We’ll Be Like Him



“When He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is” (1 Jn. 3:2)

      INTRO.: A gospel song which reminds us that when Christ will appear, we shall be like Him is “We’ll Be Like Him” (#624 in Hymns for Worship Revised, #7 in Sacred Selections for the Church).  The text was written and tune was composed both by R. L. Powell, who was born on Apr. 11, 1888, in Hood County, TX.  Some sources give his name as Robert Lawrence Powell while others have Richard Lawrance Powell.  He was the next to the youngest of twelve children born to Robert Jones Powell (1849–1923) and Martha Licilty Hobson Powell (1852–1920); his siblings names were William Nathaniel (b. 1872), Georgia Ann (b. 1873), Lewis Sidney (b. 1875), Lee Andrew (b. 1876), Amanda O. (b. 1877), Maggie Jane (b. 1879), Joel Jackson (b. 1881), Haynie Lue (b. 1882), Grover Cleveland (b. 1884), Earl Monroe (b. 1886), and Rhoda Belle (b. 1891).  R. L. Powell, who was a farmer and a member of the Church of Christ, was very active with Franklin Lycurgus Eiland and other hymn writers among Churches of Christ in central Texas.

F. L. Eiland was not healthy even as a child, and in his adult years he was often sick. In the winter of 1909 he conducted a singing school in Golden, TX, the boyhood home of Tillit S. Teddlie. During this time he became ill with pneumonia and died there on December 3. He was only 49 years old. George W. Winningham, R.E. Campbell, R.L. Powell, and Woodie Valentine sang several of his songs at his funeral including his well-known “From the Cross to the Crown,” written in 1895, and “Hold to God’s Unchanging Hand.”  Powell married Margaret Hand about 1912, and they had three children.  For a time they lived around seven miles from Seymour, TX.  He edited The Eureka Song Climax: For All Religious Gatherings for the Eureka Pub. Co. in 1916.  Another hymn of his was “Marching to Our Home, Sweet Home.”

I do not have a copyright date for Powell’s song “We’ll Be Like Him,” but it was controlled by the Quartet Music Company of Fort Worth, TX, which was established by James Edmond Thomas, and according to Hymnary.org the hymn was published in twelve hymnals, the earliest of which was Gospel Songs No. 2 edited by Austin Taylor and G. H. P. Showalter for the Firm Foundation Pub. Co. of Austin, TX, in 1919.   Hymnary.org also credits Powell as the author of 22 hymn texts.  The Powells moved briefly to Abernathy, a small community near Lubbock, TX, where he developed a tumor on his arm.  Although he had the arm removed, he still died of cancer in Lubbock on Oct. 7, 1933, at the age of 45.  His obituary noted that he was “widely known as a singer.”  His body was buried in Abernathy Cemetery at Abernathy in Hale County, TX.

Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church for use in churches of Christ, “We’ll Be Like Him” has appeared in the 1938 Spiritual Melodies edited by Tillit S. Teddlie; the 1940 Complete Christian Hymnal and the 1960 Hymnal both edited by Marion Davis; the 1952 Hymns of Praise and Devotion edited by Will W. Slater; the 1959 Majestic Hymnal No. 2 and the 1978 Hymns of Praise both edited by Reuel Lemmons; the 1971 Songs of the Church edited by Alton H. Howard; and the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat; in addition to Hymns for Worship and Sacred Selections.

The song expresses several concepts related to our hope of being like Him at His coming.

I. Stanza 1 says that His coming will be a bright day

When the Savior comes for His chosen ones,

We’ll be like Him, We’ll be like Him;

When the bright day breaks and the dead awakes,

We’ll be like Him when He comes.

  1. Someday the Savior will come: Acts 1:9-11
  2. One purpose of His coming will be to gather His chosen ones: 1 Thess. 4:16-17
  3. To accomplish this, He will awaken or resurrect all the dead: Jn. 5:28-29

II. Stanza says that it is a message worth ringing out

Let the message ring over hill and plain,

We’ll be like Him, We’ll be like Him;

Send it far and wide on the gospel tide,

We’ll be like Him when He comes.

  1. That we shall be like Him is an important message: Phil. 3:20-21
  2. This message should be sent far and wide through all the world to every person: Mk. 16:15-16
  3. It is gospel or good news because it is God’s power to save: Rom. 1:16

III. Stanza 3 says that He is the one for whom we look through the weary years

He’s the one we love, He’s the one we prove,

We’ll be like Him, We’ll be like Him;

He’s the one who cheers through the weary years,

We’ll be like Him when He comes.

  1. He is the one whom we love, even though we have not seen Him: 1 Pet. 1:7-9
  2. We prove Him by demonstrating to both others and ourselves that His way is right: Rom. 12:1-2
  3. The reason why we love and prove Him is that He brings cheer to us as He did to His apostles: Matt. 14:22-27

IV. Stanza 4 says that it is the theme of our song

Though He tarry long, this will be our song,

We’ll be like Him, We’ll be like Him;

Though the path be dim we shall cling to Him,

We’ll be like Him when He comes.

  1. His coming may tarry long, but there is a purpose even in this: 2 Pet. 3:3-4, 8-9
  2. But the fact that we’ll be like Him should be our song as we live on earth: 2 Pet. 1:3-4
  3. So during this time we must cling to Him by being faithful: Rev. 2:10

CONCL.:  The chorus exhorts us to look forward to that time when we shall meet Him

We’ll be like Him, sing the glad refrain;

We’ll be like Him when He comes again.

Blessed thought to me that His face I’ll see,

And be like Him when He comes.

Some day this world will end when the Lord returns.  And until that happens, life will end for each human being in death.  All of us who seek to let that mind be in us that was in Christ Jesus and imitate Him who left us a perfect example that we should follow in His steps have the hope that at His coming “We’ll Be Like Him.”

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