Jesus Saves


“For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Lk. 19:10)

      INTRO.: A song which emphasizes the fact that Jesus came to seek and save the lost is “Jesus Saves” (#422 in Hymns for Worship Revised, #522 in Sacred Selections for the Church).  The text was written by Priscilla Jane Owens, who was born at Baltimore, MD, on July 21, 1829.  The daughter of Isaac and Jane Stewart Owens, she spent her entire life in Baltimore, where she was a public school teacher for 49 years and a member of the Union Square Methodist Episcopal Church with a special interest in Sunday school work.  Many of her literary efforts, both prose and poetry, appeared in various periodicals, such as the Methodist Protestant and the Christian Standard.

Miss Owens also produced several beloved hymn texts, such as the well-known songs “We Have An Anchor” and “Give Me The Bible.”  In addition, her hymn “Is Your Lamp Still Burning?” with music by Isaiah Baltzell, has appeared in some of our books.  The hymn “Jesus Saves” was produced for the anniversary of a Sunday school mission in Baltimore and originally adapted to the chorus “Vive le roi” from the opera Les Hugenots by Giacomo Meyerbeer.  The usual date given is around 1882.  However, some sources claim that the text was first published fourteen years earlier in 1868 in The Revivalist.

This tune was composed, possibly based on the Meyerbeer melody, for this text by William James Kirkpatrick (1838-1921).  The song as we know it first appeared in Songs of Redeeming Love, compiled at Philadelphia, PA, in 1882 by Kirkpatrick, C. C. McCabe, John Robson Sweney (1837-1899), and Tullius Clinton O’Kane (1830-1912).  The original first line, “I have heard the joyful sound,” was changed to its present reading in the 1887 Gospel Hymns No. 5 by Ira David Sankey (1840-1908).  The author died at Baltimore on Dec. 5, 1907.

Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church for use among churches of Christ,  “Jesus Saves” has appeared in the 1937 Great Songs of the Church No. 2 edited by E. L. Jorgenson; the 1948 Christian Hymns No. 2, and the 1966 Christian Hymns No. 3 all 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 all 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 edited by Forrest M. McCann; the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand; the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church 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 of various aspects concerning salvation in Christ

I. In stanza 1 we are told that this salvation should be proclaimed to every land

We have heard the joyful sound:

Jesus saves! Jesus saves!

Spread the tidings all around:

Jesus saves! Jesus saves!

Bear the news to every land,

Climb the steeps and cross the waves;

Onward! ’tis our Lord’s command;

Jesus saves! Jesus saves!

  1. The news that a Savior was born was glad tidings of great joy: Lk. 2:10-11
  2. These tidings should be spread around by preaching the gospel: Rom. 10:13-15
  3. And they need to be borne to every land: Mk. 16:15-16

II.  In stanza 2 we are told that this salvation needs to be heard by sinners far and wide

Waft it on the rolling tide:

Jesus saves! Jesus saves!

Tell to sinners far and wide:

Jesus saves! Jesus saves!

Sing, ye islands of the sea;

Echo back, ye ocean caves;

Earth shall keep her jubilee:

Jesus saves! Jesus saves!

  1. The rolling tide symbolizes proclaiming the good news among all nations: Ps. 96:2-3
  2. It must be told to sinners far and wide because Christ came to save them: 1 Tim. 1:15
  3. “Jubilee” symbolizes freedom: Lev. 25:9-10, Gal. 5:1

III. In stanza 3 we are told that this salvation is possible because of what Jesus did for us

Sing above the battle strife:

Jesus saves! Jesus saves!

By His death and endless life

Jesus saves! Jesus saves!

Sing it softly through the gloom,

When the heart for mercy craves;

Sing in triumph o’er the tomb:

Jesus saves! Jesus saves!

  1. We are involved in a great spiritual battle: 1 Tim. 1:18, 6:12
  2. But Jesus has already fought the fight by His death and endless life: 1 Cor. 15:1-4
  3. Thus, we can sing in triumph over the tomb because of salvation in Christ: Acts 4:12

IV. In stanza 4 we are told that this salvation produces great rejoicing

Give the winds a mighty voice:

Jesus saves! Jesus saves!

Let the nations now rejoice:

Jesus saves! Jesus saves!

Shout salvation full and free,

Highest hills and deepest caves;

This our song of victory:

Jesus saves! Jesus saves!

  1. The reference to winds’ mighty voice might be thought of as a symbol of the angels’ rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents: Lk. 15:1-7
  2. In fact, all people of all nations who come into Christ can rejoice: Phil. 4:4
  3. This is because salvation in Christ gives us a song of victory: 1 Cor. 15:54-57

CONCL.:  Someone has apparently decided that this grand old hymn needs some “updating.”  One online source for the hymn has stanza 1 reading, “Climb the mountains, cross the waves;” stanza 2 reading, “Sing, you islands of the sea; Echo back, you ocean caves;” and stanza 3 reading, “Shout it brightly through the gloom.”  Why make any changes?  The heart of the gospel of salvation is a person—Jesus Christ.  Thus, to evangelize is to proclaim the good news of salvation in Christ.  However, it must be remembered that,  according the Scriptures, salvation is found in Christ and His way, not in any other religion or system.  Therefore, the message that God’s people must deliver to this sinful world is that “Jesus Saves.”

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