Hymn | O Love, How Deep, How Broad, How High

trebleclefToday we’re going to take a look at our first Hymn from the Lutheran Service Book (LSB), “544 – O Love, How Deep, How Broad, How High”. We sang this song during Epiphany 2, where the Gospel text was John 1:29-42John 1:29-42, when John the Baptist announces Christ, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!

I’ve been working on ways to complement our DiM series throughout the week. One way I thought would be helpful for me and for my readers is to take some time to examine the doctrine found in the traditional hymns. I will be pulling hymns from the LSB as these are what I’m engaging in on a regular basis. As with our DiM series, I’ll do my best to offer a good recording of the hymn as well as the lyrics. Regarding the audio recording, it can be quite a challenge to find good audio recordings that include the congregational singing. Sometimes choir recording are unintelligible due to the intense operatic mode of singing. Most of the time what I find online are accompaniment tracks of just the organs or various orchestra arrangements. There is a real need for recordings of these hymns for everyday listening. If your church has good recordings of the congregation singing these hymns, please send me a link via the Contact Us page.

Higher Things – O How Deep LSB 544

Lyrics (via Hymnary.org)

1 O love, how deep, how broad, how high,
Beyond all thought and fantasy,
That God, the Son of God, should take
Our mortal form for mortals’ sake!

2 He sent no angel to our race,
Of higher or of lower place,
But wore the robe of human frame,
And to this world Himself He came.

3 For us baptized, for us He bore
His holy fast, and hungered sore;
For us temptation sharp He knew;
For us the tempter overthrew.

4 For us He prayed; for us He taught;
For us His daily works He wrought;
By words and signs and actions thus
Still seeking not Himself, but us.

5 For us by wicked men betrayed,
For us, in crown of thorns arrayed,
He bore the shameful cross and death;
For us He gave His dying breath.

6 For us He rose from death again;
For us He went on high to reign;
For us He sent His Spirit here
To guide, to strengthen, and to cheer.

7 All glory to our Lord and God
For love so deep, so high, so broad;
The Trinity whom we adore
Forever and forevermore.


Unlike our modern-day songs, this hymn is written for congregational singing (as opposed to having a band perform the song in hopes the congregation might follow along) where the congregation sings the same tune through 7 verses (no chorus/bridge) confessing Christ. For all of its doctrinal content, the song doesn’t take longer to sing as a congregation than your typical 2 verses + Chorus + emotional refrain loop performed by a band.

The Tune/Accompaniment. We’ll eventually cover songs whose tunes I find absolutely impossible to enjoy, but this one isn’t one. The tune is smooth and easy to follow. Were it not for the congregation singing aloud with one voice, I would find the sound of that organ bothersome; however, with so many voices there needs to be a unifying accompaniment. The organ here is suitable for the task. If you don’t like the organ, you have a friend in me. However, the true value of our music is in the lyric, not in the instrumentation.

Lyric. One need only read through the lyric as though it were a poem to see the Gospel of Jesus Christ clearly proclaimed. Let’s move through the verses briefly to see how the theme of this hymn unfolds.

  1. The Incarnation. God, God the Son took on human flesh for our sake. Emmanuel, God is with us.
  2. Again, God Himself came to us, He didn’t send another. Emmanuel, God is with us.
  3. FOR US: He was baptized for us, suffered hunger for us, tempted in the wilderness and defeated Satan in the wilderness for us.
  4. FOR US: He prayed for us. He taught for us. He fulfilled the LAW for us. He fulfilled the Prophets for us.
  5. FOR US: He was betrayed by wicked men for us. He bore the crown of thorns for us. He hung on a shameful cross for us. He gave His dying breath for us.
  6. FOR US: He rose from the grave for us. He ascended into heaven for us. He sent God the Holy Spirit to us, for us.
  7. and it was all out of His Great Love for us. All glory and honor be to God the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, forever and ever.

The hymnary website gives the following citations for the hymn: Ephesians 3:17-21; Philippians 2:6-9; Hebrews 2:9-18; John 1:1-14

In looking at these citations, I don’t like beginning or ending a reading of scripture with an incomplete thought. So I’ve made the following adjustments, and we’ll look at how these passages work together to teach us about the person and work of Jesus: Ephesians 3:14-21; Philippians 2:5-11; Hebrews 2:9-18; John 1:1-14

John 1:1-14 (ESV) | The Word Became Flesh

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.

The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Hebrews 2:9-18 (ESV)

But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers, saying,

“I will tell of your name to my brothers;
in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.”

And again,

“I will put my trust in him.”
And again,“Behold, I and the children God has given me.”

Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

Philippians 2:5-11 (ESV)

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Ephesians 3:14-21 (ESV) | Prayer for Spiritual Strength

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

This is the rich theology we find in the great hymns. Such wonderful proclamation of Christ FOR US shouldn’t be so quickly dismissed by modernists with no appreciation for theology. Yes, seasons change and so do musical fads and trends, but the Word of God is timeless. I’m all for having new tunes written for these hymns. I’m in favor of having newer songs written in keeping with the rich theology found in these hymns. We haven’t been doing this. The evangelical industrial complex has been trading out spiritual meat for artificial sweetener completely lacking in substance.

Ephesians 3:20-21 (ESV) Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

In Christ Jesus,

DiM | “Though All Our Life Is Like a Scroll” by Rev Karsten

ApprovedWorship Edition.

June 30, 2016. This month has been extremely busy for our household. It’s been both wonderful and exhausting. We attended our first IssuesETC conference, and this past week we took a special trip to have our kids baptized. Next month will be equally busy, so currently we are trying to get to August. I will be attending the PCR conference in August, but that should mark the end of our crazy summer of travel. I didn’t get a chance to research a CCM Edition of DiM for this week. But we have a special treat today to share a new Hymn written for Worship.

A recurring critique, or comment, about this DiM work is the question of whether or not the standard being applied is fair, or whether or not any song or hymn or even Psalm could earn an “Approved” status. When it comes to Hymns from the major, orthodox churches, we don’t normally look through those because their very presence in the official hymnals means they were scrutinized and approved by governing church bodies for their worship. Here, we are primarily concerned with what is coming out of an industry that mass-produces songs and declares them “Christian” for either radio airplay or even worship services without any oversight or scrutiny.

Karsten named winner of Reformation hymn competition

The Rev. Dr. Wilfred Karsten, pastor at Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Moline, Ill., is the winner of a hymn-writing competition held by LutheranReformation.org — the official website for the Synodwide celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.

The lyrics of Karsten’s original hymn, “Though All Our Life Is Like a Scroll,” are available to view here, along with two musical settings of the hymn (including accompaniment and congregational pages).

Judges for the competition included the Rev. Dr. Stephen P. Starke, pastor at St. John Lutheran Church, Amelith, Bay City, Mich.; the Rev. Dr. Jon Vieker, senior assistant to the LCMS president; and Peter Reske, senior editor of music/worship at Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis.

The announcement came June 17 that Karsten was the winner of the hymn for the Synod’s anniversary celebration, which has the theme of “It’s Still All About Jesus.” [Read More]

So we have a brand-new hymn to examine. It was already awarded and praised within the LCMS, but I thought we could take a look at it together. Does it only pass a Lutheran test or is this indeed a sound, Christian, song? Let’s give it a listen.

Concordia Publishing House Music Video


In the interest full disclosure, I struggle with the operatic singing. A lot, actually. I find it masks and obscures the lyrics such that I cannot comprehend the point of the song, much less the details of the doctrine, without reading the lyrics directly. Are the singers’ voices lovely? Absolutely. Can I understand what is being sung? Nope. The hymn writer only wrote the hymn, someone else composed the music… which is tough to sing along with at parts. Now, I’m no stranger to classical music, and overall it is a beautiful sound. I don’t care for organs (that’s putting it rather mildly, in fact) but in this tune the organ is not overpowering and it is in-fact supporting the singing rather than drowning it. The organ was nicely done. What remains is a pretty tune, classically sung… but if we don’t read the words we’ll have no clue what we just heard.

Lyrics (via LutheranReformation.org)

Though all our life is like a scroll
Unrolled with blemished pages;
Though sin has shredded what was whole
And death is now our wages;
Yet here we stand in confidence,
With Jesus as our sole defense,
For He alone still saves us.

Though pompously we try to dress
In costumes of our making;
Though fig leaves of self-righteousness
Are futile and heartbreaking;
Yet filthy rags Christ gladly wore
So we would perish nevermore.
His grace alone still clothes us.

Though earth’s deep waters foam and roar
As surging waves are rolling;
Though all the nations rage with war
While bells of doom are tolling;
Yet God gives peaceful fortitude,
He nurtures us with Heaven’s food.
True faith alone still anchors.

Though critics cut out Scripture’s claims
And treat them with derision;
Though they conduct their hostile aims
With scalpels of suspicion;
Yet how the living, two-edged sword
Proclaims the dead and risen Lord!
God’s Word alone: still truthful.

Now sing a high doxology
To God who gives salvation.
Both here and in eternity
Let this be our vocation.
To Father, Son, and Spirit raise
A symphony of grateful praise,
For He alone is worthy.


Hymns don’t generally follow the popular “verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, refrain ∞…” instead you usually get a tune that carries the singer through several verses that build a doctrinal statement or teaching. This one has 5 verses or stanzas.

Verse 1. Here we have the Law presented, that our lives are shredded by sin and we are deserving of death. We aren’t left there, though, because it turns to the Gospel, our hope of salvation, Jesus Christ.

Verse 2. Interestingly, we first address self-righteousness and the pompous act of presuming to be made righteous by our works, and then we see it rooted in the actions taken by Adam and Eve after the fall… they tried to cover their nakedness when they heard God walking in the garden. We are getting theology here, good sound theology. In the Genesis account, once the punishment has been declared as well as the seed of the Gospel prophesied, God then clothes them temporarily by the first animal sacrifice. The song doesn’t dig there, but jumps directly to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Promised seed. On the cross, Christ became sin in our place, wearing our filthy rags (sins of the world) upon that cross, so that we would not perish. Christ clothes us in Grace. Amen!

Verse 3. This verse centers on the hope of Christ in the midst of the storm, the earthly struggle. We’ve been given a spirit of peace, even when we cannot see peace around us. Our Hope is in the LORD, not in princes of earth. Lutherans will see the Lord’s Supper in this verse, but not in such a way that the Reformed should recoil. For we know that the heavenly food is God’s Word.

Matthew 4:4 (ESV) But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Faith in Christ Jesus is our anchor through the storm of this temporal life. Faith comes by hearing the Word of Christ (Rom 10:17).

Verse 4. Here we proclaim the enduring Truth found only in God’s Word. The world, and the wolves in many pulpits of the visible church will assail, twist, and mutilate the Scriptures to teach their own dreams and visions and lead many astray. But God’s Word Still truthful, and it is effective and it is powerful. Those who twist and attack God’s Word will face judgement… the two-edged sword executes judgement as well as granting saving Faith. The two words of Scripture are Law and Gospel. Those who reject the Gospel will find themselves condemned under the Law.

John 3:16-18 (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.

Verse 5. Now sing this high doxology, is saying “now sing Praises to the Triune God of the Bible”. This is our prayer of thanksgiving to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit for our Salvation by Grace alone, through Faith alone, from the Word of Christ alone. We will pursue as our vocation both in this world and in eternity the praise of the Triune God. To the Glory of God Alone.


This hymn sets a high watermark for Worship songs. As for our CCM DiM reviews, if a song could cover in 2 verses, a chorus and a bridge what this song covers in a single verse, it would probably get an Approval rating. What is sorely lacking in today’s CCM is a clear Gospel as an answer to the Law. We are sinners. Not merely “people who make mistakes”. Sinners. And the only answer is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We who bear the name of Christ (Christians, the Church) are stewards of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. CCM has become completely engrossed in pagan entertainment and has become derelict in their duties as stewards of the Gospel. What we pump out into the airwaves should serve the Gospel, and the ministry of reconciliation.

2 Corinthians 5:11-15 (ESV) | The Ministry of Reconciliation

Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience. We are not commending ourselves to you again but giving you cause to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast about outward appearance and not about what is in the heart. For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.

In Christ Jesus,

DiM | “In Christ Alone” by Keith & Kristyn Getty

Modern Hymn.

February 04, 2016. As a bonus for today, we’ll be taking a look at “In Christ Alone” by Keith & Kristyn Getty. During a phone call with my brother last night, he mentioned Keith & Kristyn Getty, but didn’t specify a particular song, so I grabbed the first one I recognized and liked.

As with the DiM we posted earlier today, this song earns our approval for bearing the Gospel of Jesus Christ plainly within the lyrics. It is a modern hymn in that it was written this century (2001). It follows the hymn format with 4 verses, no chorus or bridge. Let’s listen to it, read through the lyrics and then I want to highlight some controversy surrounding this song and a decision by a hymnal approval committee decided to drop it from their hymnal. I think the discussion is fascinating and worth noting regardless of which side you take on the matter.

Keith and Kristyn Getty Music Video

Lyrics (via WorshipTogether.com)

Verse 1
In Christ alone my hope is found
He is my light, my strength, my song
this cornerstone, this solid ground
firm through the fiercest drought and storm
What heights of love, what depths of peace
when fears are stilled, when strivings cease
My comforter, my all in all
here in the love of Christ I stand
Verse 2
In Christ alone, who took on flesh
fullness of God in helpless Babe
This gift of love and righteousness
scorned by the ones He came to save
‘Til on that cross as Jesus died
the wrath of God was satisfied
For ev’ry sin on Him was laid
here in the death of Christ I live
Verse 3
There in the ground His body lay
Light of the world by darkness slain
then, bursting forth in glorious day
up from the grave He rose again
And as He stands in victory
sin’s curse has lost
its grip on me
for I am His and He is mine
bought with the precious blood of Christ
Verse 4
No guilt in life, no fear in death
this is the pow’r of Christ in me
from life’s first cry to final breath
Jesus commands my destiny
No pow’r of hell, no scheme of man
can ever pluck me from His hand
’til He returns or calls me home
here in the pow’r of Christ I’ll stand
Writer(s): Keith Getty, Stuart Townend
Theme(s): Peace & Hope , Easter
Ministry(s): ThankYou Music
CCLI #: 3350395
Scripture Reference(s): Philippians 3:7-11


I really like this song, and was frankly very impressed to learn it had been written so recently. If I’m missing an older hymn upon which this version is based, please message me or leave a link in the comments below. As I was searching for the background of this hymn, I found an interesting report in USA Today entitled “Presbyterians’ decision to drop hymn stirs debate” by Bob Smietana, EDT August 5, 2013.

The committee putting together a new Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) hymnal dropped the popular modern hymn “In Christ Alone” because the song’s authors refused to change a phrase about the wrath of God.

The original lyrics say that “on that cross, as Jesus died, the wrath of God was satisfied.” The Presbyterian Committee on Congregational Song wanted to substitute the words, “the love of God was magnified.”

There are a couple of things I find fascinating about this. Firstly, that there are still denominations working through their hymnody ensuring that every song approved for corporate worship is in keeping with their confessions and doctrine. That excellent. That needs to happen. There needs to be a process in place for ensuring that every song, sermon, teaching, doctrine, and tradition is examined against God’s Word for Truth and soundness. This is something that should be a strength of being part of a denomination, that as a body of believers we confess the same faith. This is something that the “non-denominational” movement explicitly avoids. They refuse to accept a system of examination of doctrine and refuse to be identified by specific confessions. I think that’s an error, because no denomination of Christianity can come ex-nihilo for we have already the faith once and for all delivered to the saints (Jude). Your doctrine had to come from somewhere. Every denomination claims their doctrine comes from God’s Word, the key is in knowing how, where, and whether or not it can be faithfully exegeted from the text. A church can avoid having a label for a while, but its doctrine has origins, and those origins are either from the Spirit of Truth or spirits of error.

So, regarding this Presbyterian Church committee, they opted to drop the song for the refusal of its authors to allow the phrase “the wrath of God was satisfied” found in the second verse to be changed. As we read later in the article, it wasn’t due to the word “wrath”; rather, it was due to the word “satisfied”. Please understand, dear reader, that to suggest that the song was dropped because of a single word is to over-simplify what is taking place. It wasn’t merely the word, it was the theology being expressed in this wording that the committee took issue with. Whether you agree or disagree is a next step, but please don’t trivialize the matter by oversimplifying it. The author of this article did well to include comments both for and against:

The Rev. Chris Joiner of First Presbyterian Church in Franklin agrees with that move. He said some of his church members are fans of the song and will be disappointed that it was dropped.

But the words of the song don’t work, he said.

“That lyric comes close to saying that God killed Jesus,” he said. “The cross is not an instrument of God’s wrath.”

But the Rev. Scott Sauls, pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church in Nashville, disagrees. He said the word “satisfied” means that Jesus paid the whole price for sins.

“There’s no more work to be done,” said Sauls, whose congregation is part of the more conservative Presbyterian Church in America. “It is finished.”

There is more discussion in the article regarding blogger responses, but they are generalities and engage in ad hominem and strawman attacks (to be expected in a section dedicated to “controversies”). The quotes above are substantive differences of interpretation of the theology being expressed in the wording of the song. What do you think about the issue?

Now, regarding the scripture reference cited by WorshipTogether… I’m not buying it on this song. Which now makes me wonder, “who’s putting those scripture references on the website, the artist or someone else”? Let’s look at the passage cited, and then let’s look at the passage Kristyn Getty reads at the beginning of the YouTube Music Video.

Philippians 3:7-11 (ESV)

But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

While it fits with the ascribed theme of the song, it doesn’t seem to me that this song was written with this specific passage in mind. I could be wrong, of course, but I’d like to move on to the passage being read in the video. Actually, I’ll highlight what was actually read, but I want to show its immediate context, because I really think this to be a better citation for this song.

Colossians 1:11-20 (ESV)

May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.



Personally, I love the song and struggle to see the problem in the line as written. I’ll chalk it up to my not being Presbyterian. I commend the committee for doing the work of evaluating their church’s worship, despite my disagreement with their conclusion on this particular song. Theology matters. What you sing and pray matters (Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi). Soli Deo Gloria.

Romans 16:24-27 (ESV) | Doxology

25 Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages 26 but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith— 27 to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.

In Christ Jesus,

DiM | “Glorious Things of You are Spoken” by Emu Music

Updated Hymns (Reader Submission).

February 04, 2016. Today we’ll be taking a look at “Glorious Things of You are Spoken” by Emu Music which was recommended to us via Twitter.

The past couple of weeks have been a bit frustrating with regards to our DiM posts both for CCM Radio songs and Evangelical Worship songs that were most popular in 2015. We have one more song on that second list, but I thought today we’d take a break and review an updated or modernized hymn. I enjoyed looking up the history of this hymn. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is on full display in this song. The focus is on the Kingdom that is to come, of which we who believe are already members, adopted by Grace through Faith, and the have the Hope of Salvation in Christ Jesus. There are several promises in this song that we look forward to in the day of Resurrection, and we would do well to resist the temptation to claim these promises for this temporal realm before Christ’s return.

Emu Music Video


1. Glorious things of you are spoken
Zion city of our God;
He whose word cannot be broken
Formed you for his own abode;
On the Rock of Ages founded,
What can shake your sure repose?
With salvation’s walls surrounded,
You may smile at all your foes.

2. See the streams of living waters
Springing from eternal love,
Well supply your sons and daughters
And all fear of want remove.
Who can faint while such a river
Ever flows their thirst to fade?
Grace, which like the Lord, the Giver,
Never fails from age to age.

3. Blest inhabitants of Zion,
Washed in the Redeemer’s blood!
Jesus, whom their souls rely on,
Makes them priests and kings to God.
Ne’er again will be a barrier;
All the guilt and stain are gone,
Free to walk beside the Saviour
In the glory of the Lord.

4. Saviour, since of Zion’s city,
I through grace a member am,
Let the world condemn or pity,
I will glory in your Name.
Fading is the worldly pleasure,
All its weak pretence and show.
Solid joys and lasting treasure
None but those of Zion know.

© Words: J. Newton (1725-1807)
Music & additional words: © Luke & Vicki Woodhouse, 2009
CCLI song no. 6190404


A good resource for the history of this hymn can be found at Hymnary.org.

Glorious things of Thee are spoken. J. Newton. [Church of Christ.] First published in the Olney Hymns, 1779, Bk. i., No. 60, in 5 stanzas of 8 lines, and entitled, “Zion, or the City of God,” Is. xxxiii. 20, 21. It has attained to great popularity in all English-speaking countries, and ranks with the first hymns in the language. It is used, however, in various forms as follows:—
1. Original text in Snepp’s Songs of Grace & Glory People’s Hymnal.
2. A cento composed of stanzas i., ii. and v. This appeared in Cotterill’s Selection, 1819, from whence it has passed into a great number of collections. It is by far the most popular arrangement of the hymn in use, and may be found in fifty or more hymnals, as in Hymnal Companion, No. 234, and sometimes with Cotterill’s slight alterations, as in the Rev. F. Pott’s Hymns, &c, 1861-67.
3. A cento composed of stanzas i., iii. and v., given in Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge Hymns, 1852, but not popular.
4. A cento, stanzas i., ii. and doxology in four lines, not by Newton, in the Cooke and Denton Hymnal, 1853.
5. A cento, in 4 stanzas of 4 lines, beginning, “Glorious things of old were spoken,” is given in Isaac G. Smith’s Hymn Book, 1855-57. It is thus composed: stanza i., Newton altered; ii., I. G. Smith; iii., Newton; iv., dox. from Cooke & Denton. This is the least successful of any arrangement.
6. The whole hymn revised by J. Keble for the Salisbury Hymn Book, 1857, and included therein, as No. 130, with the four-line doxology from Denton. This, with slight returns to the original in two places (stanzas i., v.), and the omission of the doxology, was repeated in the Sarum Hymnal (broken into two parts, pt. ii. beginning “Blessed city, holy nation), 1868; and a cento therefrom again altered, in 6 stanzas of 4 lines in T. Darling’s Hymns, &c, edition 1887. Another cento, also with alterations, is given in the Hymnary, from which it passed into the New Mitre Hymnal, 1875.
7. Cento of stanzas i., ii., iv., v., unaltered as in the Book of Praise Hymnal, Thring’s Collection, and others.
8. In the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge Church Hymns, stanzas i.-iv. with slight alterations in stanzas i., ii., and iii.
In the American collections the same diversity of use prevails as in Great Britain. Sometimes the hymn is broken into two parts, with pt. ii. beginning, “Blest inhabitants of Zion.” In addition other arrangements of minor importance are given in collections of less importance; but in most cases the original text is maintained. Stanzas i., ii., v., have been rendered into Latin by the Rev. R. Bingham, and included in his Hymnologia Christiana Latina, 1871, “Dicta do te sunt miranda.”

–John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology (1907)

One of the greatest strengths of traditional Church Hymnology is that it was not taken lightly or flippantly in days past. Not just any song was added to a Church’s Hymnal, it was a pain-staking process, for the role of the Hymns was to teach sound doctrine, confess Scripture, and to build up the Church in the Faith once and for all delivered to the Saints. It wasn’t merely a “mood setter” or a seeker-magnet. Since so much work has gone into these hymns, there is little I need to add to the discussion. Let’s look at some of the commentary available on this Hymn.

The title of Book I of the Olney Hymns, published in 1779 by John Newton and William Cowper, is “On Select Texts of Scripture,” containing hymns written on specific Scripture passages, arranged in biblical order. “Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken,” written by Newton, is number 60 in this book. It is written on Isaiah 33:20-21, but there are plenty of clear references to other Scriptures, which Newton cited in footnotes, such as Psalm 87 (the first two lines of the hymn are nearly a direct quote of Ps. 87:3) and Isaiah 4:5-6 (which is closely paraphrased in the third stanza). This hymn has been called one of Newton’s finest hymns, and it is certainly one of his most popular, along with “Amazing Grace” and “How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds.”

So, let’s take a look at these references.

Psalm 87 (ESV) | Glorious Things of You Are Spoken
A Psalm of the Sons of Korah. A Song.

87 On the holy mount stands the city he founded;
2     the Lord loves the gates of Zion
more than all the dwelling places of Jacob.
Glorious things of you are spoken,
    O city of God. Selah
4 Among those who know me I mention Rahab and Babylon;
behold, Philistia and Tyre, with Cush—
“This one was born there,” they say.
5 And of Zion it shall be said,
“This one and that one were born in her”;
for the Most High himself will establish her.
6 The Lord records as he registers the peoples,
“This one was born there.” Selah
7 Singers and dancers alike say,
“All my springs are in you.”

Isaiah 4 (ESV)

And seven women shall take hold of one man in that day, saying, “We will eat our own bread and wear our own clothes, only let us be called by your name; take away our reproach.”

In that day the branch of the Lord shall be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the land shall be the pride and honor of the survivors of Israel. And he who is left in Zion and remains in Jerusalem will be called holy, everyone who has been recorded for life in Jerusalem, when the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion and cleansed the bloodstains of Jerusalem from its midst by a spirit of judgment and by a spirit of burning. Then the Lord will create over the whole site of Mount Zion and over her assemblies a cloud by day, and smoke and the shining of a flaming fire by night; for over all the glory there will be a canopy. There will be a booth for shade by day from the heat, and for a refuge and a shelter from the storm and rain.

Isaiah 4 is very short. Notice that every mention of Zion is in that Great Day of Christ’s Return. The imagery in this hymn can by hijacked by dominionists who insist that the church will build Zion in order for Christ to Return and take His throne… that’s garbage. No, Zion is God’s City… in the New Heaven and the New Earth that He makes. Jesus prepared it for us.


I like that the English has been modernized without sacrificing the doctrine in the lyric. I’d like to see more of this sort of thing from Christian Musicians. Most importantly, we need to return Music to its proper place in Corporate Worship.

Romans 16:24-27 (ESV) | Doxology

25 Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages 26 but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith— 27 to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.

In Christ Jesus,

DiM | Keeping It In Context

Today is Thursday, August 13, 2015.  A couple of days ago, it seems the world was introduced to our Discernment in Music (DiM) blogs all at once. It has brought a lot of questions, comments, encouragement, and concern across various social media outlets. I praise God for the opportunity to have this conversation with the Church, to encourage brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus to consider the theological merit of the music we listen to on a daily basis.

I noticed a couple of recurring concerns reflected in various comments in social media that I think are valid and warrant addressing.

The Context of the Listener

Perhaps the most common concern is one of whether or not I have the right to declare what can and cannot be used in Corporate Worship within a Church Service. This question is understandable given the 2 reviews (“Oceans” and “Holy Spirit“) that represent cross-over songs which dominate airplay and are pushed as songs for corporate worship. The primary target audience for these DiM posts is actually not Worship Pastors, though I do hope they are blessed by this work. The primary target audience is the professing Christian listening to Christian Radio, whether in their car, shopping in a Christian Bookstore, or in their home. Places where the music is generally background noise, continuously streaming what is generally assumed to be God-honoring, Gospel driven, Christian Music. That is the context of the listener which serves as the framework for this exercise in biblical discernment. That some of these songs are being imported into churches for corporate worship introduces several variables, but more importantly it now involves Elders and Overseers as Stewards of Christ’s Church.

The Approval/Disapproval Rating is not the Goal

For several months I refused to provide a list of overall approval/Disapproval ratings, because I knew that in doing so I would invariably distract from the goal of the work, which is to go through the motions listening to the song performed in its entirety, walking through the lyrics of the song, and comparing what the message of the song says to what the Word of God says. Once the list of reviewed songs got long enough to where I had to use my own search engine to check on a review, I realized I needed to provide an archive for those visiting the site for the first time. The standard is God’s Word, on that we cannot waver; however, I fully expect to have strongly held, differing opinions regarding the overall “approval” or “disapproval” of any given song played on the air.

Music Pope? No.

Okay, that comment made me chuckle when I saw it on Twitter. Brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ, I have no authority over what is played on the airwaves, in your church, or in your home. I do not decide what you can listen to without sinning, or even accuse you of sinning for liking a song, secular or otherwise. The DiM list is only an archive of the discernment work done until now. These songs are being played on the airwaves whether or not anyone is doing any discernment work. I’m not pushing to have your favorite songs banned from the radio. I’m grateful for Christian Radio and wholeheartedly pray that it continues, and improves. That being said, there is a lot of bad theology being pumped into the airwaves under a “Christian” banner that is dangerous to unsuspecting hearts and minds. Much like your local Christian bookstore, there is some good, some not-so-good, and some I can’t believe that is even on the shelf! A Christian who is mature in the faith once-delivered to the saints, rooted and grounded in solid theology, is better equipped to “spit out the bones and swallow the meat” so to speak. My authority is limited. At best, should I deem a Christian song worthy of “Disapproval”, what I’m saying to the Church is that I cannot, in good conscience, recommend or approve of listening to the song in isolation. Unless you live under my roof, are a passenger in my car, or become my student in some capacity, all I can hope for is that you will at least practice discernment for yourself or seek guidance from one of your elders or pastors. The Law defines sin, condemns it to death, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the only remedy.

We Are Not Judging Your Church

In the days of Hymnity, Elders of the Church carefully examined the songs to approve of their use in corporate worship. The laity could rest assured (for the most part) that the hymns found in their Church’s Hymnal were reviewed, prayed over, and approved by the elders. These days, the visible church has mostly abandoned the Hymnals, and much of what is played in Churches comes from popular bands in mega churches. It is rare to find a Worship Leader who scrutinizes the doctrine of the songs being sung, and even more rare is finding a church member who gives the theology and doctrine of the songs they sing a second thought.  And this is within the visible Church. If these DiM posts motivate a Worship Pastor to exercise discernment, Praise the Lord! If a member of the church chooses to exercise discernment regarding a song that was included in a worship service, that is wonderful… if that is you, please go to your Worship Pastor and ask for an explanation of the theology of the song and its purpose in corporate worship. Your pastors / elders are responsible for your growth and will be held accountable to God. Keeping in mind what we pointed out regarding the context of our listener, our DiM posts are not serving as judgments against your church for having played or playing one of these songs. That is not our intent. In fact, the church setting can be a place where the vagueness of most of these songs is clarified. There are hymns that don’t fully articulate the Gospel and are not well suited for evangelical broadcast because they were expressly written for penitent believers in Jesus Christ within the context of corporate worship. Corporate worship isn’t limited to a single song in isolation (which is how we do our reviews); therefore, our “disapproval” is in no way a single-point rebuke of your church or worship leader. It is our sincere hope, that given what we discuss in light of Scripture, that these DiM posts would serve as an impetus for seeking guidance with your Worship Pastor, Pastor, or Elders regarding the theology of the songs being sung.

3 Rules of Biblical Discernment: Context, Context, Context

I learned this discernment secret from Chris Rosebrough’s Fighting for the Faith. This is vitally important when handling scripture, and it is also important for how we treat the source material or the song lyrics. I haven’t mastered it. Just yesterday I had to revise a DiM post I had messed up because I eisegeted amillenialism into Jovan Mackenzy’s song… and he isn’t an amillenialist. I do my best to treat each song fairly, but given how they are played on the airways, that means we have to limit ourselves to what is found in the lyrics in most cases. In most cases, I try my best to give a song its best construction (Soul on Fire) or infuse a bible study into the listener to focus a vague song lyric (Cast My Cares). I have to try to infuse meaning into the songs in these cases… that is eisegesis of a man-made song. My goal is not to “justify” the song via proof-text. Proof-texting is bad… it is manipulation of the Scriptures to justify a man-made idea/concept/message. Many attempts I’ve seen to justify a song I’ve reviewed negatively have involved the breaking down of the song into several disparate nuggets, and then proof-texting verses in the Bible that correlate in some way. Sometimes that is simply how our minds have coped with a vague song or rationalized really liking a song, but that is not Biblical Discernment. Where we can, we seek to examine what Scripture teaches in-context and see where the song lines up. If the song falls short, we defer to the Scripture and encourage the listener to remember what the Scripture really teaches every time they hear the song played on the radio.

What’s wrong with just liking a clean song that’s silly?

Nothing. This isn’t about what songs you should like or dislike. As long as a song doesn’t cause you to sin, or a brother or sister to stumble, I see no problem with liking a silly song. Pastor Alistair Begg often quotes lines from secular songs in his sermons… for a distinct and clearly articulated illustrative purpose. No, this isn’t about whether or not its okay to like a silly song from Family Force 5. This is about whether or not the song lyrics present a Christian Gospel Message: Sin and Grace, Law and Gospel, Repentance and the forgiveness of sin. Short of this, it isn’t a Christian song… just an arguably good song, or outright silly/harmless one. Even some of the songs I’ve disapproved are so powerfully sung I can’t help but sing along on a few lines while driving in my car. It’s true. But I know that the theology is unclear and sometimes even aberrant, so I do not meditate on those songs.

The airwaves are so full of secular music… there is no advantage to pushing a form of secular music that is supposedly “Christian”… it’s still secular music. The slide in the music industry is always to the world. Endorsing a “Christian” version of secular music is at best unhelpful, and at worst loving to our children and to the artists we propel into stardom. My heart breaks to learn of another Christian artist who has abandoned the faith. How many more will we allow to shipwreck their faith for the sake of entertainment?


I love music and I long for the day when every song on the Top 20 Christian Songs chart is so rich in the Gospel that there would no longer be a need for this blog to have a DiM segment. I’d also find it deeply encouraging to see others exercising biblical discernment. I invite musicians, radio DJs, and worship leaders to point out errors I’ve made and provide insight into the songs they’ve written. To the fathers out there, I hope you’ll find encouragement to engage in this material as it pertains to your children and your homes. Forgive me if I allow snark, or frustration, to overshadow the love that drives this work. I am but a humble servant of our Lord Jesus Christ, without an office in the church. I am a father to my children, husband to my wife, and brother to the body of Christ. This is not my vocation, but an extension of my personal Bible study. I pray you grant me Grace and Forgiveness, as I endeavor to humbly, lovingly, and faithfully exercise biblical discernment.

Jude 1:24-25 (ESV)
24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

In Christ,