"WHAT WILL YOUR ANSWER BE?"
"So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God" (Rom. 14.12)
INTRO.: A song which reminds us of the need to be prepared for that time when we shall give account of ourselves to God is "What Will Your Answer Be?" (#284 in Hymns for Worship Revised and #557 in Sacred Selections for the Church). The text was written and the tune was composed both by Tillit Sidney Teddlie (1885-1997). A native of Texas who spent most of his long life in that state, Teddlie was baptized in 1903 and began work as a gospel preacher in 1923, also serving as a superintendent of a children’s home for a couple of years. However, he is best remembered as a hymn writer and song-book publisher. His first song was published in 1906.
Teddlie published some 12 hymnbooks, culminating in The Great Christian Hymnal No. 2 in 1965. Praise for the Lord contains 12 hymns by Teddlie, and that is only a drop in the bucket. Leland R. Fleming in Into Our Hands has 28. It is estimated that Teddlie produced over 100 songs, for which he provided both words and music, but he also supplied tunes for lyrics by others as well. Perhaps his three best-known songs are "Heaven Holds All To Me," "Worthy Art Thou," and "The Lord’s Supper."
"What Will Your Answer Be?", produced in 1935, is frequently used as an invitation song. It was not found much outside of Teddlie’s own hymnbooks until 1956 when Ellis J. Crum included it in Sacred Selections. Among other hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church for use in churches of Christ since then, it appeared the 1963 Abiding Hymns edited by Robert C. Welch; and the 1978 Hymns of Praise edited by Reuel Lemmons. Today it may be found in the 1971 Songs of the Church edited by
Alton H. Howard; the 1978/1983 (Church) Gospel Songs and Hymns edited by V. E. Howard; and the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand; as well as Hymns for Worship, and the 2007 Sacred Songs for the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat.
The song encourages us to make ourselves ready for the judgment.
I. Stanza 1 points to the judgment
"Someday you’ll stand at the bar on high, Someday your record you’ll see,
Someday you’ll answer the question of life; What will your answer be?"
A. The word "bar" is defined as "the part of a law court, enclosed by a railing, where the judges or lawyers sit, or where prisoners are brought to trial; hence, "a law court" or "any place of judgment." Though the term itself is not found in any of our standard English translations of the Bible, it is often used poetically in hymns to mean the same thing as and hence refer to "the judgment seat of Christ": 2 Cor. 5.10
B. When we stand at the bar on high, our record we’ll see because God will bring every work that we have done into judgment, whether good or evil, and we shall be judged according to those works: Rev. 20.11-15
C. And at that time, we’ll have to give answer to the "question of life," whether we have feared God and kept His commandments or not: Eccl. 12.13-14
II. Stanza 2 points to the consequences of judgment
"Sadly you’ll stand if you’re unprepared, Trembling, you’ll fall on your knee,
Facing the sentence of life or of death; What will that sentence be?"
A. Many will be sad because they are unprepared, not having done the will of the Father in heaven: Matt. 7.21-23
B. Trembling, they’ll fall on their knee, because all will bow before the judgment seat of Christ: Rom. 10.10-11; cf. Phil. 2.10-11
C. The fact is that God wants all men to bow before Him; some will do so in this time and face the sentence of life, whereas others will wait till then and face the sentence of death: Matt. 25.31-34, 41, 46
III. Stanza 3 points to the importance of being ready for judgment
"Now is the time to prepare, my friend; Make your soul spotless and free,
Washed in the blood of the Crucified One. He will your answer be."
A. Now is the time to prepare, because "now is the day of salvation": 2 Cor. 6.2
B. Even though we have sinned, it is possible to make our souls spotless and free so that we can be prepared for judgment: 2 Pet. 3.14
C. The means by which we do this is to be washed in the blood of the Crucified One: Acts 22.16, 1 Jn. 1.7-9
CONCL.: The chorus continues asking the question,
"What will it be? What will it be? Where will you spend your eternity?
What will it be, O, what will it be? What will your answer be?"
Several years ago I held a gospel meeting in a congregation where someone had taken all the songbooks, marked through the word "spend," and written "live" in its place. I have heard certain preachers rail in sermons about how wrong it is to talk about "spending" eternity or "living through eternity." The argument is that if a person has even a million dollars and "spends" it, it is gone, or if something goes "through" something else it goes in and then goes out, whereas eternity will never be gone and no one will go out. I think that we all understand and accept the fact that eternity is endless. The problem is that we, who have never personally experienced endlessness, have to use finite language to describe and discuss it. We recognize that any finite language will have limits in referring to something that is infinite. Therefore, we do the best that we can with the language that we have. For example, we talk about our government "spending" money–it has been doing so for over 200 years and there seems to be no end in sight of it. We speak of our blood flowing "through" our bodies, even though it does not under normal circumstances go out (or even enter in for that matter), but merely courses a continual route through our veins. So we can still use these terms in certain situations where we know that they do not necessarily follow their exact literal meanings. In any event, the Bible certainly teaches that both the life of heaven and the punishment of hell are eternal or everlasting in nature. The important thing to remember is that someday we shall stand before the bar of God and face an eternal sentence of life or of death. Therefore, we need to be using the time that we have now to order our lives in such a way that we can give a positive response to that great question, "What Will Your Answer Be?"