"BY HIS WONDERFUL GRACE"
"For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God" (Eph. 2.8)
INTRO.: A song which emphasizes the fact that we are saved by grace through faith and it is not of ourselves is "By His Wonderful Grace." The text was written and the tune was composed both by Verna Elisha Howard, who was born in a log cabin at Rocky Branch near Farmersville, LA, on Sept. 29, 1911. His father, Hardy Howard, was a song director for the greater part of his four score years. In 1978, Howard wrote that it had been his privilege to baptize his father into Christ. Immediately afterwards, the father joyfully directed the congregation in the singing of "Victory in Jesus," which was then a new song. This must have been in or shortly after 1939, because "Victory in Jesus" was copyrighted that year. Having attended Abilene Christian College, Harding College (both are now universities), and Arkansas State University, Howard became a preacher among churches of Christ for over fifty years. His radio work began at Hot Springs, AR, in 1934. The program, known as the International Gospel Hour, was the longest continuous broadcast in radio history and became famous for his statement, "Are You Listening?" which is the title for two of his sermon books. Known as a very able speaker and a gifted writer, Howard authored eighteen books, including What Is the Church of Christ? and Portals to Heaven, along with many tracts. Also, he had a debate with Julian Pope on the purpose of baptism and the possibility of apostasy that is sitll in print.
In addition to his church work, Howard was Chairman of the Board for Howard Discount Centers, owner of Howard Jewelers and the National Recording Company, President of Central Printers and Publishers, and a member of the Board of Directors of Freed-Hardeman College (now University) at Henderson, TN. Among his special honors were the Distinguished Christian Service Award from Harding College and the Freed-Hardeman College Appreciation Award. His radio programs from the International Gospel Hour were to become part of the Archives of Abilene Christian University. Another one of Howard’s talents involved the writing and composing of gospel songs. One of his older but still well known songs is "Sing of His Love," copyrighted in 1946 by the Marion Davis Co. in Everlasting Praises No. 3. Another one of his hymns, "The Prince of Glory" was copyrighted in 1972. "By His Wonderful Grace," with harmony by Lowell Brown, was copyrighted in 1973 and first appeared in the revised (1975) edition of Alton H. Howard’s Songs of the Church. In 1978, V. E. Howard and Broaddus Smith compiled a new hymnbook, Gospel Songs and Hymns. It contained several songs by Howard, including "The Day They Crucified My Savior." This song was written in memory of a Sunday morning on Mar. 26, 1972, in the Garden of Gethsemane at Jerusalem, looking across the valley to the hill of Calvary, where he, along with some 100 Christians including the small church in Jerusalem, were alone in worship. He said that tears of inspiration freely flowed in memory of the crucified and resurrected Savior.
There are some seven Howard songs in the book, in addition to the ones previously mentioned. A couple of other titles are "By Faith I Can See" and "Telling the Story of Jesus’ Love." Most of these are newer, but "He Die, Arose, and Lives" was also copyrighted in 1946 by the Marion Davis Co. In addition, for many years Howard was the director of the annual Gospel Hour Sing Song ‘Til Midnight, which began in 1966, and sang in The Gospel Quartet with WIlkin "Chief" Bacon, Nancy Brown, and Lowell
Brown. Recordings from both are still available. Then in 1983, Howard revised his hymnbook, calling it Church Gospel Songs and Hymns. In addition to all the Howard songs from the earlier edition, it contains three new songs by him, a couple of his new arrangements, and a song, "Undying Devotion," by Mrs. Evelyn K. Stell that is "Dedicated to V. E. Howard, 50 years a Gospel preacher, and Ruth, 50 years a devoted wife." At the advice of his doctors, in 1995 turned the International Gospel Hour over to the West Fayetteville church of Christ in Fayetteville, TN, with Winford Claiborne as the speaker. After living many years in Texarkana, AR, Howard died there on Sept. 28, 2000, just one day before his 89th birthday. Funderal services were held at the Walnut St. church building in Texarkana. Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, "By His Wonderful Grace" is found in the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat; in addition to Songs of the Church and Church Gospel Songs and Hymns.
The song reminds us of the necessity of God’s grace in our salvation.
I. Stanza 1 tells us that God’s grace enables us to have the hope of heaven
"By His wonderful grace We shall look on His face,
Redeemed by the Savior’s love;
Since we’re saved by His grace, There in heaven a place
Is prepared for my soul some day."
A. God’s purpose for us is that someday we can look upon His face: Matt. 5.8
B. Therefore, He manifested His love for us in sending His Son that we might believe and have everlasting life: Jn. 3.16
C. The result of this is that Christ is preparing a home for our souls in His Father’s house: Jn. 14.1-3
II. Stanza 2 tells us that God’s grace makes it possible for us to be redeemed from sin
"Not of works that we do, But by faith working through,
The wonderful gift of God,
He has given a plan, Shown His great love for man;
By His grace we’re redeemed from sin."
A. It is not by works of righteousness which we have done that we are saved: Tit. 3.5
B. Rather, it is by faith working through that we receive the wonderful gift of God: Gal. 5.6, Heb. 6.4
C. This gift is available because God’s grace caused the blood of Christ to be shed so that we can be redeemed: Eph. 1.7
III. Stanza 3 tells us that God’s grace helps us to grow as we run the race
"As we run in the race, We keep growing in grace,
A crown to receive some day.
For His grace will abide, If we turn not aside;
Love and mercy He will bestow."
A. Our lives are pictured as a race in which we must run: Heb. 12.1
B. However, to be able to run the race, we must grow in grace: 2 Pet. 3.18
C. If we do this, then God’s love and mercy will grant us the crown of life: 2 Tim. 4.6-8
CONCL.: The chorus reemphasizes why the grace of God is so important in our lives.
"By grace we come to know the Lord;
O let us sing with one accord.
By His marvelous grace We inherit a place
By the throne of His love divine."
While it is true that the thought of a song’s words is what teaches and admonishes, this does not necessarily have to bring about the conclusion that bad poetry can make a good song. Unlike most songs, lines 2 and 4 of each stanza in this one do not rhyme. However, they could easily be made to do so by altering line 4 of stanza 1 to read, "Is prepared for my soul above;" line 4 of stanza 2 to read, "By His grace we’re redeemed through blood;" and line 4 of stanza 3 to read, "Love and mercy He will repay." Aside from this, the song has a good message and a pleasant tune to help us understand that the only way that we can be saved is "By His Wonderful Grace."