Many great preachers during the church age have also written hymns (Luther, Watts, Wesley, Sproul, just to name a few). Many other preachers have used hymns to catechize and teach doctrine to their congregations. It works so well because the melody line cements great truths into our minds to be recalled during the times of despair, temptation, and trial.
All scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for His people. Interestingly, almost 27% of scripture is poetry and/or song. God created music and calls for us (hundreds of times) to sing to Him in praise. Ephesians 5 speaks of being filled with the Spirit, then follows that command with participles like “Singing”, “Giving thanks”, “Making melody”, and “Speaking in Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs”. Some say these are the results of a believer who is filled with the Spirit, some say (and I believe) these are the things we can do to put ourselves in a position to be filled with the Spirit, but either way, musical worship is linked closely with the very key to living the Christian life…being controlled by the Spirit.
That is why, as a Worship Team, we need to take what we sing very seriously. Responding musically to God’s attributes and goodness to us is not mere “preliminaries”, and while it does not take the place of the preaching of the Word (which takes center stage in any true corporate worship setting), it supplements the preaching in instructing and encouraging the Body of Christ.
That is why I am starting a series of “Exegeting the Hymns” for our Worship team. In our short 90 minute practice each week, we don’t have time to go into all the detail of the lyrics as we are spending time on phrasing, harmonies, and arrangement. So, I am going to send out breakdowns of the lyrics we are teaching the local body in Mt. Airy. My hope and prayer is that in more deeply understanding the text of these songs, they will transform our lives and we will better communicate these truths on Sunday.
Note that when I say “Hymns”, I am speaking in a broad sense to include both ancient and modern worship songs, from hymns of the 1500’s to top 50 Christian Radio songs of today.
The first one is from an Australian group called CityAlight. We have sung it several times and is now a regular part of our musical canon. It is called “Saved My Soul”.
Saved My Soul
w/m James Ferguson, Dustin Smith, Rich Thompson
You my God have saved my soul
I am Yours forevermore
I won’t be moved of this I’m sure
You are my God and You saved my soul
I was lost when you came for me
Held in chains by the enemy
But You broke them in victory
Now I’m free, I am free
You’re my joy and You are my hope
I am saved by Your grace alone
I will sing of Your love for me
I am free, I am free
Now I stand with the Kings of kings
He has paid for my every sin
And from now through eternity
I am free, I am free
What once was dead is now alive
You gave to me the breath of life
You brought me up out from the grave
I’m bursting out with songs of praise
So let’s start with the Chorus: You my God have saved my soul may seem like a simple, almost cliche phrase in Christendom, but its implications are very deep. Our soul is our mind, will and emotions. All of which, along with our bodies, are affected by the curse of sin. Our bodies are dying, our emotions are unstable, our minds are reprobate, and our will is bent away from God. Romans 3 says that there are none that seek after God. In our fallen state, our soul needs to be acted upon if it is to choose God, to receive the gift God has offered through His Son, Jesus. God must…”Save our soul” if we are to have eternal life. He must realign our mind, and especially our will before we can believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thus be saved.
I am Yours forevermore. We were slaves to sin and Jesus bought us with His blood, so now we are His slaves, we are His forevermore. If we are truly saved, we will never totally or finally fall away. We have that security.
The writers continue this thought and go into more detail in the first verse: I was lost when you came for me, Held in chains by the enemy, But You broke them in victory, Now I’m free, I am free. Note the work here is all of God and He is given all the glory for it.
Verse two continues: You’re my joy and You are my hope. As believers our joy comes not from circumstances, but from God, His work in our lives and His sovereignty over all of life’s trials. I am saved by Your grace alone. One of the “5 solas" of the Reformation. We are saved, not by our works, but by His grace alone. I will sing of Your love for me
I am free, I am free.
Now I stand with the Kings of kings. I love this line because unlike many songs today that say how “God is on our side”, it states it more accurately…we are on His side. He has paid for my every sin. Every sin, past, present, and future were atoned for on the cross. When Jesus said, “It is finished”, His work was done. The sins were paid for. And from now through eternity I am free, I am free. Again, another statement of eternal security.
What once was dead is now alive. You gave to me the breath of life. You brought me up out from the grave. Ephesians 2 and Colossians 2 say that we, who were dead in our trespasses and the uncircumcision of our flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses. We were dead…He made us alive and thus the final line of the bridge…I’m bursting out with songs of praise!
Bill Itzel has been a worship leader and singer/songwriter for almost 30 years and is based in Westminster, MD. His family tours and leads worship, not only in their home church (Mt. Airy Bible Church), but around the country. This is a blog about congregational worship and the latest news in the The Itzel's ministry.