DiM | “Chain Breaker” by Zach Williams

disapproveCCM Edition.

August 23, 2016. Today we’ll be taking a look at “Chain Breaker” by Zach Williams which currently sits at #20 on 20theCountdownMagazine.

This song presents a sales pitch of sorts for a “He” who is the remedy for your circumstances and your hurting. The “He” is never identified. We are left to assume the song is pointing to Jesus Christ, but is it? Is this how the scriptures present the Gospel of Jesus Christ? As an option out there that folks should try instead of trying all of the other stuff? hmm… doesn’t sound like the Gospel. Let’s give the song a listen and then look for the Gospel in the lyrics.

Zach Williams VEVO (Official Lyric Video)



If you’ve been walking the same old road for miles and miles
If you’ve been hearing the same old voice tell the same old lies
If you’re trying to fill the same old holes inside
There’s a better life, there’s a better life

If you’ve got pain, He’s a pain taker
If you feel lost, He’s a way maker
If you need freedom or saving, He’s a prison-shaking Savior
If you got chains, He’s a chain breaker

We’ve all searched for the light of day in the dead of night
We’ve all found ourselves worn out from the same old fight
We’ve all run to things we know just ain’t right
When there’s a better life, there’s a better life

If you’ve got pain, He’s a pain taker
If you feel lost, He’s a way maker
If you need freedom or saving, He’s a prison-shaking Savior
If you got chains, He’s a chain breaker

If you believe it, if you receive it
If you can feel it, somebody testify
If you believe it, if you receive it
If you can feel it, somebody testify, testify
If you believe it, if you receive it
If you can feel it, somebody testify

If you’ve got pain, He’s a pain taker
If you feel lost, He’s a way maker
If you need freedom or saving, He’s a prison-shaking Savior
If you got chains, He’s a chain breaker

If you need freedom or saving, He’s a prison-shaking Savior
If you got chains, He’s a chain breaker


Okay, so If you need freedom or saving, He’s a prison-shaking Savior. If? We’ll get to this point in a minute, and we’ll try to give it its best possible construction, but first let’s discuss the song lyric as a whole before trying to examine individual lines.

Every line of this song in every stanza but one begins with the word “If”, and stylistically that’s cute. But what’s on the flip-side of the “if”? In computer programming, we use “if-then” statements to execute a line of code based on positively identifying a particular condition. However, when programming an “if-then” statement, you also have to capture the conditions that don’t match, so we use an “if-then-else” statement. Without the “else”, the program will just run straight through the code and never execute the “then” since the “if” never panned out. This song has no “else”, so it’s assuming it’s covered all of the “if” scenarios. So, for applying our best construction on this song, we have to assume that the “else” of the song is the unbeliever who is absolutely clueless of his sinful condition, isn’t aware of his chains, enjoys the miles and miles of same old road, believes the lies, and is unaware of the holes in his life. Basically the sinner unaware that he’s a sinner. Such an individual needs the Law of God preached, so that the Holy Spirit can convict the world of sin.

John 16:7-11 (ESV) Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.

Incidentally, in this passage we see the Trinity: God the Son (Jesus) is speaking to His disciples concerning His sending God the Holy Spirit (as a Helper or Advocate) and God the Father. Notice the focus here, it is to convict the world of sin for not believing in Christ, that by the Grace of God they might repent and believe in Christ Jesus and be saved. Our song today doesn’t address the need for repentance. Not even remotely. It avoids sin and repentance completely via the unresolved “if”. That’s a problem.

Another problem is in it’s intended audience. If the goal is evangelism, then you’ve failed in not proclaiming the need for repentance. Also, the “He” is never identified in the song. We have to assume the song is pointing to Christ Jesus, but it doesn’t really, it’s pointing to someone who’s aim is apparently to give the listener a better life now and change his/her circumstances. Eternity isn’t mentioned, and that’s the focus of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

If the intended audience is believers, now we have a different problem… one of false promises. There’s a better life? When? Everything in this song points to temporal circumstances, so trying to rescue this line by saying it points to eternity is quite the stretch, particularly given the “if you need saving”… eternally speaking, there’s no room for “if”, it is a declared fact of the Scriptures that all have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God.

Romans 3:20-26 (ESV) | The Righteousness of God Through Faith

For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

So if you’ve got pain, He’s the pain taker is another promise that can be correct if viewed through the lens of eternity. Christ is our great physician, and our diagnosis is: dead in sins and transgressions (Eph 2:1-10). He heals us of death and grants us eternal life by His Grace through faith. This is an eternal removal of pain, suffering, heartache, and death. In this life, however, we’ve not been promised a complete removal of pain. God is still able to heal us and He certainly does so according to His Will, but He hasn’t promised us earthly lives free of pain. He hasn’t promised us lives that are “better” in this life, either. The fruit of the Spirit, of faith, most assuredly grants us better lives anchored in the Hope that is kept for us in Eternity, that’s true, but without the lens Eternity our temporal lives are hard. The world hates those of us who are in Christ Jesus because it first hated Him. Let’s take a look at Peter’s encouragement in 1 Peter 1:

1 Peter 1:3-9 (ESV) | Born Again to a Living Hope

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

The message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ isn’t merely an option out there, an alternative to worldly living that people should try so that they can find fulfillment… the Message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is one of salvation from eternal damnation, the Wrath of God against sin. Presenting the Gospel as merely an option to consider is dangerously untrue. This is part of the Pelagian heresy, the idea that people are born essentially neutral to the things of God, not saved, but not condemned. That’s patently false.

John 3:16-20 (ESV) | For God So Loved the World

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.

We were all born into the sin of Adam, born in unbelief, condemned already for that unbelief. “If” you need freedom or saving? Not if, it is certain. You need saving. Jesus Christ saves.

Now, back to that “He’s a prison-shaking Savior” line. This is likely a reference to Paul and Silas in a Philippian jail. Such a great story. Let’s take a look at it.

Acts 16:25-34 (ESV) | The Philippian Jailer Converted

About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bonds were unfastened. When the jailer woke and saw that the prison doors were open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul cried with a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” And the jailer called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family. Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God.

Such a beautiful passage of the Salvation… not of Paul and Silas being let out of jail, but of the jailer and his entire family being set free from their eternal condemnation of unbelief, rescued by the Gospel of Jesus Christ as their LORD and Savior. To point to this passage as some sort of promise that God will rescue you from your temporal situations is a lie and a distraction from the true point of the Gospel. Paul closed out his earthly ministry in a Roman prison… eventually beheaded under the Emperor of Rome. False promise is false, and should be rejected wholly. Now, the best construction is the acknowledgement that God is capable of doing anything He wills, but that’s not how this song is presenting the message. The song is fixed on the temporal, on circumstances.

The song winds down in that “whip the audience into a frenzy” of the somebody testify. Testify to what? Well, their experiences. Certainly that’s the proof we need that God is good, right? Our experiences will prove it to ourselves and to our neighbors, right? Such pep rallies do offer temporary excitement and emotional pick-me-up, and they also get many to engage in “positive affirmation” hoping that confessing the positive stuff will lead to positive stuff via some sort of spiritual quid-pro-quo mechanic. But once the emotions wane, and the adrenaline subsides, there is only empty words, false promises, and nothing of substance to carry the listener on through the trials that are coming. They’ll be chasing the next emotional high, when what they need is the Word of God, both Law and Gospel rightly distinguished, convicting of sin and comforting with forgiveness and the eternal Promise of Salvation.


I expect this song to get a lot of play. CCM is filled with a lot of sweet-sounding promises of temporal gifts, the “better life”, and relief from pain. That’s how the celebrity preachers get rich, they keep selling those tropes… all the while distracting listeners from the true beauty and Promise of the Gospel… Eternal Life in Christ Jesus.

Hebrews 13:20-21 (ESV) Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

In Christ Jesus,

2 thoughts on “DiM | “Chain Breaker” by Zach Williams

  1. You are waaaay over-analyzing this. Do you pick apart the Psalms like this and figure out ways to make it contradict other scripture?

    Instead of assuming that the “else” is for clueless unbelievers who enjoy their ways, maybe the else is for Christians who are high on the mountain top. This song is for believers who need God to move in their daily life – and for unbelievers who are realizing that they do, in fact, need a savior.

    Maybe not for you, but for me, He *is* a pain-taker, and when I am in pain, this song reminds me of that truth. It reminds me that He can make a way for me, even when I feel lost. When I am bound my chain of circumstances or even my own unbelief, I want to be reminded that he can break the bonds and I can be free again.

    • The Psalms are scripture. This song isn’t.

      The believers need the Gospel daily. This song doesn’t deliver that. Doesn’t mean you aren’t allowed to like the song, or even that you cannot draw some sort of comfort from it, but that’s your doing, not the song. You’ll find much better comfort in God’s Word. Look there for comfort.

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