“CHRIST RECEIVETH SINFUL MEN”
“…Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners…” (1 Tim. 1:15)
INTRO.: A song which tells us that because God is willing to receive sinners Christ came into the world to save us is “Christ Receiveth Sinful Men” (#295 in Hymns for Worship Revised, #643 in Sacred Selections for the Church). The text was written by Erdmann Neumeister (or Neumaster), who was born in Ucheritz, Germany, on May 12, 1671, the son of Johann Neumeister, a schoolteacher and organist. Educated at the University of Leipzig, from which he graduated in 1695, he lectured at the university for two years and then began his work as a Lutheran minister in 1698 at Bibra in the Eckartsberg District. In 1704 he moved to Weisenfels, where he also served as tutor to Duke Johann Georg’s daughter, and after her death two years later he went to Sorau.
Then in 1715, Neueister became minister at St. James Church in Hamburg, where he remained for the next 41 years until his death. A champion of the older, conservative Lutheranism in contrast to the Pietists, he had begun around 1700 writing hymn texts and is regarded as the originator of the church cantata. In all, he authored about 650 hymns, this one being composed in 1718 and first appearing in his Evangelischer Nachlang, a collection of 86 original hymns written to conclude his sermons. Neumeister died on Aug. 18, 1756, in Hamburg, Germany. More than a century later, a number of German sacred songs, including this one, were translated into English by the British hymnist Emma Frances Shuttleworth Bevan (1827-1909).
Mrs. Bevan was the daughter of Anglican minister Philip Nicholas Shuttleworth and the wife of London banker R. C. L. Bevan. She published her translations as Songs of Eternity in 1858. Then some 25 years later, in 1883, the tune (Neumaster) was composed and the chorus was added both by James McGranaham (1840-1907). The hymn as we have it was published in The Gospel Male Choir No.2 where numerous alterations were made by McGrahanan to adapt the words to his music. Erdmann Neumeister had passed on some 127 years previously, but the work of these three people over 163 years produced a well-known and much-loved invitation song.
Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church for use in churches of Christ, the song has 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 and the 1966 Christian Hymns No. 3 both edited by L. O. Sanderson; the 1959 Majestic Hymnal No. 2 and the 1978 Hymns of Praise both edited by Reuel Lemmons; the 1963 Abiding Hymns edited by Robert C. Welch; the 1963 Christian Hymnal edited by J. Nelson Slater; the 1965 Great Christian Hymnal No. 2 edited by Tillit S. Teddlie; the 1971 Songs of the Church, the 1990 Songs of the Church 21st C. Ed., and the 1994 Songs of Faith and Praise all edited by Alton H. Howard; the 1978/1983 Church Gospel Songs and Hymns edited by V. E. Howard; the 1986 Great Songs Revised (the text is set to a tune “Albertson” by Phoebe P. Knapp which we usually associate with “When My Love to Christ Grows Weak” to make it sound more “pleading”); the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand; the 2007 edited by William D. Jeffcoat; the 2009 Favorite Songs of the Church and the 2010 Songs for Worship and Praise both edited by Robert J. Taylor Jr.; and the 2012 Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs edited by Steve Wolfgang et. al; in addition to Hymns for Worship and Sacred Selections.
The song reminds us that Christ will welcome any repentant sinner who responds to His gracious call in faith and obedience.
I. According to stanza 1, Jesus will receive sinners now just as He did in His lifetime
Sinners Jesus will receive;
Sound this word of grace to all
Who the heavenly pathway leave,
All who linger, all who fall.
A. One of the criticisms leveled against Jesus was that He “receives sinners,” and He justified this with the story of the good shepherd who sought the lost sheep: Lk. 15:1-7
B. What makes it possible for Jesus to receive sinners is God’s grace: Eph. 2:8-9
C. This word of grace should be sounded to all who leave the heavenly pathway and fall into sin, and that includes everyone: Rom. 3:23
II. According to stanza 2, Jesus can take even the sinfulest and give them rest
Come, and He will give you rest;
Trust Him, for His Word is plain;
He will take the sinfulest;
Christ receiveth sinful men.
A. Jesus has promised to give rest to those who come to Him: Matt. 11:28-30
B. However, one of the conditions involved in coming to Jesus for rest is to trust the Lord: Ps. 37:3-5
C. Just as He did to sinful Israel, God calls us to forsake our wicked ways and return to Him, saying that He will receive us with mercy and pardon: Isa. 55:6-7
III. According to stanza 3, not in Hymns for Worship, Jesus cleanses sinners by His death
Now my heart condemns me not,
Pure before the law I stand;
He who cleansed me from all spot,
Satisfied its last demand.
A. It is now possible for our hearts not to condemn us: 1 Jn. 3:20-21 (Ellis Crum in Sacred Selections changes this phrase to “Now my life condemns me not,” apparently unaware of John’s statement)
B. The reason for this is that Christ cleanses us from every spot or sin: 1 Jn. 1:7
C. He satisfied the law’s last demand by suffering on the cross for our sins: 1 Pet. 3:18
IV. According to stanza 4, the aim of Jesus in purging sinners is to make it possible for us to go to heaven
Christ receiveth sinful men,
Even me with all my sin;
Purged from every spot and stain,
Heaven with Him I enter in.
A. Christ will receive all who come to Him, even you and me: Rev. 22:17
B. When we come to Him, He will purge us from every spot and stain: Heb. 1:1-3
C. As a result, He makes it possible for us to enter heaven with Him: 1 Pet. 1:3-5
CONCL.: The chorus exultantly encourages us to proclaim this good news of salvation from sin through Christ to the whole world:
Sing it o’er and over again;
Christ receiveth sinful men;
Make the message clear and plain:
Christ receiveth sinful men.
As Christians, we should be thankful that Christ was willing to receive us and then spread the good news to others that “Christ Receiveth Sinful Men.”