Hi, friends. This is the first installment of my Easter 2019 series, where we will focus on three hymns that align with the blended theme of sacrifice and redemption.
The Story Behind the Hymn
In 1865, choir member Elvina Hall listened to her pastor deliver his sermon like any other Sunday at Monument Street Methodist Church in Baltimore, MD. On this particular day, her mind began to wander. Perhaps as she contemplated something the preacher had said, poetic verses randomly started popping into her mind. She grabbed a hymnal and a pencil, jotting down lyrics on the flyleaf of the song book.
After the worship service, she showed her pastor the lyrics. I wonder whether she felt sheepish for not listening attentively to the whole sermon or if she felt too pleased with the stirring words she wrote to care.
The pastor realized an interesting coincidence. Another member of the church–organist John Grape–had recently written a piano tune, but he had no lyrics to pair with it. The pastor suggested combining the two, and voilà–“Jesus Paid It All” was born!
[Sometimes, God works in mysterious ways, but sometimes, God is very unsubtle, ha! This song was “meant to be.”]
Reflections on the Theme
The lyrics of this hymn emphasize Jesus’s strength, grace, and magnitude vs. our weakness and need of redemption. The song is clear that Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice for our redemption. The “return sacrifice” that we give because we are redeemed is subtle but still present.
At the line “Jesus paid it all/ All to Him I owe,” I contemplate what “all” we have to give to further the kingdom of God–time, money, spiritual gifts, dedication, care, etc. We don’t give these things to EARN salvation (“For nothing good have I/ Whereby Thy grace to claim”); we are called to spread the good news and God’s kingdom when we ACCEPT salvation.
“Thy power and Thine alone/ Can change the leper’s spots/ And melt the heart of stone” is a lovely yet revealing statement. God’s power can change the leper’s spots AND melt the heart of stone. Redemption is not just the forgiveness of sins but also relinquishing our hearts and allowing the Lord to renew them.
I hear the Savior say,
“Thy strength indeed is small;
Child of weakness, watch and pray,
Find in Me thine all in all.”
Jesus paid it all,
All to Him I owe;
Sin had left a crimson stain,
He washed it white as snow.
For nothing good have I
Whereby Thy grace to claim;
I’ll wash my garments white
In the blood of Calv’ry’s Lamb.
And now complete in Him,
My robe, His righteousness,
Close sheltered ’neath His side,
I am divinely blest.
Lord, now indeed I find
Thy pow’r and Thine alone
Can change the leper’s spots
And melt the heart of stone.
When from my dying bed
My ransomed soul shall rise,
“Jesus died my soul to save,”
Shall rend the vaulted skies.
And when before the throne
I stand in Him complete,
I’ll lay my trophies down, (Or: “Jesus died my soul to save,”)
All down at Jesus’ feet. (Or: My lips shall still repeat.)
Here is a lovely rendition of the hymn! This song sounds awesome with more harmony parts, by the way.
Thanks for reading! Do you like this song and/or my literary analysis? Let me know in the comments.