Series introduction: The title of this series comes from I Corinthians 14:15, where Paul said, “I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also.” I want to help you sing hymns with understanding; that is, to understand what you are singing with your mind, so that you can rejoice in what you are singing with your spirit. If you don’t understand something mentally, you cannot sing it spiritually. Understanding is the kindling that fuels worship, and I want to help pile up kindling in your heart.
The wonder of the cross should turn our hearts away from sin; that cross should be our only glory; on that cross were displayed Jesus’ deep sorrow and unsurpassed love. So we have seen in the first three stanzas of this timeless hymn. Now, in the final stanza, Watts sums up what should be our lifelong response to the cross.
It amazes me that such a simple rhyme scheme (ABAB) and simple metre (long metre – 188.8.131.52) can be used by a great artist like Watts to powerfully convey truth. Here is the fourth stanza:
Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small.
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.
Even if one could own the entirety of the created world – every tree, every vein of ore, every precious stone, every flower – and then offer it to God as an offering, it would be far too small compared to the size of what God has graciously given us.
Watts describes what Christ did on the cross as “love so amazing, so divine.” It was when Christ died for us that God demonstrated His love for us (Rom. 5:8). And John wrote in I John 4:9, “In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.” The eternally-existing second person of the Trinity manifested Himself in human form, and then lived a life of poverty and service to others, and died the humiliating death of a convicted slave. All for what? “That we might live through him.” That is “amazing” love, “divine” love! The cross is the place above all others where we see what true love really is.
And how shall we respond to this love? Watts says that Jesus’ love “demands my soul, my life, my all.” Jesus gave all for us; how can we not give our little all to Him? Not that God needs anything from us – but it would be churlish indeed to receive a priceless gift with no thanks, no awakened love. God wants no repayment, just a holy life of freely given worship and adoration. After all, Jesus died “that we might live through him,” and how that eternal life within us (who is the person of Christ Himself) is manifested is by holiness and consecration.
The prophet Micah asked what kind of offering God desired in Micah 6:6-7: “Wherewith shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before the high God? shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?”
He answers himself in verse 8, explaining that God desires only for a person “to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God.” God has no interest in being offered vast sums of money; after all, the earth and its fullness already belongs to Him (Psalm 24:1). What He wants is a person who is completely dedicated to Him. He wants you to be “a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God” (Rom. 12:1).
Will you bow your heart before Him right now and confess the vain sins that charm you most, and give your all to Him again?