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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Monday, October 17, 2016


A long time ago, there was a man in the city of Philippi who asked: “What must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30). That question has been answered in many different ways throughout the centuries – most of them are not helpful.

I have a new friend who has recently become fearful of his eternal destination and it’s all my fault.  Several months ago he developed some serious health concerns so he is trying to make things right with God.  Okay, that’s good, but then he began telling me how good he is.  
Well, I could see where he was going with that; he thought his goodness would have some merit in God’s eyes.  I looked at him and asked, “You do know you’re a sinner, don’t you?”

That startled him.  He had never heard anyone tell him that before and it was a hard pill to swallow.  His religious background is a mixture of various, aberrant Christian sects and cults.  He believes so much that just isn’t true. 

So now he seems to be sincerely interested; he comes around frequently to talk about God and he says he wants to know Him better but he is still confused and in the dark.  He keeps holding on to religious works.

He has another friend who also has his ear; a man who teaches a different, false gospel of salvation by works that will lead him to certain destruction. That man has him convinced that salvation comes by joining the church and being baptized and then he should look for signs, and feel the power, and experience miracles from the Spirit of God as the evidence of saving faith.

But salvation is not obtained by joining a church, repeating a prayer, being baptized, experiencing miracles, or doing good works.  The ONLY effective and truly powerful resource we have, to offer someone who is lost, is the Gospel, and we have the promise from God that He will accomplish His work of saving sinners through His Word.
The straight, simple answer from Paul and Silas, to that Philippian jail guard, was the ONLY thing he needed to do: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.”

And THEN, the text says, “…they spoke unto him the Word of the Lord,” (Acts 16:31).

So I simply and consistently urge my friend to just trust in Christ alone and then I always go back to God’s Word and rehearse the Gospel.

That biblical formula is set to music here in this, three-stanza, hymn, ONLY TRUST HIM.  It is usually sung as a general invitation hymn.  But that invitation, “Come, every soul,” is offered to those who are oppressed by sin.  That’s called conviction.  Those who are being saved by God are grieved by their sin and they can do nothing but call out to Him for mercy.

Verse two abbreviates the Gospel -- Jesus shed His blood which cleanses us from all unrighteousness.

And then verse three alludes to the work of God in our lives through the Word of God.  Jesus is the Truth and His Word is the Truth.  When Jesus saves us, we can rest in Him.  His Word gives us full assurance that we are truly saved to the uttermost.

ONLY TRUST HIM.  He is the Only way to salvation.

Come every soul by sin oppressed,
There’s mercy with the Lord,
And He will surely give you rest,
By trusting in His Word.

For Jesus shed His precious blood,
Rich blessings to bestow;
Plunge now into the crimson flood’
That washes white as snow.

Yes, Jesus is the Truth, the Way,
That leads you into rest,
Believe in Him without delay,
And you are fully blest.


Only trust Him; only trust Him.
Only trust Him now.
He will save you; He will save you.
He will save you now.

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