“I Shall Be Like Him”

"…When He shall appear, we shall be like Him" (1 Jn. 3.2)

     INTRO.: A song that emphasizes the importance of being like Jesus here so that we might be like Him when He appears is "I Shall Be Like Him" (#569 in Sacred Selections for the Church). The text was written and the tune was composed both by W. A. Spencer (19th century). I have not been able to find any information further about Spencer, the background of the song, or its origin of publication other than that it was first published in 1897.

     Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, it appeared in the 1921 Great Songs of the Church (No. 1) and the 1937 Great Songs of the Church No. 2 both edited by E. L. Jorgenson; the 1948 Christian Hymns No. 2 edited by L. O. Sanderson, where the title, first line, and chorus were all changed to "We Shall Be Like Him;" and the 1963 Abiding Hymns edited by Robert C. Welch. Other than Sacred Selections, it is not included in any hymnbooks commonly used among churches of Christ today. ‘Tis a pity!

     The song connects the need for Christlikeness in this life with the promise of His coming.

I. Stanza 1 points forward to the time of Christ’s coming
"When I shall reach the more excellent glory,
And all my trials are past,
I shall behold Him, O wonderful story!
I shall be like Him at last."
 A. "Glory" here refers to the exalted state that the redeemed will have in the presence of God, just as Jesus Himself was received up into glory: 1 Tim. 3.16
 B. When we reach that state, we shall behold Him: Matt. 5.8
 C. However, not only shall be behold Him, we shall also be like Him: Phil. 3.20-21

II. Stanza 2 points to the present and the fact that we can be like Him spiritually even here
"We shall not wait till the glorious dawning
Breaks on the vision so fair;
Now we may welcome the heavenly morning,
Now we His image may bear."
 A. Someday the glorious dawning will break on our vision so fair when Jesus comes again: Acts 1.11
 B. However, even now we may welcome the heavenly morning by having Christ dwell in our hearts by faith: Eph. 3.17
 C. While it is true that when Christ shall appear, we shall be like Him, conformed to His glorious body, we do not have to wait till then to be "like Him;" we can and should strive to be conformed to His image here: Rom. 8.29

III. Stanza 3 ties the future with the present saying that our being like Him now enables us to be make like Him then
"More and more like Him, repeat the blest story,
Over and over again;
Changed by His Spirit from glory to glory,
I shall be satisfied then."
 A. The Lord wants us to be more and more like Him as we continue our journey on earth by following in His steps: 1 Pet. 2.21
 B. This is possible as we allow ourselves to changed by His Spirit from glory to glory: 2 Cor. 3.18
 C. Then, when this process is completed, we can be satisfied as our vile bodies are raised in glory with the image of the heavenly Man: 1 Cor. 15.48-49

     CONCL.: The chorus continues to repeat the idea that we can be like Him:
"I shall be like Him, I shall be like Him, And in His beauty shall shine;
I shall be like Him, wondrously like Him, Jesus, my Savior divine."
As I journey here upon this earth toward heaven, striving to emulate in my life the example of Jesus Christ, I can be encouraged by the certain hope that when He comes again for me, "I Shall Be Like Him."


2 thoughts on ““I Shall Be Like Him”

  1. Further research:
    William Anson Spencer
    Born: September 6, 1840, Rock Island, Illinois.
    Died: September 25, 1901, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
    Buried: Chippiannock Cemetery, Rock Island, Illinois.
    Between 1867 and 1885, Spencer served numerous Methodist Episcopal (ME) churches in the Rock River Conference (northern Illinois). He was senior minister of the First ME Church in Chicago, Illinois, for six weeks in 1885 when he was elected to serve as assistant Corresponding Secretary of the ME of Church Extension, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His daughter was hymnist Clarissa Spencer.
    In The Young People’s Hymnal, edited by James Atkins & William J. Kirkpatrick (Nashville, Tennessee: Publishing House, Methodist Episcopal Church, South, 1897)


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