“My Savior First of All”

"We are…willing rather…to be present with the Lord" (2 Cor. 5.8)

     INTRO.: A song which talks about the hope of the Christian of being present with the Lord when we are absent from the body is "My Savior First Of All" (also known as "I Shall Know Him.")  The text was written by Mrs. Frances Jane Crosby VanAlstyne, better known by her maiden name which she used professionally, Fanny J. Crosby (1820-1915). The tune (My Savior First) was composed by John Robson Sweney (1837-1899). The song first appeared in the 1894 Songs of Love and Praise, compiled for John J. Hood of Philadelphia, PA, by Sweney, William James Kirkpatrick, and Henry Lake Gilmour.

     The song may have been produced as early as 1890, since many books give 1918 as the copyright renewal date, and in those days copyrights were renewable 28 years from the original copyright.  However, other books give 1891 as the original copyright date. Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ the song appeared in the 1948 Christian Hymns No. 2 and the 1966 Christian Hymns No. 3 both edited by L. O. Sanderson; and the 1952 Hymns of Praise and Devotion edited by Will W. Slater. Today it may be found in the 1977 edition of the 1971 Songs of the Church edited by Alton H. Howard; and the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand; as well as the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat.

     The song focuses on one of the greatest sights that we shall see in heaven.

I. Stanza 1 tells us when we shall see it
"When my life-work is ended, and I cross the swelling tide,
When the bright and glorious morning I shall see;
I shall know my Redeemer when I reach the other side,
And His smile will be the first to welcome me."
 A. Someday our life-work will be ended and we shall cross the swelling tide because it is appointed for each person to die once:
Heb. 9.27
 B. And when this happens, the righteous will experience a bright and glorious morning: Ps. 30.5
 C. At that time, we shall know our Redeemer because "we shall see Him as He is": 1 Jn. 3.2

II. Stanza 2 tells us what we shall see
"Oh the soul-thrilling rapture when I view His blessed face,
And the luster of His kindly, beaming eye;
How my full heart will praise Him for the mercy, love, and grace
That prepared for me a mansion in the sky."
 A. When we stand before Him, we shall be able to see our Lord face to face: Matt. 5.8
 B. Then, like the celestial beings that now surround His throne, our hearts will praise Him for His mercy, love, and grace: Rev. 5.11-12
 C. And we can be ever thankful that He has prepared for us a mansion in the sky: Jn. 14.1-3

III. Stanza 3 tells us with whom we shall see these things
"Oh the dear ones in glory, how they beckon me to come,
And our parting at the river I recall;
To the sweet vales of Eden they will sing my welcome home,
But I long to meet my Savior first of all."
 A. The dear ones in glory are those from whom we have been parted and for whom we sorrow, but not without hope: 1 Thess. 4.13
 B. They beckon us to come in the sense that they have already departed to be with Christ, but we shall be reunited with them in the
resurrection: Phil. 1.23 (cf. 1 Cor. 15.51-52)
 C. And as they wait for us they can be pictured as singing our welcome to the sweet vales of Eden in that just as the original
paradise garden was in Eden, so we hope for the eternal paradise garden in heaven: Gen. 2.8-9, Rev. 22.1-5

IV. Stanza 4 tells us why we can hope to see this sight
"Through the gates of the city In a robe of spotless white,
He will lead me where no tears shall ever fall;
In the glad song of ages I shall mingle with delight;
But I long to meet my Savior first of all."
 A. We can have this hope because Christ wants us to enter through the gates of that eternal city: Rev. 21.10-13
 B. Also, He wants us to wear a robe of spotless white: Rev. 7.9-14
 C. And He wants to lead us to that place where no tears shall ever fall: Rev. 21.1-4

     CONCL.: The chorus re-emphasizes the greatest blessing that anyone can imagine in heaven.
"I shall know Him, I shall know Him, And redeemed by His side I shall stand;
I shall know Him, I shall know Him By the print of the nails in His hand."
This song has not been without its critics. I recall several years ago reading a transcription of a sermon by a gospel preacher of the late 19th or early 20th century who quoted from this song and seemed to use it as an illustration of the worry that someone might express as to whether we shall be able to know who Jesus is in heaven or not. I have looked for the article but could not find it. However, I must confess that I am unable to see this in the song. To me, it is a clear affirmation of the best thing to which we can look forward in the after awhile, that of knowing and seeing Jesus Himself. Others have been blessed by the song. The story is told that in London a man who styled himself as the Messiah appeared and for many weeks attracted a large crowd to him. However, one night, as he talked in one of the open squares in the city, a small band of people passed along, singing, "I shall know Him, I shall know Him By the print of the nails in His hand." The great crowd joined in the chorus. Someone then pointed to the self-styled Christ and said, "Look at his hands and see if the print of the nails is there." This was done, but no print appeared, and the people quit following him. I can recall singing this song every now and then when I was growing up because the congregation where my family worshipped used "the old brown book" (Christian Hymns No. 2) for many years. And these words still remind me that of all the good things that I might have to expect in eternity, the one which will make heaven most wonderful of all is that I can be with Jesus and see "My Savior First Of All."


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