God Was Not Satisfied?

One of my favorite hymns is “ In Christ Alone”.While searching the internet for various versions of the song I came across an old internet article about it being eliminated from a hymnal. Supposedly there is a big controversy about the hymn I was never even aware of.  Huff Post reported back in 2013 that, “The committee putting together a new hymnal for the Presbyterian Church (USA) dropped the popular 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.” The song’s authors, Stuart Townend and Nashville resident Keith Getty, objected. So the committee voted to drop the song.”  

When I first saw this I thought, “Ok, another church not wanting to talk about God having wrath against sin.” I started thinking that this is one of those things where they just want to talk about love and not anything negative. But the wrath of God was not the issue! In fact a lot of the updated hymnal had songs in it still talking about God’s wrath. What was the issue then? The article continues, “Critics say the proposed change was sparked by liberals wanting to take God’s wrath out of the hymnal. The committee says there’s plenty of wrath in the new hymnal. Instead, the problem is the word “satisfied,” which the committee says refers to a specific view of theology that it rejects. Debate over “In Christ Alone” is a mix of church politics, the touchy subject of updating hymn lyrics and rival views of what Jesus’ death on the cross meant.”

Satisfy? They are upset about the word satisfy? Well, yes they are. Mary Louise Bringle, a religion professor and hymn writer who chaired the hymnal committee said, “People think that we’ve taken the wrath of God out of the hymnal. That’s not the case. It’s all over the hymnal. The issue was the word ‘satisfied.’” How is it that the word satisfy could upset pastors and church leaders? The Rev. Chris Joiner of First Presbyterian Church in Franklin, Tenn., who agrees with the move, explains, “That lyric comes close to saying that God killed Jesus. The cross is not an instrument of God’s wrath.”

Very interesting. Now the question is, are they right? Is it wrong to think God killed Jesus? Is it wrong to believe that the cross was an “instrument of God’s wrath”? Let us look to scripture. First let us see what the bible has to say about God killing Jesus.  Acts 2:23 tells us, “this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.” Also we are told in Isaiah 53 that Jesus was, “smitten by God, and afflicted.”(v4) And that, “it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief…”(v10)Plus, time and time again Jesus taught us that He was here on earth to do the will of the Father and what the Father called Him to do. We can clearly see here, as hard as it is to believe, that God did put Jesus to death for our sins.

Is the cross an instrument of God’s wrath? Did Christ face the anger and punishment of God? Absolutely! Or how else would our sin be paid for? The bible clearly teaches; “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.” (1 Peter 2:24), “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21), “And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation…”(Revelation 5:9), “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”—” (Galatians 3:13), “He is the propitiation for our sins…” (1 John 2:2). The Bible clearly teaches that Jesus faces the wrath of God so that those who are saved do not need too.

Now this may seem nitpicky. It may appear as being too specific and definitive about the cross. So what if a song is about the love of God instead of the satisfaction of His wrath? Singing about His love isn’t wrong. God is love (1 John 4:8) by the way. So what is the big deal? But this is what the devil wants us to think. He wants us to assume this is just small and insignificant. Yet right thinking leads to right living. This is the Gospel we are talking about, not who wrote the book of Hebrews. This is about heaven and hell. This is about the souls of people and their eternal dwelling. The consequences of this are massive, permanent and unending. We need to be sound in our doctrine so that we live properly for Him (1 Timothy 4:6, 2 Timothy 1:13). So that we are on the side of truth and therefore on the side of God. Notice how subtle the devil chips away at the truth about God’s salvation? We must be on alert and defend the truth and avoid those who do not believe it (Romans 16:17-18). The truth is everything and the truth is what sets us free. And the truth about God’s work on the cross is the most important truth of all.

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