What’s so great about all the old hymns? Maybe it was the fact that they were theologically sound.
So, what’s so great about all the old hymns? Aren’t they outdated or old fashioned? Or, are they more theologically sound than many contemporary Christian songs today? In our day, it’s not always theology (study of the “Word”) you hear in Christian songs but a “me-ology,” or Jesus is the lover of my soul, Jesus is my friend, and so on. When did we begin to separate from theology into the “me-ology” of “What can God do for me,” and not “What can we do for Him?” Cleary there are many contemporary Christian songs that are biblical in their lyrics, but sometimes the show and the sound is more important than the words. Don’t misunderstand me, there are hundreds of rock-solid Christian songs out there today, but the great hymns of the past were, for the most part, much more aligned with biblical principles. Here are a few old hymns to show you what I mean.
It is said that more people were moved to trust in Christ with this song than with any other, even rivaling Handel’s Messiah, although it is God alone Who saves, but this hymn is the most recognized and perhaps the most beloved of all Christian songs or hymns we have. Few are more biblically sound than this one. Grace is so amazing because none of us deserve it, so it is “Amazing grace! How sweet the sound, That saved a wretch; like me! I once was lost, but now am found, Was blind, but now I see.” It’s so amazing because it’s a free gift (Eph 2:8-9) that came at an enormous cost to God (John 3:16).
Nothing But the Blood of Jesus
This old hymn nails the gospel by asking, “What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus; What can make me whole again? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.” Only the blood of the Lamb of God “makes me white as snow,” and there is absolutely “No other fount I know” than the blood of Jesus. There is no other way but than through Christ and His sinless life, death, and resurrection that we can be saved (1 Cor 15:1-4; Acts 4:12), for “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (Heb 9:22b), so it truly is, “Nothing but the blood of Jesus” that can wash our sins away…forever.
Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus
One man called the church today so much less evangelistic than the church of the 1st Century, calling them the “frozen chosen,” but the old hymn, “Stand up, Stand Up for Jesus” was very evangelistic in nature. We sing, “Stand up for Jesus. Ye soldiers of the cross; Lift high His royal banner, It must not, it must not suffer loss.” When you hold up a banner, you are telling others about the cross of Christ, so lift it high in word and in deed, so that they might recognize who Jesus’ disciples are, and that most vivid banner for the Lord is love, for it is by our love for one another that others will know we are His disciples (John 13:34-35).
Standing on the Promises
Standing on the Promises is one of those old hymns that give us hope in our old age, when we are sick, or when we’ve experienced a great loss (perhaps all three!). God has never let one precious promise ever fail, and neither will He for eternity. Our hope is in God, so when the trials and tribulations come, we can be “Standing on the promises that cannot fail,” even “When the howling storms of doubt and fear assail,” so “By the living Word of God I shall prevail,” while “Standing on the promises of God.”
There is a Fountain
This old hymn, written by William Cowper (1731-1800), was among the favorites of the 18th Century, and no wonder because this hymn is one of the most vivid displays of the gospel, and just how salvation works in the individual. For example, it says that “sinners, plunged beneath that flood,” that is “Drawn from Immanuel’s veins,” enables sinners to “Lose all their guilty stains.” Without the convicting power of the Holy Spirit, a person will not confess their sins because they won’t admit there is sin. That means they will have no guilt over sin, but one man said “A man’s morality determines his theology.” A sinner doesn’t want to come to God and confess their sins, even though God’s wrath is abiding on them (John 3:36b), but only the Spirit of God can show them their need for the “fountain” and to be “plunged beneath that flood.”
They’ll Know We Are Christians
Prior to Jesus’ death on the cross and subsequent ascension, He gave the disciples a new commandment, telling them to “love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another” (John 13:34). This love will be such a love that “all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). It will not be by our persuasion of biblical manuscripts, archeological evidence, or even apologetics that will convince others about Christ. It will be by our love for one another that people will know who are, and who are not His disciples (1 John 3:11-24). That’s why the world needs to see that “We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord,” and only then will they “know we are Christians by our love, by our love.”
What old hymn or contemporary song would you put in the class of being biblically sound? I know there are hundreds that I could not possibly have space to write about. I’d love to know what you think and if you see the point that there is such a thing as “hymnal theology,” and that all hymns are not created as equally or biblically. We are told by Jesus to worship God in spirit and in truth (John 4:24). Worshiping God in spirit alone with no truth is vanity…worshiping God in truth alone but not in the spirit is legalism.
Article by Jack Wellman
Jack Wellman is Pastor of the Mulvane Brethren Church in Mulvane Kansas. Jack is a writer at Christian Quotes and also the Senior Writer at What Christians Want To Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible. You can follow Jack on Google Plus or check out his book Teaching Children the Gospel available on Amazon.