DiM | “At the Cross (Love Ran Red)” by Chris Tomlin

Presentation1Today we’re doing another “Discernment in Music” (DiM) day here at Faithful Stewardship (2 Corinthians 10:4-6 (ESV)).

July 30, 2015. Today we’ll be taking a look at “At the Cross (Love Ran Red)” by Chris Tomlin which currently sits at #6 on KLove Top 10 Christian Songs.

When Chris Tomlin writes, he’s usually writing with corporate worship in mind. He’s a prolific writer of songs that are extremely popular in modern contemporary praise and worship sets in churches around the globe. Most of his songs convey a romanticized version of the Gospel, and this song is no different. However, this song does have some strong points. It is a song that can be deeply encouraging for Christians, provided their doctrine is sound. Unfortunately, the language in the song is wide open for some dubious interpretations, so this song does not truly stand on its own. If it were played in your church, I would want the music leader to explicitly articulate Law & Gospel, Sin & Grace, Repentance and the forgiveness of sins. It would be awesome if the Radio DJs would do the same whenever this song was played. But, I digress… let’s take a look at today’s song.

VEVO Music Video

Lyrcs (via KLove)

At The Cross (Love Ran Red)

There’s a place where mercy reigns and never dies
There’s a place where streams of grace flow deep and wide

Where all the love I’ve ever found
Comes like a flood
Comes flowing down

At the cross
At the cross
I surrender my life
I’m in awe of You, I’m in awe of You
Where Your love ran red
And my sin washed white
I owe all to You, I owe all to You

There’s a place where sin and shame are powerless
Where my heart has peace with God
And forgiveness

Where all the love I’ve ever found
Comes like a flood
Comes flowing down

At the cross
At the cross
I surrender my life
I’m in awe of You, I’m in awe of You
Where Your love ran red
And my sin washed white
I owe all to You, I owe all to You

Here my hope is found
Here on holy ground
Here I bow down
Here I bow down
Here arms open wide
Here You saved my life
Here I bow down
Here I bow

At the cross
At the cross
I surrender my life
I’m in awe of You, I’m in awe of You
Where Your love ran red
And my sin washed white
I owe all to You, I owe all to You
I owe all to You, I owe all to You

Publishing: © 2014 Shout! Music Publishing (APRA) (admin. in the US and Canada at CapitolCMGPublishing.com) / Thankyou Music (PRS) (admin. worldwide at CapitolCMGPublishing.com excluding Europe which is admin. by Integritymusic.com) / Universal Music – Brentwood Benson Songs / sixsteps Songs / Worship Together Music / S.D.G. Publishing / McKittrick Music (BMI) / sixsteps Music / worshiptogether.com Songs / Said And Done Music (ASCAP) / Universal Music – Brentwood Benson Tunes / Countless Wonder Publishing / Fots Music (SESAC) (Admin. at CapitolCMGPublishing.com)
Writer(s): Matt Armstrong, Ed Cash, Chris Tomlin, Matt Redman and Jonas Myrin


Verse 1. Right at the start of the song, there’s a hiccup. Not so much an error, but definitely a hiccup. There’s a place… the truth is that there is only one place where God’s mercy doesn’t reign, the place He created for eternal punishment for sin (Revelation 20). Why do I mention this? Yes, the Crucifixion took place in time and space. It actually happened. I don’t want to take anything away from that. But God’s mercy and grace isn’t limited to that time and space. That’s the hiccup… we don’t have to go to a specific place to kneel at the foot of the Cross of Jesus Christ. Chris Tomlin’s music usually caters to “altar call” type worship… where congregants are so moved by the spirit that they are compelled to come to the altar (foot of the stage) to fall on their faces as though they were physically at the foot of Jesus. We’ll see this play out in the bridge of the song where the declaration is Here on holy ground… I bow down… arms open wide... We’ll discuss the bridge later.

Pre-chorus. All the love I’ve ever found? Monergists will likely see where I’m going with this, whereas seeker-sensitive folks will probably consider this a bit of hair-splitting.

Romans 3:9-18 (ESV) | No One Is Righteous

What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, 10 as it is written:

“None is righteous, no, not one;
11 no one understands;
    no one seeks for God.
12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
    no one does good,
    not even one.”
13 “Their throat is an open grave;
     they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of asps is under their lips.”
14     “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16     in their paths are ruin and misery,
17 and the way of peace they have not known.”
18     “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

Romans 10:20 (ESV)

20 Then Isaiah is so bold as to say,
“I have been found by those who did not seek me;
 I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me.”

No one seeks after God. Everyone has turned aside. So the idea that “we’ve found” God is only Biblically sound in the sense of what Isaiah was saying, which is really that God has revealed Himself to a people who did not seek Him and did not ask for Him. That is why many of us who practice discernment use seeker-sensitive in the pejorative sense. For some people, it’s a simple matter of unclear speech, they use phrases like “people looking for God” to indicate the drawing of the Holy Spirit who is working on the heart of an unbeliever who has at some point heard the Preaching of His Word (radio, street minister, counselor, coworker, stranger etc).

Chorus. In keeping with the desire to be as clear as possible in our language, we bring nothing to the Cross but sin. Our lives are not our own. We are either slaves to sin and darkness, or we are slaves of righteousness in Jesus’ Name.  As Christians, walking this Earth as sojourners/foreigners in exile… we each have a war raging within us between the flesh and the Spirit of God who indwells us. By faith we are to mortify the flesh daily, repent of our sin, and be forgiven. It is here that the song becomes romanticized. It is a wonderful thing to be in awe of God, it is where we need to be. But like zeal, it’s not something you can just stir up directly. The music and the lights can undoubtedly stir the emotions, but awe and zeal come from knowing more and more of who God is… by spending time in His Word. Presence theology really hijacks Christians by suggesting that “experiencing God” through emotional manipulation is the key. No. Going through the motions of “coming down to the front and surrendering to Jesus” may get the emotions going, the adrenaline and the tears, but its all superficial if we are not growing int he knowledge of Christ.

The line where your love ran red, is a very clean way of referring to the crucifixion of Jesus. Just remember that it wasn’t simply a blood-letting, He was punished for our sin:

Isaiah 53:4-6 (ESV)

Surely he has borne our griefs
    and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
    smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions;
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
    and with his wounds we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
    we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.

If this Tomlin song is the only romanticized song in the set, I wouldn’t be as concerned, but if the whole set is cleaned up and romanticized, I worry that we lose site of the cost of our sin. Furthermore, there is little cause for us to truly be in awe of His sacrifice if we are constantly sugar-coating what He has done for us, by His Grace and His Grace alone.

A minor point I’d like to bring up on the notion of owing all to Him, I worry about it taking on an “I’ll pay you back someday” rather than “I am yours”. This concern ties into the whole “there’s a place” in that if we make the foot of the stage the place where we surrender, and we view our condition as something we owe to God, then Sunday morning can easily become something apart from our Monday through Saturday living. This is a problem in popular evangelicalism and cannot be blamed on this song, but the wording is open to this sort of problem, which is why I felt it needed mention.

Verse 2. Aside from the whole “there’s a place” issue, this verse can be a helpful reminder that for those who are bearing the fruit of repentance, sin and shame are powerless because of the finished work of Christ on the cross.

Bridge. I’ve already addressed this to some degree. This Bridge is what I’d call the “experience hook”… this is the climax of the song for a seeker-sensitive worship song… right here, right now, in this sanctuary, you are on holy ground so let the presence of God the Holy Spirit wash over you. The music, the lights, the exhortations from the music leader… all build to this moment where hopefully “you can feel the presence of god in a real way”. This is all finely crafted emotional manipulation. Please understand that I’m not saying God the Holy Spirit cannot make Himself known to you… I often weep when reading the Bible. What I’m saying is that these “experiences” are masterfully orchestrated to move the unbeliever into an emotional state, and it works. Many an unbeliever is moved to tears, even joining the church, because their emotions have told them they are accepted in their unbelief. This is the error of the whole “churching the unchurched” thing.

Now, for the believer with sound doctrine, the “here” isn’t a place, but a moment in time of repentance. Wherever you find yourself being convicted of sin by the Holy Spirit… that’s your “here” where you should humble yourself in prayer, confess your sin, and be forgiven in Jesus’ Name.


If it were played in your church, I would want the music leader to explicitly articulate Law & Gospel, Sin & Grace, Repentance and the forgiveness of sins. It would be awesome if the Radio DJs would do the same whenever this song was played. This song can be an encouragement to those with sound doctrine. Sadly, this song will be most prominently played in seeker-sensitive, presence-theology driven churches, where sound doctrine is rarely preached.

Romans 15:1-13 (ESV) | The Example of Christ

15 We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.” For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.

Christ the Hope of Jews and Gentiles

For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written,

“Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles,
    and sing to your name.”

10 And again it is said,

“Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people.”

11 And again,

“Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles,
    and let all the peoples extol him.”

12 And again Isaiah says,

“The root of Jesse will come,
    even he who arises to rule the Gentiles;
in him will the Gentiles hope.”

13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

In Christ Jesus,

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