Recent Posts
I find it quite amusing these days to be classified by some as "Reformed", when [more]
Psalm 110:1 enjoys more references in the NT than any other verse from the OT. [more]
Week 38: Jesus’s Ministry in Galilee Weekly memory verse: Colossians 1:18 – “And he is [more]
Kevin T. Bauder In previous essays I have outlined several considerations that all believers should [more]
We are studying Psalm 96 in an attempt to answer the question, Why sing? Last [more]

Satisfaction of God’s Wrath in Christian Hymnody

There has been quite a lot of noise in the blogosphere lately over a decision by the Presbyterian Church (USA) to reject Getty and Townend’s hymn, “In Christ Alone,” since they object to the language of penal substitutionary atonement and have failed to secure permission to change the line, “the wrath of God was satisfied.”

wrath

This issue raises a lot of important topics for discussion including valid views of the atonement, whether hymn lyrics should be changed, and copyrighting hymns. I don’t intend to add to this discussion at the moment (I appreciate comments on this matter by Timothy George and Russell Moore), but I thought I’d do a quick survey of other hymns in the Christian tradition that highlight the necessity of Christ’s bloody sacrifice to appease the just wrath of God on our behalf. Here are just a few (I’ve included the pertinent passages):

Day of Wrath, O Day of Mourning” by Thom­as of Ce­la­no, 13th Cen­tu­ry (Di­es Ir­ae); trans­lat­ed from La­tin to Eng­lish by Will­iam J. Irons, 1848.

Righteous Judge, for sin’s pollution
Grant Thy gift of absolution
Ere that day of retribution!
Guilty, now I pour my moaning,
All my shame with anguish owning:
Spare, O God, Thy suppliant groaning!

To Avert Men From Men God’s Wrath,” attributed to John Huss, 1558

To avert from men God’s wrath,
Jesus suffered in our stead;
By an ignominious death
He a full atonement made;
And by His most precious blood
Brought us, sinners, nigh to God.

Ah, Holy Jesus” by Johann Heerman, 1630

Who was the guilty? Who brought this upon thee?
Alas, my treason, Jesus, hath undone thee!
‘Twas I, Lord Jesus, I it was denied thee;
I crucified thee.

READ
"If that's true, then let's sing it."

Lo, the Good Shepherd for the sheep is offered;
the slave hath sinned, and the Son hath suffered.
For our atonement, while we nothing heeded,
God interceded.

Alas, and did my Savior bleed” by Isaac Watts (1707)

Was it for crimes that I have done,
he groaned upon the tree?
Amazing pity! Grace unknown!
And love beyond degree!

Thy body slain, sweet Jesus, Thine—
And bathed in its own blood—
While the firm mark of wrath divine,
His Soul in anguish stood

“Amidst Thy Wrath, Remember Love” by Isaac Watts, 1719

Amidst Thy wrath remember love,
Restore Thy servant, Lord;
Nor let a Father’s chastening prove
Like an avenger’s sword.

Wherewith, O Lord, Shall I Draw Near?” by Charles Wesley, 1740

Guilty I stand before Thy face;
On me I feel Thy wrath abide:
’Tis just the sentence should take place,
’Tis just—but O, Thy Son hath died!

For me I now believe He died!
He made my every crime His own,
Fully for me He satisfied:
Father, well pleased behold Thy Son.

‘Tis Finished, the Messiah Dies” by Charles Wesley, 1749

Accomplished is the sacrifice,
The great redeeming work is done;
‘Tis finished! All the debt is paid;
Justice divine is satisfied;
The grand and full atonement made;
God for a guilty world hath died.

All Ye That Pass By” by Charles Wesley

For what you have done
His blood must atone:
The Father hath punished for
you his dear Son,
The Lord, in the day
Of his anger, did lay
Your sins on the Lamb, and he bore them away.

READ
"Dear Refuge of My Weary Soul" by Anne Steel

Enslaved by Sin and Bound in Chains” by Anne Steele (1760)

Jesus, the Lord, the mighty God,
An all sufficient ransom paid.
O matchless price! His precious blood
For vile, rebellious traitors shed.

Jesus the sacrifice became
To rescue guilty souls from hell;
The spotless, bleeding, dying Lamb
Beneath avenging Justice fell.

Before the Throne of God Above” by Charitie Bancroft, 1865

Because the sinless Savior died,
My sinful soul is counted free;
For God, the just, is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me.

By Christ Redeemed, in Christ Restored” by George Raw­son ( 1857)

The streams of His dread agony,
His life blood shed for us, we see;

Man of Sorrows, What a Name” by P. P. Bliss, 1875

Bearing shame and scoffing rude,
in my place condemned he stood,
sealed my pardon with his blood:
Hallelujah, what a Savior!

What this shows is that the language of penal substitutionary atonement present in “In Christ Alone” stands squarely within our rich tradition of hymnody.

What other hymns can you think of that contain language of penal substitution?

Scott Aniol

About Scott Aniol

Scott Aniol is the founder and Executive Director of Religious Affections Ministries. He is Chair of the Worship Ministry Department at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he teaches courses in ministry, worship, hymnology, aesthetics, culture, and philosophy. He is the author of Worship in Song: A Biblical Approach to Music and Worship, Sound Worship: A Guide to Making Musical Choices in a Noisy World, and By the Waters of Babylon: Worship in a Post-Christian Culture, and speaks around the country in churches and conferences. He is an elder in his church in Fort Worth, TX where he resides with his wife and four children. Views posted here are his own and not necessarily those of his employer.

16 Responses to Satisfaction of God’s Wrath in Christian Hymnody

  1. “He Was Wounded for Our Transgressions” – Thomas Chisholm (date unknown)

    He was numbered among transgressors,

    We did esteem Him forsaken by His God;
    As our sacrifice He died,
    That the law be satisfied,
    And all our sin, and all our sin,
    And all our sin was laid on Him.

  2. Watt’s “Alas and Did My Savior Bleed” (though this verse is generally omitted):

    Thy body slain, sweet Jesus, Thine—
    And bathed in its own blood—
    While the firm mark of wrath divine,
    His Soul in anguish stood.

    Wesley’s “And Can It Be” (similarly obscure verse):

    “Still the small inward voice I hear,
    That whispers all my sins forgiven;
    Still the atoning blood is near,
    That quenched the wrath of hostile Heaven.”

    “My Hope Is In the Lord”:

    My hope is in the Lord Who gave Himself for me,
    And paid the price of all my sin at Calvary.

    No merit of my own His anger to suppress.
    My only hope is found in Jesus’ righteousness.

    For me He died, For me He lives,
    And everlasting life and light He freely gives.

    And a more recent one by Chris Anderson:

    His robes for mine: O wonderful exchange!
    Clothed in my sin, Christ suffered ‘neath God’s rage.
    Draped in His righteousness, I’m justified.
    In Christ I live, for in my place He died.

  3. “And from Thy sorrows will I learn
    How fiercely doth God’s anger burn,
    How terribly His thunders roll;
    How sorely this our loving God
    Can smite with His avenging rod,
    How deep His floods o’erwhelm the soul.”

    Paul Gerhardt (1653), “O World! Behold Upon the Tree” (O Welt, sieh hier dein Leben), trans. from German to English by Catherine Winkworth, Lyra Germanica, Second Series (1858), 6th ed. (1866); in Christ in Song: Hymns of Immanuel Selected from all Ages, compiled by Philip Schaff (Vestavia Hills, AL: Solid Ground Christian Books, n.d.; 2004 reprint of 1870 ed. by Sampson Low, Son & Marston), pp. 140-142, stanza 11 of 15; on Hymnary (New York: Anson D. F. Randolph, 1871) at http://www.hymnary.org/hymn/CS1869/174 [accessed 19 AUG 2013], s.v. Hymn #174, pp. 174-178.

    “Thou who didst bear the agony
    That made e’en “Thy strong spirit quail,
    Yet ever yearnest still for me
    With longing love that ne’er shall fail, –
    ‘Twas Thou wast willing, Thou alone,
    To bear the righteous wrath of God;
    Thy death hath stilled it, else had none
    Found shelter from its awful load.”

    Anonymous, “Thou Holiest Love, Whom Most I Love” (O Du Liebe meiner Liebe), trans. from German to English by Catherine Winkworth, Philip Schaff, Deutsche Gesangbuch (Philadelphia, 1859), #124; from Freylinghausen, Gesangbuch (Halle, 1704), in Christ in Song: Hymns of Immanuel Selected from all Ages, compiled by Philip Schaff (Vestavia Hills, AL: Solid Ground Christian Books, n.d.; 2004 reprint of 1870 ed. by Sampson Low, Son & Marston), pp. 147-148, stanza 2 of 6; on Hymnary (New York: Anson D. F. Randolph, 1871) at http://www.hymnary.org/hymn/CS1869/185 [accessed 19 AUG 2013], s.v. Hymn #185, pp. 185-187.

    “All thy crimes on Him were laid:
    See, upon His blameless head
    Wrath its utmost vengeance pours,
    Due to my offence and yours;
    Wounded in our stead He is,
    Bruised for our iniquities.”

    Augustus M. Toplady, “Surely Christ Thy Griefs Has Borne”, Christ in Song: Hymns of Immanuel Selected from all Ages, compiled by Philip Schaff (Vestavia Hills, AL: Solid Ground Christian Books, n.d.; 2004 reprint of 1870 ed. by Sampson Low, Son & Marston), pp. 155-156, stanza 2 of 6; on Hymnary (New York: Anson D. F. Randolph, 1871) at http://www.hymnary.org/hymn/CS1869/185 [accessed 19 AUG 2013], s.v. Hymn #194, pp. 194-196.

  4. Another one- “How Great Thou Art”:

    And when I think that God, his Son not sparing,
    Sent him to die, I scarce can take it in,
    That on the cross, my burden gladly bearing,
    He bled and died to take away my sin.

  5. Hi brothers,
    I’ve just recently been searching out scriptures which deal with the wrath of God poured out upon His Son, the Lord Jesus. But I am drawing a blank with reference to scripture stating that the Lord Jesus’ work on the cross involved bearing the wrath of God!

    I have sung hymns like the above all my life and, because of such hymns, firmly believed that He bore God’s wrath. However, my question now is …”Are such hymns actually scriptural? Yes, Christ bore our sins in his own body on the tree. Yes, He died for sinners. Yes, He died the just for the unjust that He might bring us to God.

    But my question is what scriptures teach that he bore the wrath of God, or that God’s wrath was satisfied upon Him?

    I would really appreciate your help, not now from hymnody but rather from scripture.

    A brother in Christ,
    Bruce Woodford

  6. to Bruce Woodford:

    I don’t know if this is too late (lol), but I’ll try to answer your question.

    In Romans 6:23 we know that the wages of sin is death.
    We have sinned, so our wages is death. Who has the authority to give the wages of sin? Of course, God.

    Now, 2 Peter 2:24 tells us that Jesus bare our sins. Our sins was placed unto Jesus! So the wages of sin went to Jesus, when he died on the tree. Again, who has the authority to give the wages of sin? God, the Father to be precise.

    There are other approaches to explain this, but the one that I think “easiest” is this.

    Hope this explanation helps. I’m not a native English speaker, so sorry if I made some confusions. CMIIW

  7. Thanks Albert! It was specifically these texts that I was considering. They say that our SIN and SINS were laid on the Lord Jesus but NOT God’s wrath! It seems to me that scripture teaches that God’s wrath is reserved for the wicked, the unbeliever but is never borne by a believer or the Lord Jesus!

  8. Some hymns above seem to express ideas which scripture never does….
    “‘Tis Finished, the Messiah Dies” by Charles Wesley, 1749

    Accomplished is the sacrifice,
    The great redeeming work is done;
    ‘Tis finished! All the debt is paid;
    Justice divine is satisfied;
    The grand and full atonement made;
    God for a guilty world hath died.

    Scripture never says that our debt was paid! Rather it was forgiven! See Matthew 18:27 There is a huge difference between the two!

    Wesley’s “And Can It Be” (similarly obscure verse):

    “Still the small inward voice I hear,
    That whispers all my sins forgiven;
    Still the atoning blood is near,
    That quenched the wrath of hostile Heaven.”

    Again no scripture says anything at all about Christ bearing or quenching God’s wrath!

    “My Hope Is In the Lord”:

    My hope is in the Lord Who gave Himself for me,
    And paid the price of all my sin at Calvary.

    This idea of a “price paid” or a “ransom paid” is very common in hymnody but it is not good theology! He did not pay our ransom, he gave himself a ransom! Again, a huge difference between paying and giving one’s self a ransom!

    And a more recent one by Chris Anderson:

    His robes for mine: O wonderful exchange!
    Clothed in my sin, Christ suffered ‘neath God’s rage.
    Draped in His righteousness, I’m justified.
    In Christ I live, for in my place He died.

    Christ bearing God’s wrath or rage is a concept foreign to scripture although very common in hymnody!

    “Thou who didst bear the agony
    That made e’en “Thy strong spirit quail,
    Yet ever yearnest still for me
    With longing love that ne’er shall fail, –
    ‘Twas Thou wast willing, Thou alone,
    To bear the righteous wrath of God;
    Thy death hath stilled it, else had none
    Found shelter from its awful load.”

    Many scriptures can be cited which state he bore our sins, our transgressions, our iniquities etc but not a one can be cited to say that he bore God’s wrath!

    This one is quite scriptural for it does not claim that Christ bore God’s wrath….
    “How Great Thou Art”:

    And when I think that God, his Son not sparing,
    Sent him to die, I scarce can take it in,
    That on the cross, my burden gladly bearing,
    He bled and died to take away my sin.

    Any thoughts? Did you know that the idea of penal substitution…Christ bearing God’s wrath for us was formulated by Anselm, a Roman Catholic abbot and Arch Bishop of Canterbury centuries before the split between the Church of Rome and the Church of England?

Leave a reply