(photo of J. A. Copeland)
(WE SHALL RISE
“But some man will say, How are the dead raised up, and with what body do they come?” (1 Cor. 15:35
INTRO.: A song which helps us to understand how the dead are raised up is “We Shall Rise.” The text was written by Jairus “Jady” Augustus (J. A.) Copeland, who was born in Corinth, Howard County, Arkansas, on April 23, 1881, to James David and Nancy Kansas (Womack) Copeland, and raised in a Christian home. His father was an unusually religious man who was often seen reading the Bible or the Gospel Advocate early in the morning by lamplight. It was common in those days to see a farmer resting at noon on a “pallet” on the porch or open breezeway, and Copeland’s father used these rest periods to read his Bible as well. His father also was a singing school teacher. Even before his baptism into Christ at age fourteen by C. M. Wilmeth in July, 1896, Copeland loved the church. Sometimes he would spend Saturday nights with other boys, but he always made sure to get up and go to the services on Sunday mornings, although it might mean walking two miles. When in worship, he often reminded other children who might be unruly that they should not behave that way in the Lord’s house.
Early in life, Copeland took part in the church services by leading singing, waiting on the Lord’s table, reading the Scriptures, and sometimes making comments on the reading. On Dec. 21, 1898, he was married to Georgia F. Watkins. They had thirteen children, eight girls and five boys, twelve of whom lived to be grown. He began preaching at an early age and the Lord used him as an active minister of the gospel for more than 52 years. In the late summer of 1904, Copeland preached his first sermon at Bills, Arkansas, and began preaching regularly at Billstown, Arkansas, in 1905. His first convert was baptized when preaching at Nathan, Arkansas. In his early years he sustained his livelihood through farming during the week and preaching on Sundays for country and small town churches such as at Delight and Antoine, Arkansas, and Arp, Texas. He did much evangelistic work during the summers. In addition to holding meetings, primarily in Arkansas, Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Missouri, he preached for the Twelfth and Thayer Street Church of Christ in Little Rock, Arkansas, beginning in 1936. Later he worked with the church in Hope, Arkansas, from 1938 to 1942. Further he preached at Prescott, Arkansas, from 1945 to1948.
After the death of his good friend and co-worker, Grady Alexander, in 1939, Copeland served for a number of years as editor of the Gospel Light magazine, having previously been an associate editor, and worked in this capacity until his physical strength and other duties made it necessary for him to be relieved of the burden. Also he wrote for the Firm Foundation and other gospel papers. In addition, he provided the words to the song “We Shall Rise,” with music by Earl Womack, which was copyrighted in 1954 by the Stamps Quartet Music Co. and published in their book Homeland Guide. Jady Copeland passed from this life on November 24, 1955. The funeral service was conducted at the Delight Church of Christ, Delight, Arkansas, on November 25 by Dillard Sarrett, Edgar Lafferty, and Milton Peebles, and his body was buried at the Pleasant Home church cemetery near Delight, Arkansas. Three of his sons, Ordis, Jady W., and Gilbert, became gospel preachers. Also, some of his grandchildren, including Jady W.’s son Wilson, with whom I went to Florida College from 1972 to 1974, and great-grandchildren have served in the ministry. In 1980, Gene C. Finley included “He Shall Rise” in his collection Our Garden of Song.
“We Shall Rise” looks forward to the time of our resurrection from the dead.
I. Stanza 1 uses the illustration of the seed
The seed is sown into the ground
With form or body small;
The germ of life within is found,
Providing food for all.
- God created the plants with their seed: Gen. 1:11-12
- When the small seed is planted, it contains the germ of life but must first die: 1 Cor. 15:36-38
- Then it springs forth to provide food for all: Mk. 4:26-29
II. Stanza 2 emphasizes the death of Jesus
The Son of God was also laid
Beneath the heavy sod,
To save poor man from all His sins
And lead him home to God.
- The Bible teaches us that Jesus died for us: Rom. 5:6-8
- Specifically, He died for our sins, that is, to save us from sin: 1 Cor. 15:1-4
- His purpose in doing this was to lead us to glory: Heb. 2:9-10
III. Stanza 3 emphasizes the resurrection of Jesus
The Lord was placed inside the tomb,
His form was buried there;
The grave was rent, could not Him hold,
He rose our sins to bear.
- Jesus was buried inside Joseph’s new tomb: Jn. 19:38-42
- However, three days later the grave was rent: Matt. 28:1-3
- Thus, Jesus who died arose again for our justification: Rom. 4:23-25
CONCL.: The chorus then points us toward our own coming resurrection from the dead
Though dark to us the grave may be,
And dreadful its embrace,
We shall arise, the Savior see,
And sing, “We’re saved by grace.”
We plant the seed in the ground where it dies and then springs forth with new life. Jesus died, was buried in the tomb, and then came forth alive. Just so, even though we may die, when the Lord returns, all who are in the grave will hear His voice, and “We Shall Rise.”