“Once For All”

"We are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all" (Heb. 10:10)

     INTRO.: A song which reminds us that Jesus need die only one time in order for us to be sanctified through the offering of His body is "Once For All" (#337 in Hymns for Worship Revised, #552 in Sacred Selections for the Church). The text was written and the tune was composed both by Philip Paul Bliss (1838-1876). It was first published in his 1873 book Sunshine for Sunday Schools. Daniel Webster Whittle in his Memoirs of Philip P. Bliss wrote, "Just before Christmas, 1871, Mrs. Bliss asked a friend, ‘What shall I get my husband for a Christmas present?’ and, at the suggestion of this friend, purchased and presented him with the bound volume of a monthly English periodical called Things New and Old. Many things in these books of interpretation of Scripture and illustrations of Gospel turth were blessed to him, and from the reading of something in one of these books in connection with Romans 8 and Hebrews 10, suggested this glorious Gospel song."

     George C. Stebbins, who was a musical associate of Dwight L. Moody, as was Bliss, stated that this hymn "is conceded to be the clearest statement of the doctrine of grace in distinction from the law to be found in hymnology. Indeed, it was said at the time of Moody and [his primary music director Ira D.] Sankey’s first visit to Scotland in 1873 that the singing of that hymn had more to do in breaking down the prejudice that existed against Gospel hymns up to that time than anything else, as its teaching was so scriptural and in such perfect accord with the teaching of the Scottish divines. The music setting of it, too, could not have been improved upon." In fact, Sankey himself wrote in My Life and the Story of the Gospel Hymns that he was most concerned about the presence of Scottish hymn writer Horatius Bonar in the audience. "He was, indeed, my ideal hymn writer, the prince among hymnists of his day and generation. And yet he would not sing one of his beautiful hymns in his own congregation…because he ministered to a church that believed in the use of the Psalms only. With fear and trembling I announced…the song, ‘Free from the Law, oh, happy condition’….At the close of Mr. Moody’s address, Dr. Bonar turned toward me with a smile on his venerable face, and reaching out his hand he said, ‘Well, Mr. Sankey, you sang the gospel tonight.’ And thus the way was opened for the mission of sacred song in Scotland."

     The song’s popularity in America is undoubtedly the result of its being included in Bliss’s Gospel Songs in 1874, from which it passed into the Bliss and Sankey series of Gospel Songs and Hymns beginning in 1875. Bliss produced such well known songs as "Almost Persuaded," "Dare to Be a Daniel," "Hallelujah! ‘Tis Done!," "Hallelujah! What a Savior!", "Hold the Fort," "Jesus Loves Even Me," "Let the Lower Lights Be Burning," "More Holiness Give Me," "The Half Was Never Told," "The Light of the World Is Jesus," "Whosoever Will May Come," and "Wonderful Words of Life;" tunes for Frances Havergal’s "I Bring My Sins to Thee" and "I Gave My Life for Thee," Horatio Spafford’s "It Is Well with My Soul," Emily Oakley’s "What Shall the Harvest Be?", and Mary Brainard’s "He Knows;" and the text for "I Will Sing of My Redeemer" set to music after Bliss’s death by James McGranahan. All of these have been used in our books, but Bliss is credited with many, many others as well. Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century, "Once For All" may be found in the 1986 Great Songs Revised edited by Forrest M. McCann; the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand; and the 1994 Songs of Faith and Praise edited by Alton H. Howard; in addition to Hymns for Worship and Sacred Selections.

     The song identifies some of the blessings that Christians have because Jesus offered Himself once for all.

I. Stanza 1 says that we have remission of sin
"Free from the law, O happy condition,
Jesus has bled and there is remission;
Cursed by the law and bruised by the fall,
Grace hath redeemed us once for all."
 A. Some have objected to the opening line, "Free from the law," affirming that while we are not saved simply by law, we are not free from law; however, Paul does say that we are "free from the law of sin and death": Rom. 8:2. Keeping the phrase in its context, it seems reasonable that if Paul could say that we are "free from the law of sin and death," then we ought to be able to sing that we are "free from the law"
 B. The reason that we are free from the law of sin and death is that Jesus has bled and there is remission of sin: Matt. 26:28
 C. The reason that we needed this remission is that we are cursed by the law and bruised by the fall through sin: Rom. 3:23

II. Stanza 2 says that we have salvation in Christ
"Now we are free, there’s no condemnation;
Jesus provides a perfect salvation.
‘Come unto Me,’ O hear His sweet call;
Come, and He saves us once for all."
 A. However, because of what Jesus has done, we are free and there is no condemnation: Rom. 8:1
 B. Jesus provides a perfect salvation because that is what He came to do: Matt. 1:21
 C. Therefore, He calls us to come to Him: Matt. 11:28-30 (In Sacred Selections, Ellis Crum changed "Come, and He saves us" to "Come unto Jesus," because he probably thought that the original sounded like "once in grace, always in grace." However, there is a sense that Jesus saves us once for all when we obey the gospel, then He keeps us saved as we repent of our sins, confess them to Him, and pray for His forgiveness.)

III. Stanza 3 says that we have pardon through the cross
"There on the cross your burden upbearing,
Thorns on His brow your Savior is wearing.
Never again your sin need appall;
You have been pardoned once for all."
 A. The cross was the instrument by which Jesus carried our burdens so that we might have pardon, which is why the message of the cross is the power of God: 1 Cor. 1:18
 B. It was there that the Savior may well have worn the crown of thorns for us: Jn. 19:1-5
 C. Because of this, never again our sin need appall because we have pardon because of the redemption through Him and His blood: Rom. 3:24-26

IV. Stanza 4 says that we have sonship
"’Children of God,’ O glorious calling!
Surely His grace will keep us from falling.
Passing from death to life at His call,
Blessed salvation once for all."
 A. God has made it possible for us to be His children in Christ Jesus through faith when we are baptized into Christ: Gal. 3:26-27
 B. Ellis Crum made another change, from "will keep us from falling" to "will help us from falling;" however, the Bible says that God is able to "keep you from falling" IF we keep ourselves in His love: Jude vs. 20-24
 C. In this way, we pass from death to life at His call: Jn. 24

      CONCL.: The chorus encourages everyone to accept the offer of grace and pardon that Jesus offers to mankind.
"Once for all, O sinner, receive it;
Once for all, O brother, believe it.
Cling to the cross, the burden will fall;
Christ hath redeemed us once for all."
Again, Crum changed the word "brother" to sinner, to avoid the possibility of a lost person somehow thinking that he is already a brother in Christ, although in former times the word "brother" was often used as a common title like "mister" as in "Brother, can you spare a dime?" He also changed "Cling to the cross, the burden will fall" to "Cling to the Savior, obey His call," for reasons that I do not understand except that he possibly misunderstood the figurative nature of clinging to the cross and that he had to stick the word "obey" somewhere into any song that asks a sinner to come to Jesus. We need to know for ourselves and also tell others that Jesus Christ has died and made salvation from sin possible "Once For All."


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