctrinal battle in the Church of England.   A book had been written challenging the truth of the first five books of the Bible.

And isn't that the problem we have in every generation?  Some liberal has some novel revelation, writes a new book, thousands of dumb sheep get caught up in it, and then the Truth has to be defended and the Church cleansed.

Pastor Stone was one of those who joined with other men of the faith, to defend the trustworthiness of the Word of God.

Most hymnbooks only contain four stanzas but originally there were seven.  Two of them have been combined into one.  But the third stanza, which has been cut from most modern hymnbooks,  stood in stark opposition to that attempt to discredit the Bible.  Here’s what it said;

The Church shall never perish!
Her dear Lord, to defend,
Is with her to the end:
Though there be those who hate her,
Against both foe or traitor,
To guide, sustain, and cherish,
And false sons in her pale,
She ever shall prevail.

The subject or theme of this hymn is the solid, immovable, and eternal foundation of the church.  The word, "foundation," is used a couple of times in the Epistles.

First, we are told, “no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” (1 Cor. 3:11)

But later Paul writes, “the household of God is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the Chief Cornerstone.” (Eph. 2:20)

At first, that imagery might seem to be a contradiction but it's not.  In the first picture, Jesus is described as the foundation.  But the other verse is a reference to the actual Scriptures, the very Words of God, as they were communicated to us by the apostles and the prophets, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. The text of the hymn employs the same imagery; stanza 1 is clear in declaring that Jesus Christ is the one and only foundation.  But the foundation of the Word of God is implied in stanza 2 in the phrases, "Her charter of salvation, one Lord, one faith, one birth" and "...partakes one holy food."     

In other words, it is in and through the Written Word of God that we learn about the saving work of the Lord Jesus Christ who is the Living Word of God.  And so, again, we see that same theme that we have noted before.    The Living Word and the Written Word are, inseverably, linked.

The WORDS of the Lord Jesus will NEVER fail to be fulfilled: Jesus said, “I will build My Church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.”

That was the point of the controversy then, in the Church of England, and it is the same today.  Truth is not negotiable; Truth is that which is TRUE!  If the Scripture is in error, our faith is uncertain.   But God's Word, the Lord Jesus Christ, is the only sure foundation of the Church.  He is the Living Word of God, which is true and reliable.  

Therefore, we can trust and have confidence in our salvation.

The Church's one foundation
Is Jesus Christ her Lord;
She is His new creation
By water and the Word:
From heav'n, He came and sought her
To be His holy Bride;
With His own blood, He bought her,
And for her life, He died.

Elect from every nation,
Yet one o'er all the earth,
Her charter of salvation,
One Lord, one faith, one birth;
One holy Name she blesses,
Partakes one holy food,
And to one hope she presses,
With every grace endued.

'Mid toil and tribulation,
And tumult of her war,
She waits the consummation
Of peace for evermore;
Till, with the vision glorious,
Her longing eyes are blest,
And the great Church victorious
Shall be the Church at rest.

Yet she on earth hath union
With God the Three in One,
And mystic sweet communion
With those whose rest is won:
O happy ones and holy!
Lord, give us grace that we,
Like them, the meek and lowly,
On high may dwell with Thee.


1 comment:

  1. 1886...about the same time frame Spurgeon was fighting the inroads of liberalism among the Baptists in England He fought hard... lost many friends...