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 24, 2016


Last week I was irritated by a post, on a Christian Internet site, from a guy who was arrogant and boastful in his sin.  I don’t have time to read it all but here are a few brief excerpts:

“I am a very unconventional, yet very classical and traditional, Christian. What I don't understand is how the Church can be so legalistic.  …The gospel is free grace, extended to sinners.  (Our) righteousness comes from Jesus… with (His) invitation to ‘Come as you are!’

“I do not live by a strict set of rules…and you may find me cussing, smoking cigarettes, and laughing at cruel (or dirty) jokes.  I live with my pregnant girlfriend, unmarried, and I stumble in how I walk with the Lord.  I also live by faith in Jesus Christ and trust that His promises will be fulfilled in my life.

“The Father loves us unconditionally; because Christ fulfilled all the requirements to be satisfied on my behalf.  His free grace covers and cleanses me from all unrighteousness.”

That young man is confused as to the nature of the Gospel.  He holds to a common and dangerous heresy called Free Grace.  He claims to have received the free, gift of God’s grace, yet he shows no remorse for his sin, nor a need to repent.  He acts like, just because he once “accepted Jesus,” God is okay with it. 

Well, guess what?   God is NOT okay with it.  In his letter to the Romans, Paul asked a rhetorical question, “Should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his WONDERFUL GRACE?"  

And then he answers with the obvious- "OF COURSE NOT!  Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it?”
And later he leaves them with a command, “Do NOT let sin control the way you live; do NOT give in to sinful desires.”    (Rom. 6:1,2,12)

It is true that God’s grace is freely bestowed on all those He saves but grace isn’t something trivial.  In fact, in most of our hymns about God’s grace, it is almost always described with superlative adjectives like Amazing, Marvelous, Infinite, Matchless, Magnificent, and Wonderful.  That kind of grace is not cheap; it comes at a great cost.  If we’ve never been grieved or tormented by the magnitude and consequences of our sin against God, then we can’t understand just how great His grace really is.

WONDERFUL GRACE OF JESUS might seem like a fun, frolicking little praise song but the author, Haldor Lillenas, captured the awesome greatness of God’s grace with phrases like "broader than the scope of my transgressions,” and "greater far than all my sin and shame."

That’s the kind of Grace we need; not just some flippant sort of favor from a warm and fluffy god who, with a wink and a nod, accepts us the way we are.  God’s grace is effective; when He saves us, He begins to clean us up.

That kind of grace is inexhaustible; it reaches to “all the lost.”  And it’s “all-sufficient;” it’s enough for all our needs.  By His grace, all who believe are “saved to the uttermost.”  It is even sufficient for “the most defiled,” and, in the words of the songwriter, it is sufficient for even me, and believe me, I am especially thankful for that because my sin was so great that the Son of God suffered and died on the cross so that I could be pardoned.   He took the burden and the penalty of my sin on Himself and He covered me in His righteousness.  That is the WONDERFUL GRACE OF JESUS.         


  1. Thanks for addressing so well a particular beef of mine

  2. Thanks for addressing so well a particular beef of mine