The inspiration of this glorious hymn came to the composer from the hand of St. Paul who wrote numerous times with firm conviction about Jesus’ resurrection. Hence we find that Paul’s writing in Galatians 6. 14a is given as the basis for his writing of this inspiring hymn. Paul wrote: “May I never boast of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
We can see the thrust of Paul’s faith as it is repeated in this hymn. Verse one and five are identical, carrying Paul’s message for the whole world to grow in faith. “In the cross of Christ I glory, towering o’er the wrecks of time; all the light of sacred story gathers round its head sublime.” It is these words along with the very inspiring music, which inspires me each time we sing this hymn in our worship service.
It is well to remember that in Paul’s world the cross itself was a major stumbling block to many followers of the Jewish religion to convert to Christian. For many living at this moment of time lived longing for the coming of God’s Messiah. When the Messiah came it would mean Yahweh’s kingdom would now be fully upon the earth and God’s reign would now be fully in control. This was the basis of their faith. In our day it is faith that sustains and holds us close to God.
I learned this lesson early in my preparation of Christian ministry. In my first year attending Bangor Theological Seminary I sat in the beginning class of New Testament Theology. Dr. Burton Thockmortan the highly esteemed professor of N.T. was lecturing on the subject of Jesus’ resurrection. I remember how disturbed I became as he lectured the whole period that though scripture taught that Jesus crucified and resurrected, we have no document written at that time in human history. The Gospels all come dated one hundred years or more after Jesus was resurrected. After the class bell rang I ran after Dr. Thockmortan to ask why are here in seminary if Jesus did not rise again! He very patiently and plainly explained it is in faith that we believe. If God made it possible to know where would faith be?
O Lord, thank You for revealing to us that in this life we do not need to have proof, for it is by faith that we believe. In our Redeemers Love we pray. Amen.