Today’s hymn from Sing Praise is in Christ alone my hope is found’ by Stuart Townend and Keith Getty. It’s a candidate for ‘most popular hymn of the last decade’ – the copyright is dated 2001, but in the last ten years it has found popularity well beyond its original evangelical roots.
The phrase ‘In Christ alone’ seems to hark back, maybe deliberately, to the Reformation, where it is one of the five balancing principles: ‘By grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, according to scripture alone, for God’s glory alone’. Here we focus on one of those, but perhaps the most important, because whatever view you might take on the relative merits of faith and works, or the extent to which scripture is God’s direct revelation, surely all Christians can agree that without Christ, our faith would be in vain.
The first verse of the hymn praises Christ by giving him many honorific titles – ‘my light, my strength, my song, this cornerstone, this solid ground … my comforter, my all in all’. Many of these have Biblical resonances of course, but put together make a firm basis for a hymn of praise.
The second verse reminds us why Christ came, ‘gift of love and righteousness’ to take away our sin. Some people prefer to substitute ‘love of God’ for ‘wrath of God’ when it comes to understanding what was happening on the cross, but both versions make sense: he bore the brunt of God’s anger at human sin, while also expressing the self-sacrificial nature of God’s love for sinners. The last line is a beautiful paradox – ‘her in the death of Christ I live’.
The third verse celebrates the resurrection, ‘bursting forth in glorious day’, and his victory over sin. The last reminds us that we have no need to feel guilty or fearful of what lies ahead of us, because of what Jesus has done to secure us eternal life. I would only quibble with the phrase ‘Jesus commands my destiny’ which sounds like the doctrine of predestination (that God has determined in advance our every action). I doubt that it’s intended to mean that, but perhaps something like ‘Spirit of Jesus guiding me’ would be better. But all in all, it’s a cracking hymn that brings together Christians of many persuasions to focus on the wonder at the heart of the Gospel.