Easter: The Story Behind “Nothing But the Blood”

Hi, friends. Here’s the second installment of the “Story Behind” series leading up to Easter. Again, the theme this Easter is blood. [The featured image of the last post depicted the last supper; today’s depicts Jesus praying in the garden of Gethsemane, right after the supper and right before his arrest.]

The Reverend Robert Lowry, D.D.

lowry_r

Rev. Lowry, born in Philadelphia, PA in 1826, played musical instruments from a young age. At age 22, he went to school for ministry at University of Lewisburg, PA, graduating with the highest honors of his class. Rev. Lowry served as a pastor in several churches around the Northeast US.  He had a great reputation–brilliant and friendly. Though preaching the gospel was his main vocation, he loved hymnology. Fun fact: he attempted to reduce music to a mathematical basis…it didn’t work. He wrote “Nothing But the Blood” in 1876. Others hymns he wrote the music but not the lyrics for include “Shall We Gather at the River?,” “I Need Thee Every Hour,” and “We’re Marching to Zion.” He died in New Jersey in 1899.

“Nothing But the Blood” Devotional

The first verse directly alludes to the crucifixion story in saying that “nothing but the blood” can “wash away [our] sin.” In other words, we are only enabled to have our sins forgiven and forgotten because of Jesus’ sacrifice. Repeating “nothing but the blood” emphasizes that none of our idols, whether it’s a golden calf in Exodus or an iPhone X in 2018, can save us from sin and death…only God can do that! Verse 3 is also phenomenal, stating that “naught of good that I have done” can “for sin atone.” In other words, salvation cannot and doesn’t need to be earned; it’s a gift we don’t deserve!

And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of Godnot by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2: 6-10 (NIV)

Lyrics:

What can wash away my sin?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
What can make me whole again?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Refrain:
Oh! precious is the flow
That makes me white as snow;
No other fount I know,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

For my pardon, this I see,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
For my cleansing this my plea,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Nothing can for sin atone,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
Naught of good that I have done,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

This is all my hope and peace,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
This is all my righteousness,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Now by this I’ll overcome—
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
Now by this I’ll reach my home—
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Glory! Glory! This I sing—
Nothing but the blood of Jesus,
All my praise for this I bring—
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

This is the same congregation from the last post. Again, finding versions of these old hymns without the music altered is pretty difficult.

Here is a popular, modernized version with additional lyrics and updated music.

Thanks for reading! Last post goes up on Friday.

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