New Testament Christological Hymns: Exploring Texts, Contexts, and Significance

I was recently having a conversation with someone over how much place academics have within the realm of Christianity. Personally, I believe that in order for us to be disciples of Jesus Christ, today, there has to be a level of constant academic work in order for us to connect with our roots. Then I realized, it has been a while since the Heart Man Blog Book Reviews took on an academic work. So for this month the book is New Testament Christological Hymns: Exploring Texts, Contexts, and Significance by Matthew E Gordley published by InterVarsity Press in August of last year. Gordley seeks to look at several passages that have been recognized as possible hymns and helps us to re-connect with our faith’s past and beginnings.

“The prophets promised an outpouring of joy when God began to fulfill his promises of restoration (Joel 2:26-27; Zeph 3:14-15; Zech 9:9-10; Is 66:7-11). Mary’s praise thus begins the joyous symphony that follows. In this respect Mary may be considered a model for early Christian worship.”

Matthew Gordley

Gordley seeks to argue that there is a significant usage of hymns within the New Testament. Though it is impossible to know if the hymnic passages are original to author or assimilated from hymns being used, the study of these hymns is important for understanding the worship practices of the Early Church. After chapters that set the reasoning for this type of study, and an overview of hymns that are used elsewhere during the same period (Greek hymns, Jewish psalms, and others), he turns to engage with particular passages. The major passages under his lense are Phillipians 2:6-11, Collosians 1:15-20, and John 1:1-18. The sixth chapter of this book is a survey of several other passages found within the New Testament, but he does not spend as much time with these has he does with the previous three passages. His final chapter is the summation of this entire study where he declares that “worship is, in its broadest scope, an intentional practice of affirming, proclaiming, and confessing an allegiance to God that, among other things, enables the worshiper to see himself or herself as part of a reality that is larger than the visible reality on offer within the world in which the worshiper lives.” Meaning that worship is a truly cosmic event where the worshiper must be able to recognize their place and glorifying God in their submission to Him.

“For who is ignorant of the books of Irenaeus, Melito, and the rest who proclaim Christ as God and man, and how many psalms and odes, written from the beginning by brothers in the faith, hymn Christ, the word of God, proclaiming his as a god?”

Eusebius of Caesarea, Histoire Ecclésiastique

Personally, I found this book very interesting. I’m fairly certain it is because I am an academic that also serves as a worship leader within my church. I find it interesting to look to the Christians that have come before us to see how it is they worshiped God in “spirit and truth.” Gordley does a fantastic job to setting the stage of the thought world of Paul, John, and the early Christians as they are writing these passages. It shows that the Church worked really hard to insure that Jesus was lifted up as the name above every other name and to which every knee will bow. However, I’m finding it hard to figure out who to recommend this book to. I think it has tremendous academic value for someone looking to study these types of passages, yet I am not convinced there are many non-academics that would find this book appealing. Yet, I personally find it extremely helpful in my worship ministry as I seek to understand worship practices and convey them to the congregation I serve. At times this book gets very scholarly, but I do not feel that this is a detrement to the work. Maybe if you are in one of the schools that have a worship ministry program, this might be a great supplimental book to add to your reading. I can also see where this book works well as a text book for a course. Either way, pick yourself up a copy by clicking the link below and learn about these special passages of Scripture this month.

Advertisements

A Firm Foundation, Part 3

how-firm-a-foundation-2

There has been a hymn on my mind this whole week while talking about Jesus being our firm foundation. This hymn is called How Firm A Foundation. But I came across it today during my devotional time and thought I would share a little about this hymn. I know it’s not Sunday, but it fits with the theme this week!

Each of the four stanzas are reflections of a promise made in the Bible. The first is Isaiah 41:10, “Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My right hand.” (NASB). This is a promise that God is delivering to the people of Israel through Isaiah to let them know that He is with them. The author of this hymn took this promise and brought it to the followers of Jesus. It starts by telling us that Scriptures are our foundation and what more can God tell us, since we found Him in Jesus. God strengthens us when we center our lives around Jesus. And since Jesus is our firm foundation, it makes complete sense.

“How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word!
What more can He say than to you He hath said,
To you who for refuge to Jesus have fled?”

The second promise is Isaiah 43:2, “When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.” (NLT). God is furthering His promise to the people of Israel. He is telling them that since He has redeemed them, He will stay with them through all of their circumstances.

“Fear not; I am with thee. O be not dismayed,
For I am thy God, I will still give thee aid.
I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, And cause thee to stand,
Upheld by My righteous, Omnipotent hand.”

The third promise comes from Paul’s writing. “And [the Lord] has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore , I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9, NASB). The promise being made here is that we should rely on Christ. We often get caught up saying, “If only I could do _______, it will all be better.” But there’s a problem with that statement. We can’t do anything. We must fully rely on the power of God and acknowledge that we are nowhere near His greatness. Paul says that he will boast in his weakness, so that the power of Christ can be shown. If people know that we are weak, when we overcome, who deserves the credit? You or God?

“When through fiery trials Thy pathway shall lie,
My grace, all sufficient, Shall be they supply.
The flames shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine.”

The final Scriptural promise in this hymn is Hebrews 13:5, “Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,” (NASB). This promise is the same one that I’ve been talking about all week. Jesus is with us, and he isn’t going anywhere. God’s promises can be trusted because He stands firm and will not fade away. So build your life upon His promises, and see how much better you life becomes!

“The soul that on Jesus hate leaned for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to its foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.”

 

Psalms to Pray: Psalm 19-20

Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing

download

So apparently I never actually posted this yesterday, so you guys luck out. 2 posts today!!!!!!!!!!

The story for the man who wrote this hymn, Robert Robinson, was actually quite inspiring. After the death of his father, his mother sent him to London to become a barber. Instead he learned to drink and became a gangster. After an unsettling encounter with a fortune teller, he and his buddies attended a meeting being held by George Whitefield, a very prominent evangelist. Three years later, after being haunted by the preachers words, Robinson gave his life to Christ. He then entered into the ministry. He wrote this hymn in order to accompany a sermon he was giving, and it has been a Church favorite ever since.

The last couple strains of this song really hit me this week, “Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love. Here’s my heart, Lord, take and seal its, seal it for Thy courts above.” It speaks to our sinful nature and how we constantly feel a need to run from God. But then we can turn around and give our lives to God. Not only is this an autobiography of Robert Robinson, but it is also a simple statement on the human relationship with God.

This Week’s Set

  • Children of Light – Kristian Stanfill
  • Whom Shall I Fear – Chris Tomlin
  • You Alone Can Rescue – Matt Redman
  • Here’s My Heart – performed by David Crowder
  • Come Thou Fount – Robert Robinson, arr. Preston Howell
  • Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone) – Chris Tomlin

Doxology

doxology-300x159

This week’s song is an old one! Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow was written in the late 1600s by Thomas Ken. He wrote it with three stanzas, and with the purpose of helping the boys at the school he worked for. It was designed to help motivate these boys in their daily devotions. One stanza was meant to be sung upon awakening, and the third if the boys had trouble sleeping.

The refrain of this hymn is now commonly known as the Doxology, and is sung by many churches every Sunday. Typically sung for offerings, I maintain that this song is a praise song. When we sing it for our contemporary worship, I always do it at the beginning as a way to bring everyone together and sing praises to their Father from whom all blessing flow!

“Praise God from whom all blessing flow
Praise Him all creatures here below
Praise Him above all ye heavenly host
Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost
Amen”

Below I am posting an arrangement performed by the David Crowder* Band off of the Passion: Hymns Ancient & Modern album.