“What Shall Our Answers Be?”

"What shalt thou say when He shall punish thee?" (Jer. 13.21)

     INTRO.: A song which emphasizes the fact that Jesus will judge the world in righteousness and we shall give an account of ourselves is "What Shall Our Answers Be?" The text was written by Eden Reeder Latta (1839-1915). He is best known among us for such songs as "Live For Jesus" and "Come To Jesus." The tune was composed by D. E. Dortsch, of Columbia, TN, who was working as an evangelist by 1886. His works include Gospel Voices, published in Nashville, TN, by the South-Western
Publishing House in 1895.

     Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church for use in churches of Christ during the twentieth century, the song appeared in the the 1938/1944 (New) Wonderful Songs edited by Thomas S. Cobb; 1940 Complete Christian Hymnal edited by Marion Davis; the 1959 Majestic Hymnal No. 2 and the 1978 Hymns of Praise both edited by Reuel Lemmons; and the 1963 Abiding Hymns edited by Robert C. Welch. Today it may be found in the 1971 Songs of the Church edited by Alton H. Howard; as well as the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat.

     The song focuses our minds upon the coming judgment and the need to be prepared for it.

I. Stanza 1 discusses the basis for judgment
"When we in the judgment stand, In that mighty company,
And the Judge shall question us, Oh, what shall our answers be,
What for every trifling thought, and each idle word we say,
What for every sinful act We may do from day to day?"
 A. The Bible teaches that we must all stand before the judgment seat of Christ: 2 Cor. 5.10
 B. The basis upon which we shall be judged will include each trifling thought and idle word: Matt. 12. 33-37
 C. This basis for judgment will also include each act or work that we have done: Eccl. 12.14

II. Stanza 2 discusses the objects of judgment
"When the Lord has gathered there, From the land and from the sea,
All the families of men, Oh, what shall our answers be,
What for all our want of faith, What for all our lack of love?
Can we hope a crown to gain And a mansion bright above?"
 A. The Lord will gather from land and sea all families and nations of men to be judged: Matt. 25.31-32
 B. One of the things that the Lord will be looking for when He returns to judge the world will be faith: Lk. 18.8
 C. Only those whose lives have been characterized by faith and love will receive the crown of life: Rev. 2.10

III. Stanza 3 discusses the results of judgment
"Lord, it is a solemn thought That we must account to Thee,
In that great and awful day; What shall our poor answers be?
Oh, prepare us, Lord, we pray, In the presence there to stand;
Purge us from each sinful blot, Place us, Lord, on Thy right hand."
 A. Again, the Bible teaches that each one of us will give account of himself in judgment: Rom. 14.10-12
 B. We need the Lord’s help to prepare us for judgment because we have all sinned and need to be purged from each sinful blot that we might be free from sin: Rom. 3.23, 6.17-18
 C. Those who have thus been made righteous will be placed at the Lord’s right hand: Matt. 25.33-40

     CONCL.: The chorus continues to remind us of the need to be prepared for the judgment.
"When that awful day we see, Oh, what shall our answers be?
When that awful day we see, Oh, what shall our answers be?"
In our colloquial speech the word "awful" has come to mean bad, horrible, undesired. However, its basic definition "full of awe" and the original meaning is more akin to our use of the word "awesome." Truly, the final judgment will be an awful, awesome time, and we need to be preparing ourselves in such a way that we can respond positively to the question, "What Shall Our Answers Be?"


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